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ARCHIVE - Is it domestic abuse?

Mutually abusive

I feel like this is a confessional, but he just agreed with me that it IS domestic abuse - but that it's mutually abusive.

I guess I am still hypersensitive to my role in the miserable marriage that we had and this taps straight into that. Part of me wants to be blameless. I know I am not. But at the same time I cannot help but feel my anger and frustrations are born out of a reaction to his behaviour towards me. I don't want to sound like I put all the blame on him, but I am just trying to understand.

He referred to a time on holiday when he says I called him a w***er. He says I did the gestures with it. I remember the argument. It was early in 2010. We had arranged for two nights without the children before they would come and spend the rest of the week as a family. They were staying with family.

We never had sex at all - he just never ever approached me for it. I thought it was because he was worried about the children coming in on us. But he wasn't really demonstrative at all towards me. At this point we hadn't had sex in our own home in four years.

In the time alone on holiday I initiated sex and he just seemed to go along with it. But unlike in the past he didn't even try to make things good for me (sorry if too much information). I just felt so - well- cross, disappointed, rejected, baffled. And I was angry. I admit it. I really was. Later we had a row in the kitchen and I just let rip. I said I couldn't understand why he wasn't interested in me sexually, why he'd rather sit looking at porn every night on the computer while I was sitting in bed upstairs. I don't remember calling him a w***er but I was angry and it's very likely.

I feel bad about it, but I just don't know. I'm not an angel and I did have outbursts from time to time. I wonder if I can really say I was a 'victim' of abuse because so much of the time I reacted to him with anger. Or rather by biting my tongue and holding it all in if I could. I wasn't always shouting but just so frustrated by it all.

I cried a lot too. And felt anxiety and upset. But I also felt angry.

That day on holiday a lot of stuff poured out of me. I told him- for the first time - that I was still upset about the time he called me a w**re back at the start of our relationship. I was trying to get him to understand that I didn't feel loved.

I guess it's hard to love someone who's calling you a w***er and ranting like a fishwife.

I've got quite a bit of figuring out to do. I guess I don't like the thought that I have been abusive :-(

Created by beingbrave on 14-Jan-12 15:18 GMT

Hi Beingbrave

Sorry to read that you are in such a confused stage at the moment. Very often abuser will say that the person they are abusing is abusive as well.  It's another way of not taking responsibility for their behaviour or for minimising their abuse. This is part of the psychological abuse he is subjecting you to and is called "victim blaming"

You may also want to take a look on this link about not so obvious sexual abuse here.

Please do try to take the time to gather all the information before you label yourself as an abuser. It may help you to call the helpline 0808 2000 247 and have a chat with a support worker before taking on that label.

Hope this will help you

Posted by WA Moderator on 14-Jan-12 17:34 GMT

Thank you Lisa

I just feel so confused by it. I said to him three years ago I didn't like name calling and I tried really hard not to be drawn into arguments. My mum said he was always goading me, pushing buttons. I have diary entries where I talk of biting my tongue, staying calm, not reacting.

It really hurts me that he wasn't interested in me sexually. At the start it was all Ann Summers stuff and he kind of encouraged us to watch porn together. He was into mild S&M I suppose. He wanted me to go out without underwear.

After we had our first child it was like- no more sex. At all. None. I was kind of aware that he was up late every night and I knew he was looking at porn.

Another time we had a night away at a wedding and I made a move towards him and he said - can't we just sleep?

I just don't know what I could do differently. I could have tried harder? I just felt so rejected. I said to him about it once and he said "you don't come anyway so what's the point". Which was really hurtful and not true either.

I felt so sad for such a long time. But sometimes it just comes out of me as anger. I didn't ever think I'd be virtually celibate for eight years of my life.

He would say - we really need to talk about our sex life. But we just never did talk about it.

When we got together - and it was a secret from people at work - one day at lunchtime he told me that the guys in his department were talking about who fancied me - and he told them: Actually I'm f***ing her.

That's how he told them. I was a bit shocked. But I thought it was office banter and he was just trying to be one of the guys and laying a claim to me. Now when I look back I feel ashamed that he spoke about me like that.

I'm sorry if this is a bit much for the forum. I can't imagine telling any counsellors this - and it's all so long ago it doesn't really count anymore.

Posted by beingbrave on 14-Jan-12 19:48 GMT

Big hugs

In my view you are not one bit abusive hun. What Lisa said is very true, some abusers will try to make you believe that you are too!
I can relate to the witholding of sex, i couldn't understand at first but i eventually realised that this was a form of sexual abuse. After some yrs together i noticed that it had changed to a routine of that i had to approach him. What turned out to be our last holiday together i decided that i was not initiating making love unless he did at least once and he didn't. That was another lightbulb moment for me that i had to get out of this relationship. He was using this time and ploy to abuse me, this wasa sick form of control to him that i had to be the one to come on to him. So i now realise that sexual abuse isn't only someone pawing at you and wanting it all the time but it can be witholding it as well.

Posted by Softee on 14-Jan-12 20:12 GMT

Thank you for your thoughts

It's so hard to see. It's hard to understand why on earth someone would behave like that if I didn't give them reason.

Two years ago I tried so hard - lost a bit of weight, took care with my appearance, Hollywood waxes, matching underwear - I even sent him a cheeky photo on a text message. He'd raise an eyebrow like he thought it was a bit saucy, but then... Nothing. Its so depressing. I'm years younger than him, he's put on weight and losing his hair and you'd think he might think I was a catch?

Early on in our relationship he told me he wasn't a boob man, that they didn't do anything for him - when that was the thing I used to get compliments for. I remember being a bit hurt by that. But then I thought, well I guess it's a compliment that he likes me for me and doesn't just talk to my chest. But now I think he was just being mean and putting me down.

I just don't know. I don't want to call anyone names. I've tried so hard to rise above name calling. I'm not perfect but I am trying you know?

I also said one day - I can't keep coming on to you, but I would like to have sex, and you know where I am... And he never ever wanted me in that way. :-(

Posted by beingbrave on 14-Jan-12 21:11 GMT

Mr Achy Balls

Mine would tell me that he had achy balls and could he 'alleviate' himself in me. What a turn on! When I wanted sex he had erectile dysfunction. But babes, listen to me here. When I left my relationship I felt UGLY - and thought that if any man saw me naked, they would be as repulsed as my husband was. But I have slept with 4 men since I left him. EVERY single one of them have marveled at my beautiful body (I dont look like a model BTW) I have stretch marks, saggy skin, the works. But each one, every single one, have made it a point to tell me how beautiful I am and how much they enjoyed the sex, and I have looked at their faces - they were not lying, they were looking at me and in my eye. So what I am saying is, you go out a buy yourself some nice clothes, some nice perfume, some nice accessories, and you practice walking into places like you are one sexy lady. You are going to turn heads. Promise.
You go girl!

Posted by KiaKahaWahine on 14-Jan-12 22:21 GMT

Such a bad nights sleep

Cannot sleep with all the thoughts going round in my head. Have thought so much about his comment that the relationship was mutually abusive and I'm going to put my foot down (with myself) and say that it wasn't.

One person constantly criticised the other
One person called names frequently
One person belittled the other persons job
One person said the other person wasn't a good parent
One person never put their arm around the other when they were sad
One person insulted the other persons friends and family
One person was frequently cross and annoyed
One person was disappointed with the others 'contribution'
One person didn't help around the house or garden
One person drank too much
One person managed to put a cloud over the other person if they had a night out
One person banged their fist on the table
One person made the other person cry
One person had the other person running around trying to be perfect
One person said the other person was pathetic, a moron, ignorant, a sociopath, uncouth, vermin, useless, an idiot
One person NEVER said sorry. Never.

And that person isn't me. I might lose my temper occasionally but I am allowed to feel angry. He always told me that my feelings were not as a result of his actions but to do with me - that he wasn't responsible for my feelings. That I have anger management problems. Well do you know what? That's not ME.

Sorry. I just wanted to get this all out. I thought I might be able to sleep better.
Thanks for listening

Posted by beingbrave on 15-Jan-12 05:25 GMT

it is not you!

hope you have slept after writing this. xx

Posted by counting days on 15-Jan-12 09:47 GMT

you've got your answer!!

Great to see you have got your answer and writing things down sometimes does help a lot. I'm sure lots of the abusive tactics above resonate with many on here. Oh the making sure you don't enjoy a night out is classic - I hardly went out apart from to my work christmas party and every year he would have me crying before I went by causing a big scene about it - I would insist on not letting him ruin my night but one year I had to tell them I had flu and didnt go. It's their insecurity.....they know they are being abusive and scared you will be whisked off into the night by a knight in shining armour like you deserve!!!!

They are so devious, they know exactly how to break us down and leave us with no confidence. I'm glad you are starting to realise it is NOT your fault. xxxxx

Posted by rosylips on 15-Jan-12 13:46 GMT


Dear Being Brave
I think it might be helpful if you look at your intentions when you fight back and what are his intentions in his words and behaviour. You may find that his is intentional. It is insidious. It is meant to control you physically and mentally. Your intention though, is to keep what is left of your physical and mental self. You are reacting to stimulus (him) and he is the one dishing it out. So, while you may have said and done some humdingers, your intention was vastly different from his.
You are not him. Your behaviour is not like his.
His behaviour, to make matters worse, is supported by the fabric of our society - the movies we watch, the songs we listen to, the gender roles we subscribe to. That is why, dominator personalities are mostly men. Not all. Some ladies are abusive too. But mostly men are that way because they can get away with it and it is condoned by society. You only got to look as far as the judicial system to see that when a man assaults a woman he knows, he gets a slap on the wrist but if he inflicted the same injuries on a stranger he would be charged with attempted murder. Makes your guts sick!!!!
I digress, what you need to think long and deep about is what he is thinking when he says and does these vile things. And what you are thinking when you retaliate. Having said that, I was wondering if you have done a programme like the freedom programme? I say this because when I thought long and deep about what my ex was thinking/doing - I had panic attacks and took many weeks to be okay afterwards. When I finally acknowledged that my husband had contempt for me always, and was displaying it in the most crafty ways without saying a word - well, it was like someone smacked me across the face with a brick.
So, get some support around you.
Wishing you some sleep, firstly, and some clarity of mind secondly, and after the despair, some warm hugs from your friends and family.
You want to best revenge? And this is a long way off I know, but be happy. There is light at the end of the tunnel. I am not through my process and court matters aside, I am happier now than I have ever been in my life.
Hang in there
Strength to you

Posted by KiaKahaWahine on 15-Jan-12 20:54 GMT

Thank you

I'm sorry to go on. I've just posted about the same thing again. I think you are right. It is all about intention. I honestly wasn't trying to hurt anyone. I would never do that in the cold light of day. Sometimes in the heat of the moment I might have said something unkind, but it was rare and I always felt bad and made apologies if I had. In contrast he would say stuff out of the blue. Or he would start what appeared to be an innocent conversation but I would always know it would end up in a criticism of me - I could always tell. I couldn't fathom why he would do it. I'd remain as calm as possible. And try not to react. Sometimes I just agreed with him - "yes I am sh*t at that".

He frequently criticised me as a mother, wife and working woman. Telling me I wasn't coping. I was miserable. That put simply I needed to be better organised. That I wasn't working any harder than plenty of other women. That I needed to raise my game.

I would NEVER make those accusations of him. Even in an argument. I would never accuse him of being a bad dad - or say anything negative about his job. I DID ask for some help round the house but I rarely got any. I just got criticised for not having achieved more during the week. He would say What IS IT you do?

He said 'Your useless as a wife and not even a very good mother, although you think you are'.

I never refused him sex - he NEVER wanted it from me. To say now that he had to use porn because he was sad and lonely. That's really unfair.

I am trying to see - his intentions seemed to be to hurt me. I couldnt understand why he spoke to me that way. One time when he was telling me I'd forgotten something he said - You must have Alzheimer's. I said "please don't say that, you know my gran died of Alzheimer's and that comment hurt". He replied "I know, that's why I said it - it was meant to". WHAT???

Posted by beingbrave on 15-Jan-12 21:08 GMT

You haven't been abusive

Hi beingbrave,

I've often felt amazed when reading your posts at the similarities between your husband and my ex-husband, but this time I can see similarities with my current partner, especially in relation to the anger side and the sexual side.

I don't think you have been abusive, because the abuse of women by men is a characteristic pattern of behaviour driven by the man's need for Power and Control over his partner, and is designed to erode the woman's confidence and self-esteem to maintain his control and deter her from leaving him.

I think your anger and frustration are definitely borne out of a reaction to his abusive behaviour. In my Pattern Changing course, we learned that as a response to the abuse, many women can often become angry and controlling, but nevertheless, this anger is a reaction and is not driven by a need for Power. I've experienced a lot of anger and frustration towards my partner, mainly in response to his constant lying, evasiveness, throwing up smokescreens and failure to be open and honest with me.

At Pattern Changing we also learned that anger is a very normal and natural human emotion. Expressing anger doesn't mean that you are bad (many women whilst growing up have been conditioned to believe that they shouldn't ever be angry and if they feel angry it means they are 'bad'). In fact, we learned that if expressed appropriately, anger can be both energising and empowering.

You are being mistreated, and it's only natural you should be angry. Abusive men don't like their partners to express anger for two main reasons: firstly because in their distorted mindset, women should be sweet tempered and compliant at all times, and secondly, it's because there is POWER in your anger - and they certainly don't want YOU to have any Power because it threatens their need for Power.

Even in healthy non-abusive relationships, couples have conflicts from time to time where they may become angry with each other or call one another names. However, healthy couples are fully connected with their feelings and emotions, so that they also have empathy for one another's feelings. When the row is over and they've cleared the air, they don't reproach each other for expressing anger because they know that feeling angry is normal at times of conflict.

One more thing, you are mindful that you have at times said hurtful things, but the difference between you and an abusive man is that you are conscious about what you have done, you accept responsibility, and you no doubt feel guilt and remorse. You are not denying what you have done, nor are you minimising it, nor are you pushing all the blame for your behaviour onto your partner, as an abuser would.

It wouldn't surprise me if your husband told you you'd called him a w***er, just to make you doubt yourself and make you feel guilty. In the row that led to my partner attacking me, he said it was because I'd repeatedly called him a 'liar' and called him 'gay'. Yet I know I didn't because I never would have used those names. I admit to having called him some names in anger, such as mummy's boy and emasculated, but never a liar or gay. And I bet you didn't call him a w***er either

My partner is a sexual withholder, and has refused to touch me intimately right from the start of our relationship (sorry if this is too explicit). I tried everything - hollywood waxes (ouch!), sexy underwear - we even saw a couples' therapist and a sex therapist, but he would be endlessly creative with his excuses and we never got anywhere.

Looking back, although he was very romantic at the start of the relationship, he was never sexually passionate. The first time I was shocked by his inexperience, but I mistakenly thought that with patience and encouragement he would become less inhibited. We went out together and bought books, but he wouldn't look at them, or even look at them with me. If I initiated sex he was angry and rejecting, so we could only do it when he wanted it. I twisted my mind into knots trying to figure out what was wrong - I know he grew up in a family where any mention of sex was strictly taboo - but I also wondered if he had been sexually abused.

I looked at the 'hidden hurt' site that Lisa posted the link to and I realised it was probably subtle sexual abuse - all about his self-gratification and no regard for my needs. He insisted I was calling him gay. Now I'm wondering is he secretly gay? :( xx

Posted by Ashley on 15-Jan-12 22:42 GMT


Thank you, your posts always help me. I am full of self doubt. It really isn't that I don't want to take any blame. It's just that I was trying so hard to make things work and I know I am not perfect, but I just couldn't work out why on earth we couldn't see eye to eye, and why he would keep saying the hurtful things he did and why he kept behaving that way.

So when I read the Lundy book and I have also had a look at one of the Power and Control books, and it just ALL MADE SENSE. It was like a lightbulb moment. I suddenly could see.

What I am struggling with is that in his eyes I am still to blame - and now not only that but he is now saying that I was abusive too. So now I am really mixed up. I don't think of myself as an abusive person at all. I do know that I have a temper. Or rather I used to. I have been trying so hard to bite my tongue over the years and remain calm. I do think it's reactionary anger - like you say - I don't go around being unkind and angry for no reason.

He has also told me on many occasions that I am out of line anytime I even get cross. I am 'not allowed' to show anger of any kind without being 'wrong'. It's like any time I have raised my voice the thing that I am saying NO LONGER COUNTS in his mind. It's been so hard and so frustrating. I have tried all kinds of ways to try and make him hear me. I just wanted him to understand what I was saying.

One time I was trying to talk about our sex life and I said about it calmly and he simply said 'you don't come anyway' - which really shocked me that he would say that to me (and it's not true even, so why would he say that???). It was really hurtful and I went upstairs to bed on my own wondering why he said that and feeling really sad.

I don't know if I actually called him a w***er on holiday - I was angry and I may have done - he had just 'rejected' me really and I was upset - I honestly cannot remember, but it seems much more likely to me that I accused him of w***ING - because he was in front of the computer every night.

Like you I tried lots of things to try and get him interested. Sorry, I guess this is all a bit much for the forum. I just don't feel able to talk to counsellors about this.

Thanks Ash

Posted by beingbrave on 16-Jan-12 09:47 GMT


Thanks also, and I am trying to get on the Freedom Programme in my area. The next one starts in April :s but in the mean time I am going to the dv drop in for support. But I do really think the Freedom Programme will be an enormous help - at least I hope it will be.

Posted by beingbrave on 16-Jan-12 10:39 GMT


I don't have time to post as long a reply as I'd like but these are my thoughts...

First of all I did something similar, one day after sitting still listening to my litany of faults (nothing too unusual there: you never listen, are pathetic, don't understand anything, don't care enough, blah blah blah) I just snapped. I said "you're nothing but a c**t". It was wrong, I know that, and it's a vile word that I never use normally.

However here's the difference, just like you listed - this was a one off, one word. My way of seeing it is I am a good person who did something bad. He was a bad person who did bad things daily. And at the end of the day you and I lost our tempers, we're not perfect, no one is.

I hate to say this, I shouldn't have done it but afterwards he stood over me screaming that I had to apologise, getting close, intimidating, hot breath and spittle in my face and I just said 'no'. Not good of me but I had to retain some control. It just goes to show how much they effect us - I would have never dreamt of not apologising after losing my temper outside that 'relationship'.

Try not to beat yourself up. He has got in your head. Try to listen to yourself instead and trust yourself. They put so much doubt in our heads by constant criticism, undermining and disrespect but try to grab that inner voice. It knows the truth.

Love, hugs and strength to you,

Posted by hope2012 on 16-Jan-12 11:02 GMT