Traumatic Bonding

1, May 2011 at 11:21 AM (conflicted, solution-oriented) (, , , , )

From Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft (italics in original, underline mine):

One of the great tragedies of all forms of abuse is that the abused person can become emotionally dependent on the perpetrator through a process called traumatic bonding. The assaults that an abuser makes on the woman’s self-opinion, his undermining of her progress in her life, the wedges he drives between her and other people, the psychological effects left on her when he turns scary– all can combine to cause her to need him more and more. This is a bitter psychological irony. Child abuse works in the same way, in fact, children can become more strongly attached to abusive parents than to nonabusive ones. Survivors of hostage-taking situations or of torture can exhibit similar effects, attempting to protect their tormentors from legal consequences, insisting that the hostage takers actually had their best interests at heart or even describing them as kind and caring individuals– a phenomenon known as Stockholm syndrome. […]

Almost no abuser is mean or frightening all the time. At least occasionally he is loving, gentle, and humorous and perhaps even capable of compassion and empathy. This intermittent, and usually unpredictable, kindness is critical to forming traumatic attachments. When a person has suffered harsh, painful treatment over an extended period of time, he or she naturally feels a flood of love and gratitude toward anyone who brings relief, like the surge of affection one might feel for the hand that offers a glass of water on a scorching day. But in situations of abuse, the rescuer and the tormentor are the very same person. When a man stops [abusing his partner], the typical response is to feel grateful to him. […]

Your abusive partner’s cycles of moving in and out of periods of cruelty can cause you to feel very close to him during those times when he is finally kind and loving. You can end up feeling that the nightmare of his abusiveness is an experience the two of you have shared and are escaping from together, a dangerous illusion that trauma can cause. I commonly hear an abused woman say about her partner, “He really knows me,” or “No one understands me the way he does.” This may be true, but the reason he seems to understand you well is that he has studied ways to manipulate your emotions and control your reactions. At times he may seem to grasp how badly he has hurt you, which can make you feel close to him, but it’s another illusion; if he could really be empathetic about the pain he has caused, he would stop abusing you for good.

[…]

The trauma of chronic abuse can also make a woman develop fears of being alone at night, anxiety about her competence to manage her life on her own, and feelings of isolation from other people, especially if the abuser has driven her apart from her friends and family. All of these effects of abuse can make it much more difficult to separate from an abusive partner than a nonabusive one. The pull to reunify can therefore be great. Researchers have found that most abused women leave the abuser multiple times before finally being able to stay away for good. This prolonged process is largely due to the abuser’s ongoing coercion and manipulation but also is caused by the trauma bonds he has engendered in his partner.

One exercise that can help you address this trap involves making a list of all the ways, including emotional ones, in which you feel dependent on your partner, then making another list of the big or small steps you might take to begin to become more independent. These lists can guide you in focusing your energy in the directions you need to go.

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Why Couples Counseling in Abusive Relationships Doesn’t Work

15, April 2011 at 11:06 PM (conflicted, scapegoated, trapped) (, , , , , , )

I had no idea it was so common for abusive partners to insist on couples counseling, but apparently it is downright cliché. I always felt couples counseling was not the right solution, but could never make to my partner an effective enough argument why I felt that way (please note I was never just “allowed” to have my own feelings or opinions but through untold hours of argumentation the onus was always on me to convince him why I felt some certain way). I have just read today about why an abusive partner would think couples counseling is not only the right solution but the ONLY solution to the problems in the relationship: because it helps him believe the problem is not his abuse, but “our relationship”; because it enables him to look only at his feelings and my behaviour instead of looking at my feelings and his behaviour; because he thinks the counseling will fix what he sees as the true source of every problem in the relationship: the person being affected by and not keeping quiet about his abuse; or: anything and everything besides himself. In the next two posts after this one, I would like to provide a link and excerpt from a website I found which states all of this more concisely and effectively than I can, then an excerpt dealing specifically with abusers in couples and/or individual therapy from the book Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft. For now, this was my experience with an abusive partner and couples counseling:

At some point in our relationship, very near after I started calling my ex’s behaviour out for what it was– abusive– he began to insist that we go to couples counseling. He stated his belief that “we” had a bad “relationship dynamic” and cited “communication” problems and my inability to “get over” things on his schedule. I balked because the only issue for me was his abusive behaviour, and I did not think sitting around and talking about our feelings was going to accomplish anything. I made many other suggestions to deal with what I saw as the problem, such as participating in groups or programs at the local men’s center which specifically handle domestic abuse, or his participation in non-violent communications workshops with Friends for a Non-Violent World. I pointed him in the direction of websites, podcasts, and books. My partner rejected all of my suggestions out of hand and never pursued any of them. Clearly, it was his way or the highway.

His abuse and blame-shifting escalated, and I became increasingly confused and depressed. The more I resisted couples counseling as the only solution, the more personal my partner’s attacks became. One day he came home and approached me with something that he said had been on his mind for some time, and he was finally going to tell me because he cares, because he thought it was for my own good: I am “too sensitive”, he said, and he gave me many reasons for how he thinks I got this way, none of which had anything to do with his behaviour toward me, none of which had anything to do with the abusive relationship or environment I was in; all explanations blamed other people in my past and my supposed inability to separate my past experiences from my present one. Repeating that he was only saying this because he cares, he stated that he believes my character is “deeply flawed”, and thus I am and have been “unable to see” the things about myself which were causing all of our problems, and causing me to “interpret” his actions as abusive (see also: What is Gaslighting?).

Thankfully I was still me enough to recognise this as blame-shifting and even more abusive, and I called him out on it. The subject of couples counseling fell off the table for a short time. Our relationship, of course, did not improve. But the only thing my ex would allow as a “solution” was couples counseling. Because none of my original concerns regarding whether couples counseling could be effective in dealing with his abusive behaviour were ever addressed, I still had the same concerns. Finally, at the end of our relationship, after he had already moved out, he made it an ultimatum: either I agree to couples counseling or our relationship will be terminated. He made it very clear that what he wanted out of it was to “discover” if there was any way for him to feel we could work things out (please note: the couples counseling is for his benefit alone); he stated quite plainly several times “no one can have or will have any influence” on his decision regarding whether we could work things out– not me, not the couples counselor, not his individual therapist, and not his mother– that this is a decision he needs to make for himself. This was of course bizarrely confusing to me; I did not know why I was being asked to go, then, and moreover I wondered what kind of “relationship” this was supposed to be where I do not have any influence whatsoever on my (supposed)-partner’s opinions of or life with me. In any case, I was afraid, and the relationship was now being held hostage by him, so I capitulated.

The first session ended with the counselor asking us to make an “agreement” that we (meaning he, since I do not threaten him this way) will excuse ourselves/himself from any situation in which we/he begins to feel violent, and we (meaning me, since he was the only one claiming this occurs) will agree not to “push each others’ buttons.” She made suggestions for us to cope with an escalating situation which, unbeknownst to the counselor, my partner used frequently as punishment and for which I had been punished by my partner for exercising (example: she suggested I go for a walk if things got to be too much; the one time I did this in the past, I was barely across the street before I saw my ex speed past in his car. I did not know where he was going, I did not know when or even if ever he would return. So even though he often left when things got to be too much for him, the one time I did the same, my partner abandoned me/our relationship. Although it occurred so many times I get them mixed up, I believe he was gone for two weeks in that instance.) This scared the shit out of me, honestly, because the suggestions and agreements sounded enabling. Was he not in effect being given permission to be abusive if given a “good reason”? I was reminded of my partner telling me only AFTER I agreed to go to counseling that he actually thought I would be disruptive or un-cooperative in counseling because of a single incident a year and a half prior in past family therapy with my (verbally and physically abusive) son, when my son’s therapist said I was “making him angry” and “pushing his buttons” by crying or saying how I feel or telling of my experiences. Let me underline: the family therapist’s enabling, blame-shifting remark was now being used by my partner as “advance proof” to justify any anger/violence he displays in the future, to shift blame for his anger/violence onto me, and to hold me responsible for whether or not couples counseling can be effective. Whoa. Double-triple-bind! (And how’s that for “collecting grievances for later justification”, another thing abusers do: at the time the family therapist said I was responsible for my son’s anger and violence, my partner gave me a hug, because it made me cry more to be told my son’s anger and violence was my own fault. But yet he saved this one remark and his never-before-expressed agreement with it for well over a year before he took it out as evidence that I’m potentially too “disruptive” for couples counseling, defined no less by him as our relationship’s only chance to survive.) So, if he gets angry or violent, it’s all my fault: I pushed his buttons! If counseling is ineffective, it’s all my fault: I’m disruptive and non-cooperative! If the relationship ends, it’s all my fault: I sabotaged the effectiveness of counseling! This was too much entrapment for me to navigate.

Before our next session, I was freaking out. I was incredibly afraid that counseling– since it would take much too much time for the counselor to start to get a picture of the abusive environment I was in– was going to have an adverse effect, escalate and justify his abusive behaviour, and further validate his belief that this is all just a “bad dynamic”. I tried to go in to see another counselor alone ahead of the next couples appointment to see if I could get advice on how to communicate to the couples counselor that there was abuse present in the relationship, that I feared retaliation, and that I needed her to understand and be careful not to “give him permission” to abuse me. Because I did not have the money or personal strength to get to the counseling center by myself, I asked my partner the night before for a ride (I did not tell him why I wanted to go). He was very supportive and agreed to help. The next day he called me in what I wondered was an aggressive and hostile mood. I did not feel safe going anywhere with him, but I really wanted to talk to another counselor before our next couples appointment, and this was my last chance to do so before then. He argued with me over the phone while I tried to figure a way out of yet another double-bind, until finally he yelled at the top of his voice that he can’t help me. Alarmed, I hung up on him before he could say anything else. I was on the phone with him just exactly the right amount of time so that even if I tried to get myself to the counseling center on the bus, I would arrive too late and they would be closed. My partner had effectively prevented me from getting help. My reliance on his word and expressed wish that he would tone down his hostility so that I could feel safe getting in a car with him prevented me from helping myself.

I called three hotlines and explained I needed advice on how to communicate to the couples counselor my concerns. I told them only about how I wanted to but couldn’t get to see another counselor before our next couples session, and gave as an example of my experience in the relationship only one incident of physical aggression. Without even knowing how many such incidents there were, and without knowing anything at all about the emotional and sexual abuse, all three stated plainly, “He is an abuser. You need to get out of that relationship NOW, and never look back.” I kept their bluntness in mind during the next session. Abuser’s name removed. By their fruits ye shall know them. Matthew 7:16

In the second session, the counselor called my partner’s physical aggression threatening; when he tried to make the “she pushes my buttons” and “I can’t control myself” excuses, she did not allow it. She asked him how he could communicate his anger without blaming me, and he had the right answer immediately. I asked him afterwards why he knew without hesitation the right way to express himself without threats or blame while in the counselor’s office, but all the times I gave him examples of how to express himself without threats or blame he said he didn’t understand or that if he “was the kind of person who said things like that we wouldn’t be in this situation to begin with”. His answer to why he knew how to act non-abusively in the counselor’s office but acts abusively at home, and I quote: “Because it’s you.” There we have it again in one tidy little sentence: I “push his buttons”, he is not responsible for his behaviour, it’s my own damn fault, and I deserve it.

Before that second session, immediately after speaking with the hotline workers who advised me to get out of the relationship, I had written my partner a letter in which I stated that the only circumstance in which I could continue having a relationship with this man was if he admitted to his abuse, without blame, without excuses. He needed to admit it to me personally, he needed to admit it to an abuse counselor, and he needed to admit it to his parents and friends he lied to about it. I also outlined many ways in which I would support him outside of the relationship becoming a non-violent person. It just so happened that without knowing what I wrote in my letter, and unsolicited by me, my partner did admit to me personally over the phone that he was abusive toward me and that I did not “ask for” or deserve it. I had hope. I mentioned in the second session that I had written this letter, but that I had not given it to my partner or read it to him because I was afraid of his reaction. The counselor thought I had done something really good, and assigned him to also write what he wanted from our relationship; she said we could exchange our ideas in the third session, and she would be a “translator” for us, since it “sounds like we’re both walking on eggshells”. Suddenly my partner changed what he wanted from counseling: he just wanted “closure.” Interesting. And in the car after that appointment, he took back his no blame-no excuses confession that he had abused me and reverted again to “we abused each other”. I have no doubt that he really believes this, that he cannot understand the difference between reactions to chronic abuse (fear, anxiety, depression, etc), and the initial abuses. But one thing I knew for sure through all this, he was hopeless and would not change.

Though there is a “rule” in this house not to ask me for permission for anything while I am sleeping (as a single parent of a clever child, I have become skilled at “sleep-talking”), he called the next morning because he wanted to cuddle before work. What? Oh yes. We went out after our appointment the night before to talk, and somehow had a good time– like no good time he ever showed me during our whole relationship (I have since learned that it is typical of an abuser losing control of their partner or the relationship to flip on the “nice switch” to keep his options available; this sudden charm contributes to a tremendous flood of relief and gratitude from the abused partner, resulting in traumatic bonding). Naturally he wanted to take advantage of these good feelings, and I was not alert enough to resist (I was asleep with the phone still to my ear when he appeared at my bedside). Until he got here. I was not cuddly, I talked nervously the whole time, and eventually just got up out of bed. He went to work. I did not hear hide or hair from him again for four days, and when I did, he was all business, totally impersonal. I could see what was going on: as long as I am nice and cuddly, he’ll be sweet to me. If for any reason I can’t/won’t/don’t put out whenever he wants me to, he desires me no more and openly displays a total lack of interest in the fact that I still exist (and have feelings that are hurt by his Dr Jekyll-Mr Hyde routine).

So before the third session, I told him I wanted to go to the next appointment alone, and sent him an email saying our relationship was over. I could tell he was very far away from being able to take responsibility for his actions, his treatment of and his attitudes toward me. He came back some days later with the dubious claim that he had written his assignment prior to receiving my break-up message, that in his letter he states he wants to terminate the relationship, and I could read it “if I wanted to” since he would not be present at the next counseling session. I asked him if it was going to be just another of his many letters detailing all the ways he has been “victimised” by this relationship. To this he said no, of course, because he “has a different perspective” than me (what he calls my “perspective”– but was in fact my factually lived experience: that he emotionally abused me, physically threatened me, and sexually assaulted me– is in his mind totally wrong; his perspective– that he is the real or greater victim of “our bad relationship dynamic” is right). Because of a series of mishaps and time-wastes, he drove me to the third appointment. We were early, I talked to him in the car about his abuse and my great hope for him to seek real help for it. He started crying a lot, especially about needing to know I’m “still here” (for him? with him? in physical proximity? emotionally attached? I do not know), so I invited him in to the session. I can’t leave a person in such pain, and knew I could always have my appointments alone the next weeks. It was explained to the counselor that he would no longer be attending, that I had ended the relationship once and for all, and that I desired future counseling only for myself. There were some diversionary topics which were irrelevant given the circumstances, he did a little begging for understanding. I expressed my relief that it was finally over, and expressed some sorrow that he will remember me so negatively. It ended with his head in my lap and me bawling.

The next day he brought the letter which inspired this blog, the one he claims to have written to fulfill the counselor’s assignment to be read in the next session. Compared to my page and a half of solutions which inspired the assignment, his was six typewritten pages long, would have taken most of the appointment to read, and offers not much more than blame, blame, blame, blame, he is so victimised, I am so in denial, and “we” just had a bad relationship dynamic. There are very many points detailing what a monumentally judgmental, intolerant, impatient, cruel and oversensitive person I am, and as such I cannot even think correctly (one almost wonders why he insisted to the very end that he loves such a terrible person). An incredible lot of things I said over the past two years are taken completely out of context; in some cases I see he has narcissistically taken things I said about myself to “really be” statements about him; my childhood experiences (not his abuse, of course) are THE Explanation for why our relationship didn’t and couldn’t work; many times he understands something to be the exact opposite of what I actually said; even a self-deprecating joke I made recently about myself sounding “like such a stereotypical woman”, after which I did say I do not mean to give that impression, is leveraged as evidence that I am belittling of him and do not take his music seriously. -???- It made me wonder about his mental state, and it made me sad. I honestly don’t know what he expects me to believe would have been accomplished by bringing this to “couples counseling”; not only would there have been no time to discuss anything in it, there was nothing to discuss. He laid down his experiences, and that is that. He really wanted me to read it, too, he had been saying for days he wanted me to have it even though there was now no relationship nor couples counseling to bring it to. When he handed it over, I asked if it was written for himself, or for me. He said he did not know. I asked him if he was giving it to me because he thought reading it would be good for me, or if he was giving it to me because it makes himself feel better. Again, he said he did not know. Perhaps he made all these accusations and claims in his letter just to hurt me, or perhaps he really believes these things occurred; perhaps he wanted me to read it so badly because it was his last chance to hurt my feelings, or perhaps he is simply just so insensitive that he can’t tell what feelings I have to hurt. Well I can say now, it did make me feel bad– for him.

In the letter, and throughout our last weeks, and even the last time I saw him, he repeated over and over again that it was he who tried to “save” our relationship so many times by suggesting couples counseling, and that if only I would have co-operated with his solution, maybe we would have had a chance. This has caused me to doubt myself a great deal, is it really all my fault? If I would have stopped being stubborn, or resistant, or having my own opinions about counseling, or any of the other criticisms he had of me, things could have been alright?  I have learned today that couples counseling absolutely would not have worked. Not only would it not have worked, it would very likely have made things worse. I learned also that my instincts about it were valid and correct. Most incredibly to me, I learned that rejecting all other solutions, making only this one solution available to me/us, is typical of abusive and controlling partners. And that if I insist that his abusive behaviour be the focus of the therapy, abusive and controlling partners would rather end the relationship than face themselves— just exactly as my partner suddenly said he wanted “closure” from therapy the same day the counselor showed him he was being abusive, and challenged him not to be. He has portrayed himself to me, and I suspect also to his individual therapist and family at least, as a would-be hero of our relationship, the one who had the right and only “real” solution to our “dynamic”, whose noble efforts to save our relationship were constantly thwarted by my wide variety of personality flaws (sensitiveness, stubbornness, judgmental-ness, ignorance, unreasonable way of thinking, and everything else he had complaints about regarding me as a person). The thing that makes me the most sad is that I think he really believes this, and feels he should be commended for having “tried so hard” to fix our relationship. My wish for him today would be that he would come someday to understand that what he feels he should be commended for is something that very many abusive partners also feel they should be commended for. But coercion, double-binding, blame-shifting, and denial are not commendable. Accepting responsibility, striving toward personal improvement, developing empathy and making reparations, only these could I ever commend him for, even though, as the target of his abuse, there would be absolutely no obligation for me to do so.

I wish him clear vision, and I wish myself healing.

(I also wish my posts were shorter!) 😆 😉

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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.

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On Trial

6, April 2011 at 1:11 PM (scapegoated) (, , , , , )

If you have not already, please read the Preamble, below. This is his accusation:

“You guilted me into talking by telling me that withholding is abusive […] I was coerced into being way more vulnerable than I was comfortable with.”

+ Is withholding defined by abuse experts and survivors as abusive behaviour? Yes. Some examples of withholding defined as abusive: 1) “Withholding is another form of denying. Withholding includes refusing to listen, refusing to communicate, and emotionally withdrawing as punishment. This is sometimes called the ‘silent treatment.'” 2) “Withhold: Definition – Hold or keep back, refuse to give, deny, refrain from granting, giving or allowing. If a spouse withholds information and feelings, then the marriage bond weakens. The abuser who refuses to listen to his partner, denies her experience and leaves her isolated. Withholding occurs when one partner withholds affection, information, thoughts, and feelings from his partner. When one person in a relationship withholds, intimacy cannot be created.” 3) “Withholding (also called “Depriving”) is another form of denying. Withholding includes refusal to listen, refusal to communicate, and emotionally withdrawing as punishment. A relationship requires intimacy and intimacy requires empathy. If one partner withholds information and feelings, then the relationship bond weakens.” 4) “Examples of withholding might include: Refusing to give you information about where he is going, when he is coming back, about financial resources, and other forms of information. Refusing to answer questions, make eye contact, etc.” 5) “The truth is, there is absolutely nothing you can do to please your abuser to get him to quit withholding from you. Withholding, like all other abusive behaviors is about power and control.”

+ Is it wrong or in any way abusive to state the information above? No.
+ Is stating the information above an example of “guilting”? No.
+ Might hearing the information above cause someone to feel guilty? Yes.
+ Is the person who states the information above responsible for the other person’s feeling of guilt? No.
+ Does stating the information above force anyone to talk to someone else or in any other way act against their will? No.

coercion: the use of express or implied threats of violence or reprisal (as discharge from employment) or other intimidating behavior that puts a person in immediate fear of the consequences in order to compel that person to act against his or her will; [legal definition from dictionary.com]

+ What does he feel he had to do against his will? Talk to me.
+ Does he have the right not to talk to me? Yes.
+ Do I have to like it? No.
+ Did he ever choose not to talk to me? Often.
+ Do I have the right to be unhappy if he won’t talk to me? Yes.
+ Do I have the right to say so? Yes, an obligation, even.

+ What feeling(s) did he have as a result of talking to me? He felt vulnerable.
+ Am I responsible for his feeling of vulnerability? No.

+ Have I ever committed violence against him? No.
+ Have I ever threatened to use violence against him? No.
+ Have I ever implied I would use violence against him? No.
+ Can it therefore be true that I caused him to talk to me/act against his will through express or implied threats of violence? No.

+ What may he have felt would be a consequence of not talking to me? I would feel shut out, insecure, scared, unloved, unwanted, etc.
+ Am I allowed to feel those things? Yes.
+ Is it wrong to feel those things? No.
+ Is it wrong to say when he doesn’t talk to me, I feel shut out, etc? No.
+ Is having feelings of being shut out, etc an act of retaliation/reprisal? No.
+ Is expressing feelings of being shut out, etc an act of retaliation/reprisal? No.

+ Do I have the right to feel dissatisfied with our relationship if he does not talk to me? Yes.
+ Do I have the right to end the relationship if I am dissatisfied? Yes.
+ What then may he have understood as a potential threat resulting from my feelings of dissatisfaction? I could terminate the relationship.
+ Have I ever threatened to or implied I would terminate the relationship if he would not talk to me? No. I have only said I am not happy and don’t feel comfortable with such a person and in such a relationship. I expressed that he has the right to choose to leave the relationship if he does not want to talk to me.
+ What were his options in this case? 1) stay in the relationship and talk to me; 2) leave the relationship and talk to me; 3) stay in the relationship and not talk to me; 4) leave the relationship and not talk to me; 5) stay in the relationship and propose some other solution/compromise/method;
+ Which option(s) did he choose? All options were exercised at different times of varying duration. #3 was exercised most often and for longest duration.
+ What were my options in this case? 1) Stay in the relationship unhappy and dissatisfied; 2) leave the relationship.
+ What option did I choose? #1. (Yeah, I know, bad choice.)
+ Can it therefore be true that I caused him to talk to me/act against his will through express or implied threats of reprisal? No.

+ What may he have felt was intimidating behaviour? Not sure, maybe begging for him to talk to me? Getting angry because he would not talk to me?
+ Do I have the right to beg? I don’t think “begging for him to talk to me” is a matter of rights. I think begging for him to talk to me was a behaviour resulting from feeling shut out, etc.
+ Do I have the right to feel angry? Yes.
+ Do I have the right to feel angry because he will not talk to me? Yes.
+ Do I have the right to say so? Yes.
+ Does he have to like it? No.
+ Is anger a behaviour? No, it is a feeling.
+ If begging is a behaviour and could possibly be felt as intimidating, did it result in him talking to me? Sometimes.
+ Can it therefore be true that I caused him to talk to me/act against his will through intimidating behaviour (begging him to talk to me)? If he feels begging for him to talk to me is intimidating, then the answer is sometimes.

+ Did he ever say he felt begging is an intimidating behaviour? No. He said it pushed him further away, made him feel angry, frustrated, confused etc.
+ Was there any way I could have known he felt intimidated as a specific result of me begging him to talk to me? Yes. I could have asked.
+ Did I ask if he felt begging for him to talk to me was intimidating? No. In the middle of feeling shut out, pushed away, defending myself against the accusations that I was making him angry, frustrated, etc. and the begging itself, I did not think of it. Furthermore, even in a calm state, I probably would not have thought to ask if my begging him to talk to me was specifically intimidating; I probably would have thought he felt it was instead annoying, unattractive, ridiculous, etc.
+ Is it my responsibility to assume or speculate that he might feel specifically intimidated by my begging him to talk to me? No. It is his responsibility to communicate his feelings about what I am doing.
+ Does my begging for him to talk to me make me responsible for his feelings (angry, frustrated, confused)? No.
+ Does my begging for him to talk to me make me responsible for him withdrawing? No.
+ In other words, there was no way to know that begging him to talk to me may have felt intimidating to him, and yet I was considered responsible for his anger, frustration, confusion and withdrawal? Correct.
+ Can it therefore be true that I used what I knew to be an intimidating behaviour to cause or compel him to talk to me/act against his will? No.

+ What could I have done otherwise, in this case? Stopped begging, just accept he would not talk to me.
+ What would have been the result of that acceptance? Continuing to feel shut out, etc.
+ Did I ever try to just accept that he would not talk to me? Yes.
+ Did accepting that he would not talk to me ever result in him voluntarily bringing the subject up again when he felt ready to discuss it? Never.
+ In other words, if I just accepted that he would not talk to me, my concerns would be left un-addressed indefinitely? Correct.

+ Can a relationship thrive and be healthy if one person feels shut out, etc? Not in my opinion, no.
+ What then would have been the immediate consequences of my continuing to feel shut out, etc? For me: Having to choose whether to terminate the relationship, or remain in it unhappy and dissatisfied. For him: Having to choose whether to terminate the relationship, or remain in it knowing I am unhappy and dissatisfied.
+ Who could have made these choices? Either of us.
+ Did either of us make such a choice? I chose to remain feeling unhappy and dissatisfied, he chose to remain knowing I was unhappy and dissatisfied.
+ Knowing that I felt unhappy and dissatisfied because he would not talk to me, might he have felt therefore responsible for me feeling unhappy and dissatisfied? Likely he did, yes.
+ Are my feelings his responsibility? No.
+ Is it my fault if he feels responsible for my feelings? No.
+ What then should he have done in this case? Understand that not talking to me was his own choice; understand that I had a right to feel dissatisfied and unhappy with his choice; either accept his choice and my feelings resulting therefrom, or make a different choice.
+ If in my opinion a relationship cannot thrive and be healthy if one person feels shut out, etc, what did I hope begging would accomplish? Get him to talk to me and thereby decrease the feeling of being shut out, etc.
+ Why begging, and not, say, asking or encouraging? Because asking and encouraging did not work. Only begging, and that only sometimes.
+ If begging was the only thing that (sometimes) worked, is that the same thing as saying the only way I could find to not feel shut out etc, besides terminating the relationship, was to keep begging? Yes.
+ If begging resulted sometimes in him talking to me, did it accomplish me feeling less shut out, etc? Rarely, due to the very fact that begging itself seemed to me a rather extreme thing to have to do to get even the tiniest bit of information or the smallest sensation of having learned something about him: the means defeated the ends.

+ What may have been his immediate fear if he acted according to his will (to not talk to me)? That I would feel angry, start begging, or make up my own mind about things if he did not talk to me.
+ Is it wrong or abusive to feel angry? No.
+ Is it wrong or abusive to beg someone to talk to you? No, but it sure is humiliating for me, and probably embarrassing and annoying for him.
+ Is it wrong or abusive to make up one’s own mind about things if someone will not talk to them? No. If they attempted but cannot get the information they are seeking, a person has to make their own conclusions with which to move forward.
+ Do I have the right to make up my own mind about things? Yes.
+ Does he have to like it? No.
+ Do I have the right to see things differently than he does? Yes.
+ Does he have to like the way I see things? No.
+ If he feared me making up my own mind about things, is that my fault? No.
+ Am I responsible for his fear? No.
+ If he feared me making up my own mind about things, what could he have done in that case? Talk to me.
+ Do I have to see things differently because he talked to me? No.
+ Did I see things differently when he talked to me? Sometimes.
+ Do I have to see things the same way he does because he talked to me? No.
+ Did I see things the same way he does when he talked to me? Sometimes. What I saw was mostly just how he saw things.
+ What was his response if I did not see things the same way as he does? Arguing, anger, frustration, confusion, physical violence/aggression, attacking my ability to understand and communicate, further and intensified withholding and withdrawal from the relationship, the silent treatment, leaving the house and/or relationship for sometimes unknown periods of duration, moving out of the house indefinitely and always potentially never to return.
+ Might it then be said that I experienced or witnessed expressed or implied threats of violence or reprisal or other intimidating behaviours which put me in immediate fear of unwanted consequences? Yes, very often.
+ And does this fit the definition of coercion? Yes.

+ What potentially unwanted consequences were imposed upon or suggested to him if he did not talk to me? Sometimes I asked him to leave the house and/or the relationship.
+ Did begging him to talk to me equate to or result in asking him to leave house and/or the relationship? No.
+ Can it therefore be true that even if he felt begging him to talk to me is an “intimidating behaviour” that he would be made by that behaviour to fear unwanted consequences (being asked to leave the house and/or the relationship)? No.

+ Is asking him to leave the house the same thing as breaking up with him? No.
+ Is asking him to leave the relationship the same as breaking up with him? No.
+ Why did I ask him to leave the house and/or the relationship instead of breaking up with him? Because I did not want to end the relationship, but could not avoid feeling shut out, etc if he remained in the house.
+ How is asking him to leave the house and/or the relationship different than breaking up with him? He would still have the option of staying in the relationship. Leaving the relationship does not mean the same thing as terminating the relationship.
+ Did I understand that asking him to leave the house and/or relationship may have resulted in him choosing to terminate the relationship? Yes.
+ Was that a chance I was willing to take? It had to be. I did not feel I had any other option than to ask him to leave.
+ While gone, did he ever expressly terminate the relationship? Yes.
+ Might my willingness to take that chance have aroused in him a fear that I had the power and/or willingness to break up with him? Yes.
+ Might he have interpreted my asking him to leave the house and/or the relationship as being the same thing as me breaking up with him? Likely he did. I did not threaten to break up with him, I asked him to leave.
+ Did he ask for clarification? Yes.
+ Did I give him clarification? Many times.

+ Would he have feared my ability to end the relationship? Probably.
+ Am I responsible for his fear? No.
+ Does his fear of my ability to break up with him make me have to stay in a relationship I do not want? No.
+ Does his fear of my ability to break up with him make me have to accept him in the house if I do not want him there? No.
+ Did he say he wanted to stay in the relationship? Yes.
+ Did he leave the house when asked? Yes, all but one time.
+ Did he ever say he was leaving the house but not the relationship? Never, unless he was just going for a walk. If he moved out of the house, he never said he was not also leaving the relationship; he never expressed an intention to return either to the house (except to collect his belongings) or the relationship.
+ Did he ever leave the house and/or the relationship without being asked or told to do so? Often.
+ Did he ever leave the house and/or the relationship without informing me he was doing so? Several times. The one time I left to go for a walk, I was only just across the street before he raced past in his car; I did not know where he was going or when if ever he would return (he moved in with his parents again in that instance). Another time while he was living at another apartment, I had to deduce he left the relationship because he changed his facebook status to single and posted that he bought and was reading a dating advice book on goodreads (he explained this via an email after many days’ silence). The last time he said he would talk to me when he got home from work, and three hours later called me from his parents’ to inform me he was going to live there from now on. He would also frequently leave the house during arguments with the intention of just going for a walk, but without telling me that or when or if ever he intended to return.
+ Did he leave and return to the relationship? Often.
+ Did he ever ask to return to the relationship? No.
+ Did I ever ask him to return to the relationship? Yes.
+ Do I have the right to ask him to leave the relationship? Yes.
+ Does he have to like it? No.
+ Does he have the right to ask to stay in the relationship? Yes.
+ Must I comply with his request? No.
+ Did he ever say he has the right to stay in the relationship? No. He said once he had a right to stay in the house, but did not express a right to stay in the relationship.
+ Did I let him stay in the house in that instance? Yes.
+ In other words, the one time he asserted a right to stay in the house, he was able to stay in the house? Yes.
+ Did he have somewhere else he could go if I had said no? Yes: his parents, friends, vacant apartments owned by his dad.
+ Would he have been homeless if he was asked to leave the house and/or the relationship? No.
+ Did he express any fear of being made homeless by having to leave the house and/or the relationship? No.
+ Instead of asking him to leave the house and/or relationship, could I have left the house or relationship myself? No. I do not have family or friends I could stay with. Women’s shelters did not seem appropriate for this situation. Also, I own the lease on the apartment, as well as it would seem strange to leave my son living by himself with my partner.

+ What consequence(s) might he have feared then by choosing not to talk to me? That I would ask him to leave, start begging for him to talk to me, and/or would continue to feel shut out, etc. It’s possible also he feared the consequence of his own bad feelings (guilt for not wanting to talk to me, fear that he was damaging the relationship by not talking to me, etc).
+ Am I responsible for him having such feelings resulting from his own choice? Obviously not.
+ Did I ever give him an ultimatum (“Talk to me or else I’m breaking up with you”)? No. I said if he doesn’t want to talk to me, he should leave. The choice was still his to decide what he wanted and felt most comfortable doing.
+ What choice did he make in that case? He usually chose to leave, quickly and without comment.
+ Did he ever chose not to talk to me, yet not have to leave the house or the relationship? Often.
+ In other words, he was often able to remain in the house and in the relationship even though he would not talk to me? Correct.
+ Can it therefore be true that I put him in immediate fear of unwanted consequences (loss of shelter, loss of the relationship, and/or his own development of guilt or fear) if he did not talk to me/act against his will? No.

+ Do I have any other sort of power not discussed above with which to intimidate or threaten him (financial, sexual, etc)? No. The only possibility I can see is he might feel I have power over how I see him and whether I will continue to like/love him or not based on what image I have of him.
+ Do I have the power to see others as I see them? Of course, we all do.
+ Is that the same thing as having power over someone else? No.
+ Can he control how I see him? No. By talking to me about himself he can only influence, inform, alter, or flesh out the image I have of him.
+ Must my image of him agree with his image of himself? No.
+ Do I have the right to not like/love him if the image I get of him is unlikeable, unpleasant or distasteful to me? Of course.
+ Do I have to like/love someone who I find unlikeable, unpleasant or distasteful? Of course not.
+ Might he have feared that by talking to me, I may form an unlikeable, unpleasant or distasteful image of him, and therefore will stop liking/loving him? Likely he did, yes.
+ Might he have feared that by talking to me, he will lose control over how I see him? Likely, yes.
+ Might that loss of control over how I see him, and therefore an inability to control how I feel about him (whether or not I will continue to like/love him), be what actually makes him feel vulnerable? Likely, yes.
+ Am I responsible for those fears, his discomfort with losing control, or his feeling of vulnerability? No.

+ What could he have done in this case? Talk to me about his fears.
+ Did he talk to me about these fears? Yes.
+ Does talking to me about those fears mean he is excused from ever having to talk to me about anything else? No.
+ Does talking to me about those fears mean I have to change my image of him to agree with his image of himself? No.
+ Does talking to me about those fears mean I have to change how I feel about him? No.
+ Did he ever say he was afraid I won’t like him if he tells me about himself? Yes.
+ Did I ever develop bad feelings about him based on what he told me about himself? Yes.
+ Are my feelings about him allowed to change based upon what he tells me about himself? Yes.
+ What feelings am I allowed to have if he tells me something about himself which I do not like to hear? Anything, I am allowed to feel anything. Anger, disgust, regret, relief, confusion, jealousy, fear, sadness, disappointment, anything.
+ Is he responsible for those feelings? No.
+ Does he need to agree with my feelings? No.
+ Is he allowed to decide for me which feelings I should be having? No.
+ Is he allowed to decide for me how long I can have my feelings? No.
+ Might he have felt intimidated by my right and ability to decide for myself how I see him? Yes.
+ Might he have felt intimidated by my right and ability to decide for myself how I feel about him? Yes.
+ Is having the right and ability to decide for myself how I see and feel about him an intimidating behaviour? No, it is not any kind of behaviour.
+ Can it therefore be true that through some other kind of intimidating behaviour or threat I forced him to feel vulnerable/talk to me/act against his will? No.

+ Given that I never used express or implied threats of violence or reprisal, that I did not use intimidating behaviour to instill immediate fear of unwanted consequences, can it possibly be the case that I compelled him to act against his will (talk to me, exceed his comfort level with showing vulnerability) by means of coercion? No.

+ By what, then, does he feel coerced? Guilt. It is not clear from the statement if he feels guilt because he feels wrongly accused of being abusive (denial), because when he sees definitions of withholding as abuse he recognises himself  (admission), because he is ashamed of bringing to our relationship subjects and a personal history I am/we are extremely uncomfortable with, because when he talks about himself he hates what he hears (has to face an image of himself he always avoided looking at before), because he feels bad wanting to or trying to withhold information, or because he feels responsible if I feel shut out or unhappy because he won’t talk to me. Likely all of the above at once.
+ Am I responsible for his feelings of guilt? No.
+ Is he responsible for me feeling shut out or unhappy because he won’t talk to me? No. I invited him to find a relationship with someone who would not feel shut out or unhappy if he didn’t want to talk to them, if that was his preference.
+ Did he say he would prefer to be with someone he didn’t have to talk to? No, he said he did not want to be with someone who he didn’t have to talk to. He said he does not want to have a relationship which is lacking in emotional intimacy (highly confusing to me, given the intensity with which he defends his right to withdraw/withhold despite understanding the effects of withdrawal/withholding on intimacy in relationships, as described above).
+ Can his feelings (of guilt or vulnerability) be considered something I do to him? No.
+ Can it therefore be true that I imposed his guilt and thereby forced him to talk to me/feel vulnerable by means of coercion? No.
 

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On Trial – Preamble

6, April 2011 at 5:01 AM (scapegoated) (, , , , , )

It is my belief that a partner has an obligation to talk to the other, especially about those issues with which the other is most concerned. That partner cannot tell the other they have no right to have concerns, or that they have no right to ask about anything, or that their concerns have been sufficiently addressed, or that they have been concerned about something too long, or for the wrong reasons, or anything else of this sort.

In the letter which inspired this blog (see About), my former partner stated that he feels “put on trial” when I ask him questions about things which are concerns to me. This is called blame-shifting, diversion, and trivialising. Instead of owning that he does not talk to me and acknowledging that I have a right to know and ask about things which concern me, instead of understanding that with every instance or threat of further or more intensified withholding/underloading, he shifts the blame for everyone’s bad feelings onto me for asking too many questions, and diverts attention away from his behaviour by changing the subject to what a great big questioner I am. Further, he trivialises my increasing (and increasingly frustrated) attempts to get information about what concerns me by mocking my purposes for asking (that is, I am not actually a person with concerns which are being always resisted, rejected, and/or constantly left un-adressed, but rather I am taking upon myself the role of a lawyer or judge seeking to convict a criminal. Why? Not sure. Because I’m just irrational, or power-trippy, or I enjoy everyone feeling like crap at the end of the day? His letter doesn’t say).

One of the most frustrating and infuriating things abusive people do is blame-shift about the abuse itself. When their partner tries to confront them about their behaviour, they turn it around right back on them and accuse the confronting person of being the abuser for calling their behaviour abusive– wait, does that sentence make any sense? Neither does this kind of blame-shifting. It would make me feel completely crazy. And defensive. And defeated. And disappointed in my partner. I came to him hoping he would care and get help or work with me to make things right. Instead he took all the words out of my mouth and put them (inaccurately) in his own.

Recently I used the word “coercive” to describe how he forces my compliance with or deference to his needs or point of view by threatening to leave the relationship– which would also mean I would be thrown suddenly into a situation where I would not know where my son’s or my next meal would come from, nor would we know for how long we could live in our apartment if I couldn’t find a really well-paid full time job within two weeks or less. See, in order to coerce, one must have some kind of power with which to intimidate another. It is not difficult to understand that the power to cause someone and their child to become hungry or homeless could be used to intimidate another.  Now I have been informed in a six-page typewritten statement of near-innocence and near-total victimisation that it is actually I, who has nothing over this guy, who has been coercing him. With what power, I’d really like to know. But no doubt the word sounded good to him, and now that he’s been introduced to the concept of coercion as an abusive tactic, he immediately posits himself as the victim of it.

So fine, let’s put myself and his coercion statement on trial. My alleged crime, which to begin with can plainly be identified as a statement of blame (“You guilted me into doing something I didn’t want to do!” vs. “I have feelings of guilt when I talk to you, so I avoid talking to you in an attempt to avoid feeling guilty.”), is a perfect example of him taking a recent expression of my feelings about his power in the relationship and re-directing it at me– without ever, ever discussing at all my original complaint, of course. And thus he slithers away without having to connect his own guilt with his own actions. Classic.

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