It’s day 19 of Domestic Violence Awareness Month for Men and Boys, the invisible victims of domestic violence. Falling in love with an abusive, personality disordered woman is like living a fairy tale in reverse.
A man falls in love with what he thinks is a beautiful princess or damsel in distress, only to watch her morph into the destructive, devouring witch. In today’s In His Owns Words, Peter shares the story of how the beautiful girl he thought he fell in love with turned into a raging, violent narcissistic bitch.
“A happy wife is a happy life.” Whoever coined that phrase must not have been married to a narcissistic woman. You fall in love with Sleeping Beauty only to discover she is the witch once you kiss her awake.
I met my future wife during a very intense summer camp, and, yes, we fell in love. She seemed perfect in so many ways, absolutely charming and self-assured. We had similar interests; our educational paths were almost identical and both of us wanted to live a life of creativity.
After camp ended, I went back to my country and she went back to hers. We kept in contact via mail and telephone. I spent part of the following summer with her. We had a great time, and the following year she moved in with me.
For the most part, things were good. There were red flags, but I did not recognize them as such at the time. I tried to be the perfect spouse and took charge of most of the family duties. At this point it was just the two of us and we were on my home turf. Also, I had seen all that my dad didn’t do and how hard it had been on my mother.
Two years later, we decided to move to her home country because there were more job opportunities. The transition to her country worked well; although there were struggles in setting things up and getting jobs. I did my part and then some to compensate for the fact that I was under-employed for a few years.
Two years after we moved to her country, we had our first child and then a second child two years later. There were more red flags at this point. In particular, her reluctance to go back to work to make sure we could maintain the lifestyle she wanted.
She said I should get a summer job or an evening job, so that she could stay home. The best suggestion was that I should get a job as a tree planter up north. When I did get small jobs to bring extra money during the summers, she complained that I was ignoring the family.
I spent full days with the children and completed the majority of the house work, trying to do all the things that an equal partner is supposed to do. It didn’t seem to matter what I did, it was wrong. Her family was not much support either. They have often told me:
- “She has always been like that.”
- “She has always had a short temper.”
- “She was a strong-willed child.”
Our relationship was (is) a constant power struggle.
Eventually, her employer gave her an ultimatum, continue to stay at home and you will lose your position. At this point, she had been at home for four years. She went back to work, but was incredibly resentful having to do so.
We interviewed a lot of childcare providers and none of them were good enough. She was constantly addressing my parenting skills or the lack thereof. We are both educators and I had worked in the childcare sector for 10 years prior to getting a teaching degree.
I asked why she was so critical of my parenting. She claimed she was the superior parent because:
- My education and experience was from a different country, therefore, it was not valid.
- I had not read as many books as her, and since she had read more she should be referred to as the expert.
- By the virtue of being of being a woman, she had better parenting instincts.
She informed me that because she’s a “naturally gifted teacher,” she had the right to steer me in the proper direction. She also said I should “thank God for putting [her] in my life,” so that I could become a “better person.”
She was constantly undermining my role as a parent. She corrected me in front of the children when she thought I was wrong, which was often. She would frequently stand outside the door when I read night time stories. When the children asked questions and I answered, she would sometimes interrupt because she thought I was wrong. Or, once I was done she would lecture me for an hour about what she perceived to be my inadequacies.
She also told me that if I left her she would make sure that I was deported and would not see the children again. This was prior to me getting citizenship. My home country didn’t accept dual citizenship for the longest time. Back then, I had landed immigrant status sponsored by her.
We often sat down and discussed strategies and rules for the family. I would try to follow them, so at least we were consistent even if I didn’t agree with all of them. It didn’t matter, ultimately. One day she would praise me for using the agreed upon strategy, and would yell at me the following day for using the same strategy for the same situation. Also, she wouldn’t stick to the rules and strategies herself. When I asked her why, she would say, “To be a good parent you need to know when to break the rules, and you are too rigid. Try to be more flexible.”
As the children grew, she became more and more critical about what she called my “lack of communication skills”. She made comments about me being ESL in front of the children. When I pointed out that I communicate for a living, she mocked in a variety of ways.
To be fair, she did teach me a lot of new English words, none of which I can use in a professional setting. It is hard to communicate with a person whose most common response to a difference of opinion is, “Why do you always try to start a fight?” or, “Bullshit!”
As the children grew and the demands on her became greater, she did not cope well. The attacks became more frequent and nastier. They also became physical, which shocked me. Who in their right mind would attack somebody who is stronger, taller and heavier and has close combat training? The fact that I was bigger didn’t concern her.
The first time she physically attacked me, I instinctively pushed back. When someone is winding up to take a swing at you, you protect yourself. I quickly realized that I would lose if I defended myself, and should just take the beating. She told me if the police were called, they would not believe me. “Just look at you, you are so much bigger than me.” The same logic that Dr. Phil uses.
I was under constant stress and walking on eggshells. She would spend half an hour yelling at me for not wiping the counter top, but I could not comment on her overspending. She frequently told me,”You should be like a knight in shining armor that takes care of everything” and “You should put me on a pedestal and worship the ground I walk up on.”
It was not good enough that I did 75% of the housework and some times more, I still had to give her presents and arrange to take her on dates. I had very little time just for me and there is very little money for dates.
I hypothesized that the reason we couldn’t get the finances to work were because we were both incompetent, things cost more than I thought and/or we didn’t make enough money. What I discovered over the years was that initially we were incompetent. I worked on it and learned how to budget and do bookkeeping, so that we could run a family.
The reason things cost more is because my wife refuses to cut back, and wants things her way. She told me that “no man can tell her what to do.” Explaining the difference between needs and wants was futile. She would also deliberately make budgets fail, just to prove that I was wrong and then accuse me of not knowing how to handle money because my budget failed.
I frequently broke down my earnings and our expenses to show her what we had to live off during any given pay period. She would stamp her foot on the ground and tell me, “I don’t like your budget! Re-do it!” and then storm of like a three-year old.
I tried to explain that you have to live within your means. She said, “You only think about money, whereas I think of what is in the best interest of the family! I should have seen this earlier!” It took me several years to explain that the adage, “It takes money to make money” does not relate to personal consumption.
I have cut my spending down to next to nothing, and when she realizes there is money she manages to spend before I can use it for bills and other necessities. We are always behind and the stress is unbearable. When I try to bring this up, she tells me it’s the wrong time or place, I’m putting her under stress, I can’t talk about anything but money, I am using the wrong tone of voice, she is tired, I need to learn to just “deal with it” and/or I need to be on medication.
We are both well paid, so finances should not be an issue. She seems to be aware that the finances are something I need to have under control. Since she does not have the threat of deportation any more, she messes up the finances.
On numerous occasions when she has overspent, she will tell me with a straight face that I am to blame because I didn’t stop her. The fact that I am usually not present when she overspends is irrelevant.
My wake-up call happened when I developed Diabetes and gastrointestinal problems. I’m convinced the stress she causes was a contributing factor. When I was diagnosed with these conditions, she spent two hours yelling at me about how stupid I was and made an extremely vicious physical attack, one which could have cost me my eye.
As she helped to clean up my injury, she told me, again with a straight face, that she did not realize how mentally unstable I was. I had to explain to colleagues why my face looked like it did. It was humiliating. I told them I biked into a tree. On a later date, she said she wished she had done more damage.
My family doctor asked if she was projecting her emotions onto our oldest child. I didn’t know what he meant, so I started to do some research and a new world opened up for me. Even though most of the text I found was based on men being the perpetrator, I was able to talk to my doctor about my situation.
One day, I found a card in my work mail box stating all of the benefits we had as employees, and counseling was one of them. I decided to go for it. At this point, I thought I was rapidly losing my mind. I told my wife I needed assertiveness training, which she agreed that I needed.
The counselor was very good and helped a lot. She gave me two options which were to divorce her or learn to manage her behavior. In hindsight, I should have gone for the divorce, but at the time I couldn’t leave the kids with my wife because I was afraid she would turn on them without me present.
Around the same time, a sibling gave me a book about divorcing high-conflict people. It, too, opened new doors. Several years later, I came across the article 10 Signs your Girlfriend or Wife is an Emotional Bully and it all fell into place.
We are still married, but now I’m engaged in a variety of activities, several of which are creative. She has chosen not to be a part of it. I’m finally looking after my health, exercising regularly and putting myself first.
Our oldest child is over 18 and the second one will be 18 in two years. Hopefully, all of the major financial issues will be resolved shortly and I am planning to leave after that. She has begun to turn some of her attacks on our oldest, since he is growing up and ready to separate from her. He has started to question her behavior.
She will work on him and when he has had enough and swears at her, she then becomes the victim, and starts lashing out at me. “No man would let their son swear at their wife, his mother! You are taking his side by not punishing him!”
Our daughter has asked if I can divorce her, so that she can live with me and get some peace and quiet. My family has been completely alienated by her, they will not come and visit me while I’m still married to her, nor is she welcome to visit them.
Friends and acquaintances frequently ask, “How is your charming wife doing?” It’s hard to go to social gatherings and see how she turns on the show, when I have seen behind the mask.
In His Own Words is a joint effort between DAHMW, Shrink4Men and AVoiceForMen to help raise awareness about the invisible victims of domestic violence, men. If you would like to submit your story, please follow the guidelines at the end of this article.
DAHMW (Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women)
If you are in an abusive relationship and don’t know what to do or where to turn, DAHMW provides a 24-hour free helpline (+1 888 HELPLINE).
Shrink4Men Counseling, Coaching and Consulting Services
Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD provides confidential, fee-for-service, counseling, consultation and coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Shrink4Men Services page for professional inquiries.