My partner and I (in our late twenties) have been together for 5 years and living together for most of that. Things in general have been great - our morals, values, life vision, humour, ways of thinking all align. We have chemistry, a good bond, both reliable people etc. We still laugh together.
There's one huge and depressing problem, and that is that I think he is emotionally abusive when dealing with conflict. It has been a long journey, about 1 year of actively working on it now, but I've come to a point where I realise it's not a lack of 'emotional intelligence', and it's not because of his past. It's emotional abuse he is choosing to repeatedly inflict on me in order to protect himself.
What confuses me is that I'm the one who grew up with abuse, while he didn't, and yet he is the one who employs emotionally abusive tactics. He grew up in a very stable household, farm boy, all things provided. But his parents never talked about emotion, avoided conflict, and were never affectionate. While I understand this makes it difficult for him to know how to express, his parents were not cold or cruel people - you can feel their love even without them touching you or saying 'I love you.' Meanwhile I grew up in a traumatic household with abuse, violence, and what not.
What he does is, whenever I bring up conflict, he will flip it on me, say I'm being too sensitive, he says couples shouldn't argue or talk so much, I'm overcritical etc. That's with me being as delicate and as mature as possible. I have had a lot of practice with confrontation (my mother) and so I know how to not use inflammatory language, how to frame things in a way as in 'I feel' etc. But even when I do that, he uses it as ammunition. 'Oh you feel like that? Why are you with me then? You always feel like x y and z'. This was a general way that he would deal with conflict before - completely immature and victimising himself. In the past year he worked on that, and generally that part is gone.
But when we are in an argument and say it's a more intense topic, something else happens. He completely explodes, lashes out, and says horrible things. Blames everything on me, insults me, gaslights me, laughs at me, in the past used to mock me too but he stopped that. He turns into someone I don't recognise, and in this moment, it doesn't matter if I apologise or if I back down, or if I shout or get angry, he will continue. It is like an 'episode'. He will smash things, punch walls sometimes, at times even punch himself. I tell him to stop, I tell him go and take a break, sometimes he does, other times he stays there to spew poison. I've frequently compared this experience as if it's a 'drunk' him. When he calms down many hours later or the next day, it is like he sobers up. He is so ashamed about his actions, he vehemently disagrees with everything he said, he explains he was exaggerating, not thinking, etc.
We've had deeper discussions about this and he claims he was struggling with self-loathing and it's a defensive tactic to project it outwards so that he makes it about me instead of him. He explains he struggles with feelings of shame a lot. Okay fine, but that was a year ago.
In this entire year, he's been journalling almost every day, and past few months he's been seeing a therapist weekly. But about a week ago, he lashed out again despite telling him it will destroy our relationship. He was worse than ever, telling me it's over, to leave, making random claims about the past that are untrue, blaming me for everything. I packed my stuff and moved out and have been at my mother's for the past week.
It was in this time that I read a book 'Why Does He Do That' where I realised he is in fact abusive. No matter what he's told me or how many promises he's made to not do that, he always breaks them. Even when my mum got involved and tried to talk to him, he made promises etc. Broke them. He spoke to his own mum, still broke the promise again. At this point, nothing seems to make any sort of effect. Not the thought of me leaving him, not the fact that our families know and have tried to talk about it, nothing.
I was numb at my realisation a few days ago, and then I decided it's best to take a break. Without going into too much detail, I told him about my realisation (that he is emotionally abusive) and how I learned it, and that it's been something I've not had the words to explain for a long time. Then I ended it with the fact I need space and I need him not to contact me for now.
Now I am sitting here having my space but I just don't know what to think, what to do, how to process all this, whether I should force myself to leave him, whether this is salvagable. I don't know anything. After speaking to my brother, he told me just stay away from him for a month and work on yourself and your happiness, and let him come to his own conclusions and reflections. I am doing that anyway, for myself not for him, but I can't help feeling so confused and conflicted. I do love him, and I know that without this issue we would be perfect together, everyone knows it. We're not just 'good' together, we're content around each other, we are like two house-cats who have grown together, I can't explain it. But at the same time, I can't keep living like this, and I don't know what to do.
I am sick of hearing the same trigger happy advice 'leave him'. I love this person. But it's become almost become me vs him, I can't keep living like this any longer. Any hope? Any idea? I'm sorry this is so long, I just feel so alone in all this.