Yep, Abuse Is Depressing!

21, May 2011 at 4:09 PM (this is madness, trapped) (, , , , , , , , )

This is not the most focused thing I could have written on the subject. I still find it difficult to describe or impress upon people what a horror show so much of this was, and to some degree I am still experiencing cognitive disassociation, which I was deeply in the habit of exercising during my relationship in an effort to survive it day-to-day. The really important thing I’m trying to get at is that chronic abuse results inevitably in anxiety, depression and stress disorders, and that an abuser only heaps abuse upon abuse when they fault their victim for responding like any person would under such pressure and duress, and worse still justify it by claiming to be the victim of the abused partner’s reactions to being abused. It’s so sick, it’s so frustrating, I still can’t really wrap my mind around how such people can believe their behaviour is acceptable, within the realm of normal treatment of another. I still can’t really wrap my mind around how such people live with themselves. My conscience compels me to act, change, fix if I’ve done something wrong. If an abuser has a conscience, it seems the only thing it does is cause them to do everything in their power to ignore, deceive, and deny– to themselves and everyone around them, including the victim– so they will never have to face their guilt or shame at what they have done.

From Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft, “Is the Way He’s Treating Me Abuse?” (italics in the original, I have bolded and underlined the parts which speak to me especially):

“An abuse counselor says of an abusive client: ‘When he looks at himself in the morning and sees a dirty face, he sets about washing the mirror.’ In other words, he becomes upset and accusatory when his partner exhibits the predictable effects of chronic mistreatment, and then he adds insult to injury by ridiculing her for feeling hurt by him. He even uses her emotional injuries as excuses to mistreat her further. […] If she is increasingly mistrustful of him because of his mistreatment of her, he says that her lack of trust is causing her to perceive him as abusive, reversing cause and effect in a mind-twisting way. If she is depressed or weepy one morning because he tore her apart the night before, he says, ‘If you’re going to be such a drag today, why don’t you just go back to bed so I won’t have to look at you?’

If your partner criticises or puts you down for being badly affected by his mistreatment, that’s abuse. Similarly, it’s abuse when he uses the effects of his cruelty as an excuse, like a client I had who drove his partner away with verbal assaults and then told her that her emotional distancing was causing his abuse, thus reversing cause and effect. He is kicking you when you’re already down, and he knows it. Seek help for yourself quickly, as this kind of psychological assault can cause your emotional state to rapidly decline.”

I remember one morning shortly after waking up, my partner asked me what I was thinking about. Well, I made the mistake of telling him (please note in a relationship with a normal person who is kind and loving, this would never be a mistake). Because of the hours- and hours-long argument the night before about his expressed lack of desire and attraction for me, during which he described parts of my body as “flawed”, “strange”, “weird”, “not like anyone he’s ever seen before” (and he has seen an excessive lot!) and as “having an unattractive quality”, I said, simply, “I’m thinking of how unattractive I am.” I said nothing more, and nothing less.

Instantly, he sat up and he was MAD. And this set off eight hours of non-stop arguing, me trying to defend myself the entire time for simply answering his question, and for why I was thinking about that because of what he said the night before (and for what he showed me our whole relationship, really). For eight hours he sat on or stood next to the bed verbally berating me without pause and punching the bed, himself, and the wall. It was horrifying. By 5.30pm I was curled in a ball on the bed, bawling my eyes out and begging desperately, “Please stop, please! You win, ok? Please stop now!” and still he would not. I couldn’t take it anymore. In addition to feeling indescribably confused, constantly scared and frequently depressed by this relationship, I was mourning from the recent deaths of two feline family members I’d had for almost twenty years since birth, neither of whom I was allowed to grieve because my attention had to be always and only on my partner; the loss of a friendship I had since childhood and other isolations (all due to my partner’s direct interference and manipulation of these relationships); and his non-stop assaults on my ego and personhood. I suggested out loud maybe I should just die. I did not say I wanted to kill myself, I did not say I was going to kill myself, I said, “Well I guess I just have to die.” I guess those were the magic words to make him stop, for instantly he ran from the room, made a phone call, and disappeared out of the house. I later found out he went to a walk-in counseling center, as well as called my childhood friend and another mutual friend of ours. To all of these people he pretended to be concerned about my well-being, and claimed to be the victim of my suicidal threats. He left out the parts about him treating me our entire first year together with neglect, disgust and disdain. He left out the part about how he lied to me and my friends and our mutual friends about how I was supposedly treating him, and what we all “really” think of each other, so that I would have no one to turn to for help or support and was thus left totally isolated and dependent on him and our relationship. And he left out the parts about tearing me apart until 4am all the night before and for eight hours that day literally trapping me in bed with non-stop verbal and physical threats and assaults.

What he left out was that my desperate emotional state was the direct and predictable result his chronic mistreatment. I’ve tried to see this with his eyes, and I just can’t comprehend the cruelty one must have in their heart to look at someone they claim to love, curled up in a fetal position and crying for hours because of the things he was saying to me non-stop all morning, afternoon and into the evening, and keep going, keep ranting, keep blaming, keep yelling, keep leaping up aggressively and punching things, keep digging and digging into her, on, and on, and on, and when she naturally supposes there is no way out except to die, instantly run away from her, lie to others about the whole thing and blame her for all of it in order to solicit sympathy for himself. I can’t see it with his eyes, because I could never that severely lack compassion that I would emotionally and physically torture someone until they were so beaten down and desperate that they didn’t know what else to say except that if they couldn’t get out of the relationship, they feel they have to get out of life. I just can’t fathom the inhumanity, and frankly, I don’t want to.

He rang up a $500 phone bill that month talking to everyone who would listen to him and give him sympathy and advice on how to “deal with me”. To my knowledge– which shocks and disappoints me, actually– not a single person asked, “What’s going on, what is making her feel so upset?” Certainly after talking to him, no one thought perhaps they should call me and ask me directly what was going on with me. Everyone relied entirely on his word, and so no one heard about his abuse. Because no one knew about it, no one told him that he must deal with and change his abusive behaviour, because, as abusive partners typically do, he portrayed himself as the victim of me and “our unhealthy dynamic”. In this way, he ruined friendships I had with people (though my partner insists he portrayed the situation to others accurately, one person was yet influenced to say about me– the one curled up and crying as a result of my partner’s constant barrage of verbal and physical violence– “what a bitch!”), he further isolated me, strained our financial situation, and gained support for his damaging behaviour which, as a result, continually increased in severity and frequency after every contact with his “support” network (see: Abusive Men and Their Allies)– little do they know what they were really supporting. To this day, he claims that he would not have “had to” do those things if I wouldn’t have been depressed and argumentative (abusive partners always say their mistreatment was justified, that if the victim had not done XYZ, he would not have “had to” behave abusively: if I was not depressed, he would not have “had to” ruin my friendships, isolate me, strain our finances, and seek support for his behaviour; notice that what caused me to become depressed– chronic mistreatment and abuse– is totally erased, “reversing cause and effect in a mind-twisting way”). To this day he claims he had no other choice in his course of action. I maintain he had a choice: he could have chosen not to abuse me.

For eight months I continued to make payments on this bill. Every month I still felt angry, frustrated and resentful about it because the issues that led up to and surrounded it never got resolved (and in fact only got worse the more enabled, entitled, and justified he felt he was). He never acknowledged he was treating me in any way abusively, or even poorly; he wouldn’t even acknowledge that I felt mistreated. He continues to the present day to use my normal responses to being treated abusively as leverage in turning or keeping people away from me and focused on his experience and needs. To show just how incapable he is of having even the slightest understanding of how traumatised I was/am by his behaviour and actions throughout our relationship, to this day he claims he is damaged by the phrase, “You spent $500 to talk shit behind my back”–  this was my phrase (and it’s plenty of other people’s too) for someone who calls other people and misrepresents, lies about or discredits someone else, in order to seek attention and sympathy from others while turning them against the person they’re badmouthing. He complains and provides as evidence of my “damaging mistreatment” of him that this phrase about a phone bill will be “forever burned into his brain” (one should note that he does not accuse T-Mobile of damaging him for saying he made these calls, nor does he accuse T-Mobile of abusing him by expecting him to pay for it)– I envy his complaint. What is forever burned into my brain is his abuse and emotional cruelty, being kicked while I was already down, being blamed for his behaviour and choices, the reality-twisting (he did ring up a $500 phone bill, there is no way of denying that!), the neglect, the violence, the untold hours spent defending myself, sticking up for myself, and trying and failing to get him to see me as a human being who does not deserve to be treated with abuse. I would like it very much if all that was burned into my brain was a factual statement about something I did indeed do.

But he wants to compare his experience with mine, compete about who had it worse, whose emotions are most negatively affected by which of us said what. I admit I said “he spent $500 to talk shit behind my back”, I have never denied that. I said it in anger, I said it in frustration and resentment. The statement does not attack his character nor does it threaten his emotional or bodily safety, or even our relationship. The statement does not make him feel like he has to die to escape hearing it. He admits nothing: he does not admit he said things about how I look to him which impact my confidence and self-esteem; he does not admit physically threatening me; he does not admit trapping me, verbally berating me and wearing me down; he does not admit withholding support or comfort for the deaths of my two cats; he does not admit interfering with my relationships with friends or isolating me; he does not even admit that $500 to T-Mobile was a waste of money. He admits nothing. He looked at me begging for relief from his attacks and kept on and on with them until I felt like the only escape was to die, and sees nothing whatever wrong with having pushed me there. He firmly believes my anxiety, depression and desperation were the result of my personal flaws and weaknesses and since there was nothing in the world he did wrong, there’s nothing in the world he need have done differently (I have a letter which says so). I believe this extreme inability to empathise with or have compassion for another person is called “psychopathic”, but it is little comfort to me to understand this relationship in terms of the possibility that there might be in him a serious mental illness at play.

One of the last times we were in bed together, after yet another several weeks like the day I describe above, he asked me to put my arms around him. I hesitated. I said I wanted to, but I don’t trust him, I don’t know what he’s going to “do” with a gesture of affection from me. He said I should not think about later, I should just think about the present moment. I felt so weak, I felt so lonely and hurt, so I did as he asked. He was happy and he said, “I need this.” I asked him what “this” meant and what he needed it for. He needs my affection, he said, “in order to feel connected” to me. That scared me. I thought back to all the days like the one I described above. It sounded like he was hinting: if I don’t give him affection, he’ll disconnect– and I already know, if he disconnects, he will cease to see me or treat me like a human being with feelings; so if I don’t give him affection, he’ll abusively dehumanise me to the point where I’d rather be dead than be treated that way another minute. Perhaps when I was feeling unattractive because he told me I was, treated me like I was, perhaps the instant he got mad, I should have turned and given him my affection? So he could feel “connected to me”? Is that what it would have taken for him to see me as a real, live, and suffering human being, and not continue to abuse me? I don’t function that way, I’m not going to hug someone who spent all night telling me how unattractive and undesirable I am, and certainly I cannot hug someone who is abusing me, even if it would stop them– nor should I have to.

And all the hours and all the days and all the nights and months I saw nothing but the back of his head because without my affection he “couldn’t connect to” me… since I found it impossible to be affectionate with someone who was abusing me, he punished me with total withdrawal, always threatening our relationship (and therefore my and my son’s food and shelter since I was by that time so wrecked with anxiety and depression that I had become financially dependent on him) by living with one foot out the door, in his mind it’s all my fault because I didn’t hug him enough, really? I will never get over his sense of entitlement (cuz hey, why wouldn’t a woman shower him with affection, for no apparent reason, regardless of his treatment of her?). When he said, “I need this… in order to feel connected to you” it sounded like a threat: “Hug me or else I’ll ignore you in every conceivable way”, “Agree with me or else I’ll throw things and punch everything around you”, “Praise me or else I’ll verbally attack everything you believe in and like about yourself”, “Love me without question or hesitation or else I’ll destroy everything you have until you have nothing and no one and nowhere to go except to me.”

What a nightmare it was living with him.

Permalink 1 Comment

Signs He Isn’t Changing

10, April 2011 at 12:30 AM (defeated, this is madness, trapped) (, , , , , , , , , )

If you would like to print out a version without my comments, please see the page Signs Your Abuser Isn’t Changing.

I found this on youarenotcrazy.com, a good site I discovered this week. Unfortunately, the site design is such that I cannot link to the section I want to talk about, so I have to manually re-type the relevant parts here. My ex did every single one of these things.

List of clear signs he isn’t changing:

He says something to the effect of: “I’ll change, but only if you change, too.”
Or, he uses the same argument to defend past behaviour: “With my ex, I would have treated her a lot better if she would’ve just grown up (done what I wanted her to).” This shows he still believes that men are not responsible for their abusive behaviour if provoked. He still believes he is entitled to being abusive– he can give himself permission if she “steps out of bounds.”

— In my case, this was said often as a blame-shifting tactic: he will only acknowledge his abusiveness if I admit I was abusive to him (this is manipulative and coercive). He also said this to excuse physical aggression: though he would admit he has no right to become physically aggressive, still he claimed he wouldn’t have become aggressive if I wouldn’t have said something, or if I would have said something in a different way. This makes me “responsible” for his aggression and the fear I had of being hit. I was also told I should just “know” he won’t hit me, and “knowing” he won’t hit me I would not be afraid; my fear of him was posited as irrational and the result not of his aggression but a character flaw in me: I was being “too sensitive” because people have hit me in the past. In other words, I should recognise it is not he who is making me afraid, but my experiences with others in the past; change my sensitivity and his aggression will “change” from scary to not-scary. Or: change my attitude or knowledge and recognise though he lunges at me he will stop and hit himself or something nearby instead, and again, his aggression will “change” from scary to not-scary. Though he never stopped being physically aggressive, and it became more frequent and unpredictable in where it would be released, I think he did get to the point where he admitted it is never justified under any circumstances, and that my fear was real, valid, and in response to his actions and not others’.

He claims he needs your help to change, he can’t do it alone.
This tactic is controlling and manipulative- it’s generally a way of tricking you into “working on the relationship” when you really just want out. This attitude is prevalent in men who refuse to accept responsibility. In his perspective, his abusive explosions are a result of you having the nerve to stand up to him, your refusal to be bullied, or you insisting on your own identity, including a life that doesn’t revolve entirely around (or interfere with) his desires.

— He always, always “had a different perspective”, and mine was always, always wrong. He would avoid taking responsibility by giving me endless reasons and explanations why he did what he did– this diverted the focus away from what he did and how it made me feel or what effect it was having on our relationship and put the focus on my capacity to be understanding, patient, etc. (and of course, I was never understanding, patient, etc. enough for him, because I refused to make why he was hurting me or damaging our relationship my primary concern and insisted that what he was doing was more concerning to me). I felt bullied, a lot, into having to discuss what was supposedly behind his destructive behaviours; this way, I could never discuss the effect his behaviours were having on me. I was always “working on the relationship”, even after he left the last time, still coming up with ideas and proposals and solutions, still writing them down, still trying to discuss them. He always had other ideas about what was wrong, and I did my best to accommodate– if he thought the “real” problem was he didn’t have enough time alone, I left him alone more; if he thought the “real” problem was he wasn’t getting enough affection, I tried to be more affectionate; if he thought the “real” problem was I didn’t “give him a few days off to recuperate from an argument”, I layed low for a few days; if he thought the “real” problem was he was working too much, I figured out a budget so he could take days off. And of course, no matter how many times or in what ways I accommodated him or capitulated to his needs, it never satisfied him and he always had a new “real” problem whenever I tried to bring up the problems which were real to me. To him the “real” problem was never his abusive behaviour, it was always “ours”. Closest he got to that was asking me to go to couple’s counseling “with him”– as if this was something he could go to alone but he needed my help. I was too confused by this request, and suspicious of his agenda (he was telling me at the time that my character was so “deeply flawed” that I wasn’t seeing how I’m really partially to blame for his behaviour and by not taking responsibility I’m only hurting myself); not until the very end did I agree to couple’s counseling, only when I was very, very desperate that someone hear my side of things. He backed out of the relationship almost immediately.

He brings up that you haven’t recognised and appreciated how much he’s changed.
This shows he doesn’t appreciate or recognise how much pain he’s inflicted on you, or learned to empathise. Once prisoners are released, their tormentors are not deserving of thank you notes or awards banquets. If he understood the pain he put you through, really faced it, he would comprehend how indebted he is to you for putting up with him. If he learned to empathise in this way, and took responsibility for his actions, his guilt would motivate him to reward you, not ask for reward. He clearly doesn’t understand the pain he has caused.

— This section really hits me hard. This was something I always felt or suspected, but never had the right words for. He did often remind me that he learned this or that from some book and I should look at how well he’s putting something into practice, and I always felt like, um? Not hurting someone is supposed to be the default, so I don’t get why I’m supposed to praise you? I could also never wrap my mind around how he could treat me so bad and neglect me so much and have so many complaints about me when really I thought if he just thought about it for a second, he would realise he’s got the love of a good woman who has stuck by him through everything, why couldn’t I get even the tiniest word of appreciation for that? (My theory: the guy hates himself, he’s hated himself since way before he ever met me [there are written records of this], so deep down maybe he can’t take seriously, and certainly he can’t respect, anyone who would love, stand by or up for him.)

He’s in a therapy program that has not contacted his abusees.
Abusive men simply can’t change unless they have accepted responsibility, and the only way to do this is by hearing her truth. Abusive men manipulate and lie. Period. It’s foundational to maintaining their abusive mindset. Only the women know the truth and live with the fallout, and unless the women are heard, his therapist doesn’t know the truth.

— YES. For the longest time, I thought he was getting help for his issues by being in counseling. He admitted his therapist never challenged him, and that the therapist probably had such a distorted picture of our relationship from the time when my ex was using therapy to “vent” and get validation that if anything the therapist was probably enabling him. We discussed getting a new therapist, which he eventually did. I hoped he was taking a more responsible approach, I was assured he was dealing with his issues. Nothing changed. He came back every time distant, standoffish, and sometimes with new ideas about how his needs weren’t being met well enough by me and this relationship. I suspected the same dynamic had been created with his second counselor as existed with his first. I always thought, now how can she possibly know what to counsel, if she’s only getting his side (which is probably extremely biased in his favour)? I resented his therapy/therapist incredibly, because as I saw it, it was only contributing to an escalation in his abusive behaviours and actions. He faulted me an incredible lot for not supporting his “therapy”, and I felt very guilty all the time about it. I know he told others I gave him a hard time about it, and that made me feel like I was being portrayed as a monster. But what was ever happening which could be considered therapeutic? Nothing ever changed, everything just got worse. It couldn’t even start out in right direction. For instance, I was uncomfortable with his therapy because of the way things went with his first therapist. Wouldn’t a loving partner go in the first day and ask, “How can I help my partner at home feel more comfortable with the fact that I’m here?” This never happened, even though I asked him to ask her that. Since my partner has left, he has admitted his second counselor has been just like the first, and only asks him every week what he is doing to take care of himself. You see, no one asks him what he is doing to address his abusiveness and heal the damage it has caused. It’s not hard to see why the question is always, “But what are you doing to take care of yourself?” Because he goes in there and reports that he’s a victim. “Abusive men manipulate and lie. Period […] unless the women are heard, his therapist doesn’t know the truth.” And that is why I finally agreed to go to couple’s counseling, and I told him this: I needed someone to know the truth. He spent two sessions talking about whether he wants to stay in the relationship or not (as if the counselor can help him figure that out? And then why do I need to be there?) In both sessions, but more directly in the second, he was called on his aggression. Before it was over, he decided he wanted to instead use counseling for “closure”. Clearly this guy wasn’t interested in facing what he has done and was going to bolt. I told him there was no need to come to a third. So now he will stay with his individual counselor and she’ll keep sympathising with his pain and the abuse gets swept under the rug.

He criticises you for being distrustful of his ability to stay non-abusive for good.
Again, he’s not taking responsibility for all the things he’s done to earn your distrust. If you told him a dozen times a month that you’d “never do something again” and then did it a dozen times that next month, do you think he would trust you? He believes he’s entitled to your forgiveness as a reward for going to therapy or a stretch of good days, not because he’s actually changed. This type of criticism is like asking, “When exactly can I abuse you again? I’ve earned it.”

— I got this a lot. I had to defend over and over why I asked something or said something, kept bringing something up, supposed or wondered if he was doing or was going to do something again. He would say he can’t recover or heal or change or progress if I didn’t trust him (sounds like “he needs my help to change”, above), and I’d argue that he abused my trust and it’s not something I can just “put back”– especially not without any real apology or display on his part that he’ll never do that thing again! And allow me to add here that distrust of his ability to stay non-abusive for good includes not only abuse inflicted on me, but his abuse of others too.

He says something like, “You know I’d never do such a thing” when theres undisputed proof he’s done “such a thing” in the past. This is denial and crazymaking, and clearly abusive. Why exactly does he feel entitled to act “above reproach” in the face of his very own history? Well sometimes, in his mind, abuse is necessary to “getting along” . This comment shows he feels entitled to break any and all promises if he has “a good reason”.

— He always had “good reasons” for breaking promises. He was being idealistic, I was asking too much, he misunderstood, he forgot (even if it was written down, he forgot to check), etc etc. I’m not quite sure what the “getting along” part is supposed to mean, but sometimes I did wonder if he argued so much because that was the only way for him to interact with me. I have a vague recollection of him saying something in his blog or on facebook about negativity(?) being the only way he can connect(?) with people? I did not know that would someday mean the only way to feel connected to me was to argue with me for six hours at a time. 😦 He did often say “You know I’d never do such a thing” or if I suspected him of “doing such a thing” he’d get extremely very angry and blame me for “making him feel guilty”. I admit I was sometimes provoking, but I guess I needed two things: first I needed to know he was not doing that thing; and second I needed to know he did not see himself as “above reproach”, especially when the rest of the time he walked around acting like he’d never done anything wrong in his life and I needed to just get over everything. I’d always say, “But you did do this thing, and I can’t just sweep it under the rug”. I was faulted and criticised and blamed for staying on his case, or trying to hold him accountable for something he did to me, or testing the waters to see if his attitude had ever changed, as if my distrusts were the “real” problem and not any of the things which created them. I felt the crazymaking then, and could only say over and over, “But I didn’t do anything to you?” I couldn’t understand how I came to be the guilty party. I was just supposed to take him at his word– no matter how much he lied to me or how many broken promises there were– “You know I’d never do such a thing!” “Do I? No, I don’t know that, actually. Why would I know that?”

He reminds you, “You know that’s one of my triggers, but see how calm I’m acting? I’ve learned to control myself now.”
This amounts to a subtle threat. He’s reminding you that he still has the power to abuse you, but he’s lobbing softballs “cause he’s such a good guy now.” A good guy that has changed does not want you to remember the monster he was. This is why prisoners don’t get parole with this “good behaviour” argument; only accepting responsibility works. Again, you don’t get rewarded for not committing a crime; unless you feel entitled to commit crime and see yourself as nobly choosing not to. (I could have murdered her, but I chose not to. Sounds pretty foolish eh?)

— Toward the end, he did this often. I did not know what it was I felt uncomfortable with when he did this, until I read it here. I wish I had read this before, because I thought he was just being more communicative or more “mindful” of his feelings/behaviours in some way that still seemed kind of eerie to me. I blamed myself for thinking there was something wrong about it. If he pointed out how he feels like hitting but he’s not doing it, he still communicated his desire to hit. I asked him about this once, he said he was just letting me know where he’s at. That sounded… fair? People should be able to say how they feel? I wasn’t sure, but something rubbed me the wrong way, because I still felt like I was being threatened: “I want to hit something, so be very careful what you say next!” He also started doing this a lot whenever I brought something up or was trying to express how I feel. He told me how normally he’d get into a big argument with me, but this time he’s going to stay calm and just “absorb it.” I guess it did “work” because I got to say what I wanted to and get it out of my system, but certainly I never felt heard or like anything I said was taken to heart or would be addressed. He was just controlling his desire to argue with me, he wasn’t actively listening. I see now that the arguing had become so traumatic that I was just grateful to be promised a lack of argument, even if he wasn’t going to do anything more than absorb the sound of my voice. It was an exercise in meditation, not in being a compassionate person.

He says “I’m changing a lot, I swear” but he’s done any of the things above.
Run far, run fast.

— Yeah, I heard that a lot too. He has all sorts of epiphanies and ideas in his car while at work, but I never see any evidence of all his alleged change.

The majority of men do not become nonabusive men even in the highest quality abuser programs.
The guys that do change and become capable of a truly loving relationship all have the following things in common:
1. His social circle recognises he is abusive and tells him he needs to deal with it. They sympathise with the abused woman, and don’t back up his justifications for abuse or validate his overblown sense of entitlement.
2. He’s not irretrievably self-centered. He has some empathy and awareness of the pain he’s caused, regardless if he tends to run away from it.
3. He joins a high-quality abuser program and stays with it: two years is minimum.
4. His partner gets wholehearted, unrelenting support from the community. The more she gets the message that it’s not her fault, the less he can shirk responsibility.

— My ex is a total fail on #1. I guess I would have needed to witness him admit his problem to his family and a few certain friends as described in the “Steps of Accepting Responsibility for Abuse” in order to feel like #1 had been accomplished. #2 is tricky for me, because if I give him the benefit of the doubt here, I’m not sure if it’s because he truly is aware, or if I’m just being a typical victim and wanting to believe the best about him. I am inclined to say he is not irretrievably self-centered, but I think that hangs on a couple things: first, the word “irretrievably”– yes, he is the most self-centered individual I have ever encountered, but no I don’t think he is irretrievably so. I think he has the capacity to empathise, though it is not strong or automatic for him. Second, I have noticed a pattern: he gets most aggressive/wanting to hit something when I speak some truth about how much something hurt me; this to me hints at the possibility that he DID just hear how much something hurt, he IS aware how much something hurt (his reaction is totally wrong, but he is aware) and his guilt is so strong it comes out as violent. On the other end of the spectrum, the only times I have seen him burst out in tears, he says always, “I loved you so much” and some variation of “and I completely fucked it up” or “I never meant to hurt you.” I think he is aware of the pain he’s caused, yes. Sometimes I even think all this abusiveness and everything he describes as his torment in this relationship might just be a defence mechanism to prevent him from seeing how much he’s hurt me; swept up in his own hurt, he doesn’t have to face me, right? I think he hurts and feels chaos because he hurt me, he’s just not seeing how hurting me kept him hurting himself the same way. I don’t know if that made any sense. Not treating me well equates to treating himself badly too. Something like that. Anyways, I think he satisfies #2. #3, I guess I don’t know exactly what that would be, but I suppose we could have figured it out if he would have ever admitted to his abusiveness. #4, I also don’t know how supportive his friends and family would have been or what their attitude would have been until #1 occurred, so I guess it’s irrelevant. I agree with it though and I like the idea. All told, I guess if he had ever wanted to accept responsibility, I think things could have worked with us.

Permalink Leave a Comment

“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.

Permalink Leave a Comment

In the Neighbourhood of Make-Believe

8, April 2011 at 4:24 PM (conflicted, defeated, this is madness, trapped) (, , , , , , , , , )

One of the things I struggled with most during this relationship was trying to pretend various things: pretend I didn’t know what I did, pretend I don’t think the things I do, pretend I didn’t feel the way I did, pretend things weren’t happening the way they were, pretend I didn’t have things on my mind that I did, pretend he cared more than he was showing me, pretend he hadn’t told me so many lies or broken so many promises, pretend I forgot things I couldn’t, pretend he didn’t just say that, pretend I could get over something I couldn’t, pretend I didn’t have desires, pretend I could live without affection, appreciation or praise, pretend I’m someone I’m not, the list goes on and on. I value and strive for honesty, perhaps above all other things, and that includes being honest with myself. I am not very good at pretending; I cannot do it for very long, and even if I’m trying, I cannot do it completely. So here too I was no good at it, and the only thing it resulted in was tremendous and near-constant internal conflict. I knew every time I expressed how I was feeling or said what was on my mind or tried to get to the bottom of something, I’d get arguments, hours and hours of arguments; I also knew if the arguments went on too long or happened too often, his unhappiness and displeasure would trump all other subjects and all he’d want to do is leave. Another double-bind: either pretend everything inside and out is fine– and in order for me to be able to do that, I’d have to learn how to believe things which weren’t real or true– or get left. For me, that’s a lose-lose situation. I couldn’t pretend I didn’t know that.

From his point of view, which was oblivious to and of me most of the time, things probably seemed like they came sometimes out of nowhere– gently-expressed suggestions, requests, reminders or concerns were never heard, things I told him about myself and my life either never took hold in his memory or were discarded from it. In an attempt to bring levity or humour to this situation, I often said it was like being in “Groundhog Day”: he was like the characters who started every day the same brand-new, having no idea anything was out of the ordinary, and I was Bill Murray not able to figure out what was going on and wanting to throw myself under a bus. I can’t function in that universe. Unlike Bill Murray, I do not nor do I desire to get to the point where, after I have learned and can anticipate everyone’s response, I can manipulate everything to my own personal advantage. This gets dull even to Bill Murray after awhile, because he can’t pretend there’s any truth in his interactions with others. In the back of his mind, he still knows it’s just pretend, and pretending isn’t stopping the maddening tape-loop. So to my former partner, I’m sure I sometimes looked just as irrational as Bill Murray did to the other characters, who couldn’t understand what he was yelling about or why.

I was suffering in every sense of the word, trying to reconcile what I knew with how I felt with how he wanted things to be with how I needed things to be with how things actually were, and all the while doubting the validity of my feelings, my needs, my thoughts, my concerns and even my reality or existence. Madness. All I wanted was a little truth. But with all the lies, contradictions and broken promises, my confidence, my ego, my boundaries and my ability to trust even myself were in tatters. I didn’t want to end the relationship, I wanted it to get better. But what constituted “better” just kept getting more and more watered-down, until finally I just started looking for some way to cope.

One day I found this quote from Fred Rogers:

“Part of the problem with the word ‘disabilities’ is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities.”

I was blown away by the insight, sympathy and wisdom of it. At the time I found it, my partner happened to be in a phase of reflecting upon his life-long inability to make substantial emotional connections with people, his difficulties with articulating his feelings, his dissatisfaction with life, his inability to open up, and his problems with how he expresses anger and frustration. So not only did I think the quote described him exactly, I thought he would be receptive to the spirit of what Mr. Rogers was getting at with it. I added the quote to goodreads.com, a social-networking site organised around reading and books that my former partner and I are on, hoping he would see it and think about it (and yay! 11 users have liked it so far and added it to their profiles too!). Maybe we could even talk about it. Maybe there’s a new way of looking at what was going on. Maybe I could cope with our relationship difficulties better if just saw him differently– not as someone who was treating me or behaving as he did out of ignorance, carelessness or meanness, but as someone who can’t help it or who doesn’t know any other way, and who can’t simply “get up out of his chair and walk” just because our relationship needs him to. I don’t mean to give the impression that this new perspective would have made me think I should just learn to live with poor treatment, but rather that maybe I/we were going at the problems from the wrong angle and with the wrong attitude. Maybe some kind of emotional therapy was needed, and with that, more time because progress would be slow, and more patience, because success would be measured in baby-steps.

Well, I probably thought that because all that was being drilled into me our whole relationship was that I wasn’t patient/understanding/tolerant/supportive/etc, enough. 🙄 So, go figure.

After reading glowing reviews about the book this quote came from, The World According to Mister Rogers, I ordered the book for my partner and gave it to him for Christmas. He was reading a lot of self-help books at the time, and this was just a tiny book of quotes about life and love and people and relationships that takes an hour or less to read. I figured he could fit an hour in somewhere, or just look at it now and then. I figured it would give us some things to think about, maybe even provide talking-points about ourselves, what we want from our lives and this relationship, or what we can and cannot do about what was going on. I also gave him a calendar with his favourite animal on it (raccoons), so he could better keep track of and communicate his schedule (which was getting busier as he was adding more days he wanted to “do things for himself alone”); a raccoon sticker to put on his new car; a raccoon pin for his new book bag (his previous one got stolen from his old car); a stainless-steel water bottle (with a raccoon on it, of course) so he didn’t have to use plastic anymore (coincidentally his other had just broken, too); and a blank journal (his old one also stolen) with an opossum on it, for his drawings, the million little notes he makes for himself, or whatever he wants to put in it. From him I got a cutting board. Which I gave him the money for that I’d saved out of my tax return so we could all buy each other Christmas presents. I’m such an idiot.

Abuse experts identify caretaking nurturers, “fixers”, givers and optimist-idealists as the most likely victims, the most obvious targets, or the longest-suffering enablers of abusive or controlling men. Hey me, way to go.

Last I asked, and even though I’ve mentioned it several times, he said he still had not seen the quote on my goodreads page. He barely used the journal (he decided to start using index cards bound by a rubber band instead), and he never used the calendar or the sticker. I half-wonder if he’d even be using the water bottle if water weren’t necessary for survival. He broke the pin in an angry fit while grabbing his bag in a hurry to leave me again. And of course he never read the book.

So at least something I did spoke to 11 strangers on a website, but no matter what I tried I could never get through to the one in my house who said he loved me. 😳

Permalink Leave a Comment

On Trial – Verdict

7, April 2011 at 6:43 PM (conflicted, this is madness, trapped) (, , , , , )

Ok, I know it makes little sense for me to “put myself on trial” and think I can come up with an objective “verdict”. But we’re not actually dealing here with written laws and courts of justice. We’re dealing with just one presumably confused, angry, defensive man making a strong accusation against the partner who terminated the relationship. I cannot, of course, totally know if I’ve asked myself every question possible, or in the exact right way; I too am confused and feeling (self-)defensive (after all, I am the accused). For days I have been looking over what I wrote, and it’s clear that for a while anyways it is going to be a living document, something I keep wordsmithing, adding to, and considering, never quite reaching a state of being completely finished. I can only try to be fair to myself and to him, but that does not mean I have accomplished that perfectly or even well. Even so, I declare myself not guilty of the charge that I coerced him into feeling vulnerable/talking to me.

I’ve read every word of it ten-hundred times. When my mind becomes overfull or over-familiar with the details, or when trying to consider the issues from every possible perspective results in befuddlement, a generality about this thing or that thing starts to emerge. I think of what could have been done instead. I think I see where he or I went wrong. It’s true, I have not captured every single argument, every single response, every single thing that I ever said or did in the last two years. I don’t think that would even be possible. So maybe I did at times at my absolute limit of panic or frustration say something like he has to leave, I can’t take it or deal with him anymore, get out get out get out! So while looking over all these questions and answers, I just know that if he were reading them he’d think of the one time I said X and the one time I did Y. Imagining his objections doesn’t so much keep my attempt to represent the truth of the matter in check as it does cause me to feel paranoid that if I haven’t perfectly remembered or represented everything, then I leave myself vulnerable to being judged a hypocrite. Ugh, his arguments arguments arguments, they’re like all the little bumpers in a pinball machine shooting every thought I try to have in other directions– and I have multiple balls going at once. I can’t get his arguments and objections out of my head. I can’t think. Slow down.

So what was I trying to say above… before I started to “hear” him object to where I was going, I was going to say the exception does not prove the rule. So I admit I may have forgotten to ask myself about something in particular, or I may not have included the times I did not selflessly hand the choice to leave the house or relationship over to him, but still it is true that I never used violence or threats to make him talk to me against his will. And for the record, on the occasions I needed him to leave the house, he just looked at me without expression, told me nothing but to give him a few minutes to get his stuff together, and he’d be gone. I had and I have no impression that he felt anything more than inconvenienced by my request or command to leave. Like it says in the “transcript”, only once did he object to being asked to leave; the reasons he gave were he had a right to stay because he was paying rent, and his parents were going to get sick of him going over there. I couldn’t argue with the first reason, so he stayed. But what I’m trying to get at is, I could not have known or even been so bold as to presume that he would have minded leaving our relationship at all, and so I could not have known or even been so bold as to presume that being asked or told to leave the house and/or relationship caused him to feel in any way pressured to talk to me. Certainly asking or even telling him to leave never resulted in him talking to me, so I still think his accusation is unfounded.

But that wasn’t what I was trying to say above, either. Oh how eagerly I await the day his incessant arguing fades from my mind and I am able to complete a thought without having to stop mid-stream to defend myself for having a thought (and without having to stop mid-stream to defend why I stopped mid-stream, and so on ad infinitum).

I had wanted to say something about emerging generalities or things which could have been done differently.

The first thing I thought of after reviewing the part about having an image of him which he didn’t agree with or have of himself was this looks like a guy who needed reassurance. Most of what we were discussing here were his, erm, extreme lot and variety of experiences with, erm, the sexual objectification of women. This is a subject which has made him have to re-evaluate how he sees himself, what kind of guy he is, what kind of person he is, what his beliefs and ethics are, what kinds of choices he makes, and what effect it has all had on him and/or his relationships and/or ability to create intimacy in a relationship and/or how he expresses himself sexually. Big stuff, no doubt about that. For me, this subject has made me have to think about the same things about him, whether I can or should remain involved with someone who has done what he has done, what it means to or about me and my ethics and beliefs to do so, how it makes me feel about myself as a female PERSON, how it feels to be looked at by him, whether he can be attracted to me, in what ways/why he is attracted to me, how it all just makes me feel to be with him sexually. Just a bunch of scary stuff. So I began by saying this looks like a guy who needed reassurance, and the thought occurred to me last night while reviewing that section, maybe I should have just said “I still love you” at the end of those conversations. But I have to be honest. I could not have done that. Certain things I heard caused me to feel all kinds of unpleasant things: fear, disgust, insecurity, anger, LOSS, etc. I could not pretend to have not heard what I heard, or stack it neatly on some other shelf for later consideration so I could whip up the necessary altruism to say, it’s ok, I still love you. I’d be reeling, sometimes I was shocked, my mind was racing around what it MEANS and if he can POSSIBLY be in any way attracted to me or even thinking of me (and just me) during private moments, us together or him alone. Obviously, I needed reassurance too! So some other jury can decide who needed it more or more immediately or who needed to be the big person and offer it first. All I can say is, I could not have spoken the words, “I still love you” in the middle of or after talking about these subjects. And let us not forget, getting to talk about those subjects was already a struggle for me, so I was starting from an already shut-out place. 😦 I guess I hoped making him a nice dinner the next day or trying to engage him in a conversation about other things (movies or books or whatever) showed I still loved him and wanted to be with him, but the only thing which could have reassured me is an overwhelming display of his sexual attraction to and desire for ME. And I can’t say I ever saw that but maybe once. And I’m still being generous, because never could the display be described as overwhelming. 😳

The other general thing that emerges concerns boundaries. If my former partner were not so hell-bent on vilifying me, perhaps he could have taken responsibility for himself enough to own what the problem really was: his lack of or inability to create boundaries and/or communicate them effectively and/or to enforce or adjust their borders when and if necessary/possible/desireable. I “hear” him here in my mind protesting that I couldn’t possibly know anything at all about him (yeah well it’s not like I didn’t try), or how I don’t get to “decide” for him what he’s really saying (even despite that the demand he made of me most often was to ignore what he said and imagine what he meant?), but the coercion accusation is so blaming/blame-shifting and so aggressive and so unfounded that there has to be something else behind it. So here I am once again, taking on the tremendously difficult and thankless job of going beyond the pain to see what is really at issue.

According to his own “testimony”– things he told me while we were together– he has never been a person with boundaries. He describes “losing himself” in other people. Is this my fault? No. In contrast, I was a person who knew just where my fixed ones were, where my flexible ones were, and where I didn’t have any at all– and I was able to talk about them up and down: where they came from, how they developed or changed, why some will never move and how I know that, what it would take for me to feel comfortable adjusting others, etc. As far as I understood, I was being very healthy and a good communicator. Except what happened was that over and over again my boundaries were disrespected and/or outright violated, sometimes in pretty extreme and unacceptable ways. He always had some reason, some explanation, and those reasons and explanations were always couched in how much he loved me and how hard he’s trying to be good to me. Well, that was confusing. So it was that slowly, slowly, my boundaries just started falling apart or disappearing altogether. Especially the one that says there can be no violence– physical, verbal, or psychological– in my life. Eventually I became just some bowl of mush who was putting up with all kinds of things I never put up with before in my life, nor ever would have predicted I’d put up with, because I was afraid. No, I didn’t run around a quiet, helpless little mouse, I did my damnedest to be heard. I am not proud at all of having become loud, desperate, or angry. I couldn’t get anything out of him, so I couldn’t tell where my boundaries were anymore, or where he stood in relation to them, well, I guess I just feel like I didn’t know what I even was anymore. Obviously, this is not good. I was lost as fuck, I don’t know what else to say? And the more walls and boundaries he put up, and the less I knew why or what it meant, I just got more and more and more scared. He is going to leave me, he doesn’t love me, he is hardening himself to me so that it will be easier to bail. The person I used to be, the person who would tell that guy, hey man, this is going nowhere and I’m not getting anything out of it so let’s just call it quits— I don’t know where she went. Having lost all my boundaries, I was suddenly in a schism with someone who had just developed tons of them, all over, most of which were invisible (not communicated) to me. This is not good either. I guess all that can be said at the end of the day was we both had some boundaries problems going on.

I am having a really hard time with this particular entry in trying to make sense of things, trying to give it some sort of structure or focus, trying to come to some sort of conclusion I can wrap up with a neat little bow. But some things just don’t lend themselves well to tidy conclusions… well, what more can be said than that. Maybe only that when I look at these three “trial” posts, I can see how crazy-defensive I’ve become during this relationship. 😦 I suppose this is where I’m expected to say it will be alright. He’s gone. He can’t hurt me anymore. But that isn’t helping right this second, I just feel lost.

Permalink Leave a Comment