An RTÉ Guide reader wrote into Dr. Eddie to ask for advice in regards to her relationships with her husband.

Hi Dr. Eddie,

I have been married for over 20 years and throughout my marriage, my husband is a touch controlling in respect to my socialising without him. 

I like to socialise with my sister. We usually to concerts. We both are non-drinkers and a few years back, my husband began to join us, even if he didn't like the singer or even if he never heard of them. Nine times out of 10 he would be morose and once the music is finished, it's straight home we have to go.

Recently, he has started to resent my sister visiting our home; he puts himself into the middle of our conversations, but for the most part, sits there not speaking and his mood getting darker with each passing second. By bedtime, he is in another morose silent mood which lasts for days. I feel like I have done something wrong but before she called he was fine and sometimes the next day he is fine.

If I ask him why the mood, he has no answer. Recently, on two separate occasions, he has made a social outing all about him. If he makes plans, I have to adhere to them or live with silence for days. He had no intention of going out on the first occasion but behaved appallingly to my sister, being very gruff and insulting; the second time was a festival show we always attend. It’s a girlie day out and we end up visiting another sister who lives close by.

This year he for some reason, he wanted to go, made a point of wanting to drive down with me and once the festival was over, boycotted visiting my sister and insisted we head home, again because I was going to be out without him and in his warped mind imagined all sorts of temptations. 

Once again he was abrupt with my sister; she even hinted at staying away and not coming between us. This is exactly what he wants, to isolate me so that if and when I go anywhere, it is with him only. Last Christmas and New Year, he shut down in the middle of family gathering and didn't speak again till my birthday on January 3. Ten days of silence, no apologies or present or treat once the silence lifted.

He seems to wipe all these incidents from his mind, but they keep happening and are becoming more frequent and more prolonged. He is never going to change, has an awful temper and anger which flares up over even small things. 

Mary, Cork.  

Hi Mary,

I am saddened that your quality of life, the freedom to socialise, to enjoy your life, are just not there. In your email, there was no sense of warmth, no mention that you ever loved this man or that you have children. Wearing a compassionate clinical hat, I might guess there is depression present, given these periods of silence and irritability. 

However, I am more focused on the fact that you are in an abusive relationship. To me, the jealousy, silence lasting days, gruffness and insulting, anger, as well as the passive-aggressive, resentment, temper flare-ups, controlling behaviour – these are your words Mary.

If you think your husband will change, but I can’t really see it happening. This leaves you with a number of options: 

  1. Stay
  2. Have an honest conversation (only if it’s safe) about changing the situation and get couple counselling support.
  3. Plan to separate – nothing rash but planned carefully, 

Domestic violence doesn’t have to be physical. It’s where one person asserts power over their partner. In the majority of cases, it is perpetrated by men and experienced by women. Any woman can be affected and it can happen in any home.

If this behaviour becomes a consistent pattern and you feel afraid of your partner, then this is domestic violence. You may feel like you have no power over your life and that you are being controlled by your partner. Here are some warning signs to help you make sense of your situation. Any one of the following signs is serious.

You do not need to experience several or all of them for your relationship to be defined as abusive.
In your relationship, I see aspects of emotional abuse, of a pattern of establishing a power imbalance within a relationship. It is often unseen or intangible from those outside. Emotional abuse is as harmful as physical violence.

It often involves threats and can include:

  • You are afraid of your partner.
  • You are constantly 'walking on eggshells' because of his mood swings.
  • You spend your time working out what kind of mood he is in and the focus is always on his needs.
  • He loses his temper easily and over minor things.
  • He criticises your family and friends and/or makes it difficult for you to see them or talk to them on your own.
  • He is jealous and accuses you of flirting and having affairs.
  • Your needs are not considered important or are ignored, and he makes the decisions in the relationship.
  • Being put down.
  • Being constantly criticised.
  • Threats by the abuser to harm others or himself. 
  • Never being left on their own; being accompanied to all outside activities.

Mary, if you or another reader, think that you are, or might be, living in an abusive relationship then I recommend you contact Women’s Aid on their Helpline 1800 341 900.

The Helpline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I encourage you to get advice from Womens Aid or a GP/counsellor so you can reflect, think and plan your options.

Keep safe, you deserve a life of peace, joy, and growth.

Dr.  Eddie.