Steps of Accepting Responsibility for Abuse

10, April 2011 at 12:45 AM (sad or sorry for myself, solution-oriented) (, , , , , , )

If you would like to print out a version without my comments, please see the page Steps of Accepting Responsibility for Abuse.

I just found this a few days ago. I cried and cried as I read it. I remembered myself asking for so many of these things so many times over the years, I remembered the last proposal I made to save our relationship and how it included so many of the things below; I remembered all of his broken promises to do some of these things, and reflected on how my final plea for resolving our issues remains only hinted at because he blew me off repeatedly when I asked if he wanted to hear it. Although I was never as thorough nor could I have been as concise as the outline below, I cried also because I felt validated and proud of myself that my instincts about what I needed and deserved were not only reasonable but correct. I cried because I felt stupid for all my confidence, because I believed there were things about him that to this day are still feeding my faith that he has the strength do this. Finally, I cried– and I still do as I read it again– because I “hear” him objecting, “I can’t do this, I don’t think I should have to do this, I’m not capable, it’s too much, it’s too hard. It’s not worth it. Our relationship is not worth it. (You are not worth it.)”

Adapted from

Steps of Accepting Responsibility for Abuse

If he claims he’s “changed” but isn’t doing the steps below, he’s not really changing. He’s manipulating you.

1. Admit all his abusive behaviour. This includes emotional, sexual, or physical abuse of present or past partners. He must stop suggesting you are “acting hurt” because you are unstable, weak or stupid, and stop implying you’re trying to turn people against him because you’re jealous or resentful. He must acknowledge the good in you and any other person he has abused, rather than try to save face by insisting all his “abusees” are instigators or bad seeds. He must stop all denying and minimising, including questioning and rebuffing your memory of the abuse.

2. Acknowledge his behaviour is a choice, not a loss of control. He needs to recognise that during each incident he gives himself permission to be abusive, and then he continues to choose how much to let himself go.

3. Acknowledge that his abusive behaviour was wrong, unconditionally. He must identify his typical justifications, and admit they are just excuses to be abusive; like “I just lost control” or “I was just trying to get you to listen!” He can no longer try to defend his abuse by pointing out how much you get on his nerves (emphasising how victimised he is by your “annoying” behaviour). He needs to explain in detail about why his behaviours are totally unacceptable, stop blaming you, and make a heartfelt apology. He must stop asserting that your reactions to the abuse are abusive to him. He must admit he knows that your self-defense, blunt honesty about his hurtful actions, or refusal to be bullied is NOT abuse.

4. Recognise the impact his abuse has had on you, and show empathy. He needs to discuss in detail the immediate and enduring effects his abuse has had on you, including your fear, distrust, depression, anger, and loss of freedom and other rights. He must face you to validate your pain, knowing fully he caused it. During this empathetic description of the damage he has done, he can’t revert to self-pity, talking about how painful the experience has been for him. Apologising is critical; but he also has to recognise that being genuinely sorry is just the beginning, and meaningless unless he seriously examines the swath of destruction he has caused.

5. Make amends for the damage he’s done. He has to develop a sense that he is in debt to you and to your children as a result of his abusiveness. He can begin reparation by being consistently caring and supportive, talking with people whom he has misled in regard to the abuse in admitting to them he lied, putting your needs before his own without expecting to be congratulated for it, and many more actions related to cleaning up the emotional and literal messes that his behaviours have caused. As he does this, he needs to accept that he may never be able to fully compensate you. Identify in detail his pattern of controlling behaviours and entitled attitudes. He needs to speak in detail about the day-to-day tactics of abuse he has used. Accept the need to give up his privileges and do so, this means saying goodbye to double-standards.

6. Accept that overcoming abusiveness is likely to be a life-long process. At no time can he claim his work is done by saying, “I’ve bent enough”, or complain that he’s sick of hearing about his abusiveness or control and ask when you’re planning or going to get past it. He needs to come to terms with the reality of working on his issues for good, and that you may feel the effects of what he has done for many years. Equally important, he must be able to identify his underlying beliefs and values that have driven those behaviours, such as considering himself entitled to constant attention, looking down on you as inferior, or believing that men aren’t responsible for their actions if provoked by a partner.

7. He must treat you well from now on. He must honour a commitment to never repeat his abusive, manipulative, coercive, belittling behaviours. His improvement is not dependent on your good behaviour– such as saying that he won’t call you names as long as you don’t raise your voice to him. If he backslides, he cannot justify his abusive behaviours by saying, “Yeah, I screwed up, but for three years I behaved, don’t I get credit for that? You expect me to be perfect?” as if his good behaviour is chips to spend on occasional abuse.

8. Abandon his distorted, negative picture of you and swap it with a more empathetic view. He must stop asserting that your reactions to his abuse are abusive to him, proving he’s justified or excused. He must recognise his thought pattern that focuses on and exaggerates his grievances against you. As a result, his perceptions of your weaknesses tend to be quite harsh and unforgiving. He needs to compliment you and pay attention to your strengths and abilities.

9. Be willing to be accountable for his actions both past and future. He is no longer above reproach, and this attitude must be replaced with a willingness to accept feedback and criticism for any backsliding.


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On Trial – Verdict

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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