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Is This the Start of an Abusive Relationship?

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My boyfriend and I just moved in together. Since we’ve moved in together, he’s been getting angry with me every day. It usually revolves around me being too quiet. The first time we were in the car and he started yelling at me for being too quiet, I then got even more quiet as I’ve been in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship before (and that used to be the safest reaction) and then he started calling me names. I then had a panic attack, as I suffer from anxiety. Prior to meeting him, I hadn’t had an attack for a year. He always calls me names when he’s angry, and then when he’s calmed down he apologizes and says he’s sorry he’s been a dick, but he loves me, and I just need to give him time to get used to me. I’m starting to think that there’s something wrong with me and it’s my fault that he’s angry at me all the time. I’m walking on egg shells in our home and dread having days off work because he works 4am-11am so is home most of the day. He told me that he was sexually abused when he was younger, and I know that he has a “fuck everyone else” mindset, but he’d never been that way with me. I start shaking every time he yells at me now. If I try to talk to him about it reasonably, he gets even angrier and says I’m trying to blame him for everything when I’m clearly in the wrong. The worst part is that I’m a Detective and have worked in the domestic violence unit before and I should be able to recognize whether or not this is going where I think and feel it might be, but I can’t. I’ve never called him names, and have asked him to try not to do it when he’s mad, but he hasn’t stopped. He even says things like it’s no surprise I was single when he met me, I’m lucky because there are men out there that would be worse, etc. I don’t know what to do, or if it will get better. (From England)

Is This the Start of an Abusive Relationship?

Answered by on -

A.

The chances are you already know what I’m going to say as you are a highly trained professional and have worked with domestic violence. It is my experience that there is a reason each of us is drawn to the work we do in the helping professions, and it is often trying to heal something in others that we need to heal within ourselves.

Every single feature of an extremely unhealthy and abusive relationship is in your statement: He is angry every day, it began when you got closer to each other when you moved in together, he frightens you for doing nothing—being too quiet and creates a double-bind because you are now too scared to speak, you are walking on eggshells, you dread alone time with him, he hates everyone else with a “fuck everyone else” mindset—but you think that doesn’t apply to you. You have physical symptoms when he verbally abuses you by yelling, he never takes responsibility for his actions, blames you for everything that’s wrong, and tries to tell you how good you have it with him because other men are so much worse.

If I were writing an article on domestic violence, I’d use this as a checklist of the kind of man that should be avoided. There isn’t anything you’ll be able to do to help him as men with anger management problems tend not to improve until there is a self-chosen serious direct intervention for them to take part in, and for them to understand their own issues. I wouldn’t wait for him to get help and I wouldn’t try to fix him. He has to work on himself and you can’t arrange or make that happen. This is a situation where you have to use your professional understanding of what is happening to make the best decision for yourself. You deserve much better and while what he says may be true that there are men worse than him—there are many, many more that will treat you better.

You began your brave question by asking if this is the start of an abusive relationship. What I would say is that it sounds like the end of one.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral

Is This the Start of an Abusive Relationship?

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

Dan Tomasulo Ph.D., TEP, MFA, MAPP teaches Positive Psychology in the graduate program of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Columbia University, Teachers College and works with Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director of the New York Certification in Positive Psychology for the Open Center in New York City and on faculty at New Jersey City University. Sharecare has honored him as one of the top 10 online influencers on the topic of depression. For more information go to: http://www.dare2behappy.com/. He also writes for Psych Central's Ask the Therapist column and the Proof Positive blog.

APA Reference
Tomasulo, D. (2019). Is This the Start of an Abusive Relationship?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 20, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2019/05/07/is-this-the-start-of-an-abusive-relationship/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 5 May 2019 (Originally: 7 May 2019)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 5 May 2019
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