Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Little Things - There's Nothing Bigger

One might justifiably think that I sometimes blog about 'little things', like a conversation about mailing the tax returns and having to wait for him frequently. In one way, I agree, those are small issues. If the big issues, like name calling and throwing things, had never materialized, I probably would pay them no mind. But as my understanding of the dynamics of the abusive relationship has increased, I now see the 'little things' as symptomatic of a general mindset that guarantees there can be no mutually rewarding intimate relationship.

Mindreading, particularly negative mindreading is a feature of my husband's psyche which plays out with me and with other people. I know he does it with me, because I know what I am thinking, feeling and intending. I also strongly suspect he also does it with other people because I have been there and seen the same interactions he has seen and I come away thinking there was probably a misunderstanding and he comes away convinced that the person was deliberately being nasty to him. Often, a minimally unpleasant interaction with a service person, for example, is an injustice he will long remember.

We haven't done anything fun together in a long time. Last night, I was enjoying the evening breeze and the stars and recalling a brief getaway we had to a lovely rustic hotel last May. "Remember how great it was sitting on the porch of La Luna Inn last year honey?", I remarked. "Yeah, except that waiter at dinner thought I was an idiot about wine."

Last year, this was merely annoying. Now I realize that he doesn't just wonder whether possibly the waiter did not respect his taste in wine, but he knows that this waiter didn't think he was "okay." (It's not just an opinion on his taste in wine, it's a reflection on his value as a person.) And he knows that the waiter was deliberately nasty to him.

Well, I was there, and it seemed to me that the waiter did not understand a comment my husband made and was replying to what he thought he had said. The bill hadn't been paid yet and it seems unlikely to me that a waiter would deliberately insult a customer just before check presentation. And even if the waiter had thought his taste in wine was abysmal, so what? Does his self image rise and fall on the opinions of waiters? Sadly, I fear it does.

Since he doesn't have sufficient self-esteem on board, I guess he doesn't shrug it off the way I do. I told him I thought he might be happier if he'd just let that stuff go. After all, one will encounter an occasional unfriendly clerk or waiter. That's just life.

This is far from the first time I have seen that in a situation where 99% of what has happened is positive, he will focus on the 1% that is negative. And a lot of times the negative isn't even there. I have noticed that generally I think I am treated well out there in the world. He doesn't understand why he isn't. I suspect that he is, but when he reacts to ambiguous situations by assuming hostile intent, then some people do become hostile. I am tired of struggling to remain positive in the face of his negativity. It seems that it is more important to him to discuss endlessly the maltreatment of a waiter (real or imagined) than to drop it and get on with having a good time together.

At least I can leave him to his indignant ruminations, temporarily and eventually permanently. He, on the other hand, has to live inside the hostile world he creates in his mind. It must suck being him.




Barbara said...

He sounds narcissistic.

start reading through all the old posts at

and thank you for the link!

M McGowen AKA Haunted Poet said...

This sounds so familiar. My husband made sure we never enjoyed a family outing. If anything, when we tried to go someplace together as a family, his hostility and resentful attitude towards us was notched up 100% until we learned to never expect anything good with him.
Why did I keep wanting this beastly person to love me? That's part of my own sickness I guess. But at least I know now that it IS sick.
It's like I could only see things one bit at a time before, now I see the whole picture. All the fragmented pieces of all years put together into one coherent picture. There is a pattern of abuse to everything in our life together. Everything.

jennie said...


yes, he has some definite narcissistic characteristics.

haunted poet,

I know what you mean about seeing things one bit at a time. It was after I read Patricia Evans books, "The Verbally Abusive Relationship" and "Controlling People" that I began to grasp the larger picture. At the most basic level, I think it is about power. Abusers lack a sense of personal power and try to get it by exerting power over another person.

I don't think it is sick to want your husband to love you. The desire to love and be loved is one of our most fundamental human needs. It is normal. But you probably are not going to get love from him. Not because you aren't loveable, but because he lacks the capacity to love another person.

Bill said...

I thank you for sharing this well written post. As a male I am struggling to understand this whole abuse issue. I don't think I will every really understand it, but reading your posts is giving me more of an insight into the minds of both the abused and the abuser.
I thank you for that, I hope you don't mind if I add you to my blogroll.
I also appreciate and thank you for the comments you leave on my site, the star fish story is wonderful
I know that by sharing as you are you will help many people, please keep it up, you are a blessing to this mixed up world of ours.

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