Is it a toxic relationship?

iVillage Member
Registered: 08-02-2012
Is it a toxic relationship?
Tue, 12-11-2012 - 10:06am

Hi all

My husband and I are recently separated and he wants to continue our relationship living in separate houses.  I am pretty messed up and don't know what to do.  I really need some outside persepective on our relationship.  This is going to be long but hopefully gives a picture of what has gone on.

We met 6 years ago in March at mutual friends wedding receiption.  Spent the night together and started a 'friendship'.  I was not ready for a full blown relationship having been divorced the previous year and just come out of a 6 month relationship.  I was ready to be on my own and independant.  We enjoyed each others company and dated for a few months about once a week.  Before we knew it we were deeply in love and agreed to get married.  We held off an official engagement for 9 months to ensure we were sure before families were involved.  We then set a wedding date 18 months after this, again to ensure we weren't rushing .... 

He has a (now 19 year old) son and I have a (now 16 year old) son.  Chalk and cheese.  His DS has experienced his parents bitter divorce at approx 6 year old.  Mother wanted social life and spend lots of time in the pub, kids (DH Son and two Step siblings, (not his)) would turn up when Dad got in from work to be fed. Basically she neglected them.  At age 11 mother produces a daughter whilst in a volatile alcohol fuelled relationship.  Father also involved with an alcoholic partner in an unstable relationship. At age 13 Grandad on Mothers side diagnosed and died of cancer,  later that year teenage step-brother diagnosed and died of cancer, later that year Grandad on Fathers side diagnosed and died of cancer.  Everyone traumatised and his DS starts mixing with the wrong crowd he played Mother and Father off against each other ... i.e. Dad wouldn't let him go to a party he would stay at Mums who would etc etc. Whilst living in my house and starting renovate DH's house to live in he steals money and after confrontation moves in with his mum permanently and we don't hear from him for month after months whilst his mother has no control over him.  He got involved in drugs, theft and bad behaviour.  Over the last 5 years he has been thrown out by his mother to come to us, thrown out by us to go to his mother and back again.  In April this year he moved in with us permanently.  Is now off drugs but has emotional, social and anger problems.

My DS experienced his parents very amicable divorce age 9.  He has had the stability of both parents putting him first.  He has a great Dad and (even if I say so myself) a great Mam.  He is sensible, mature, studious, and has never given us a days trouble.  Doesn't drink or smoke.

We move into DH house and within a few weeks my first experience of what I felt was unreasonable behaviour from him started.  I ran a bath... I put too much cold water in the hot and had to let some out to fill it up again with hot water.  He wasn't happy because I was wasting water.  I was a little taken aback, afterall, water was free wasn't it .... his response was it costs money to heat it and it was a waste.  I felt chastised and that made me angry.  I marched into the living room and told him I had lived in my own house paying all my bills and would not be dictated to about how much water I could use to run a bath.  

Since then we had various issues about having the heating on, switching lights on and how much time my DS and I spent in the shower.  After various arguments he did ease up some and it wasn't as bad.  I.e. last winter the heating was on and has been so far this winter.  He still turns lights off as soon as I leave a room and complains in every argument about how long my DS spends in the shower ... 16 mins on average ... I know I timed it after our last row in which he stated it was 25 minutes every morning ... to be fair since DS has moved to his dads last week when we separated EX DH has commented on the time he is in the shower ..... !!! 

We began to plan our wedding ... I chose just one bridesmaid because I am not a flashy person and although we were having a nice wedding I didn't see the need for more than one.  He complained about the cost of my dress, which was in-expensive for a wedding dress but double the (£200) budget I had set as I originally intended buying an evening dress, however when I tried them on they didn't feel right for a church wedding ... , so I ended up paying some of the cost.  He then made it clear he was unhappy that we would be paying for the bridesmaids attire.  He didn't see the necessity for a visit to the beauty salon the day before the wedding for my bridesmaid and I and when he didn't co-erse me into cancelling it he took the attitude that what was good for one was good for the other and booked himself and the best man in for a massage.

The Thursday before the wedding he picked the suits up.  When I arrived home from work he asked me to look at my DS suit as he wasn't sure it fit properly.  No it did not fit in any shape or form so we agreed to drive 35 minutes to take it back after my salon session the following morning.  Unfortunately my salon session exceeded my estimate by 35 mins and by the time I came out from my massage he had phoned my B'maid to tell her he had already left to return the suit.  I could tell by the way she said it he hadn't been happy.  When I spoke to him he wasn't happy that I hadn't phoned him to tell him I was going to be late and that his day was now behind schedule.  I felt chastised and angry because I thought it was unreasonable of him to expect me to ring him in the middle of a massage and besides that I hadn't even looked at the clock until it was finished.  However he spent the rest of the day being short with me every time we spoke.  Half way through the day we spoke and I suggested we put it behind us and tried not to let it spoil the day but that didn't happen.  By the time we'd had tea he didn't want to to take the car to the reception venue because it was late and he wanted his best man to come round.  I insisted we take it as I didn't want him to have a stressful morning on the day of the wedding and he had arranged to meet the guys in a cafe for breakfast.  We took the car and on the way back he phoned his best man to come round.  I got upset because we'd had a terrible day with each other and wanted time to say good night his response was 'he's my best man and i've hardly seen him today' ... so I leave and end up at the side of the road in tears.  We agree on the phone to put it down to stress and put it behind us.

To date his attitude (whenever this comes up in our arguments) is that it was more important for me to have my massage than sort out my sons wedding suit !!!! He says I was selfish and neglectful to my son and expected too much of him.  I say the suits were his responsibility and he was selfish and unfair in taking his stress out on me and making me feel second priority to his best man.

After we got married I was loving our life.  Counting the hours to be home from work and making our home.  Within a few weeks of the wedding I had finished work early one Friday and was sitting on the living room floor viewing some old videos of mine to decide what to keep and what not to keep.  He walked in from work and stood in the living room doorway and said 'you could have brought the bin in', I was taken aback as it hadn't even entered my head ... 'I said i'm sorry my hands were full' and he replied 'what for the last hour' ... I said 'i'm sorry I didn't even think to go back out' and he stomped off upstairs. I was really hurt and upset, what had I done to deserve that ??? When he came down he appeared to want to continue as if nothing had happened.  He could see I was upset and asked what was wrong??? I told him I didn't think his attitude was called for and couldn't understand where it came from.  He said 'well it would have been nice of you to bring the bin in then I wouldn't have had to stop the car to get out to move it'.  When I said it hadn't entered my head and the way he did that wasn't very nice he said he hadn't done anything wrong and that if I was thoughtful I would have done it.

3 months after our wedding we were due to go on our holiday/honeymoon.  I like to be very organised and do not like last minute stress.  I therefore set about getting ready for our holiday a few days before.  I mentally noted that I wanted all the washing and ironing out of the way as we returned right on school returning and didn't want loads of washing on top of the holiday stuff.  I wanted to clean the house and be packed by the Thursday, we were flying Saturday.  DH had said he was off on the Friday and wanted to do the garden and sort the holiday money.  In the previous week I had broken our telephone wire with the hoover and we had agreed to replace the wire as it could be damaged inside.  On the Wednesday night after tea I was hoping DH would wash up while I set about doing ironing and packing but I had already been told that if he cooks it's only right I should wash up so I said 'would you like to do some ironing or wash up' ... he replied 'i'm not doing either, i'm going to fix the telephone wire' ... off he went outside to fix the wire.  I was upset but set about washing up and got DS to dry.  When I had finished that I set to ironing, packing etc while DH sat watching TV and reading !!! I was upset and when he asked what was wrong I said I was getting stressed because there was so much to do and I didn't want it all left to the last minute.  He said he was off Friday so not to worry.  I said that was the last minute and he wanted to do the garden and sort the money out.  The next day we emailed a little and I explained how I felt and he agreed to help, I was elated.  The next evening we went out for tea and when we returned we began packing.  He was laid on the bed watching me pack when I asked him to get his shirts out for me.  He said 'i'm not doing it now its 9.30' well I felt so let down and upset' ... I told him I thought we had agreed he would help and support me in getting the packing done and he said we would finish it tomorrow. My next job was sewing my DS school trousers so I sat and did that while he watched tv.  He announced the time and I said I need to finish my sewing.  Shortly afterwards he got up and said are we going to bed.  I said no that I had to finish the trousers and a bit more support would have been nice.  We ended up in a blazing row and horrible things were said.  He said I wasn't happy because he wouldn't do as he was told, that I was being a martyr trying to get everything done and he screamed at me about the day before the wedding and became quite verbal and animated about how I was sat in the salon having my nails done ..... 

I was devastated - this was our first row and having been married to a very placid man for 17 years previously was quite shocked at how angry we both got ... 

This is just the very beginning.  Things have got progressively worse over the years to the point were we have now separated.  I love him with all my heart but cannot help feeling as if the way he communicates is WRONG ... he loses his temper and gets verbally abusive.  He says I am the same and I do get angry and i do shout but I never ever resort to personal verbal attacks .... 

I have told him that we both have control issues and verbally abusive tendencies and he says we argue just like any other couple, we just don't deal with it very well.

My problem is I am finding it really hard to walk away because when I read information on verbally and emotionally abusive relationships I can see I am guilty of alot of them and so is he.


Avatar for xxxs
Community Leader
Registered: 01-25-2010
Tue, 12-11-2012 - 4:07pm

  Reading through there seems to be a real problem not only with communication but the "how it is supposed to be" ideology.  It could be that the personalities involved are incompatible.  The priorities each has are not in sync with each other. 

      Living in separate residences is in this case wise.  Many people are truly happier this way. 


iVillage Member
Registered: 05-14-2001
Thu, 12-27-2012 - 4:12am

There are clearly communication problems here and expectations that were assumed rather than verbalized, which caused more trouble/anger/frustration.  You mention verbal abuse a few times in your post, but haven't given examples in your post that really identify it.  I do NOT want to suggest because abuse wasn't clearly evident in your post that it doesn't exist and I am very aware that verbal/emotional abuse is often very subtle in appearance; just that what I've read in your descriptions need more detail and explanation to be able to be sure.  

Fact is, if these are communication problems, assuming you're both invested in working and changing to resolve the issues, your problems can be resolved by working with a couples counselor.  However, if abuse is involved, not only will working with a couples counselor not be helpful, it will be harmful.  So, determining abuse issues is important in deciding how to proceed.  

Also, you say you're confused as to whether it's abuse because you see yourself in what you've read on verbal/emotional abuse.  I'm wondering what you've read and how you see yourself as being abusive?

~ cl-2nd_life