Comments: Unintentional Abuse
Emma: Your experience is much like mine and yes, thankfully, it can change. Knowing it is there, which you already do, comes first. Figuring it out takes a little longer, but it happens fast once it starts, or at least did with me. Maybe you could ask you therapist to go back with you to some memories you have that seem to epitomize your current feelings. I went back to a memory where I was protecting my mother from my father's violence, hating her for not protecting us (I was thinking in my second grade brain "Stand up for God's sake, I AM JUST A CHILD!") and wishing the police would just shoot my father and get it over with. There, the fear, hatred of my father and contempt for my mother were all played out. And the need to take control was born. Do you have such a memory you could explore? Best wishes.
Hi Dr. Irene, It's Emma here. Thanks very much for your input. You are right in many ways - I've started to notice how much contempt I can have with regards to people or things that I view as weak. Including my recent ex, who did mention that I could be vicious in fights sometimes, going for the jugular etc... I must mention that my mother was mostly unaware of my father's frank abusive behaviour at home when he was making us study - to this day, she says with great sadness 'why did you not tell me at the time!' She remembers some bruises on my sister and gave him hell for it, but she was not aware of the daily climate surrounding homework time. I understand she didn't get it, but, so what? The emotional brain of a child isn't reasonable. My father was abusive mostly towards us children but not towards my mother - although he was quite dominant towards her, but she would fight back the same way that I did with my ex - vicious comments and vindiction on his imperfections. From his lack of respect spawned some lack of respect from her. I certainly learned that pattern well!!!
So I do not feel contempt towards my mother but I do associate with my father and feel his contempt towards 'weaker' people. At some emotional level, you would have to feel anger towards her for not protecting you, despite her good intentions. My anger towards my ex has toned down. I did give him a copy of the Evans book in the end, and have decided that it wasn't always verbal abuse but dominance and control and insecurity from his part.
Lately our interactions are calmer and of course he is showing his 'puppy' side - admitting to his behaviour, wanting to change, finding a therapist. He still states his 'love' for me. I'm glad you put the word "love" in quotes. I am afraid to fall back with him; however I keep on telling myself that even if the controlling manners and lack of respect disappeared, his basic instability and selfishness are not what I want. Bingo. It's not easy - typical 'Hoover Maneuver' - and habits die hard. And we do work together, which doesn't make it easier. But I did thank him for the relationship and I did tell him that I probably did to a lesser extent what he did to me... and that brought a lot of closure. You are right about the judgment and contempt part of me, which are definitely there. I was doing my best to tone down for a while but I must say that my ex had brought them back. My best friend taught me loads about kindness and tolerance and acceptance of weaknesses; paradoxically it was under her influence that I initially started dating my ex, knowing of his past and yet giving him a chance to learn. So I am now trying to return to who I was prior to that, learning about kindness, tolerance, mutuality and acceptance of weaknesses. Thanks for the advice - I will keep you posted on developments. And I will take a look at those books. Emma You just jumped right in! Good for you!
Dear Emma Thank you for posting your experiences and Dr Irene for your comments – I have really found them interesting because I am struggling to understand myself at the moment and they have shed some light. I also had a father who was abusive although I think more subtly than yours. He is a man of great compassion for people in general and worked tirelessly in Education and human rights – he also loves children and has a great sense of fun – however he found it very difficult to express his love to his family, was unavailable because he worked so much and expressed a great deal of ‘disapproval’ and ‘disappointment’ often just in a look… I know that I have picked up some of that – I have been in a an abusive relationship which started off with the ‘power’ being more or less even (or so I thought) but I gave up my power (and gave up my home and job) he became more and more abusive. To cut a long story short I had a sort of epiphany a few months ago during couples counseling when I finally realised and really felt that he is extremely insecure, dependent and desperate to hang on to our relationship (even tough his behavour is extremely counter productive!) – the trouble is now I feel contempt for him – I also realise I feel contempt for other weak people but only those I know reasonably and feel ‘should know better’ – like myself. Like my father I have huge compassion for strangers – so much so it hurts sometimes! I do feel sorry for my partner too but at the moment contempt and anger are the main emotions and they are causing me to behave in ways that I don’t like in myself - being cold and uncaring – although some days I behave in a similar way but know that it comes from a clear intention to maintain my boundaries and a feeling of compassion towards him. I know that I have been kind, tolerant and understanding to a fault over the years of our relationship but the barrel has run dry. I’m trying to work with my anger in counseling and by writing - but at the moment it just keeps coming back. I was wondering about Dr Irene’s comment that ‘you can be with anyone and still feel safe because you are’ - does she really mean you can feel safe with an abuser? Interesting point. That's not what I meant, but why not - if you know how to handle yourself, and you know he or she "wouldn't dare!" That's assuming you have your own reasons for actually wanting to be there... I don’t feel I need my partner, I feel strong – but I don’t feel 100% safe to be who I am and say what I want to say – so why do I stay with him? Anyway enough about me – its good to see you are moving on Emma and have taken responsibility for yourself as I haven't quite been able to do yet! Amazon
Hi Dr. Irene, it's Emma again. You are also right, I still care. I spilled my guts to people at work about him and how bad the relationship was. Then suddenly people came forward with all kinds other stories about him constantly seeking younger female attention while we were together - which made me nauseated and soooo angry. I didn't even leave him for that, but it kinda hit a few more nails into the coffin... However the discussion started quite a bit of gossip and I realize that I was disrespectful towards him by doing that. Shortly after I went to him and apologized about disparaging his reputation at work. He was very reasonable, he did not seem to resent me, and even seemed to understand where I was coming from... We had a calmer talk about the relationship and of course he stated his 'love' for me, that he does not want to sell the house. And his 'puppy phase' tugged some heartstrings with me and I felt sorry Oh no! for him again, I felt like he could change for good. Danger zone! But I've been here already and I know that his fixing himself does not belong to me (I'm a fixer-upper, which must be codependency Good girl! Giggle! By the way, being a fixer-upper works well in doctoring!).
During weak moments I have to hold myself from not going back to him and starting again, it's almost like a drug, getting the fix for a while and ignoring the bad consequences. Yes. Very well put... You must always ask yourself what are your broader goals, knowing what he is about. I just hate this see-saw, I just wish I could move forward to calmer seas and know better what is truly good for me... *sigh*.. but growing up is painful I guess... I think you do know better what is good for you; you just don't have it now, so you tend to seek comfort in what you do have. Continue to avoid seeing comfort in your ex and you become stronger onto yourself - which will make you a better partner when you do come across one who is right for you.
Amazon: in my case, contempt usually stems from hurt, except for the times that I started behaving like my ex and was arrogant and contemptuous for no reason, which is unacceptable (and I forgot it at the time, I let it be when I shouldn't have). We cannot be the Dalai Lama all the time and stomach all the hurt without saying anything, like you said yourself, the barrel eventually runs dry. I'm not sure that Dr. Irene meant that you could feel safe with an abuser, again, to me, only the Dalai Lama could do that ;). I think so too Emma, though who knows... One person's poison is another person's tea. Your relationship spans longer than mine and it is understandable that it is harder to extricate yourself - but anything is possible. If your deep feelings and your body say that something is awfully wrong (I had nightmares and stomach aches and eczema, stuff that even my stressful training and my job didn't give me!!!) then all I can say is follow your instinct. Abuse really does make one sick! Good luck and you'll get the strength, in time! - Emma
If I could offer up anything to you, Emma, it would be to take a look at a site that I have recently been spending a LOT of time on. In reading just a small percentage of the site and working through some of the exercises, I have been able to identify and already start changing some negative thought patterns within myself that have resulted in poor self esteem from my own childhood traumas. I can finally see a pattern throughout my life that I keep on repeating (abusive relationships) and I know that if I don't do something to change ME, now, then I will continue on this path of misery and never realize the full affect of being an emotionally healthy individual. I have read a lot of books on verbal and emotional abuse, as well as used Dr Irene's site as my support and they were all extremely helpful and instrumental to opening my eyes to these types of relationships and realizing the very destructive nature of them.
What I didn't learn from them is how to trust, how to love myself, how to grow and develop personally. As a result, I still lack in balance when it comes to relationships. I harbor such negative thoughts, due to my poor self esteem, that just about anything and everything looks like abuse (if you look hard enough and expect abuse, you can turn almost any comment into abuse in your own mind You sure can! Sounds like you got stuck in the angry victim stage.), even if it's not. I carried a 'trust no one' attitude with me from one relationship to the next and settled for the comfort (how ironic) of what I knew...abuse. It was "survival" for me, but I caution you...merely surviving is not living. Amazingly enough, as soon as I identified issues within me, my focus turned completely away from fixing my relationship or finding "just the right one" to fixing me. My new "fix" or "drug" is within me...getting happy with "me" and loving "me" and it all started with a very honest and hard look at myself that was probably one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do (who likes to see in black and white in front of them that "hey, I have issues"?). I worked through this self-esteem personal inventory test and suddenly I realized that there is so much more to living life than I ever dreamed possible. The site is located here, if you are interested. http://www.coping.org/selfesteem/inventory.htm Much luck and love to you!
This is not a complaint, but a puzzlement. I checked out this site because I'm an abused guy, in a classical sense. Yet, everything I click on is about abused women. I respect and empathize with them, but I'm not a woman, and it's hard to identify with their accounts, even though the dynamics are basically the same. Are all the abused guys too ashamed to 'talk', I wonder. I don't want to feel so alone. It's always seemed to me that women, although I realize 'they' are very competitive in many ways, somehow have more of a 'sisterhood' than men do a 'brotherhood', but of course that may be only a function of my 'myopia'. I wish I could communicate with some 'brothers' in the same boat.
Dear "abused guy". Come on in to the forums...there are actually men here, who are either in your shoes or have been before, to help. The site is not intended to be for only women, just that I think the general belief is that more women are abused than men? I can't honestly say for sure, but verbal and emotional abuse is just that...verbal and emotional abuse and it affects us all the same. Sometimes I even wonder if it affects men more so because they are supposed to be the "strong" ones in a relationship. There is help for you, here! There are certainly more abused women out there than men. Unfortunately, abused men tend to be more "invisible."
Abused guy, I am in your shoes as well. I haven't had much time to be online recently but I'd be happy to talk to you. Dan.
Dr. Emma, it looks as though you took this piece and ran with it! You knew exactly when to seek a piece of outside input so you could sprint! God bless you. Dr. Irene