When Your Good Marriage Isn't

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What happens when your spouse's occasional darkness starts to be their main gig and you hardly recognize them as someone who loves you and helped you through your darkest hour?

When life has been unfair or they haven't had any luck, and they seem to have nothing ahead of them or behind them other than failure after failure, and all they want is to feel successful, and they start to knock you down to feel bigger, what then?


hardly recognize them as someone who loves you and helped you through your darkest hour?

and they start to knock you down...

I think I get how you're feeling...

Regardless of what they've helped you through in the past, them knocking you down because of how they are feeling about their own life or lack of it, is not ok or healthy.

In my opinion- If they are habitually doing that then they are in essence trying to feed their own narcissistic ego at your expense.

Are they getting therapy?


When life has been unfair or they haven't had any luck, and they seem to have nothing ahead of them or behind them other than failure after failure, and all they want is to feel successful, and they start to knock you down to feel bigger, what then?
My husband is doing this right now. He isn't a narcissistic. He is just lashing out.

I wish I had answers for you. I know the solution is boundaries, but how do you come up with logical and acceptable consequences for words that tear you down? How does he respond when you tell him that it hurts?


When my husband has had dark times, I've had to stop him; to tell him "No. That's not acceptable." I've had to point out what he was saying, what he was doing-because when he was stuck he really didn't realize. It was just words that got spat out before his brain kicked in. Making him realize what he said, what he did, when I was doing what I could to be there for him, helped him pause and pull himself back in.

He gets stressed, we all do, and just because he's my supporter doesn't mean he doesn't have his own issues. It doesn't mean he's always going to be supportive and that he won't have stress that causes him to react unreasonably.

I can tell him to stop, that what he said or did is unacceptable, and that I won't put up with it. I also remind him that I'm there for him, to help and support him and I know he's stressed, but that doesn't give him the right to take it out on me. What I will suggest is that he talks to me about what's bothering him so much, to vent and maybe we can find something we can figure out to make it easier.

For example: Most recently we had renovations. We are lucky to have a beautiful house with two floors, two full bathrooms and five full bedrooms and two spare unfinished rooms. We live with two housemates usually-one was gone for this. Our renovations meant our entire upper floor was torn out and redone. We were staying downstairs because rent is remarkably expensive and at first we thought it *might* be three months.

Haha. It was six and a half. No bedroom-we were sleeping in our downstairs living room. No walls, no privacy and people coming in at 6am to do loud work walking through our house, five or six workers at a time and nowhere to get away from it. He's an introvert. No recharge time for him and then the costs built up. Cracks in foundation, rotten sills, just a mess.

Between lack of a place for him to recharge as an introvert, the extended time and costs, we both stressed out, I had mine and then, after I hit my zen "nothing I can do, so just do what you can" he hit his stress. When I was stressed he told me that it was going to be done soon and I shouldn't be upset, that it was going to be how it was going to be.

When he stressed, he wouldn't listen to the same. He was stretched to his wits ends and starting getting decidedly unpleasant to be around. Eventually I had to pull him aside after the workers were gone and say:

"No. You don't get to act like this. You don't get to tell me to swallow it and then turn around and take it out on me when you're stressed. We can't do anything about this. It will be done when it's done. That's not my fault, and not your fault, and if you're having this big of an issue, you need to either look into apartments for the next however long or find a way to deal with it constructively, because I won't take the blame for something that I can't even do anything about."

We eventually figured it out, getting out more, spending some extra cash on things we thought we'd enjoy in the house, being away when workers were in, and generally finding other methods to destress him until we finished.

It didn't work perfectly, he was still stressed out, but he wasn't treating me poorly as a result. He'd vent and grumble still, but it wasn't an attack. Not a perfect solution, but sometimes there's no option for that.

We have used this kind of communication for times when we had no money coming in for almost a year, when his mom passed and for time when she was having health problems and some of his family started attacking us (some wanted her in a home and we supported her wish not to go-she, at the time, didn't need one, but some of her family were very uncomfortable with her mental illness).

So t's not just for minor issues, it works for the big ones too.

You need to make your boundaries and stick to them. Open the lines of communication and be abundantly clear. Do what you can to find ways to relieve stress in the situation and be ready to listen to a lot of ranting about how much certain things really suck.

No marriage is without hard patches. Even the best ones will be rocky at times. It's how we manage the rough patches that make a marriage good, not the absence of them entirely.


Thank you all. It means so much to log in here and see someone else can reach out while I'm still in a lot of pain and anger over this.

Are they getting therapy?

Thank you for this, no, he's not. This whole negative interaction has been building. I've mentioned therapy, in terms of finding out what's fueling his rage. He assumes OCD, genetic, but we don't know. Sometimes, knowing is half the battle. BUT, now that actual damage is done to the relationship and to me, I can see the need for it in further ways.

How does he respond when you tell him that it hurts?

He further gaslights and further establishes himself as beyond reproach for shouting at me and getting in my face, and he explains how it's all my fault.
He falls back on the same broken record attacks:
"You always freak out on anniversaries and ruin it," "You woke up like this, triggered, and you're perception of reality is inaccurate," "You started this, not me, I didn't do anything," "Nothing happened yesterday; you're just mad at me because it's our anniversary and you are always upset on them," "I don't remember what happened, I was not fully awake yet," etc. is what I've heard from him in the last 24 hours.

What makes it so painful is that it wasn't until I was alone and shaking in the bathroom after I say "no" to his attack that I realized he chose to unleash the day prior to our anniversary. And that he's use this to say that I did it. Which he did. I didn't mention it or talk to him at all.

He'd vent and grumble still, but it wasn't an attack.

No, this was a personal attack meant to ruin my self esteem for a specific reason.


I had to run for the door. I'd like to complete my thought.

It was a gaslighting attack plain and simple. We're in a financial situation that we're trying to recover from, and instead of open communication, he wants to fix it himself or says "Yeah, great," to my ideas as he walks away with body language that says "I don't care or value you." Since I have the savings in my name and have to act if I want to bail us out, he likely (I don't know) felt some kind of negative emotion that I didn't intend when I asked for his opinion on which way to bail.

I didn't pick up on the negativity and was talking about why one option might not be as good as it sounds based on my research, when he shouted loudly "Ridiculous!" and got up and ran into my space and was talking so loud and fast that I couldn't catch it all. I was in shock. It was a "tirade" of insults that I could make out:

"You cut me off! You won't even listen! That's never going to happen! You're being paranoid! How can you listen to people online saying that! If you would stop talking I could tell you why that's stupid! Let me take my medicine first! (and he takes pill with intent to continue the tirade).

He skips to personal insults about how "intense" I'm talking and how I woke up triggered and switched, and how he can't talk to me.

I think my chin was on the floor at that point. I didn't know how to respond; it was totally unexpected and for a second I thought he must have misheard me.

I have repeatedly asked and gotten no response about this topic; and then this is the response I did get. Since he blew up at me.

In previous weekends, he disrespected my perception of reality when one of our children did something rude to me that he didn't see, only overheard from the other room. He told me I was "off base" and PTSD was warping my perception.

The point isn't who's "right" but the fact that he has a long history of insisting in all disagreements that his view is "correct" and I am incorrect and not able to perceive reality.

If he yells while I merely talk, he still insists that I am the one yelling, etc. Such that these issue never resolve. He does not apologize easily and when he does he says "I"m sorry you think that, " not "I'm sorry that my words or tone hurt you."

Like you said above, stressful, but not an excuse to make a point to gaslight your wife repeatedly to make yourself feel bigger and better than her or in competition.

He obviously sees this as some kind of "top dog" competition rather than what it actually is, and that is insecurity and a sense of failure that stems from childhood that predates me.


typical of gaslighting, as a way to redirect silence a partner’s attempts to bring up an issue, and redirect the focus to what’s “wrong” with her instead:


Oh wow.

I'm sorry hon.

I've only had to talk to my husband twice about possibly dismissing my experiences because I have PTSD. Give me a moment, I'll reread and unpack.


1-Therapy. It's definitely needed. If he won't go, then he obviously isn't willing to change. Blunt but true.

2-I have had him avoid things or say "I don't want to XXX because you're always YYY when we.." I have only had him tell me twice that I may be reacting because of my PTSD...both times I immediately dropped into my blank dissociation and told him "No. That's not acceptable. You're NOT going to use my illness to excuse yourself or make me sound like I'm crazy. I feel how I feel for a good goddamned reason."

3-a lot of this is through my own therapy that I am able to do this. It may be difficult to start but worthwhile-though given his reactions I'd be concerned about violence.

4-This is abuse.

I think you need to think long and hard about what you want, how to get it and what you're willing to put up with. He sounds increasingly unstable, which could be for a number of reasons that weren't good to be in existence at all to start with. Sometimes small things explode-like traditional masculinity, in this example. If he's a victim of that mindset, he's probably already ticked because it's your savings, not his, which threatens him as not being a real man, so he has to be angry and violent to compensate (because that's a "real man" response and he needs to fill up his "man tank" one way or the other, if it isn't bread winning, then anger is acceptable or shaving with a knife or chewing glass or some other such nonsense).

I don't normally much talk about these things here because they're charged, but you have a fairly standard case here. He's being aggressive and violent, treating you like less and won't talk to you about money and you're the one with the finances right now. He's probably feeling very threatened and belittled which is why he's gaslighting and abusing you (it's the standard reason).

In the end, it all results in the same-but I feel that knowing causes can help nip things should they get partially resolved in the future or ever rear their ugly heads again. Things like making him feel worthy and valued and "manly" can help key it down, though that's pointless with your relationship where it's at.

He needs to be willing to go to therapy. He needs a way to resolve the worst of what he's going through so it can become manageable-because right now, it's a monster.

If he will-that's great, better people than we can help him manage the worst of it and get him back to the man you married.

If he won't-then what's your cutoff point? When and where are you going to make your stand? Because if he doesn't get help, you are going to have to make a line in the sand that says "that's enough." Stick to it. He crosses the line, pack your stuff go stay with a friend, a relative or in a motel. Don't back down.

If he's been abusing you like this and is now threatening violence, you need to make safety a priority.


Thank you @J'qel

He's not threatening or violent, but I felt for a split second afraid when he charged into the kitchen towards me. It turned out he was getting his pill. And that was located directly behind where I was standing.

He didn't tell me why he was moving so fast and loud toward me, so it was scary until he said "I need my pill," and until that moment, getting in my face seemed the only reason and seemed to match the words coming out and the tone.

Once I saw I was not in physical danger, it was merely the emotional "shock value" of being raged at out of left field.

If we could figure things out, that's one thing.

But since he then insisted "nothing happened" (what does that mean to him? To me, something happened, even if I wasn't hit, it was uncalled for, random, and bizarre, not to mention inappropriate) and says "I'm over-reacting."

I'm 100% in agreement with you that unless I've having a flashback and freaking out, No, I'm "reacting" to something not "over-reacting." If I happen to find my husband sitting calmly one second, as I pour his second cup of coffee and nicely asking for his advice to come later, and the next minute freezing when charged and yelled at scary, so be it.

It's irrelevant if I have PTSD or not.

I told him "No, stop" cutting off verbal anger, and went into my bathroom to finish getting ready for work. He let me go.

In there, I was shaking and choking on tears. I felt emotionally attacked, and I still don't know why.

Another aspect, was, just prior to this, we were drinking coffee and watching music videos (he does this in the AM; he's the musician, controls the remote. I just watch. He doesn't put on things he knows I don't like.)

And I complimented a male singer's voice. He insulted the band in a rude way, that was an indirect insult to my taste, and turned the song off suddenly.

When I asked him about THAT choice, which was just prior to the explosion of rage, his response:

"I thought you were insinuating that you found him attractive." (He felt jealousy.)

When if he could read minds, I found him to be very unattractive, and found his voice to be a nice surprise, since I disliked everything about the whole video, including the song and lyrics.

My over-detailed point, is, I guess, that I agree.

He needs therapy. No, he's far from violent.

But, what it's doing to me, to have to censor so much and have to defend my compliment or actions, to have to explain for two days and hours to someone why their explosive and uncalled for behavior is unacceptable as is their refusal to take responsibility for the effects of their mistakes or actions or misapprehensions is beyond stressful.

I seriously doubt that I am the only one with a disorder in this marriage. I very much doubt that my PTSD is the issue here at all, until 3 days into the ordeal, I can no longer eat or sleep and am having panic attacks and emotional flashbacks to how unsafe it felt at home as a child.

I had to medicate the next night, but I got through the first night okay.


My husband and I had a big blowup in May and we're still picking up the pieces. It started when he left town for two weeks for work and I realized how awesome it was to not have him around. And how he constantly used my PTSD or PMS to discount my feelings and opinions, and was so glued to his phone that we couldn't have a conversation even after I told him it made me feel like I'm not there. I had become a non-entity in my own marriage. I left him a note and went and stayed in a hotel for 5 days when he got back and had made enough arrangements that I would leave permanently if needed. That didn't end up happening and we're still in couples therapy. Turns out he has pretty severe ADHD that is now being treated and under control and that has made a HUGE difference.

Set your boundaries. He's known about your PTDS for a long time now. It's an acknowledged issue that can't be fixed any faster than it already is. If he can't deal with it then that's his problem. It doesn't discount your feelings or opinions. And if he can't approach and communicate with you in a respectful manner then you aren't required to respond to him.

The most important thing my husband and I have learned in couples therapy is how to work together as a team again. I don't know when we lost that ability but I'm glad it's starting to come back. We're stronger as a couple who have each others backs than we are as individuals. Maybe you and your SO have lost this too, especially if he's gone through a series of failures while you've had to be the breadwinner. Serious power differential there.

The other important thing we've learned in couples therapy is to do something fun together once a week. It's surprisingly more difficult than it sounds!
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