Living with an angry and controlling partner can become a twisted world where bad is good, down is up, and wrong is right. Many women over the years have said to me, “My partner tells me that I’m the one abusing him. He has said it so many times that I start to wonder if he’s right. How do I know if it’s him or me?”
We can look at some ways to answer that question, but first I would like you to read a few concepts, taking a deep breath after each one so that you can absorb it.
One: You are not responsible for his behavior. You do not make him do things. His actions are his own choice.
Two: You deserve to be treated well even when you make mistakes, and even if you make them a lot.
Three: Setting firm, clear limits for how your partner is allowed to treat you is not the same thing as controlling him, and should not be called control.
Four: Choosing to not always put your partner’s needs ahead of your own does not constitute hurting him, wronging him, or being selfish. You have the right to give substantial priority to your own needs and desires.
Five: If you scream and yell once in a while that does not mean that you are crazy or abusive (though he may say so). It depends on whether you are yelling degrading things, whether your partner is intimidated by you, whether you are yelling to control him (versus yelling to resist his control), and many other factors.
These five concepts cover most of the situations where angry and controlling men try to turn the tables on their partners. If you work on digesting each point, he will have a much harder time convincing you that you are really the one with the problem.
But I haven’t really answered your question yet. You may still wonder, “But what if he really isn’t the destructive one, and I am? How would I know?” Here’s how:
* He’s kind to you most of the time, and he treats you reasonably decently even when he’s mad or upset with you.
* He takes responsibility for his own actions, not frequently blaming them on you or on stress or other excuses. And he doesn't get scary.
* He has asked you repeatedly, and in a decent and thoughtful way (not in a stream of put-downs) to change specific behaviors of yours, and you seem to keep returning to doing those things he has asked you not to do.
* He has shown willingness to work on things you want him to work on, and has taken real steps regarding those issues (not just making promises).
If all of the above points are true then, okay, maybe you need to look at your treatment of him. But otherwise – and I’m willing to bet your situation falls into the “otherwise” category – your partner is doing what so many angry and controlling men do, which is turning things into their opposites in order to have even more weapons to hammer you with.