Having the same sort of past as your husband, I am tempted to empathize with his side of things. I KNOW his side of things. I have been that partner who is angry at a very deep level, feels broken, feels undeserving of love – who, because of all those emotions, lashes out, pushes buttons to “test” the other’s love, reacts in paranoid-delusional ways (you’re only with him for the puppy,) and is borderline emotionally abusive.
I want to empathize because I understand what it’s like to be that person. It’s so incredibly sad, and lonely, and desolate. You’re being self-destructive and you don’t even know you are. It’s the only way you’ve ever been, so you percieve it as normal. You don’t know that you even CAN change (to an appreciable degree), much less HOW to.
You’re sensitive as hell to any constructive criticism from your partner because your simplistic understanding of the type of “unconditional” love you see in movies that you hold in front of yourself like the light at the end of the tunnel says that your partner should just accept you for any and all flaws, thus releasing you from the responsibility of improving and growing yourself. Your understand of love is so simplistic and faulty because you didn’t grow up with it, you’ve never truly had it, and you don’t know how to recognize it when you see it.
So you have this self-fulfilling prophesy in your head of: If they truly loved me, they would just accept me 100% unconditionally. And they start trying to “test” you by being their “true” selves – usually messy, depressed takers. Then you rightfully get upset and have constructive criticism/requests for help, and suddenly you’ve proven to them that you don’t REALLY love them – and since you don’t, they can be as horrible as that want to be in that moment. Because you are no longer a loving partner – you are an enemy who has just wounded them to their core.
If I make it sound dramatic, that’s because it is. Everything is very very dramatic to them because they have the emotional maturity of a 5 year old. Emotionally, they ARE 5 years old. Developmentally speaking, they didn’t get their need for love and acceptance met at the age when it needs to be met, so they are stuck there. And in the meantime, they’ve built up a lot of self-protection mechanisms that, yes, keep them safe, but basically by hurting and pushing away every person who COULD potentially hurt them in the future if they let them in (and kept them in.)
So, yeah, I want to empathize – but I can’t. I know his headspace because I spent a lot of time there. But at no point did I ever contemplate even getting enegaged while I knew I was so messed up, much less married! I knew something was off in me, that I needed to take time and grow and heal myself, that I couldn’t victimize anyone by “tricking” them into loving me and tying them to me with ultimate commitment. I reached my personal turning point in my late 20’s and only then did I start contemplating engagement and marriage and kids, while still holding myself to the highest possible standards of emotional maturity and taking personal responsiblity for my actions when they hurt others.
At the age of 32, I finally feel “whole” and healthy enough to level-headedly embark on an engagement and marriage. It takes a LOT of work. And I’m not sure I could have done much of that work while in a marriage, honestly. Because there are too many distractions and pressures from the other person. And already being married would serve as a disincentive to put in the truly hard and painful work.
PP are right when they say that you can not save your husband, unfortunately. You can only serve as an enabler if you continue to allow him to disrespect you and your relationship, and to act out in these unhealthy ways. When and if you accept these unhealthy behaviors and continue to stay, he learns that they are ok. You can wind up doing more harm for him than good. (I am speaking to your need to help him, here, not victim-blaming – you are 100% the victim here.)
I don’t really have advice to give – these situations are always so convoluted and dramatic – it’s hard for an outsider to truly understand. I just wanted to empathize with your plight and say that, having been your husband, he is 100% in the wrong and you have to really start to create firm boundaries or risk enabling him.
Feel free to pm me if you think I could help with anything. 🙂