Breaking Silence

14, August 2011 at 6:17 PM (scapegoated) (, , , , , , , , )

When an abused woman emerges from an abusive relationship, one of the first and most powerful needs she has is to be heard. For however long she has endured her partner’s blaming, shaming, withdrawal, ignoring, dismissiveness, reality-twisting, control, attacks on her sanity and credibility, and isolation, she has been without connection to others, denied the ability to communicate, and thus dehumanised. As evidenced by the great number of personal blogs on the internet describing the writer’s experiences and information-sharing about abuse, it is an abused person’s instinct to communicate what they have been through at the first opportunity they feel free enough to do so. It is also prescribed by all professionals helping victims of abuse that she try, through talking, writing, or art, to process her experiences. The reason for this is twofold: first, it is critical to the processing of traumatic material that the victim learns to be able to describe their experiences, so that these experiences become integrated into long-term memory rather than remain always just “under the surface” of consciousness, resulting in intrusive thoughts, anxiety, panic, depression and fearfulness continuing into present daily life; second, especially if emotional/psychological abuse has been chronic and long-term, involving blame-shifting, gaslighting, crazy-making, and/or abusive withdrawal/silence, the victim has for so long been controlled by and afraid of her partner that even after she is free and safe from him, it is typical for an abused person to feel extremely out of touch with who she was before the relationship and who she is now afterwards; she has lived for so long with his voice in her head arguing, fact-twisting, blaming, dismissing, denying her reality, and silencing her with violence, threats and other forms of dehumanising abuse, that she has quite literally lost her own internal voice. Talking about her experiences, especially in groups with women who have been through similar experiences, writing about it, or expressing herself creatively, is essential to finding her own voice again, and nurturing that until it finally becomes stronger than and more present in her mind than her abuser’s. These two therapies must occur, first for the purpose of coping with the immediate crises, later for the purpose of long-term healing.

For these reasons, like many other women who have endured an abusive partnership, I created this blog. Some women who have survived abuse and trauma also find meaning and purpose in what they have endured by helping others, through story or information sharing, group support, or advocacy. I am one of these, and have been working in all three areas since ending my relationship.

A very common feeling when a woman has freed herself from the nightmare of an abusive relationship is an intense desire to prevent or protect others from having to go through what she has just survived. It is an established fact: abusers are highly unlikely to become non-abusive, even with legal or therapeutic intervention (see also: Signs Your Abuser Isn’t Changing and Steps of Accepting Responsibility for Abuse); there has also been shown a strong tendency for an abuser to become more firmly entrenched in abusive behaviours with each subsequent partnership in which they “failed” to control their partner(s) and/or the outcome of the relationship as they would have liked. This can be a very frightening thing to learn for a woman newly out of an abusive situation, but it is necessary to face the fact that despite what he has told her during the whole relationship, there is nothing the victim can do or could have done to change her partner’s abusive behaviour, there is nothing she could have said or done differently to have been treated more lovingly or respectfully than he was willing or capable of treating her on his own, and his behaviours were and are not her responsibility nor her fault.

But after months or years of being told that she is responsible for his abuse and destructive behaviours, it can take quite a bit of time to reverse with intellectual knowledge the emotional sensation that she could have prevented harm coming to her and/or her children by some means other than simply leaving the man she loved and/or had become dependent upon (emotionally, socially, financially, or all of the above). Once freed from the relationship, some women channel this lingering or residual feeling of responsibility into a desire to prevent harm coming to others (I went through this phase myself and wrote about it in “Feeling Responsible”). It is not vindictiveness or jealousy that worries about the next women becoming victims of his abusiveness, but rather the knowledge that abusers do not change, and over time, tend only to get worse; it is a sympathetic response coming from a place of knowing how it feels and wishing no such suffering come to anyone else on earth while he continues on his path of denial and destruction. To be sure, it is a confused response: the victim of significant abuse, having learned she could not have influenced her partner’s behaviour to be anything other than what it was, for a time grasps at a feeling or belief that she can influence whether or not someone else will be harmed by him. It is akin to feeling like, “There is a killer on the loose and he must be stopped!” In time, of course, this feeling recedes as the victim gains an even greater understanding of how NOT-responsible they truly are for their partner’s abusiveness– just as she is not responsible for the abuse she received, she is not responsible for the abuse the next women will receive– and, when her own healing nears completion, feeling responsible gives way to empathy, compassion, and the acceptance that perhaps the most she can do is bear witness.

I mentioned above that I have gone through the phase of feeling responsible and wishing to prevent harm from coming to others. I will not say I do not still feel like this somewhat from time to time, but as I recover from the various traumas I experienced during the relationship, I am beginning to let go of that sensation. And, as I began this post, I too needed to be heard as I had not been for two years while with this man, and afterwards when I was left to only imagine how much more he was manipulating his network of allies for sympathy and support than I saw him do during our relationship. After my partner moved out, someone local whose identity was unknown to me and who apparently wasn’t willing to ask me directly for the link to this blog began attempting to find it through various search inquiries. I could tell by their search terms, the person knew my last name and other bits of information about me that meant it is either someone I know personally or someone my ex must have been talking to about me. I wondered if the person might be someone who was a friend but was afraid or unsure of coming forward, perhaps confused by what he or she may have been hearing from my ex. It was at this time that I made this blog findable. About this relationship, I wanted to speak for myself for once, and took my cue from other abuse blogs regarding the legality of using names: it’s allowed, and encouraged– to say this person abused me helps victims identify the abuse with the individual who committed it, rather than with the self or even whole groups of people having attributes similar to the abuser. Further, personalising helps break down dissociation, a problem I was suffering from greatly and needed to address in order to move the worst of my fears out of the present and into the past, where they belong.

It seems that yesterday while on the job my ex ran into someone he knows to be dear to me along with some other people who are friends with acquaintances of my ex. Whether this chance meeting provoked his bad conscience, paranoia, jealousy or just plain narcissism, or whether it is just coincidence that after this encounter he was up all night searching his own name and scouring my blogs (both of which he has taken zero interest in until today), probably no one will ever know. The result, though, is that he has written to demand that I remove his name from this blog and therefore return it to a state of secrecy. He thanks me sarcastically for publishing “personal shit” about him. He displays no sense of irony or awareness of his hypocrisy that not only did his “personal shit” become mine as it equates to his abuse of me, but also that he had no problem throughout our relationship and afterwards violating my privacies to anyone whose ear he could catch, planting distortions, misrepresentations, blatant lies, or whatever it would take to achieve the classic abuser one-two punch of increasing his sense of might and right while isolating me away from getting help, support, gaining confidence or even being heard by anyone at all. Like Judith Herman says in her book, Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror:

“In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure no one listens.”

What is most remarkable about his note, though, is that five months after he moved out and I broke up with him, and three months after I never responded again to any of the many attempts he has made to solicit a response from me– including committing felony forgery through my checking account– this man still thinks he has the ability to control my activity and the right to tell me what to do. He even writes, “you have no reason to be using my name on anything you publish” (emphasis mine), thus revealing a still very strong belief that he may decide for me whether or not I have reasons of my own to do anything.

I could wish that he is finally reading the posts on this blog because he wishes to understand how his abusiveness affected the life of another person, and to develop compassion and empathy for someone he claimed to love, but I know this is not what is occurring. He is angry. Like many abusers, anger is his dominant emotion. I can remove his name from this blog, he will still be angry. Should he choose to retaliate in some way, I will not be surprised. I have given it some thought and decided I will remove his name– but not because he demanded I do so and attempted to scold me for speaking out, but because my once urgent need to be heard and desire to warn others have been mostly fulfilled, and therefore have passed into different realms of the recovery process. But one thing I will not be bullied into changing my mind about is this: How this man abused me is not my fault, therefore not my shame. I am under no moral or legal obligation to co-operate in any way with him for any reason, he who repeatedly verbally, physically and sexually assaulted me. Those things are entirely on him, and if he sleeps ill at night, it is not because his name is/was associated with this blog, but because he committed many crimes. He may have gotten away with them in the moment, but he’s playing a losing game if he thinks his wrong-doings will lie silent forever.

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Feeling Responsible

13, May 2011 at 11:58 AM (scapegoated, trapped) (, , , , )

From Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery:

“In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure no one listens.”

I would only add: However, if the victim refuses to be silent, and people start listening, he simply runs away in search of a new and easier target to abuse, and the cycle starts all over again.

On the one hand, I have this knowledge, and with it feel like there is something I can and must do to prevent another person from being harmed by him. I have tried desperately to get him to acknowledge his problem, I have pleaded for him to recognise the expansiveness of the damage his behaviour causes– not only because I wanted him to stop abusing me, but also because I do not want him to abuse anyone in the future who shall have the misfortune of becoming entangled in his sicknesses; there is even a sliver of me that wants him to deal with the problems which drive him to be abusive (and according to abuse literature, those problems are his value system and his way of seeing women), because I care(d) about him and still have compassion enough to not want him to continue to damage himself and his own life.

But I know: abusers are highly motivated to never face themselves; they have no experience with the rewards of a truly loving intimate relationship based on mutual respect and so refuse to give up the “rewards” felt to be gained by maintaining strict control over their partner and their relationship. And so I know: he will not stop, he will not change, and all he got out of our relationship and my efforts to hold him accountable were lessons in how to better avoid discovery and responsibility in the future. Through the experience with this relationship, he will have only learned how to become more sweet, flattering and attentive in the beginning and at points when his next partner considers leaving him, and more secretive, more sneaky, more manipulative and more controlling in order to hold onto her like he was unable to hold onto me. I know his inability to hold onto his last girlfriend played into his determination to hold onto me at any cost. All the abuse literature says abusive behaviour has a strong and predictable tendency to escalate with time and each subsequent relationship, and so there is a very real possibility that the next poor woman is going to get it even worse than I. If no one can hold him accountable for what he did to me and his previous girlfriends, the cycle of abuse will continue.

That feels like my responsibility: if I know a crime is going to be committed, it is my moral duty to do everything in my power to try and stop it. But I know it isn’t my fault if he abuses another person and I know I’ve already done everything I can do short of making a public declaration to prevent it from (re-)occurring. Above and beyond all the other life-long effects his abuse will have on me, my family, and my present and future friendships/relationships with others, knowing I was helpless to prevent harm coming to another person, and that my relationship with him was nothing more than a training grounds upon which to refine his strategies– especially with becoming more covert in his methods of manipulation and control, therefore making it more difficult for the next woman to see and disentangle herself from– these are very hard things for me to live with.

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When You or Someone You Know “Disappears”

28, April 2011 at 8:55 PM (solution-oriented) (, , , , , )

I write this from the experience of seeing a friend “disappear” and finding out a few years later that she was in an abusive relationship with a controlling partner, and also from friends telling me now that I have gotten out from under an abusive and controlling partner that they did notice I disappeared when I met him, but they– just like I with my friend– didn’t know what it meant:

+ If you have a friend who starts a new relationship and you notice they seem to have “disappeared”, especially for a very long time, please do not assume they are simply caught up in enjoying their new partner; they may be in an abusive situation. It is typical, especially in the beginning of a new relationship, that someone and their new partner would indulge in being alone together; however, in a healthy relationship, couples eventually resume normal social habits and contacts with friends, often integrating their social circles (introducing their partner to friends and family, taking their new partner to their favourite places, etc). This should go both ways, with both people in the relationship inviting each other into their social lives. If you become concerned that someone you know is not maintaining normal social activities, especially after a very long time, beware: it is very likely the case that your disappeared friend is in a relationship with an abusively controlling partner. Reach out to them. If they do not respond, try again, keep trying. Be especially concerned if your friend says they will call you but doesn’t, accepts invitations to meet you but fails to show up, or seems to explain their withdrawal from their normal activities and friendships by blaming themselves (eg, “I guess I’ve just become flakey”, “I wanted to go but at the last minute I wasn’t in the mood”, etc) or making excuses for their partner (eg, “He just doesn’t like to be around people”, “He had a bad day at work, and I didn’t want to just leave him at home by himself” etc. A partner who doesn’t like to be around people or who had a bad day at work should not be preventing someone from going out themselves or otherwise maintaining normal social relationships). Any sudden change of character in a friend is cause for concern; for instance, if your friend has always been reliable but suddenly starts flaking out, there may be something wrong in their life. Call them up, ask them how things are going, ask if everything’s ok. Listen closely to them, as it may not be safe to tell you what is really going on, or they may be worried what you will think of them or their partner if they tell you the (whole) truth. Reassure them that they will not lose your respect if something is wrong. If they are with a person who is especially emotionally abusive, they may be themselves very confused about whether what is going on is “normal” or their own fault. Trust your gut instincts and what you know about your friend. If something seems wrong or out of the ordinary, reach out and help.

+ If you are in a new relationship and your partner never leaves your side, calls constantly to see what you’re up to, abandons all of his own usual social habits and contacts, never asks you meet his friends and family, does not invite you to go out with him or to his favourite places, refuses to meet your friends/family, refuses to go out by himself, or sulks, pouts, complains (before, during, or afterwards) while amongst your friends or if you go out by yourself, or otherwise exhibits anti-social or other behaviours which make it difficult or uncomfortable to maintain your normal social activities and contacts: do not interpret his constant presence and attention as “he just really likes you”– even if he tells you this– you may be with an abusively controlling partner. In a healthy relationship, your new partner would want to become part of your life which includes friends, family, and activities/interests outside the confines of your relationship. A partner who is always in your presence or who “doesn’t want to share you with anyone else” is not loving you more than someone who maintains his normal social habits and activities, he is supervising you. Beware that abusive and controlling partners will always blame-shift and claim to be the victims of their relationships. They say things like, “We abuse each other”, “We just have a bad relationship dynamic”, or “She always makes me feel like ____, so I can never ____.” An abuser’s first agenda item is to do everything possible to isolate their victim, so that they can control your activities, and manipulate others’ impressions of you. They do not invite you to meet their friends or family, so that they can never form their own impression of you. This comes in handy when your partner attempts to discredit or blame you for all or most of the problems in the relationship– his friends and family are entirely dependent on his perspective. He gets rewarded with sympathy and support, and you get punished with isolation and the inability to get support or hold him accountable for his abusiveness. He may also interfere with your own relationships that you had prior to meeting him, such as calling your friends out of “concern” for you or to “get perspective”. Some partners can and do look to your friends and family for perspective and to get to know you better; but you know an abuser because he will speak about you negatively and actively campaign for your friends’ sympathy and support in an attempt to drive a wedge between you and anyone who may be a support to you when needed. I cannot stress this enough, if this is what is happening in your relationship, do not be afraid to reach out to your friends or family. Remember, your friends love you and will help you. Anyone who does not believe you and help you, or who judges you for being in your situation, or who is skeptical of you because of what your partner has told them, these people were not your friends to begin with– do not waste your time feeling bad about it, keep looking and you WILL find support.

+ No matter what your current relationship status, whether you are single, in a new relationship, or even if you have been in a healthy and enjoyable relationship for some time, tell your friends and family now: “If I ever disappear, there is something very wrong. Please make contact with me, don’t give up.” Discuss this in advance with your most trusted friend(s), you can even have a code word that only you and they know, so if you are unsafe or so confused that all you can tell them is this word, they will know you need their help and support.

Trust and take care of your loved ones, trust and take care of yourself, don’t give up.

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Why Couples Counseling in Abusive Relationships Doesn’t Work, pt 2

17, April 2011 at 1:14 PM (scapegoated, trapped) (, , , , , , )

Here is what is written at escapeabuse.com about couples counseling and abusive relationships. There is nothing about my ex nor my experiences with him and couples counseling that deviates one bit from what is described below. Some of the insight and advice below is from the book Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft, an excerpt of which I will provide in my next post. All bold and italics are in the original, I underlined the parts especially relevant to my situation:

Several people have asked about this and we’d like to address it in case any one of them – or anyone — is ever faced with this — or knows anyone who is faced with it:

If you are in any type of intimate relationship where there is abuse: verbal, emotional, psychological (ie: gaslighting, crazymaking), sexual, or physical — and the abuser suggests “couples” or “partners” counseling as a means to try to “work things out” or as an ultimatum to stay in the relationship – DON’T fall for it.

Couples counseling does NOT work where there is abuse in a relationship because it does not address the issue. Get your own individual, separate counseling to help deal with the abuse. If there is abuse, then abuse is the ONLY issue — not “communication” problems or any other type of mutual interaction problem, so couples counseling will not address this situation properly — and may in fact make it worse.

I had someone suggest this in a prior abusive relationship and soon realized that the reason he wanted couples counseling was ONLY because he wanted the counselor to FIX ME. In his opinion, nothing was wrong with HIM. He felt (and stated) that he was blameless, not responsible for his abusive behavior, flawless — and I was the one who was “messed up” and who had caused all or most of the issues in the relationship. He denied and minimized his abuse. Many abusers are very narcissistic in this way, viewing themselves as special, above reproach, incapable of making mistakes, and flawless – regardless what they’ve done or said to their partner. They think they should bear no responsibility for their behavior, or for how it affects others. A complete lack of empathy for their partner is usually very marked.

In my situation, the counselor was fairly well-versed in abusive relationships and saw through this. I had spoken with her about this alone prior to signup. This is a good thing to check ahead of time – ask them directly if they are experienced with counseling people in abusive relationships, and if they’re familiar with the tactics of abusive partners.

She soon began confronting him with some of his abuse and lo and behold, he railed and bailed. He minimized, blamed, denied – even blamed the counselor for “twisting things around” when actually she was UNTWISTING things. She was trying to get beyond his minimization, avoidance, projection, and denial about his abusive behavior to get to what was really behind it (anger and resentment, among other things and whatever was behind that). Having been confronted and not wanting to take responsibility or face himself, he ended it right then and there (which I fully expected having researched this – but it still hurt a lot at the time).

Most abusers would rather end a relationship – no matter what the situation is – than take responsibility for their abusive behavior once confronted with it. It’s rare that they ever do anything to change, or look at themselves as being whatsoever at fault in driving their relationships to destruction.

The problem is, an abusive person will only look at THEIR feelings and SOMEONE ELSE’S behavior — instead of looking at SOMEONE ELSE’S feelings and THEIR behavior[.]

When confronted, one of two things will usually happen: They will escalate their abuse – or they will end it – claiming that their partner(s) are being “unreasonable”, “too sensitive” or “twisting things around”. They will claim THEMSELVES to be the victim.

The abusive person will claim that *other* people are trying to make them “walk on eggshells” (projection) if they’re asked to recognize or respect anyone else’s feelings or needs. But, it is actually the abuser who chronically causes others to feel that way – with their constant criticism, name-calling, insults, condescension, humiliation, and blame. No one in their relationship(s) can do anything right in their eyes except them, and others will often try to modify their behavior in order to try to avoid the abuser’s constant devaluation and criticism. This is an exercise in futility, however.

“Walking on eggshells” is how an abuser often describes any request to recognize or respect someone else’s feelings besides his/her own. (ie: “I’m not going to walk on eggshells around you!”) For most people who posses the ability to empathize normally, empathy isn’t an issue. For an abuser, it’s a lot of work because it’s not something they’re used to having to do — and it’s a skill they aren’t much interested in. When their partners express hurt because of the abuser’s behavior, the abuser will claim the partner is just “oversensitive”. The fact is, the abuser is the one who needs to develop some sensitivity.

As I stated earlier, this is very narcissistic behavior. Abusers are often narcissists or sociopaths or simply have very strong narcissistic or sociopathic tendencies, primarily marked by a complete lack of empathy towards their partners (beyond the initial romance stage), or at least a marked inability or unwillingness to recognize or respect anyone’s feelings or needs other than their own.

And this goes far beyond any “communication” problem or “incompatibility” issue. The issue – is the abuse.

When abusive people go to couples therapy they simply learn to be more skilled abusers and many of them are quite skilled to begin with. Most are highly intelligent[.]

Couples therapy often will only reinforce abusive behavior and they become even more slick and condescending and manipulative with their tactics. That’s because couples therapy typically deals with abuse as if it were a mutual or communications issue – and it isn’t.

[…]

*An abuser should go into a specialized abuser program and the target/victim should seek his/her own separate counseling. *I’ll warn that most abusers won’t stoop to such a thing – it would mean they have to admit they have personality problems/faults that have destroyed many of their relationships, and they’d have to be willing to undergo YEARS of tough self-evaluation and work to change — and chances of that are slim to none.

It’s much easier for them to just find another target for their abuse.

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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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