This spells death to intimacy …

I would like to say I was speechless with rage, but there’s not much that keeps me quiet …

I use my laptop pretty much all day, every day, for work. I’ve been using PCs since before they were called PCs, before even MS-DOS – actually since 1981. I have never (looking around desperately for wood to touch) had so much as a piece of malware on any of my systems in all that time, over 30 years. I rarely use my laptop for games but I do have a lot of business software installed, some of which I actually use. It’s set up to suit me and my way of working.

My partner is a gamer. He was 5 years old when I started using computers and his systems are all optimized for his games. About 3 years ago he wanted to use my system to live stream a game. Fine, no problem. Until I realized that in order to do that, he’d signed out of my firewall software because it was slowing down the livestream.

I wasn’t speechless with rage, I was incandescent. And I let him know it, in front of his 10 year old son, at full volume. He was an idiot, he was irresponsible, he had no right, how DARE he mess with my system just for his stupid game, how could he be so STUPID as to turn off my FIREWALL! I had after all been using computers since he was FIVE YEARS OLD (just to rub it in) and my system was PERFECT whereas he was always having to get rid of the viruses and malware on his, so obviously I am FAR MORE EXPERIENCED and KNOW WHAT I’M DOING – and he was NEVER to even TOUCH my laptop EVER AGAIN!!!

couple having argumentAnd it was stupid and irresponsible of him, because my laptop is a work tool, it’s how I earn my living. I was absolutely justified in being angry. Anyone would have been. HE would have been if I’d messed around with his PC, that’s for sure.

Full of righteous anger, I spun on my heel and stormed out of the room, leaving him sitting there. He hadn’t said a word the whole time.

A few minutes later I heard him go downstairs for a cigarette. He was outside for some time. Then he came back into the room and said very quietly “Iso.”

I turned round, expecting an abject apology. He was a little pale but quite calm. “Iso if you ever speak to me like that again, I will leave and I won’t be coming back. You may have thought I did something wrong, but that doesn’t give you the right to talk to me like that or humiliate me in front of my son. If you can’t respect me enough to at least be polite, I don’t want to be with you.”

Then he walked into the spare bedroom and shut the door, quietly and firmly.

I wish I could say that that was the first time I’d flown into an (let’s be honest) abusive rage, but it wasn’t. It had happened several times before.

As you can probably tell, I’m not the shy, retiring type, neither am I a naturally feminine energy woman. Believe me, no one has ever mistaken me for a goddess nor are they likely to. But left alone with my thoughts that night, I realized something fundamental had to change and the change had to come from me, not him.

We’d been together about 5 years at that point, we’d met online and I’d moved to his country, although not specifically to be with him to start with. At the beginning, it had been amazing. He adored me, called me his “angel” and “the love of my life”; he was strong, decisive, naturally took the lead and I was happy to sit back and be taken care of. And he loved doing things for me; he was romantic, always thinking up something special for us to do together and we would sit and talk for hours.

Then gradually I noticed a few “less than perfect” things about him, just small things really – and he seemed to take it very well when I made little suggestions. You know, things like how to style his hair, whether to grow a beard or not, what he should eat to be healthy, how he could smoke a little less … I drafted business letters for him, I bought him some clothes … so innocent, so insidious. He really did like it at first, he appreciated that I cared about him. And being over 20 years older than him, it was easy to excuse on the basis that I was more experienced and really did know better.

couple fightingGradually, the suggestions became demands … then commands. Instead of his angel, he started to call me “commander”. One day he jokingly said “hon, are you confusing age with wisdom?” – and I still didn’t see the warning signs. He really loved me, you see – he wanted to believe that I was doing everything out of love for him, sure maybe I went a bit far sometimes but it was only because I cared so much … We had sex less and less frequently, despite my complaints that I was “living like a nun” … he fell asleep on the couch in front of the TV so many nights that it finally dawned even on me that maybe he was doing it deliberately.

And finally, it all blew up that night when he switched off my firewall … and I realized I was completely out of control.

Coming in Part 2 – the lessons I learned the hard way, the seemingly tiny changes that made a huge difference … and how I made him fall in love with me again.

16 Responses to “This spells death to intimacy …”

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  1. Oh my God. Why do you turn against yourself? Your partner was an idiot to turn off your firewall without your permission. I think it’s disgraceful. And even after your outburst, justified outburst, you now, after some thought, think you were in the wrong?

    Let me briefly tell you my situation. Most of my life I have been undermined by others. I find it difficult to stand up for myself because I become very inarticulate when I’m angry. The words don’t come out fast or coherent enough, so I sound like a blithering idiot.

    Yesterday my husband undermined my knowledge of web use of images. I uncharacteristically snapped and tweaked his ear, as I knew it would hurt. I knew this would have a better impact than the outburst of unintelligible words that followed.

    His reaction was shock, as I’m not normally so physical. He cannot cope when I assert myself in any way. He cannot see anything that upsets me, undermines me, makes me look a fool. We are now not speaking to each other.

    Now, if I was to take on your stance, I would have to crawl back to him with my tail between my legs, and confine myself to continued utter penance and submission. Why should I do this, when it is he who has wronged me, and cannot see what damage he has done?

    Time and time again women make allowances for men’s stupidity. Ignorance. Lack of empathy. And understanding. We become the scapegoats of their uselessness, and take on all the blame. We absorb all the wrongs so they don’t lose face with the world, and their manhood is not compromised.

    There is therapy for women who want to learn assertiveness, and yet it makes them appear undesirable and unattractive. For 1500 years we have been put down by men, so no wonder it’s so difficult to stand up for ourselves, and be recognised for what and who we are.

    • Isobel says:

      Alice thank you so much for your very thoughtful and moving comment.

      I understand where you’re coming from and in no way did I go anywhere with my tail between my legs, believe me 🙂

      However, turn the situation around – would it have been acceptable for him to yell and scream at me and call me names if I did something stupid? Or in another scenario, would it have been ok for me to speak to an employee or colleague that way? And if not, what makes it acceptable for me to do it to him?

      He has never once raised his voice to me or called me names and if he did, I would consider it verbal abuse. What I did to him was abusive. He’s not stupid, he did a stupid thing and there’s a difference.

      Certainly I had a right to be angry at what he’d done – it was the way I expressed that anger that troubled me (and him of course). When I was younger I would also become inarticulate and even burst into tears out of sheer rage. As I became more assertive and self-confident it was easier for me to express my anger, but for a while the pendulum swung too far the other way, especially in intimate relationships.

      You said you’ve been undermined all your life and that must be very painful to you, especially so when it’s your husband who does it. We expect our partners to be on our side, to stand up for us and not put us down. But when you look closely, no one can really undermine us – unless we give them permission, unless in our heart we’re afraid that their assessment of us may be accurate. Truly, we never get angry when people accuse us of things that are ridiculously and obviously untrue; but when their criticism gets a bit close to home … then our own fears and insecurities come up, we start to lose faith in ourselves and then we take it out on the person closest to us, the “safest” person to unload on to.

      I don’t know you of course and I have no idea if that’s true for you or not – I’m speaking in a very generalized way. I think however you could find a better way to let your husband know he’s hurt you than tweaking his ear 🙂 At the moment you feel the anger building, you could try just saying “Ouch!” and walking away. Then once you’ve calmed down, identify what you were actually feeling at the time, and go back to him and say “I felt very hurt (for example) earlier when you implied that I didn’t know what I was talking about.”

      That’s all you need to say. You don’t need to justify your feelings or explain them. He can’t see what he’s done because you don’t really tell him. You expect him to “know” how you feel – but how can he? He’s not you. He doesn’t have your history, your memories. And when you become inarticulate or physical – that doesn’t tell him anything except that you’re angry, but not what’s underneath it.

      When I screamed at my partner, he didn’t know that underneath my anger was fear – fear that something might happen to my laptop, fear that I wouldn’t be able to earn money. I didn’t tell him that, how was he supposed to know? And I didn’t tell him because – until I went within and really focused on where the feeling was in my body – I didn’t know myself.

      Sorry I’ve gone on so long – I didn’t mean to 🙂 If you want to talk further privately, please feel free to contact me via the form or on Facebook.

      • You’re perfectly right. It is our insecurities and fear that make us respond in anger – and frustration. He doesn’t understand what he did, and I haven’t made it any easier for him to do so. I don’t think Anger Management Classes are the answer, as he has suggested, but maybe I need to learn to accept myself for who I am and not be affected by such cast-away and inappropriate comments.

  2. Cathy Read says:

    Isobel, interesting post. Look forward to hearing how you resolved the issue.

    I would say to Alice that I agree she was justified in being angry and yes, there is nothing wrong with being assertive but there’s a difference between assertion and aggression and that she should have handled it differently. In a relationssip there should be mutual respect and shouting at someone loudly in front of his 10 year old son is not respectful. It’s not a case of making allowances for someone’s stupidity but how you let them know so that you build a strong relationship and not destroy it.

    • Isobel says:

      Cathy, I agree – I was disrespectful to him and never actually articulated why I was so upset. I was a toddler having a temper tantrum – not a pretty sight in a grown woman 😀

      This wasn’t the first time I’d done it, but it was the first time I saw it as verbally abusive. (Sneak peek:) It didn’t turn around overnight either. Details to follow 🙂

  3. Sarah Arrow says:

    Hell hath no fury compared to a woman with her firewall turned off. And the thing is, it is a serious thing. Both the rage and the firewall.
    I can understand you’ve “mothered” your partner, blokes can be like that, but it’s soul destroying for the woman who does it, and her needs have to be met too.

    • Isobel says:

      You hit it on the head Sarah – I’d “mothered” him for so long I’d forgot how to be his lover. And he’d certainly forgotten how to treat me like one. I wasn’t getting any of my needs met, but I could hardly blame him because I had no idea how to express them.

  4. Jan-Marie says:

    Interesting article Isobel and I look forward to reading Part 2. I have to agree I would have blown a circuit if that happened to me. I also agree that stepping outside to cool down might have been useful, however we all have those days.

    • Isobel says:

      Years ago I read somewhere “you can be intimate or you can be right” and I’d obviously chosen the “right” path 🙂 Unfortunately it wasn’t going in the direction I wanted. And what was saddest was that it never even occurred to me to calm down – I was RIGHT, dammit!

  5. Joy Healey says:

    Hi Isobel

    Interesting and very frank article.

    It’s not a situation I’ve ever found myself in because I tend to turn my anger inwards, as – like Alice – I become inarticulate when angry. I’m really good at mentally beating myself up, not at all good at verbally beating others up.

    I sometimes wish I were better at being constructively angry, but there are very few occasions now when I need the skill.

    Look forward to reading that you have resolved the situation, and how.

    Joy

    • Isobel says:

      I’ve been in situations where I had to turn my anger inwards because it would have been completely inappropriate – or so I thought at the time – to express it. I’m not sure that there’s such as thing as “constructive anger” unless possibly anger at an appalling situation motivates you to change it – but I did find that suppressing it completely made me ill eventually. I still get angry – I’m impressed that you don’t 🙂 I’m better now though at being clear what I’m available for.

  6. Feel like a bit of an interloper in this discussion, but for what it is worth, here goes, Partner – completely wrong to turn off firewall, a business could be at risk if compromised by a virus. Iobel – rightly justified to annoyed, but completely unjusified to respond the way you did. As someone mentioned earlier there is a big difference between being assertive and aggressive although the line between the two is very thin. Will be keeping an eye out for part two and hoping for a happy ending, there are two many broken relationships in the world that could have been saved by an honest and open conversation

  7. Situations like these can offer great opportunities to shift. I look forward to part two of the story.

  8. Janet says:

    A very honest post, Isobel. It sounds like you are taking this opportunity to choose your next actions more thoughtfully. Courage & blessing to both of you.

  9. I have to admit I too have handled situations as you did this one Isobel. And I think your partner handled himself very well. It must have taken a lot of strength to keep himself from going into your lower energy and to respond rather than react. I’m not so sure I could have done that. Great article with a lot of awareness. I’ve been working towards responding to events rather than reacting for awhile now. Sounds like this is what your partner forced you into looking at that day. Looking forward to part 2.

  10. Amy Putkonen says:

    Hi Isobel,

    This is my first time here. I am visiting from Inspired Blogging group. I commend you for being so honest about yourself. This is how we learn, right? Take our faults on the chin and move on. Good for you for recognizing your mistakes. I love the way you left me wanting more too!

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