I need some good advice from an outside party, which is why I am writing to you – that and because you are a cat, and cats are good listeners. My problem is with my husband. He is a wonderful, sweet, caring and attentive man; but he can also be rigid to the point of complete inflexibility, self-centered, and hurtful. He has never lost his temper with me but, at times when he thinks nobody is listening, I have overheard him spewing cruel venom to those with whom he is angry. Recently, my sister approached me about something he supposedly said to her (he has denied it) and now neither of them wants anything to do with the other. I am close to my sister, and we still have lunch once a week, in spite of my husband’s obvious dislike of her.
The other day, I returned home from one of these lunch dates with my sister to find my beloved cat, Tabby, missing. After a frantic search on my part, my husband calmly informed me that his asthma could no longer tolerate “the pet” so he dropped her off at the shelter while I was out with my sister. I would have an easier time believing this if he wasn’t a pack-a-day smoker; I think he was trying to be mean to me because I was visiting with my sister! I immediately rescued Tabby, and told my husband that if he ever did something like this again it would be he who ends up in a shelter – the homeless kind, because I would kick him out of the house.
Needless to add, it has been rather stressful around the house since that day. My family insists I am being mentally abused, but I am not sure. No man has ever treated me so well – or so spitefully. What should I do, Tazi-Kat?
Unlike physical abuse, mental abuse can be difficult to see; especially through the eyes of the one who is being abused. You say that your husband treats you well and is “caring and attentive”. I assume that this occurs only when he is not being “self-centered and hurtful”? To the eyes of an outside party, your husband’s attentions are a part of the mental abuse he is piling on you. If he was cruel to you all of the time, you would not be confused about whether or not you are being abused; however, his periods of kindness fill you with self-doubt about your own feelings.
Abusers are masters of manipulation who slowly chip away at their victim’s self-worth, starting by making them feel like their hurt feelings and anger are unreasonable; that they – the abuser – are actually the victim. Is that not how your husband portrayed himself when excusing his treatment of your cat? The fact that you were willing to stand up for your cat tells me that you are still strong enough to stand up for yourself, as well. Hold onto that strength, because you will need it on the road ahead of you.
1. Pushes for quick involvement: Comes on strong, presses for an exclusive relationship and commitment almost immediately.
2. Jealous: Excessively possessive; calls constantly, even at work, or visits unexpectedly.
3. Controlling: Interrogates you intensely about whom you talked to and where you were? Always wanting an explanation of who was on the phone, etc.
4. Unrealistic expectations: Expects you to be the perfect mate and meet all of his or her needs.
5. Isolation: Tries to cut all ties from your family and friends; accuses people who are your supporters of “causing trouble” or not liking him or her.
6. Blames others for problems and/or mistakes: It’s always someone else’s fault.
7. Makes others responsible for his or her feelings: The abuser says, “You’re hurting me by not doing what I tell you”.
8. Hypersensitivity: Is easily insulted, claiming hurt feelings when he or she is really angry.
9. Cruelty to animals & children: Brutally kills or punishes, or threatens to kill or punish animals. Also may expect children to do things that are far above their ability. Sixty-five % of abusers who beat their partner will also abuse children.
10. “Playful” use of force during sex: Enjoys throwing you down or holding you against your will during sex.
11. Verbal abuse: Constantly criticizes, says blatantly cruel things, name calling or curses at you.
12. Rigid gender roles: Expects you to serve, obey and remain at home.
13. Sudden mood swings: From sweet to violent in minutes.
14. Past battering: Admits to hitting a mate in the past, but says the person “made” him or her do it.
15. Threats of violence: Says things like “I’ll break your neck” or I’ll kill you”, then dismisses them with “Everybody talks that way” or “I didn’t really mean it”.
If your husband exhibits three or more of these traits, it is safe to consider him an abuser. If he exhibits these traits towards you, it is safe to consider yourself abused. The National Domestic Abuse Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE) can help direct you towards resources in your area, and get you and your husband the help that you both need.