Since we moved, it has been the worst 90 days of my life. He has been a controlling jerk who has scrutinized my child and me endlessly. Upside: He says all of it to me and not directly to my son. Frank tells me that my son is not mindful enough, he doesn’t take five-minute showers, he doesn’t help, he never pushes the grocery cart, etc. Now, does he do typical things that every parent wishes their kid didn’t do? Yes. But I don’t know many kids who volunteer or immediately jump to do much. My son picks up after himself, puts away his dishes, helps set the table, wakes himself up and gets ready for school, makes his own breakfast/lunch etc. Basically, the kid is a respectful and typical teen. But it’s never enough. Plus, Frank told me he can only stand to be with my other child (who is away in college) for only few days at a time.
We’re always doing/saying something wrong and walking on eggshells. I don’t feel comfortable leaving my son as I generally get a “he did/didn’t do this/that,” but Frank’s kids aren’t perfect either. What family is? I pick up after them and remind them to do chores just like any regular family. I don’t let them fail just to point it out to Frank every time.
Frank also points out when he thinks I have failed him. It was chaos when I was left back home to pack up the house by myself and move, all while working full-time. Granted, Frank didn’t have too much stuff when he moved in, as we got rid of a lot from his place knowing we were leaving for Europe, but a couple of his things were accidentally left behind in storage and he flipped out and wouldn’t talk to me for two days. I profusely apologized in person and to him in an email (because he wouldn’t talk to me). He replied by saying that I was selfish, untrustworthy, and taking advantage of him—-andthat he saw glimpses of this in me before and has a long list, but doesn’t want to address specifics. Whoa!
Anyway, it’s been downhill. Now he’s on to my job. He initially said he would be supportive of my keeping my former job, which has me working U.S. hours and traveling a lot. I had asked for 4-6 months to see if it would work out and he said yes: “I’m supportive of what you want to do.” Now less than two months in, he has said: “Quit your job or we’re done.” There was no discussion, no transition plan – just “I’m so mad about your job and I’m over it.” Whoa, again!
To top it off, he doesn’t believe I do much around the house when I’m actually home. Wtf!!! I was a single, full-time working mom for years who had my kids about 70% of the time. Lazy is not in my DNA.
Overall, I am in shock over this turn of events. It has literally all happened since day two and for last few months. It’s been a punishing experience as nothing makes him happy. He’s like the victim in this, saying he does everything (he does a lot as I don’t speak the language, but he knew that), he’s the main provider (which he isn’t completely as I share expenses). I contribute and pull my weight where I can, but it doesn’t matter what I do or say — it’s just never right. I don’t text correctly, call enough, treat him right, snd on and on. It feels like emotional abuse.
I had asked for therapy and he said he’d go; then two days before our appointment and he told me to cancel therapy. Then he told to sleep on the sofa!
Now, I’m a work in progress and have my faults for sure, but not being able to communicate through an argument without his insulting me, shutting it down, throwing ultimatums and canceling therapy feels like I really have only one option – leave quickly!
Did his personality just change or maybe didn’t reveal itself before? I’m exactly the same person I was when I arrived! What’s going on? Is he just having family anxiety? Is there another path to success here? — Super stressed Cinderella in Europe
Don’t waste another second trying to figure out this manipulative, monstrous maniac. And don’t revert to what so many women do and try to save this marriage because divorce is a last resort (it’s actually a first resort when you’re dealing with a man like Frank) or you’re embarrassed for failing (at the marriage) so quickly. You were duped! You were lied to, taken advantage of, and used, and the very best thing you can do now is to get out as quickly as possible. Do not give up any more power than you already have. For the love of god, DO NOT quit your job. Your job is your lifeline (which is EXACTLY WHY frank wants you to quit because HE wants to be your sole lifeline to better manipulate and abuse you).
Don’t discuss this with Frank. This is beyond discussion. Don’t create a “transition plan” with Frank. Do not give him an inch, because he will take a mile. Get your ducks in a row, legally and financially – make sure you have a pile of cash that he doesn’t have access to, gather whatever belongings you want to keep, mail whatever won’t fit into two suitcases to someone back home whom you trust, buy plane tickets for you and your son, and get the fuck home. You can sort out all the other details – like divorce, obviously, when you are back on your home soil and safely away from the disaster formerly known as your relationship.
Once you’re home safe, get yourself into therapy. Don’t waste time and money diagnosing him or trying to figure out what happened to him. Work on yourself – consider whether there were signs you missed, whether dating manipulative men is a pattern for you, and how you can learn to trust again. I cannot overstate this enough: There is nothing here to save. There is literally nothing – absolutely nothing – you can do to turn this marriage around and find the happiness you want. You owe it to yourself and to your poor son to get the hell out of this situation as quickly as possible. The man you are married to is abusive and you should be afraid. Please get yourself and your son safely away from him immediately. And let us know when you do!
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.
LisforLeslie November 18, 2019, 11:13 am
WWS: Get out. Go home. You can’t fix this person.
You are going to spend years wondering “why” – don’t bother, he wooed you with a persona. It was a facade. Now that you’re on his ground, in his country, and you’re legally tied to him… he no longer has to be kind or patient because he now “has” you.
Leave. File for divorce. Get some therapy. Do not wait. Your relationship with him will not get better.
TaraMonster November 18, 2019, 11:47 am
Yeah this guy is an abuser. It’s typical for them to morph into what seems like a completely different person once they’ve locked you into marriage. It’s all about control–he doesn’t see you as a person but as an extension of himself. Abusers do NOT change. You have to leave him ASAP–and don’t give him any warning. Take your kid and move back home in the middle of the night if you have to.
golfer.gal November 18, 2019, 12:04 pm
No no no no. There is nothing to save here. Listen to Wendy. You are so, so lucky you have a job you can do remotely. Do exactly as Wendy says. Pack up and leave now. Line up a place to stay back home, and sort out the divorce from there. No need to tell Frank, just go as soon as you possibly can. And please update Wendy to let us know you are safe.
Kate November 18, 2019, 12:32 pm
Yeah, this guy is 100% an abuser. Don’t quit your job. Do what Wendy said. Don’t waste 30 seconds trying to fix this. Unfortunately, this happens. Just get a divorce. My mom’s sister married an abuser a few years after her first marriage ended, and she got divorced after like 3 months and moved on. Just cut your losses and get yourself and your child out of harm’s way. This will get way worse if not.
Bittergaymark November 18, 2019, 1:29 pm
No, wait. Hold on. Don’t just give up and walk away…
Give up. And RUN!!!
Skyblossom November 18, 2019, 1:36 pm
Whatever you do, do not let him have control of your passport or your son’s passport. He can keep you trapped that way, depending on the country where you are living. If he does take your passports you can go to the embassy or consulate nearest you but it can be difficult if neither is close. If you need to, send your son to live with his dad if that is what it takes to get him out of the situation and if his dad is an okay parent.
Open your own bank account and start putting money in it or if you still have a bank account at home keep transferring money to it.
Sea witch November 18, 2019, 2:28 pm
Wow. He pulled a bait-and-switch. As long as you were in your own home and able to leave easily, he held off and masked his real nature.
Get out as soon as possible. Don’t bother to take any possessions along that aren’t absolutely necessary, you can always replace them when you get back.
Phoebe November 18, 2019, 5:37 pm
I’m really anxious on this LW’s behalf. Wendy, if she writes a follow-up, PLEASE let us know how she’s doing.
BonV November 18, 2019, 10:11 pm
LW1: Keep your job, and dump your husband. Even better: book the next flight back to the States and never look back. Any extra time spent with your husband is just wasted time (and time is precious when you are an adult).
ron November 18, 2019, 11:25 pm
Yes, divorce is the answer. The title of the letter Is incorrect. Her husband didn’t become abusive days after they married, he came abusive after she moved overseas to follow him. They had been married close to two years at that point. It seems not marriage, but managing to get her out of America and feeling increased control under that circumstance allowed him to think he could get away with being abusive. Certainly great advice above to safeguard yours and your son’s passports. I’d add not to let your husband know you are leaving. Let him find out after you’re gone.
I don’t know where in Europe LW’s husband is from, but he has certainly adopted very misogynist, traditional, old-country ways. Whether he always was secretly like this or the return home has brought it out as he abandons American cultural norms really doesn’t matter. LW’s marriage is intolerable and soon she and her son will feel even less safe and at ease than they do now. Waiting to leave could be hazardous.
Part-time Lurker November 18, 2019, 11:33 pm
+1 to all the above.
CET November 19, 2019, 7:31 am
Wendy gave you great advice…get your ducks in a row and you and your kid just leave. Frank is a horrible person…abusive. This is who he really is and he is not going to change. He’s sexist and a bully. He wants to control you. Fly back to the US and make a new life for yourself. Apologize to your son…tell him you had no idea Frank was going to be so awful. PS – My SIL married a man from another country who had these traditional attitudes. She had a very very unhappy marriage until she would no longer take it any more. After 15 years with him she moved out, got her own place to live and filed for divorce. He was a lot like Frank. He never changed. He blames her for everything.
dirtorsoil November 19, 2019, 6:26 pm
Everyones suggestions are spot on. Just wanted to add: assuming you leave (this is non-negotiable, on this course physical harm is eminent) make sure you do not broadcast your new location at all. That goes for your son too. He will be enraged that you got away and that could tip him over the edge. Enough to book a flight and come looking for you. Make sure your friends/family understand your safety plan before you start to implement it. Get a burner phone and keep it a secret, if you have a laptop use an anonymizer like TOR or NordVPN. Make sure that when you leave you do it when he is going to be gone for awhile. Honestly I would GTFO and go straight to the airport. Once you and your son are checked in you will at least be safe as no-one can just wander onto the gate anymore. Good luck and stay safe. This will be one of the best things you have done for yourself and your son.
Anonymous July 22, 2020, 10:09 pm
Why are more men abusive these days? My husband is too. But is it that we are only hearing more about it because of the internet? Would you say 75 percent are abusive because I sure dated a whole lot of assholes.
Kate July 23, 2020, 7:47 am
No! The majority of men are not abusive. You may be attracting abusive men though, maybe because they sense your vulnerability.
csp July 23, 2020, 8:16 am
I think we are hearing more about it now and also we have said it is not OK so it is getting noticed more. The term “Rule of Thumb” comes from the fact that you couldn’t beat your wife with a stick thicker than your thumb. That was a law. We obviously have come a long way. Now we say that it is not healthy or good to stay with an abusive partner. I think the stress of Covid is making volatile people worse. But I wouldn’t say it is even close to 75%. I have never had an abusive partner. I think you need to start looking for different character traits in men. There are many many good ones out there.
Hazel July 23, 2020, 7:38 am
I don’t think more men are abusive, I do think we are feeling enabled to speak out and part of that is definitely the internet and the information age. It also means it should be more possible to find help- are you able to access help? Nobody male female or anything in between should have to endure abuse. I do advise you seek out whatever help might be available to you- I’m not US which this site predominantly is, but lots of people on here might be able to give you pointers about who to contact.
ron July 23, 2020, 10:18 am
This may not be the politically correct thing to say, but if your dating experience consists of 75% abusive assholes and you married one, then the problem is you have been seeking out this type of man. This isn’t that uncommon. At least a quarter of American voters view President Trump as the epitome of masculinity, the true alpha male, who will protect them from… well just about everything that doesn’t come in white. They view the lashing out at any perceived slight, the schoolyard insults, the constant lying and inability to admit error, the bragging about pussy grabbing as admirable signs of strength. They are willing to ignore the malignant narcissism, total lack of empathy, and obvious senility and stupidity because of these other qualities they see as a plus. Racism is a feature, not a fault. And the misogyny is excused, or even viewed favorably, by these people as a sign of traditional masculinity and traditional values. Under traditional values and masculinity, the husband made all the big decisions (any decision important enough to him for him to make and insist upon) and the wife had to obey. Traditional evangelical Protestant churches still actively teach this version of family life.
If this is the sort of masculinity you seek out in your dates, if it is important to you that the man you marry hold traditional values, then don’t be surprised if you encounter abuse. Likewise, if you date and marry guys who drink a ton, well abuse is often a side-benefit of living with an alcoholic.
The majority of men are not abusive. But… many letter writers seem to seek out and find abusers again, and again, and again.
Leave your husband, find out why you keep seeking out the wrong sort of guy, and date the right type. From your post, 25% of the guys you dated aren’t assholes. Why didn’t you marry one of the non-assholes? Simple question, you figure out why.