Is this abuse, or is it just me?

By Daniel J. Tomasulo, PhD, TEP, MFA, MAPP

Let me start off by thanking you for taking time to answer my question. I want to first say that my partner and I have been going to counseling for about 2 1/2 yrs. now and only been together for 3 yrs. I have talked one on one with therapists and they tell me I’m in an abusive relationship, however, our therapist we seek for couples’ counseling has never said anything to that nature. My partner is…very hard. Hard on my children and me. I love her so very much, but she is draining my self worth and me. I recently painted the kitchen-she had a fit-I halved it-is what she said-I thought it turned out great. Then I got over her rudeness and began to replace the floor-again-I didn’t get: “hey looks good’-I got her walking in the house-looking at the progress and measuring-then telling me it’s off by 3/4 inch. I try sooo hard to please her and feel like such a failure ALL the time-when we argue-she gets very mean and loves to punch walls or throw stuff-she’s 39. It’s ALWAYS me apologizing-because at this point she’s usually kicking us out. I’m very scared that she dangles herself and priorities in front of me cuz I wear my heart on my sleeve. This behavior isn’t healthy for my children either. I have already told them that I don’t want them to be in a relationship like this one, that there’s a certain way to talk to your partner. Seems like I’ve pointed out-that she has a lack of respect for me. She never wants to be intimate-so I don’t get my needs met there-if I cry-she sits there or walks away-but-she’s in a great mood if I have the house clean and dinner done and basically kiss her feet (it seems like). I do blame myself for her actions n I don’t understand why? She constantly puts the blame on me for everything. Is she abusing me? What can I do here, I don’t want to leave; yet I will not put up with this much longer, my self-esteem has dropped severely and I’m an emotional wreck now.

A: ” No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.”
~Eleanor Roosevelt.

You are the one abusing yourself by allowing this to continue. Let’s review:

  • Your partner is critical, not complimentary.
  • You feel belittled by her, not prized or loved.
  • You don’t think this is a good relationship for your children to witness.
  • You don’t want your children to find a partner like yours.
  • There is no physical intimacy.
  • She is not able to comfort you with your emotional needs.
  • She is happy only when you take care of everything.
  • You systematically give out more than you get back.
  • Your therapist has declared it as an abusive relationship.

In codependent relationships people give out more than they get back until they reach the point where they are so drained they they have to pry themselves away from the relationship to survive. You are giving out more than you are getting back, and this isn’t likely to change. You have given the relationship enough time to evolve. If you stay now you are the only one responsible. You partner is who she is. It is now time for you to figure out who you can become without her.

I would encourage you to explain that you are not happy in the relationship, and to do this in front of the couples counselor. I would reiterate what you have said here, and make it clear that it is time for a change. You may wish to give a a very brief trial period to see if there can be any significant changes, but if you have been in couples counseling this long, and it is this unsatisfactory, I would not expect real change to happen. If it doesn’t I would use the couples counseling as a place to negotiate as peaceful an ending and separation as you can.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 26 Oct 2010

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2010). Is this abuse, or is it just me?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/10/26/is-this-abuse-or-is-it-just-me/