I was listening to a radio program a few days ago. The program was about the three stages of abuse: honeymoon period, tension builds, and explosion.
I only heard a portion of the program. The presenter was talking about how abuse is not just physical, it often starts with emotional abuse. What she was saying made me think of a close friend. She is a well-educated professional and travels every other month for work. Her husband has a lower paying manual labor job. He often makes comments about her work and accuses her of having an affair when she travels. She recently told me about one of her trips.
Travel day. She planned her flight in the afternoon so she could go to church with her family in the morning. Her husband works nights and got home early Sunday morning. When he got up he was not talking to her. They went to church and out for breakfast with their kids. She tried to engage him in conversation, but he ignored her. She said the kids felt the tension and were uncomfortable. When they dropped her off at the airport, he didn’t even say goodbye. Her sons kissed her goodbye. While she was on her flight, she received the following text:
My gut feeling. You have an affair. I am sorry I feel like that.
She called her husband when she landed and he didn’t answer. She called again from the hotel and no answer. Finally, she texted to let him know that I had arrived okay and the room number at her hotel.
She called before the kids left for school to say hello. The kids spoke with her, but her husband would not come to the phone. He texted her:
She called again in the evening, but he did not speak to her.
He dropped the kids off at school early so no one answered when she called. She called several times during the day but no one answered until the kids got home from school.
She spoke to the kids before school and several times after school. Their youngest was upset because his teacher sent a note home and wanted to see his parents. The kids gave their dad the phone at one point to speak to her, but he just asked what she wanted.
He dropped the kids off at school early again so she didn’t get to speak to them in the morning. She sent him several emails and text messages regarding information she needed to complete his vehicle registration renewal. No answer. She called home when the kids got home from school. No answer. She called the kids before attending evening church service, but there was no answer. She saw they called while she was in church, but they were already in bed by then.
She spoke to the kids before they went to school. Her youngest said that they had met with the principal and the school thinks his dad is abusing him. She asked him more questions, but did not want to upset him. She called her husband later to ask what had happened at the meeting with the school. He said nothing. Their son needs to pay attention in class. She called home again in the evening to talk to the kids before they went to bed. They said that their dad wanted to know why she never called them while she was away.
She was on the red-eye. Her husband texted her while at the airport to say that he hoped she had a good time. Then he said that maybe she still didn’t want to talk to him, but to have a good flight. He then made a few comments about how she didn’t call him during the week because she was obviously busy. He also said that the kids were complaining because she didn’t call them very often.
My friend is thinking about quitting her job because of the stress. She told me she is constantly worried that everything she does will be twisted into something negative. The school's concerns about their son worry her. She would never leave the children alone with him if she thought they were being abused, but the school must have a reason for their concerns.
I think my friend may be the victim of emotional abuse. It seems to me that her husband is emotionally abusive when she leaves. When it is time to come home, he starts being nice to her. When she threatens to quit her job, he tells her not to. He says that she has a great job and it would be crazy to quit it. But the next time she has to travel, he starts telling her that she is selfish and only cares about her work. He says her work is more important than her family.
She told me that they went to marriage counseling before. The marriage counselor told her that her husband really loves her and wants to make the relationship work. I think the marriage counselor’s perspective may have been distorted because she only spoke to the husband one-on-one and then met them as a couple. She never met with my friend individually to hear her side of the relationship.
Am I overreacting? Do you think my friend could be in an emotionally abusive relationship?