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Not sure if emotional abuse or not .... can they change?

Community Member

Hi all,

First time posting here so thank you for reading this (sorry it’s a bit long!). basically I think my husband has a few narcissistic traits. He can’t see it and I feel like that just makes it so much worse..... I’m so sick of feeling belittled and practically ignored but we have two little ones together (a 21 month old and 5 month old). So I don’t know what to do...

Basically My husband and I have been together for 8 years (married for 3) and I loved him dearly at the start. There were red flags but I told myself because of his troubled past/childhood that his frustration/ anger wasn’t his fault. However, now that we have kids and I have started on anti depressants, I’ve realised the truth. I’ve gained the self confidence to realise that my boys and I deserve better. ESPECIALLY my boys. I only want the best for them and I don’t like them seeing how my husband treats me.

We’re seeing a counsellor (only had two sessions) but I still feel like he’s not trying to change.
his behaviour includes, name calling (he has tried hard to stop this one), talking down/dismissing my feelings, gets super defensive over everything I say, never takes the blame for anything, it’s always my fault, I Honestly feel like he gets annoyed when I’m happy, he’s easily frustrated and gives me the worst attitude, and it’s always about him. If he’s tired, he won’t help out, if he’s Had enough of an outing we have to stop what we’re doing (we went to dreamworld and because he’d had enough we all had to leave). I feel like I’m always saying it’s not about you anymore, it’s about our two boys but he still doesn’t get it!

I think the most upsetting thing was when I went through my postnatal depression, I said I needed more from him and I felt like he wasn’t there for me at all and that hurt ALOT. My brother in law noticed the depression in me more than my husband....

I guess, all I’m wanting to know is, can they change??

9 Replies 9

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi, welcome

Im sorry your marital situation has come to this.

Firstly, your BIL noticing your depression before your husband has ,is no indication of his empathy levels. If you read the following thread, the first post, it will be clearer. Use google

beyondble topic they just don’t understand- why?

In short you cannot blame any person not noticing any mental illness. Some people have insight others don’t.

His tolerance levels seem very low (dreamworld) and this could be interpreted as being mean.

What Im suggesting here is that you are expressing protecting your children from him but 1/ they are his children also 2/ he might have a medical condition that needs diagnosis and treatment 3/ interpretation of him could be wrong and his and his children’s relationship with him could be under threat

My hope is that you both continue to go to marriage counseling and if you can encourage him to resolve issues and hopefully he’ll seek a GP appointment to chat about his demons.


Just Sara
Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hi and welcome to BB Forum Mum of 2! 😄

Firstly, you're a brave woman for stepping out of your comfort zone to ask for help, so well done. This is a non judgemental and safe space to be; hope you find posting helpful.

I know this may sound simplistic but for some, saying "No" can be a really hard task, but well worth it. It took me till I was 33 to say it to my domineering mum after decades of abuse and insensitivity. I haven't looked back since..

Many people in codependent relationships keep looking at their partners and asking why don't they change, but it's 'us' who need to. People who're ready will make the effort, others will just try until old habits return, which in my experience isn't usually long.

Asking yourself hard questions like;

  • Am I communicating as I really want to or am I walking on eggshells all the time?
  • Do I/we deserve reasonable behaviour and responses from him?
  • Am I being respected, or for that matter, do I respect myself?
  • Are 'we' teaching our sons dysfunctional communication skills?

Answers are actually in the questions themselves. In other words, if you have to ask it, there's issues.

It takes 2 to tango; I know this sounds cruel, but it may be the truth. In short, you stay, and stay, and stay...

I'm sorry to be so blatant, but there's no easy way to say it.

Take care and please respond as talking with people who've gone through it makes all the difference. If I've offended you, please say so and we can take another direction.

Kind thoughts;

Sez - Hugs

Community Member

Hi Mum,

I wanted to give you another perspective on your post because I had quite a different take from Tony WK, who obviously has a lot of experience. It doesn’t sound to me like you are intending to prevent your husband from seeing his kids, but that you are rightly concerned about the impact of your relationship on them. I can relate to this and I know how hard both options - staying or going - are to contemplate.

I think people are capable of change, yes, their behaviour at least if not their beliefs and personality. But sometimes behaviour is enough! I hope your counselling sessions are effective and that they help you move forward.

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi MumOf2boiz

From one mum to another, wish I could give you the biggest hug as you face these challenges within the marriage, with your own mental health and with raising beautiful little gifts (your kids).

It's tough when we face a significant shift in consciousness. While it's still challenging, not facing such a shift can be easier in a way. You can write things off to 'That's just him' or 'Maybe if I tried harder the marriage would be better'. Now, all of a sudden you're left thinking 'Hang on a second, I see what's going on here but how do I deal with it, now that I can see it?' Hope the following is of some help:

Imagine there are 3 different levels of living - high, grounded and in a depression. Typically, if we're lucky, we begin life on a high, in the way of adventure, love of life, excitement, experimentation and so on. Then we become semi-grounded in ways that balance us in a sense of responsibility, general awareness and consideration. Now, imagine being a little high viber and being brought down so often that being brought down becomes 'normal'. Sounds kinda sad, hey?! Even sadder, imagine living beyond grounding, in a depression, where there is no longer any sense of our natural happy self.

I believe there are levels in a depression. We can be at a certain level and not even know it. Our metabolism might be low but not significant enough to the point of dysfunction. Our behaviour may be low (abusive) yet we can write this off to the other person being 'stupid' or 'deserving our wrath'. This can be learned behaviour from parents. Our consciousness may be at low levels and we can say 'There's nothing wrong with me. That person's just too sensitive'. We can excuse all the lows or find ways to raise our self out of them, once we acknowledge the level we're vibing at.

We definitely feel the lows of depression when we hit deeper levels: Metabolic dysfunction or significant low levels of dopamine, serotonin or oxytocin. Oxytocin is a biggy in PND. It's known as the 'bonding/love hormone'. We can hit an all time low when we find our self abusing our partner so badly that it leads us to incredible guilt (wake up call). I could go on but you get the gist. Is it possible your husband is in a depression but is too arrogant to acknowledge how low he's vibing? You, on the other hand are sensitive and open minded enough to acknowledge certain aspects of your depression. You're taking proactive steps to raise yourself. You are amazing, without a doubt!


Thank you so much Therising! What you’ve said has made complete sense.
He’s always battled with a bit of depression and I guess that’s why I’ve always been so tolerant and understanding because I know it’s not him, it’s the depression.
I guess I just wish he’d try harder to get help and work on the depression so he can work on himself. And I know I can’t be the one to fix him. He has to do it and has to be willing, I just don’t know how to push him I guess.

I think that’s what upset me the most. When he’s in his lows, I’m so considerate and understanding. I do more housework while he lays up in bed. I tell myself he’s just snappy because he’s in a bad headspace. But when I went through the worst depression of my life (it was horrible, kept telling myself I was a terrible mum and the boys would be better off without me etc) I told him I needed him and he wasn’t understanding at all. if I snapped at him he’d get mad and swear at me (I even said to him I think it’s some PND and apologised for it), he didn’t go the extra mile to help out with housework and got cranky at me when I asked him to do things. And always compares things - saying he’s more exhausted from working today so can’t help out.....

I know some people may not be good at picking up depression in other people but I blatantly told him I was getting depressed and needed more help with the boys and house work and he would only help out that day and then go back on his computer the next day and not help out. Or at the end of the day he’d go”there, are you happy now?”

sorry, not sure where that was going. I think I just needed to vent.

I really do want our marriage to work out, more for the kids sake because I hate the thought of having to share custody. I think I will see our counsellor one on one next and ask how to help him help himself and go from there.

thank you so much for the understanding reply 🙂

Thanks Just Sara. I’ve realised now that I need to change as I used to always walk on eggshells to try and not set him off. But now I tell him exactly how he’s making me feel and when he does snap, I don’t react or get angry myself and Say that there’s no need to be rude.
I know my communication isn’t that great so I’m working hard to improve it. Just wish he’d work hard to improve himself as well....

Hi again,

Youve had some great comments. You desire to fight for your marriage impresses me.

In regards to housework it is imo better for a man to have set tasks. Eg I often hang out wet clothes, always put out the rubbish etc my wife vacuums as I have an old back injury and vacuuming is a bad idea. So think about the best you’ll get from him in terms of chores and come to an agreement.

I really think his temper needs medical help. As a person with bipolar my moods had a similar effect until meds took hold.

Finally, as a man I know we have to be approached in ways far different to females. If we are hugged from behind and asked in a living way then we’ll do anything for our spouses, be told to help out in a demanding way and sparks fly. Just a fact, not saying it’s ok.


beyondblue topic talking to men- some tips

also resolving arguments-

beyondblue topic relationship strife- the peace pipe


Thanks TonyWK, I’ll definitely look up those topics. I try not to ask him to do stuff in a demanding way, I always say please and thank him when he does help out. The set tasks is a good idea. I can ask him what he would prefer to do. It’s sometimes how I already approach things but maybe if it’s already set out in his mind it might make things easier.

I’ve always been a bit of a peace keeper which is why I’ve never really argued back or said much about his temper but now that I’m saying, hey, this is not okay, it’s all falling apart.
cant help but blame myself for getting myself into this situation. Maybe it’s unfair for me to ask him to change now but I’m so sick of the lack of mutual respect.
We’ve found a really good clinical psychologist so just praying he can help my husband work through his demons.

Hi again

It's definitely important he seeks help for the depression. This in turn will help you. I can remember a certain time in my own depression where I'd speak to my husband about the stress and disappointment in relation to finding the right anti depressant. I recall him saying to me that I shouldn't worry about taking any meds if it was going to upset me that much. At the time our daughter was very young. My response to him was 'I'm searching for wellness because I owe this to my family (him and her)'. I think about all the times my little girl sat there with her arms around me, consoling me, as I cried during my low points. I didn't want to continue to give her that kind of life. By the way, my little girl will be 18yo this October.

Toward the end of my 15 years of depression, I found myself in postnatal depression group therapy, after having my second child, my son. Yes, PND is incredibly torturous. I wrote a letter to myself during this period, which I kept. On the odd occasion I come across it amongst my papers and every time I read it I cry. The pain I was going through then was overwhelming. It's horrible, isn't it? Such disconnection. Such terrible self chastisement and hopelessness. You just want someone to save you, help you manage. Never expected in a million years that PND group therapy would actually be the thing to bring me out of more than a decade of depression. Was a miracle! I never really wanted to go to the therapy sessions but my mum seriously pushed me and at the end of the day I decided I'd do it for my son.

Of course, we should look after our mental well being for our self but if it's not possible to see this as a motivating factor then the next best motivator can be our family, especially our kids. To not want our kids to witness our pain and struggle is reasonable. It becomes the point at which we are able to find reason for change.

I believe the question 'How are you managing your depression?' is a fair question. It is a question which can be answered in 1 of 2 ways: 1) I'm trying to manage through therapy or meds or conscious strategies or a network of supportive friends and family or a host of other things. 2) I'm not managing

Take care