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Ambient Abuse: Did he do that on purpose?
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I am married to an Ambient, Stealth, Covert, Mind F---ing, abuser. He rarely raises his voice, but you know when he's pissed. He ignores me for days (thank God!!) He sets up little "clues" like, leaves a bill precariously placed where I wouldn't miss it, but you still ask yourself "did he leave it there on purpose?" "Does he want me to do something with it ?" or make statements like, "Do you want me to get Tommy's supplies for his project?" "He only has one more day you know?" "Are you sure you'll get up on time?"....
My son is 14. That a-hole has never worked on a project with him. I told HIM about the project and the deadline...just button pushing, crazy making, putting you on the defensive, shit. And what do you tell your friends..."Dan offerred to get Tommy's school supplies last night" or "Dan left a bill for me on the table" or "Dan's mad at me he's ignoring me". Good Lord you sound like a paranoid psycho path. Recently he did this to my daughter...ignored her for 3 weeks! and "gaslighted" her the whole time. This is the first time he's done her this way and I think it's because I've not been "participating in his game for about 3 months now...he always needs a victim. They are very close and she was very confused. Lucky she had me to tell her that she's not crazy...this is how he expresses his anger and yes, when he sits in "your spot", the spot you've been sitting in for 14 years, he's doing it on purpose. Again, what does she say to her friend..."he sat in my spot". Insane!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyway, I know how frustrating it is for me to explain this covert abuse and I've spoken to others on this site who have had the same experiences....I've pasted an article below which may give you some validation. I, officially am validating all of you. Yes, he does it on purpose.


Ambient Abuse

The fostering, propagation and enhancement of an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, instability, unpredictability and irritation. There are no acts of traceable or provable explicit abuse, nor any manipulative settings of control. Yet, the irksome feeling remains, a disagreeable foreboding, a premonition, a bad omen. This is sometimes called "gaslighting".

In the long-term, such an environment erodes one's sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Self-confidence is shaken badly. Often, the victims go a paranoid or schizoid and thus are exposed even more to criticism and judgement. The roles are thus reversed: the victim is considered mentally disordered and the narcissist – the suffering soul or the victim.


Run! Get away! Ambient abuse often develops into overt and violent abuse.

You don't owe anyone an explanation – but you owe yourself a life. Bail out of the relationship.

The Malignant Optimism of the Abused

I often come across sad examples of the powers of self-delusion that the narcissist provokes in his victims. It is what I call "malignant optimism". People refuse to believe that some questions are unsolvable, some diseases incurable, some disasters inevitable. They see a sign of hope in every fluctuation. They read meaning and patterns into every random occurrence, utterance, or slip. They are deceived by their own pressing need to believe in the ultimate victory of good over evil, health over sickness, order over disorder. Life appears otherwise so meaningless, so unjust and so arbitrary…

So, they impose upon it a design, progress, aims, and paths. This is magical thinking.

"If only he tried hard enough", "If he only really wanted to heal", "If only we found the right therapy", "If only his defences were down", "There MUST be something good and worthy under the hideous facade", "NO ONE can be that evil and destructive", "He must have meant it differently", "God, or a higher being, or the spirit, or the soul is the solution and the answer to our prayers", "He is not responsible for what he is -
Posted on 02/01/09, 01:18 am
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Reply #1 - 02/01/09  11:02am
" I had not heard this called Ambient abuse before, I called it passive aggressive abuse, but it's all the same thing. Since my ex was a master of abuse, he practiced this some days, and overt abuse others....And, still does...or would if my son or I had any contact with him.

People who employ this method of abuse, are just as manipulative, and at times, it is harder on you, because since they AREN't yelling, you are wondering if something is wrong with doubt yourself even more. I mean...when my ex was screaming at me calling me a bitch 2" from my face and the spittle from his mouth was turning white, I knew I was being abused.

But when he would throw trash on the floor and leave it...I would spend hours trying to figure out why, what he was trying to tell me....and to ask him only resulted in "Oh, I'll pick it up" which never happened. Or when he would undermine something I told my son, or react to something calmly but irrationally, Or when he would take over a task that I normally did, because I didn't do it well enough....I would spend time trying to figure it out.

Of course, I finally figured out that that was all he wanted, was for me to be dancing around him, centering myself on him....and forgetting the fact that none of my needs were being met..... "
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Reply #2 - 02/01/09  1:19pm
" Thank You!!!! I put up with this type of abuse for years, starting with boyfriends in high school to 2 different husbands. I always wondered what I did wrong and how to correct it. Now I know that it was more them than me.

Thank YOU!!

take care "
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Reply #3 - 02/01/09  2:24pm
" bitemepa that does validate me a lot, thankyou..

The longer I'm out, and the more I can see clearly..The WAY more 'ambient' abuse I can see...

I can even now see how some other and very random and seemingly 'little' incidents were exactly this..Some of which I had never realised were before?..

I also agree completely that when you try to describe some of these while they're happening..(as I used to to friends and his sister)..They would sound so trite and silly?..and not really bad at all?..I can still see the puzzled looks on some friends faces?..As if to say?..If thats the worst that he ever does to're doing pretty alright?..Whats there to feel upset about??

Looking back I see that my sister in law was baffled about what was so bad?..And thought I was making mountains out of molehills, and some of the things did sound ridiculously petty, when you try to describe them to others, and try to talk about them...

But we know full well, that they're far from petty, and very deliberately hurtful and confusing. Says it all..'he sat in my spot". Insane!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! '

Wouldn't it sound childish to an outsider??...But we know exactly how big that 'feels'...and how deliberately mean, undermining, and provocative that is..

Heres some I remember...

He smoked, and sometimes would smoke in the toilet, and drop his butt in afterwards, which would sit there floating and ugly. I asked him to please stop, as it wasn't nice at all for children to find. He did stop. But when he was 'blanking' me, there it would be..the floating butt..thrown in there..out of the blue.

I asked him once to sand the frame of a mirror he knew I treasured. He used to be a painter decorator, and did really neat work. After he sanded the frame, I found scratches ALLover the mirror..Meant it was ruined, he he knew it was very old, and that I treasured it, and that the mirror part couldn't ever be replaced. Looking back I now know that was well on purpose.

He well knew I thought dog tail docking was cruel..and when in company, just when I would be having a great laugh, and really enjoying myself, he would bring up the subject, and give a big speel about how cute dogs look with their tails docked. His deliberate disrespect for how he knew I felt about it, was guarenteed to wipe the smile off my face, and make others wonder what the hell was my problem?? As my mood would deflate.

Or another time I had been asking him when h would get around to painting the front of our house, as he'd promised to, many times. Then we were invited to a very special occasion, and he saw me getting all ready for it and excited, and he knew I was really looking forward to it, he hadn't taken me out anywhere, for months on end.. Next thing, just before leaving for it, I went to see if he was getting ready, and he was up on a ladder painting the front of the house. So I say whats going on?..We have to leave soon?..and he says..My God, nothing makes you happy, I'm doing what you want and you're still a miserable bitch!!..So he stayed doing that. And I had to go on alone, to something full of couples, that he knew I was really looking forward to spending time at with him..

These are just a few examples to me, of 'ambient abuse'..that come to mind?...I could fill a book though...

Twisted shits..Pain their payoff..and your confusion and hurt. "
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Reply #4 - 02/01/09  2:37pm
" My first bf was VERY passive aggressive. We lived together for over 7 yrs. It is VERY frustrating because you don't realize they're doing it on purpose. Everyone would just say "he just doesn't get it". And that's what he wanted us to think. If I would bitch and bitch at him to do the dishes, and finally got around to doing them, he'd half ass it, leaving chunks of food on the dishes, and act completely innocent like he's just too retarded to do dishes. That way you'd never ask him to again. He did that with everything.

He completely took advantage of me financially. I was working, going to school full time, then came home and did all the cooking, cleaning, took care of the dog, all the yard work, shopping, everything. I paid most of the bills, bought him all his clothing, took him and paid for all his eye appts and hair cuts, everything. When I finally left him, I found out he had cheated on me twice and he stole whatever stuff I had that he wanted. And he immediately moved on to the next victim. Started treating her better than he had ever treated me, to lure her into the trap. "
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Reply #5 - 02/01/09  2:40pm
" Is very painful to try to figure out why abusers do what they do, i had a very short affair with an emotional sadist.
I was going crazy trying to figure out what this or that meant,ect....
It was easier in my case to call it quits.

Why do scorpions sting? because they're scorpions. "
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Reply #6 - 02/01/09  4:42pm
" thanks,for me its like the little things to me like garbage oh he will do it yeah.
i see that.for me its sometimes out there mostly this covert abuse.
i too get put in my spot and ignored for however long.he crazy making me is awful if is ay it hurts when you don't cal and say you will be late.he says after ignoring he will .then doesn't so i get upset.i say one thing he says its the exact opposite.
poor him ,him.he has this rough that if he is mad and i call for example don't know he orders me.i am then supposed to shut up and say nothing to the fact he is being ruder ,mean.if i do then i am told he will ignore me a day for every 5 mins more i bother go away.
then he tells me i have to be more assertive to things and people.including him.
yet the message he is sending is i say this you do it.
so i guess this is the type of abuse you guys are talking about.
yes when you try to talk to for me his mom.they don't get it sometimes they say wow he is being an a**.then others they think whats the big dial.he was busy he didn't call.he always is.its always too have the common courtesy to say ill be late or to actually spend some time together even if its an hour.alone.
he cant wont.i have to wait wait.until he can.
recently even after talking to his parents and they said to leave him and they'd support me.right.they also said everything i had could be got again.anyway he went out to eat after work w/them and i was home sick.there was a big ice storm here the day before so my car already broken no wipers etc.i couldn't really go i am waiting and he doesn't call nothing.the night before everything ok or so it seemed.
so i call no answer.another time.ok so 15 mins later i call his mom to ask if she knew where he was and also some other things that had nothing to do with him.his brother answers his moms cell was so weird.i got this huge attitude from his brother then.pat wont even talk to me.tell her i will talk to her later.
i said plz put pat on the phone.i try to say something to him .he is rude mean.then he hangs up.i call again his phone then he tels me off in front of them and hangs up on me.
ok so he gets home and ignores me for 3 days.why because i bothered him.he was busy had no time he say.its common courtesy and respect.he could nt do it or understand why i was upset.
so ignore me.the i find out he just went out to dinner.then i get the 5 mins rule .then he says he has no time but takes the time and plays video games.this after telling me 2 days prior that he couldn't do that stuff.
ok sorry i went on.i think its so confusing and i think this goes into that covert ambient..
i dont know so long.thing is he says one thing then does another and acts like he doesn't get it .like i have no reason to be upset,after he says all those things matter to him.
now im keeping my distance from his parents.they acted so weird to me the past couple of days.i don't know what was said.also he now says he gets it again and wants it to be good and he has to try.i told him everything ,however today he hasn't called.i realize he is working and maybe tired so i am not getting real upset.i don't know if he meant what he said.
however i feel i have to be careful and walk on eggshells depending on his mood and also wait forever.. "
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Reply #7 - 02/01/09  7:44pm
" ooohh yeah.
My x husband is a covert abuse specialist. For many years I just didnt get it, then I thought he is passive aggressive. Now I now he is just a plain old run of the mill abuser.

And it is maddening trying to explain to people. Now maybe that I really get it, it would be easier.
He would never give me privacy. He would use excuses like he loves me, he just doesnt get why I would want time away from him, why do I want to be secretive.
Play crazy making scripts. i.e. always get on my case that there are dishes in the sink. Yeah there are dishes there becasue I just cooked for you and I need to soak them before I hand wash them. This went on our entire relationship.
Than ahole things like I can never take the main tv watching spot. He would just pretty much sit on top of me. Like using my favorite pink cup or my pink towels.
Just pretty much doing everything agaist what I said I want. Now I know its a narcissist trait to use whatever you want agaist you. A normal person always complies, it might take a couple of times to ask but they will do it to settle stuff and move on. But not abusers. They love to exploit every little thing that you want or have for yourself. "
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Reply #8 - 02/01/09  11:38pm
" I have magical thinking relatives. I grew up in a magical thinking environment. My mother is notorious for this and I instantly thought of her after reading this article. My mother could find excuses for satan himself. "
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Reply #9 - 02/02/09  3:02am
" I think these are great examples of it here...Like:

'that that was all he wanted, was for me to be dancing around him, centering myself on him....and forgetting the fact that none of my needs were being met.....'

'I say one thing he says its the exact opposite'

'and act completely innocent like he's just too retarded to do dishes. That way you'd never ask him to again. He did that with everything'

'.he is rude mean.then he hangs up. i call again his phone then he tels me off in front of them and hangs up on me.
ok so he gets home and ignores me for 3 days.why because i bothered him.he was busy had no time he say.its common courtesy and respect.he could nt do it or understand why i was upset'

Just pretty much doing everything agaist what I said I want. Now I know its a narcissist trait to use whatever you want agaist you. A normal person always complies, it might take a couple of times to ask but they will do it to settle stuff and move on. But not abusers. They love to exploit every little thing that you want or have for yourself'

SOOOOO true....Mental sadists is right! "
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Reply #10 - 02/02/09  12:24pm
" I haven't been on for a few days, but ladies...I Love You for sharing your stories. As you know from your experiences, people, my therapist, my bros and sis' my best friends, never get it.

I started the topic because I wanted to address him about what he did to Sarah and I needed the strength and validation. And then writing this topic must have opened me up some how because guess what I did yesterday.....I told him that I know what he's doing and then gave him about 2 weeks of "gaslighting" covert details. When ever I would detail one of his gaslighting ploys he would say....wait for it are crazy. Shocking I know. I said, very calmly, Dan, that's not going to work anymore either. I told him "to feel free to continue his abuses if he wanted to but it will just be harder on him. I told him that I'm back, and I'm on to you and I am not going to take your abuse ANYMORE! I told him he was an amatuer.I told him Sarah knows now what you do (my 18 year old who is very close to him and they get along great, but since I haven't been biting the bait, he went after her) because when you stopped talking to her, looking at her and totally gaslighting her for 3 solid weeks, she came to me at least 4 times a day asking, "Is he mad? Do you know why? She gave details of each gas lighting episode and I reassured her that it's all him, and this is how he "fights". Everything he has done, is on purpose. It can be crazy making but you've got me to run things by (I so wanted to carry on with her and tell her my stories but of course I didn't, but I wanted to because you know, you rarely find a witness to the insanity). I brought that up to him and told him he will never he abuse her again on my watch. Not talking to her or looking at her for 3 weeks. No uncertain terms, he abused her. I asked him how do you do it? How do you just not feel so sorry for the person your f--in with to where you just have to scream..."I give up, it's killing me"...I'm sorry, let's be friends!" But we know why..absolutely not a drop of empathy. When you think about it, it's scary. I just take it for granted that humans are empathetic, sympathetic....
A sampling of his sarcastic responses during our conversations: "yeah, your right Mare. You're always right" or, "Oh since you go to therapy are you now a therapist? (oh contraire the stupid therapist doesn't have a clue...he's another one..)When I brought up the "sitting in her seat" thing he said...wait for it..."oh, so now I can't sit in that seat!" I am roaring while I'm writing this because I just kept telling him how predictable he is....AND HE IS! When you think about it, they all are...
We never raised our voices. I was calm as could be and was on my game. I told him at the end that he should breath a huge sigh of relief because the contents of his head has just been released and we are only as sick as our secrets Danny boy and I have just set you free!(he hated that one).

He pouted for a few hours. I was just myself, not feeling sorry for him, not wanting to jump in and say more...just chill. I made nachos for my son and I, and joined him in the TV room(I used to "hide out") watched the Super Bowl and sang "Born in The USA at the top of my lungs and danced like a freak and he got up and left (bye, bye)
Vonnie when you said, he'll do just the opposite...exactly...HeHHHHHAAAAAATTTTTEEEEESSSS you know why? Because I LLLLLOOOOOOVVVVEEE Bruce. They negate every f-in thing. If I really loved a film, he really hates the film. Negates everything. The more I genuinely like things, the more he digs in...
I invested in real estate and I owned 12 houses. . I had tenants in them, cleaned the places, managed them, fixed sheetrock, painted, fixed roof, what I ever I had to do I did. If he put a sink in or did any work I would BEG him for the 12 years I never got a receipt for taxes. I tried everything and I finally put a zip lock bag on the bulliten board marked 2001 taxes..empty... next year, same thing. If you ask for anything he will do his best not to give it to me. Psycho.
Do you guys ever experience this....he never hands me anything directly. If I need the bank card to go to the store, I'll say, Dan, do you have the bank card, first few times he ignores me and then I'll find it magically appear on the kitchen table.
Yesterday, after our talk, I told him I needed money (don't "ask" for it anymore) and he was right in front of me with the cash in his hand and he let it drop to the floor and then he started walking away so I could pick it up (humiliation attack). I am so proud of myself because I said Dan, why don't you be a gentlemen and pick that up for me? My son was in the room so I think that motivated him to pick it up cause he doesn't show his ass to them. And I thanked him and went on my merry way.

He is a freaking construction worker..22 years at the same company and worked with every subcontractor in Atlanta. So if I needed an addition put on or a roof or A/C installed, how normal would it be for him to give me some cards? That's all I asked of him. Not to line it up, but just give me cards of the guys you have worked with and have done a good job. I asked constantly (that's back when I did) and in 12 years he never suggested anyone...Do you know why?....wait for it...because he knew I really really needed it. Vulnerable postion to be in with these a----holes cause they will take every advantage of you.
If I'm having fun or playing with my kids...he gets sooo angry when I'm having fun with them because it is always a competition and control. For years I squashed myself when I was around him (so codependent) just so he wouldn't feel badly...without a sound, but you could cut the tension with a knife. Jeeeeezz how did I survive it....I spiralled so far down in a deep depression...he just let me lie sad.
I'm sorry I rambled guys...I can always relate to the abused feeling when people share their stories, about being yelled at or being hit(my dad was a master). You don't know how much you helped me by telling you're stories about the crazy making stuff... Thank you so much. "

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