Telling the Truth is Not Abuse

21, April 2011 at 11:53 PM (angry or frustrated, scapegoated) (, , , , , , )

It is widely established and confirmed and written about everywhere that one of the most classic things an abuser does is claim to be themselves abused by the person they are abusing. This is blame-shifting, manipulative, diverting and crazymaking. My ex was no exception to the employment of this tactic to avoid taking responsibility for his own actions. Toward the end, one of the things he brought up a few times and wrote in his final summation of our relationship as an example of how much I hurt him was that I had early in our relationship made the statement, “You were fucking jerking off to porn!” (He says I stated it, that I did not yell, but yet he added the italics and exclamation point.) He says I made a disgusted face while I said it. This is probably true, because I am disgusted by men who look at porn. I am even more disgusted by men who look at porn frequently, in lieu of having real interactions with real people. I am even more disgusted by men who save collections of porn on their computers. But I am probably most disgusted by my ex, who knew when he asked me out that he was looking at porn at least once and up to (he claims) three times daily, had built many collections of hundreds of photos and videos on his computer, and was well aware in advance of asking me out that I had very strong and outspoken oppositions to the sexual exploitation and abuse of anyone. It is something I put out there, on the table for everyone to see right away, in order to not get involved with and especially not asked out by people who engage in or support the sexual exploitation of others.

Whenever I asked how he could have been so dishonest with me about this, or why he would even ask someone like me out when there are plenty of other potential girlfriends out there who might not feel as strongly as I do about the subject, he said he expected me to be more tolerant, more forgiving, more patient, and more understanding. There we have again further blame-shifting, diversion and, probably worst of all, a sense of entitlement. When I asserted that it was wrong for him to have been dishonest with himself and me by knowingly getting involved with someone who had a moral opposition to how he spent his time alone, and withholding that fact from me until after we were already involved, suddenly the Great Big Concern shifts to the many ways in which I have failed to be a Good Person and Loving Partner (um, excuse me, but was he being a Good Person and Loving Partner to begin with?): in his view, the only reason his use of porn– and, I would later find out: strip clubs, attendance at bachelor parties with hired women, having as a best friend a guy who worked at a porn magazine (and hanging out at his workplace), helping his friend pick out porn videos to rent (he claims he did not rent any himself), seeking out and streaming the most pornographic movies he could find on netflix for masturbating to, going to a 3-D porn movie on campus, scrutinising and studying naked women for the sake of “making art”, taking the opportunity when his girlfriends weren’t around to masturbate to sex scenes in mainstream movies or downloaded porn videos, working at a live theatre and signing up for cabaret shows involving women having to take their clothes off purely for spectacle, taking screen shots to masturbate to from dvds played on his computer of people making out in tv shows, drawing sexual pictures for himself to masturbate to (is anyone else noticing a pattern here? because he says it’s just me only seeing what I “want to”; I wonder what his friends, family, therapist, and future girlfriend(s) would see if they had full knowledge of this guy’s history! [and I must assume that he hasn’t told me about everything])– he claims the only reason all of this continued to be a controversy in our relationship is because I am intolerant, unforgiving, impatient, and stubbornly ignorant– that is what he didn’t know about me, that is what I allegedly failed to reveal about myself before he asked me out, that is what should have compelled me to decline his invitation (because I was supposed to be a mind-reader?); not only was he, by virtue of being a man, entitled to use women for his own sexual gratification (and as long as he felt bad about it, he was paying “penance” and could therefore keep doing it), he expected (was entitled) to never be called to task for it– he deserved (believed himself entitled) to date whomever he chose regardless of her personal beliefs, and having chose me, he expected (felt entitled to get) a much better girlfriend out of me than that! And thus I find myself in the defensive position, and we are no longer talking about his dishonesty, betrayal, and manipulation of my feelings and choices, nor are we talking about his sexual abuse of others (and later, of me). Sly trickery, that.  Abuser’s name removed. By their fruits ye shall know them. Matthew 7:16

But wait– he was jerking off to porn. That’s a fact, one admitted to by him. Me saying so is not abusive. It’s no more abusive than if someone told me, “You fucking took the bus downtown!” If I had indeed taken the bus downtown I would have to say, yes, that’s right, I did. It is also not abusive to make a grossed-out, angry, or otherwise ugly face while speaking of something that grosses you out, makes you angry, or is a very ugly subject. In addition to all his physical and emotional abuses of me (and, with his self-centered moodiness, rages, physical and verbal threats and violence, he abused his co-workers and a great many random people on the street as well), my ex also sexually abused me (forced unwanted sexual contact) AND contributed to the sexual abuse of tens and maybe hundreds of thousands of women, and he has the audacity to say I hurt him because I made a true statement? Denial is a powerful thing. But his guilt and shame for his own actions does not belong to me, and it is not my fault, and it is not my responsibility. He made the choices he did, not I, and so I was never under any obligation to account for them, accept them, or in any way have feelings about them other than what I had. And I had every right to speak of it. And I had every right to be angry about it, not trust him as much as I had before, and feel violated and betrayed. And I had every right to say what was true.

I also had every right to terminate our relationship. But of course, he did not come out with all of this at once, and as I slowly learned more and more, the more and more I had by then become emotionally and financially entangled with him (see also: Traumatic Bonding). At the end, he would even shift the blame onto me for not leaving him sooner. In other words, by staying in the relationship as long as I did, any feeling of being abused I “brought” upon myself and “therefore” I can’t complain about him. This is a fancy way of blaming the victim, and avoiding taking responsibility for having treated me abusively. Goodness, does he really believe he is entitled to abuse? And any woman who tries for any reason and for any length of time to love, understand, or encourage him to change is just asking for it? abusing herself by proxy? giving him permission to abuse her in the meantime? This is a very disturbing attitude, but unfortunately this way of thinking is a defining characteristic of an abuser. It says, the abuser is allowed to continue to be abusive, the abused person is responsible for stopping the abuse. It almost sounds valid to say, “The onus was on you to leave me sooner”, but the reality is that this would not stop him from being abusive to me (even if I left him, as I am still experiencing, because emotional and psychological abuse can still be done from a distance) or to others; nor does leaving him erase or excuse the fact that he abused me. The onus always was and always will be entirely on him to stop treating others abusively.

Being angry, or disgusted by something, or wildly confused in the face of your partner’s dishonesty, and telling the truth about what they did and how it makes you feel– none of this is abusive, even if it makes your partner feel bad. If they did something dishonest, if they did something wrong, if they did something which violates you or others, they should feel bad. It’s called having a conscience; it is not anywhere called being abused by the person whose trust, feelings and boundaries they violated, exploited, disregarded or sought to control. Nowhere can they find support for such an absurd claim, except in the twisted recesses of their own ego-protecting minds. Please understand that if you are with such a person, you cannot get in there and change their minds. If their conscience is hurting them, they will call it abuse. There is nothing you can do. Just leave them alone with their distortions. If you can, just leave before they can do you any more harm.

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“That’s none of your business.”

9, April 2011 at 2:59 PM (angry or frustrated, defeated, this is madness) (, , , , , , , , )

Blocking and diverting: Blocking and diverting specifically controls interpersonal communication. The verbal abuser refuses to communicate, establishes what can be discussed, and withholds information, thereby preventing all possibility of resolving conflicts. Blocking may be accusatory; however, its primary purpose is to prevent discussion, end communication, withhold information, or “win” an argument. Through diversion the topic is changed, often turning the tables on the partner so she must defend herself on an unrelated topic. None of the abuser’s diversions answer the partner’s question or concern in a thoughtful and considerate way. The abuser blocks her attempts to gain information or open communications by diverting her from the issue with accusations and irrelevant comments. Often the partner does not notice that the original topic is no longer the topic. She has been diverted.

Underloading: The ways that RIGHT TO KNOW are violated are when we are not given clear information, as in underloading[.] In underloading, the abusive partner gives us too little information so we are off-balance and have shaky confidence about what we are learning; or the person has left and it is only after they’re gone that we realize we don’t know any more than before we asked them a question. At these times it requires the receiver of the information to assume or draw conclusions about the meaning of the incomplete information. This is also a time when mind-reading comes into play. In order to survive this walking on eggshells, the receiver of the incomplete message or silent treatment must use past references to know what the sender of the message might intend.

Withholding: When a man refuses to empathetically listen, validate, or share information and emotions, he’s destroying the core of what sustains an intimate relationship. He’s withholding. For a relationship to be truly intimate, it requires mutual and empathetic listening, validation, and sharing.

In the 6-page letter my former partner gave me after I terminated our relationship, in which he provides a summary of our relationship and his experiences in it, he has this epiphany: at the times he didn’t want to talk to me or share information about something, he could have-should have exercised his right to say, “That’s none of your business.”

I don’t know if this is yet another bit of bad advice from his mom or his seemingly inept therapist, or if this is a discovery he came up with on his own; either way, asserting it as a “solution” to his discomfort with talking about certain things, sharing, or otherwise revealing more about himself than he is used to shows me not only how far away he really is from acknowledging how his choices and behaviours destroyed this relationship, but also how much more abusive he could have become had I not ended things when I did.

Now, he’s not wrong: he does indeed have the right to say, “That’s none of your business.” Sounds good in theory, but there are a number of things here he is failing to follow up on regarding how that would play out in practice:

1. “That’s none of your business” is a statement people use to quickly shut someone else out;
2. It violates my right to know;
3. It denies and rejects my interests or concerns;
4. It lacks empathy;
5. It steals power: he takes authority over me to decide for me what is or is not my business;
6. It is a conversational shut-down technique, which thwarts communication;
7. It functions not as an emotional boundary, but a wall;
8. It expresses hostility: the other is an enemy or threat;
9 a. It is underloading, which is abusive: I do not learn anything and have to operate on assumptions;
9 b. This immediately turns into attacking me for “jumping to conclusions”, “filling in the blanks”, “making assumptions”, “being judgmental”, “putting words in his mouth”, etc (which is blame-shifting and diverting);
10 a. It is blocking, which is abusive: he controls communication, and therefore prevents conflict resolution;
10 b. Continuing to make attempts to resolve the conflict immediately turns into attacking me for “not letting things go”, “dragging things on forever”, “never giving him a break”, “wearing him out”, etc (which is blame-shifting and diverting);
11 a. It is diverting, which is abusive: what and why I wanted to know something becomes the controversy and puts me on the defense;
11 b. This immediately turns into attacking me for “being so defensive”, “not letting things go”, “asking too many questions”, “having irrelevant interests/concerns”, “changing the subject”, “failing to make him comfortable opening up”, etc (which is blame-shifting and diverting heaped on blame-shifting and diverting)
12 a. It is withholding, which is abusive: it destroys trust and prevents intimacy, the relationship cannot survive;
12 b. This immediately turns into attacking the relationship itself for “being unhealthy”, “being toxic”, “being bad”, “it should have ended earlier”, “he wants to leave”, “he can’t handle this”, “there are too many problems”, etc (which is diverting and coercive);
13. It arouses greater suspicion: what is he trying to hide?
14. It prevents me from being able to make informed decisions for myself;
15. It manipulates to what I can or cannot give informed consent;
16. It prevents me from getting to know him (a ha, we may be onto something….);
17. It forgets that I can say, fine, I think it is my business, so if you don’t like that you’re better off with someone who doesn’t care about this as much as I do.

Off the top of my head, these are only some of the many consequences launching a statement like “That’s none of your business” can have in the context of an intimate relationship, but let’s pause on those last few for a moment. Clearly every of these consequences relates to control; but preventing me from getting to know him prevents me from being able to decide for myself not only if he is someone I even want to be with at all, but in what ways and how much I am willing or not willing to compromise, negotiate, or make any of the other usual efforts to sustain a romantic relationship. And preventing all that is seriously manipulative, and seriously abusive of power. In some ways, I’m in awe, really, that he would make any kind of argument in favour of being more controlling, more withholding, more abusive– but of course, this is not what he thinks he is doing. My guess is he thinks he’s asserting his boundaries. Everyone is allowed to have them, fine. I don’t care about that. But something akin to “I’m just not telling you, nyah-nyah-nyah” does not contribute to growing a healthy, mature, intimate or even enjoyable relationship. He has had his girlfriends who didn’t care to know his business, and there are plenty more out there who wouldn’t just the same; there was and still is no need for him to demand of any relationship that it provide him with the sensation of being known without having to tell. And when you get into an area like sex, which I will tell my readers now is what this is all about in our case, it just plain and simple isn’t right– yes it’s capital-w Wrong– to decide for someone else what they do and do not have a right to know before becoming and while being involved with you. Remember I said I agreed he does have the right to say, “That’s none of your business”; moreover I’ll even add that he has a moral obligation to say it if that’s what he truly believes. But someone who says to me, “That’s none of your business”, especially about subjects relating to my/our sexual life, has to be willing to hear me reply, “Well then, see ya later pal, cuz I don’t do relationships like that.”

So the ironic thing is, I wish he did say, “That’s none of your business” from the very start, on every subject he truly felt he didn’t want to talk about, and I wish he would have repeated it as often as necessary until the day I would stop trying to gently explain to him why I feel something is my business (in the beginning, I used to do this), or why being in a relationship is all about sharing your business with someone else (I used to do this, too), because then I could have said not just you’d be better off with someone who doesn’t care about this as much as I do— because he’d argue and argue in disagreement whenever I said that– but I’m better off with someone who doesn’t block and withhold. I guess I always knew that deep down inside, but the crumbs I was thrown here and there made me keep trying. It looks to me now like that’s what he was going for: he wanted to be with me, he wanted us to have a relationship, he just wanted it without the costs and risks of opening up his whole self, and without me having the confidence and power to leave him if I decided he wasn’t the right person for me. Had he said, “That’s none of your business” every time he wanted to or felt like he “should”, I would have decided (and not just supposed) right-quick he is not my guy, no way, no how!

(But that’s what power and control is about, isn’t it. Getting the most of what you want for the least expense and trying to keep it as long as possible. Emotional capitalist-consumerism. Yuck.)

Really, it’s just sad. He didn’t want to lose me, so he did everything in the book to try to “keep” me, which is exactly what is written in the book on how to lose me. I’m just very, very sorry that the lesson he learned from it all was not how to build a relationship better, but how to destroy it faster; not how to become a more trusting and trustworthy person, but how to become more closed and suspicious; not how to become more transparent, but more opaque; not how to become an intimate partner, but how to remain an enigma.

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