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Am I the victim of emotinal/relationship abuse?

Hi, my name is Dave and I've been married for only 5 months. I’m feeling somewhat shaken by a recent turn of events in my marriage though but not sure if I'm just being silly about things.

It's a bit of a long and complicated story, but I'll try to make it as short and simple as possible.

About 8 years ago my mother, 58 years old at the time, had to take custody of my sister’s 1 year old daughter because my sister is a drug addict and the infant was being neglected etc. They all live in the UK, while I live in Australia. My sister and I were actually both born in Australia and have dual British/Australian citizenship. My mother in fact only has British nationality now as she let her Australian residency lapse after her and my father divorced and she moved back to the country of her birth. She has never re-married or had any other relationships since.

As the little girl started to grow up, she obviously became more and more demanding and more difficult for my mother to cope with on her own – my mother’s health has not been good for some time. I have always kept in close touch with her and took a very keen interest in the development of the child, and went and visited them twice over the years.

A couple of years ago we decided to see if it would be possible for them to move to Australia and live with me and submit a request for Australian residency for my mother based on compassionate grounds – the little girl already has Australian citizenship inherited from her mother – my sister. At the same time I was already one year into the relationship with the woman who has now become my wife. My wife-to-be, at the time, although admitting to being somewhat apprehensive about the plan I was endeavouring on, always claimed to be basically comfortable with the arrangement. My wife is from Taiwan.

After a few months though my mother started to suffer from serious indecision and, despite my attempts to persuade her otherwise, decided that it had been a mistake for her to come to Australia again and that she should return to Britain. What complicates this particular issue is the fact that my mother has always been restless and when I grew up I lived in about 15 different towns and went to as many schools both in Australia and the UK. Added to that was that there were signs of tension appearing between her and my partner too.

Anyway, my mother and my then 7 year old niece went back to the UK early last year, after living with my partner and I for six months, with tensions starting to develop. And then, after only about five weeks, my mother said she had changed her mind again and wanted to give Australia a serious go this time! Everybody was of the opinion that this was turning into a continuation of the saga that my mother had put her own children through 25 years earlier, and it was agreed that it would be better to say no, and make her stabilise over there, and give the child/my niece some stability again. This last turn of events caused severe anxiety in my partner, who thought that if my mother did come back to Australia again then the disruption to everybody’s lives, including theirs and ours, would be unbearable.

So, for these reasons, I made it clear to my mother that she would not be able to attempt to live here again, and I encouraged her as much as possible to try to get as settled back in the UK as possible, and utilise any and every assistance available over there.

And ever since that time, more than 1 year now, my partner, and now my wife of 5 months, has been extremely uncomfortable speaking about my mother and niece in any context. So I have avoided the subject as much as possible. My wife has been generally happy as long as this issue does not come up. My wife has suffered from depression in the past though, particularly through an abusive former employer who under-paid her and exploited her vulnerable working visa status. She now has a much better job though.

Anyway, last week I was promoted at my work and thought that it would be a good idea to suggest setting up a small trust fund for my niece, with only a very small monthly contribution going in from my salary to be put away for my niece for when she turns 18. I thought this was appropriate, especially given that fact that my mother and niece live on welfare, my mother does not drive, her health is poor, and that they are generally quite vulnerable. The subject of my mother and niece had not come up between my wife and I for several months, and I saw no problem raising my new idea with my wife.

The reaction I got was extremely hostile. She was shouting and screaming at me, there were tears, and she said many hurtful and worrying things to me. First, implications were made that my suggestion would potentially undermine the wellbeing of the children her and I plan to have. She then said that she fears that this is the beginning of a plan to get my mother and niece to come back to Australia again. Various other accusations were made, but the key sentiments she expressed which concerned me the most were as follows:

- She does not want to hear any mention of my mother and niece around her at all, at any time, under any circumstances. She does not want them to come up in conversation, and she does not even want me to put a new photograph of them up on the shelf occasionally. If I want to have the occasional new photograph of them I can only keep them at my work. She then went on to say that if I want to start putting up new photographs of them, then I should take down our wedding pictures in their place. That last comment seemed intended purely just to hurt me, which it has greatly.

- She said that when we have kids in the future, that “our kids are her kids”, and that if she has any reason to think that my mother and niece are going to come back to Australia, then she will take our/”her” kids back to her country of Taiwan and not let me see them anymore.

- She has serious doubts about the viability of our future as a couple

I stood my ground on the suggestion I made regarding setting up a fund for my niece, and I told my wife that the reaction she was having was utterly ridiculous. I was shocked by what she had said to me. That was where the argument petered out, on Thursday night. She tired herself out and I felt too numb to say anything else. The next day after work we did’nt speak much. Then on Saturday morning the issue exploded again, with my wife repeating all the same accusations and threats to me again. She then went on to tangents about how I don’t support her or listen to her etc. Though these last accusations were new to me, I appeased her by saying that I would try to be more attentive to her in future, and that pacified her. The fundamental issues concerning the accusations and threats she has made relating to my mother and niece though remain unresolved.

What’s also upsetting for me now is that my mother contacted my father recently and asked him if it would be possible for my niece to come and visit at Christmas. My father ran the idea passed me and I had to say that I did not think it prudent, and then had to explain why, because of the potential reaction from my wife. My Dad was appalled at what he heard, and now I feel like there are factions developing between my side of the family and my wife.

I’m a pretty passive guy but I have not been able to relax around my wife ever since Saturday (it’s now Wednesday). I genuinely did not think her fears regarding my mother and niece would persist for so long and with no sign of improvement. And she has rejected the idea of seeing a councillor.

Now does the above description of events sound like an abusive relationship?
I feel stupid asking this question as a man, but am I the victim of emotional/ relationship abuse?

Any perspective or insights would be greatly appreciated.
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replied September 8th, 2010
Community Volunteer

This is coming from a woman....your wife IS abusive. How dare she tell you what you can and can not say, who's picture you can and can not display and to also threaten you about your future children that you two might have AND that if she does not get her way she would take your children to another country and you never to see them again.

I think it is wonderful that you would want to start putting aside a small portion of your salary for your beloved neice. As long as it does not put you in a financial bind, why not?

Your wife is jealous, mean and wants to you all to herself and not in a good way.

Can you ask for an anullment? We have that here in the states.

She does not see a problem as long as she is getting her way...does not want to see a counselor...RED FLAGS!!!

Note that women are not always the victim of an are too.

Best wishes,

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replied September 9th, 2010
Extremely eHealthy
agreed, her demands are simply preposterous. and although you probably want to keep your wife happy because you took an oath to do so, you simply cannot meet these demands. tell her that she cannot treat you this way and its totally unacceptable and you wont stand for it. be strong..good luck..Jenny
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replied September 9th, 2010
Thanks for the feedback guys. I know that part of the problem stems from the fact that my wife feels partly to blame for the decission I made to not let my mother and niece come back to Australia - and though that was a factor in my decission, it was by no means the primary one. But my wife feels guilty and also feels blamed, and combined with her history of depression, this whole issue is extremely difficult for her to deal with.

But anyway, that does'nt change the fact that the things she said to me were totally unacceptable, and that she has shown a very troubling lack of empathy for my feelings on the matter. I've been really down all week and she has noticed, and asked me what's wrong, but I've avoided telling her and have just said I feel tired, but maybe she suspects the real reason. She certainly has been at least trying to be extra nice to me these last few days. Go figure....

What I intend to do though is raise the subject again next weekend by informing her that I would like to put up a new picture I have of my niece on the shelf in our lounge room. It will be the first new picture of her in more than a year. This will be an acid test of the future viability of our marriage or not. If my wife blows her stack again I'm going to tell her that she either agress to come to counselling with me, or that we seperate for the time being. Certainly I'm not looking forward to doing all this, but I can't go on in a marriage under these circumstances.

Wish me luck.
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replied October 5th, 2010
Experienced User
Yes! This is abuse! I've been through similar situations. Arguing in a healthy manner is acceptable, but telling you what to say and what you can or can not do is abuse and the subset of abuse known as isolation. Telling someone what to say and do is abuse. You also have every right to put up a picture if you so desire it. It also sounds like your wife has an extremely low stress tolerance as well. Lack of empathy big RED FLAG! I know you said that she said hurtful things to you and I wish you would have elaborated more there because that lends itself to verbal abuse and verbal abuse can last very long. I hope this helps.
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