I Will Find You!

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“An emotional abuser sees himself as a blameless victim, and denies his own provocative behavior, even going so far as to bemoan the fact that a partner left him, or threw him out, “after all the things I did for her”… The emotional abuser will play up the “pathos” in an attempt to garner sympathy, all the while, continuing to stalk his ex, making jokes about things he could do to upset her, and invading her personal space and boundaries at social functions.

Like physical abusers, emotional abusers will often stalk their former partners. The stalker’s objective is often to control her through cultivating fear rather than making direct or specific threats, or confronting the her. Sometimes this stalking can take the form of simply moving into the same neighborhood as a former partner, and letting her know, through friends, where he is living. His move into her neighborhood will be “justified” by him for some specious reason, but the reality is, he can’t let go and is still trying to control her and inflict pain on her after the relationship is over. This is a subtle form of terrorism, because abuse victims are often very emotionally (if not physically) afraid of their abusers once they wake up. She will know that she might run into him at the local convenience store, gas station, supermarket, or on a walk. He is, in effect, pissing on her boundaries (something abusers have no respect for) and trying to make them his own. He may even begin dating someone who lives very close to her, so that he has an excuse to go by her house, or park his car nearby.

Ex-partners of abusers will often express fear of their abuser, and will have no desire to be anywhere near the abuser. On the other hand, the abuser may try to appear as if he is calm, rational, and still supportive of his ex-partner, despite the fact that he will also express the opinion that he believes she is quite unstable. He will make statements such as saying that he “bears her no ill-will”, etc., but then will show no respect for her boundaries or her requests for him to stay away from her. The abuser will still inquire with friends as to how she is doing, implying that his inquiry is because he cares about her – he does care – about retaining those last vestiges of control, even after the breakup. What he really wants to know is if she is suffering or doing badly, because that feeds his sick ego. He feels best when he puts other people in as much pain as he is in.”  Natalie P

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Me Sorry? Never

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“Emotional abusers hate apologizing – and if they DO apologize, they will only do the same thing again. They know this, and will even try to make it seem like any expectation of an apology is really an attempt to “blame” them. (Again, “blame” being that dirty word). For example, “You just want me to say I’m sorry and promise I’ll never do it again, so that when I screw up again, you can point a finger and blame me and get angry with me and say, “See? You did it again and you promised you wouldn’t!”” This is called “projection” – abusers do it all the time. They project THEIR issues onto their partner, and try to make it their partner’s problem. They make it sound like the partner’s is somehow wrong or attempting to set them up for “blame”, for wanting some sign of compassion and remorse, and an indication of willingness to work on the behavior problem.

If you do get an apology out of an abuser, it is a quick-fix, not a long-term solution, because they will do the same behavior over again – that is why they are often so resistant to apologizing and saying that they will work on the behavior – because they KNOW they will repeat it at another time.

Abusers may, early in the relationship, in a moment of “opening up”, tell you of their abusive or manipulative nature. At the time you may think that this is some kind of indication of a willingness to work on their past problems, or that somehow it will be different for you. In fact, what they are looking for is absolution in advance for behavior they will later inflict on you. They may even go so far as to say, “I told you this is how I am.”

Emotional abusers often grow OLD without growing UP. They are emotionally stunted and immature. Emotional abusers are self-preoccupied, and demonstrate a passive-aggressive interpersonal style.

Emotional abusers may do seemingly loving, kind and considerate things, that actually convey a subtle message that you aren’t “perfect”, that you aren’t quite good enough. For example, it may seem very sweet that he rubs cream into your hands before bed, but then you remember that he also didn’t like you touching him if your hands were the least bit dry or rough – it “hurt” his skin, so you always had to have hand cream to make your hands soft before you touched him. Sadly, the REAL message behind the seemingly loving act of rubbing cream in your hands is that you aren’t perfect, you aren’t living up to his needs and expectations, NOT that he loves you… In their own subversive way, these “messages”, couched in “loving” acts, eat away and erode your sense of self-worth.

Emotional abusers deny that they have any problems and/or project their problems onto their partner, often accusing their partners of abuse – especially AFTER the partner has woken up and called the abuser on his behavior. At this point he will be sure to tell as many *mutual* friends as will listen, that she is controlling and abusive to him, in an attempt to further undermine any support she might get.” Natalie P

I Expect More From You

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“Emotional abusers expect more from their partners than they are willing to put into a relationship. The problem is, no matter how much the partner gives, it will never be enough, and the abuser will expect more – because the relationship isn’t about love for the abuser, it’s about control.

The more independent a partner becomes, the more abusive the abuser will be, because he sees he is losing control of his partner.

Emotional abusers expect to be forgiven for their “mistakes” (otherwise known as abuse) but are unable to forgive their partners for legitimate mistakes – and will continue to “punish” their partners for those mistakes, long after apologies and restitution have been made.

“Emotional abusers expect their partners to change for them. Unfortunately, the changes the partner makes will never be enough – the abuser will always want more.

The abuser says it’s not completely his fault, or she pushes his buttons, or that something she did triggered him to do or say something hurtful or damaging to her.

Emotional abuse can take the form of him insisting that she isn’t spending enough time with him, forcing her to “prove her love” by booking extra time and adjusting her life and her schedule around him, so that he can then reject any suggestions she has for activities, and act disinterested when they do have time together.

When she tries to make plans with him, the abuser will remind her in a condescending way of how poor she is at planning and how he doesn’t believe that the plans will work out. Over time, comments like this insidiously undermine her self-confidence, by telling repeatedly that she is untrustworthy. Her untrustworthiness becomes yet another excuse for him to “punish” her with abusive language or actions.

Another emotional abuse tactic is to reject activities that she suggests and then do them with other people – letting her know that he is doing them with other people – establishing control and implying that she is not worthy of doing the activities with him, but other people are.

An emotional abuser will often use condescension as an effective tool in manipulating and hurting his partner. In expressing his own internal anger, he targets his partner. But because she has done nothing to “deserve” his anger at this point (or any point!), he may be rude, brutally inconsiderate, condescending, patronizing, or even use the “silent treatment” to get her upset or angry. When his partner gets upset, and an argument ensues, he can then express his anger at her, and blame the fact that she “got angry” at him, for the whole argument – even though HE started it. Don’t let him convince you that your anger at his disrespect and emotional cruelty, is somehow wrong or abusive to him. That is part of his control and escalating cycle of abuse technique.

As part of this “control” technique, the abuser may “set up” his partner, pushing as many buttons as possible to get the partner to lose control by breaking down in tears or getting angry or yelling. If you raise your voice, he will insist that YOU are the abuser. Don’t buy it, and don’t believe it. While there might be better ways to handle the situation, (more easily enacted if you weren’t emotionally involved with this person), chances are that he has inflicted so much psychological warfare that you have been backed into an emotional corner, and are reacting in self-defense. Emotional reactions in self-defense to an abusive situation do NOT make YOU an “abuser”.

One of the more subtle but effective ways an abuser can “wind” his partner up is by invalidating/rejecting/showing no compassion for the feelings of his partner – especially in conjunction with a deliberate act of malice that was designed to upset or hurt the partner. He will claim the act was either “accidental” or intended to help the partner. He will try to tell his partner that it is NOT OK to feel angry or hurt or upset by his actions – or that if she DOES feel those things, her “feelings are her own” – that he has no responsibility towards repairing any emotional damage he may have caused. As part of this tactic he may pay lip-service to personal responsibility by saying he “takes responsibility” for his actions, but then make no offer to do anything about the resulting emotional pain, or say that there is nothing he can do to repair the damage or make restitution. If she tries to get him to do anything to make restitution he will use the word “blame” as if it is a dirty word, and accuse her of trying to lay “blame” on him for his actions. This is the functional equivalent of someone using a board to “fan” you and when he “accidentally” hits you over the head, telling you that he was just trying to HELP and that if you feel PAIN, well, your feelings are your own, and he can’t be responsible for YOUR feelings, and there is nothing HE can do about it now… Non-abusers who genuinely ACCIDENTALLY hurt a loved one’s feelings, do not refuse to nurture those feelings – they help repair the emotional damage, and they don’t repeatedly make the same “mistakes” over and over with their partners.

The flip side of this, of course, is that emotional abusers want to reap the emotional rewards for being nice and doing “good” things for their partners – they want the affirmation, appreciation and attention they feel they deserve when they do something positive for a partner.” Natalie P

Pretend You Care

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“Not all emotional abusers criticize their partners directly – sometimes it can be as simple as constantly criticizing how someone keeps a kitchen, or complaining about the mess in the house, or continuous grumbling about the laundry, or complaining about the noise and mess the kids make. He will make her think it is her job to keep him happy, and imply that household things are contributing to his unhappiness and bad temper.

An emotional abuser will seem to encourage his partner to grow, to develop new skills and expand her horizons, but then will do things to impede or prevent that progress. He will mope and sigh about how little time she has for him now that she is working more or taking that course, or back in school. Or, he will “encourage” her to advance herself, but refuse to provide any additional assistance around the house/family to ease her workload, effectively making it impossible for her to take that course or job. If he DOES provide assistance, he will let her know how HARD it is for him, and how MUCH he is doing for her, every step of the way… he will play the “sad puppy” to the hilt, trying to get her to feel guilty for the burdens she has put on him.

An Emotional abuser will try to make his partner responsible for his happiness. Either through direct comments, or indirect implications, the abuser will let his partner know that he is not happy, that it is somehow her fault, and that she must fix it. The problem is, no matter what she does, it will never be enough, and it won’t ultimately make him happy.

The abuser may take this behavior to an extreme, insisting that he is the best partner or relationship she will ever have, the only one who can truly love her (despite all her faults!), and that if she doesn’t live up to his expectations, he will leave the relationship. Since abuse is really about control, the abuser knows he can have the upper hand in the relationship if he can keep her uncertain and insecure.

Emotional abusers overcompensate for their self-hate with a warped kind of narcissism. They genuinely believe that YOU SHOULD know how they feel, and know what to do to make them happy. AND that you should be willing to do those things without having to be asked or told. They believe that they DESERVE to be treated better, to be put first, to be given preferential treatment. He will expect you to read his mind. He lives by the “if you really loved me, you’d KNOW how I feel” game, and of course will punish you for not being telepathic. If confronted with the unreasonable nature of this behavior, the abuser will blame his partner for his lack of communication – it will always be her fault that he couldn’t tell her what he needed or wanted. He will project HIS behavior on her, and insist that he couldn’t talk to her about what was bothering him because she was too intense, or critical, or angry, or judgemental, or needy. Don’t buy it. Those are HIS issues. Not yours.

And speaking of narcissism, the emotional abuser will be envious and resentful if YOU get more attention than HE does in a social setting. He will likely punish you for it by one of any number of techniques: ignoring you, sulking, disappearing for hours, flirting heavily with someone else, or leaving the party or function without notifying you.

Emotional abusers expect the rest of the household to live by their waking, sleeping and eating schedules. If his schedule is interrupted or disturbed, or if the partner chooses not to follow the same patterns, the abuser feels justified in “punishing” the offender. This can include the full battery of emotional abuse and passive-aggressive tactics – because in the abuser’s mind, the partner or household member “deserves” it for not caring enough about him to live by his schedules and activity calendar.

Emotional abusers may use punishment tactics like leaving (without a word to you), a party or function that you both went to. They will have socially plausible, pathos-laden excuses for their unannounced departure, like they couldn’t find you, or they were tired and wanted to go home. However, the REAL reason they left without a word, was to punish you; to wind you up, to get you worried about them, and ultimately, to have you feel guilty for not paying enough attention to them. When you confront an abuser on the concept of COURTESY around these sorts of things, the abuser will either apologize weakly, (but the damage has been done), or insist that your distress over his behavior is overreacting.

Emotional abusers will remind you of your flaws under the guise of trying to be “helpful” or sensitive. He may make comments like, “You seem unhappy with your body” – even though you have made no comments about your body image or otherwise, or “You are running late again – you never can get anywhere on time”, or “There doesn’t seem to be much point in planning things with you.” All are comments intended to unbalance and remind you of what he perceives to be your weaknesses.

Emotional abusers will try to isolate you from family and friends. There are several tactics that may be employed. If he can’t manipulate your friends, he will either find reasons to denigrate them or will be “uninterested” in doing things with you AND your friends. He may find them “boring”. You may find yourself caught in a double-bind where he “encourages” you to go out with *your* friends, refusing any invitation to participate, but then mopes that you never spend enough time with HIM. Over time, you may find yourself isolated from your friends by virtue of the demands on your time that he makes. You may also find him VERY upset if he finds out that you have been talking to a close friend or family member about him and/or your relationship with him – especially if that person is likely to tell you he’s behaving like an ass.

One emotional abuser went so far as to “set up” his wife so that she would isolate herself. He did it by “reminding” her of her “shyness”, and how socially backward she was. He did this under the guise of “being sensitive” to her and the areas she “needed to work on”. Then he would offer to “help” her by suggesting she come along to a party or social function with him. Prior to the function he would again “help” her by briefing her on people attending the party, so that she could “have something to talk about” with them. As part of his tactic, he told his wife distortions or half-truths so that she would make social faux-pas at the function. If she ever questioned him, he would insist that SHE must have heard him wrong, and it must have been HER nervousness that made her forget or screw up. The man was a “pillar of the community”, so to his friends, she looked like a bumbling (and even insensitive) fool, and they “couldn’t figure out why a man like him was with a woman like HER.” Combined with his subtle denigration of her friends and family, she gradually isolated herself by not attending social functions, and cutting off relationships with her support network.” Natalie P

Common Misconceptions

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“A common misconception is that emotional abuse has to take the form of a partner yelling over every little thing, belittling or constantly criticizing a partner. Other forms of emotional abuse, can however, be just as damaging, and far less overt. They can include being disrespectful, discourteous, rude, condescending, patronizing, critical, judgemental, “joking” insults, lying, repeatedly “forgetting” promises and agreements, betrayal of trust, “setting you up”, and “revising” history.

To outsiders, abusers often appear as decent, successful, sensitive, calm and nondescript. To their families, they are often controlling, self-absorbed, hypercritical, compulsive, childish and mean-spirited. Most of abusers are actually BOTH. It is the disparity between the one they love and the one that harms them that keeps the woman confused. He may intersperse episodes of abuse with words of love, telling her that she is “the best thing that has ever happened” to him, and that he wants to start treating her that way, confusing her further. She keeps hoping that if she does enough, if she gives enough, he will stop hurting her and the loving, caring side of him will prevail. Unfortunately, this is a fallacy that often keeps the woman in the relationship for far too long. Ask yourself: Do you have a drawer full of “apology” jewellery, or a closet full of “apology” clothes?

One of the most difficult things about identifying and leaving someone who is a psychological and emotional abuser, is that the REALLY successful abusers are highly intelligent and hide their abuse incredibly well. They may have shelves of filled with psychology books; many are well-read and very well spoken. They know how to twist and manipulate language and people. They present an exterior of calm, rational self-control, when in reality, they have no internal control of their own pain and chaotic self-hate, so they try to control others, and drive others to LOSE control. If an abuser can cause YOU to lose control, it proves how healthy HE is, so he can say, explicitly, or implicitly (it’s amazing how sighs, and rolling of the eyes can accomplish as much as words), “There you go again, losing it, crying and yelling. I’m not the one who needs therapy, *you* are.” Unfortunately, if an outsider sees the abuse at all, all they see is an outburst from you, NOT the abuse that triggered it. It may make you feel as if you have had all your lifelines withdrawn, as if you are going crazy, because nobody believes you that this charming, “nice”, helpful, successful man could be so incredibly psychologically cruel and deliberately hurtful.

Abusers play the pushme-pull-you game threatening to withdraw their affections, dropping statements out of the blue intended to destabilize. This has the effect of making their partners insecure and uncertain, but that plays right into the abuser’s hand as he then can accuse the partner of being “too needy”. Ploys such as casually talking about how he’s thinking of taking a job in another city are one such example of destabilizing talk. In this kind of case, it doesn’t start with any discussion of your relationship, or what might happen to it – he talks only of the cool job opportunity, with no recognition of the impact it might have on you, your relationship, or your family.

An emotional abuser may make fun of his partner, or make subtle or not-so-subtle disparaging remarks about her while with other friends, and encourage the friends to make disparaging remarks. He will then be sure to tell her about the jokes they made and act surprised when she doesn’t find them “funny”. He may even tell her that she is overreacting and that it was “all in fun” and that no harm was meant by the “joking”.”    Natalie P

Emotional Abusers

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“Most people have had it happen: at some point in our lives we find ourselves manipulated or “guilted” into doing something we didn’t want to do. We end up angry at ourselves for caving in, and resenting the other person for pressuring us. However there are other kinds of emotional manipulation – covert abusive and hurtful techniques that even the most stalwart Heartless Bitch can fall prey to, that undermine a person’s self-confidence, and may even make you feel like you are going crazy. The thing is, while true Heartless Bitches would NEVER tolerate physical abuse, they can get blindsided by emotional abuse, and not even realize it’s happening – especially if it is coming from someone they trust and love. Like physical abuse, emotional abuse becomes a vicious circle that chips away at your self-confidence, making it harder and harder to leave. If you are in a relationship where you have a sick sense that SOMETHING is wrong, but somehow it’s always YOUR fault, and you find yourself always trying to “fix” things, this article may be for you.

Emotional abusers are very insidious – some of them are much harder to spot than others, because they mingle their abuse in between acts of generosity, and often employ emotionally manipulative tactics, and passive-aggressive behavior. Not all emotional abusers overtly belittle and verbally harangue their partners – some are much more perfidious and as such, their partners may not realize that the source of their distress and an unease over the relationship has been coming from abuse for quite some time. The longer a woman remains under the grip of an emotional abuser, the more she will start to question herself, her actions and her beliefs. It is the abuser’s goal to make her believe that she deserves his cruelty and that only through her actions can she make it stop. It is his intent to get her to feel that she is the cause of any relationship problems, and that his (abusive) behavior is simply a response to her, and therefore acceptable. It is true, that only through her actions can she make it stop – she must have the courage to leave the relationship and avoid further contact with the abuser.

Abusers, physical or emotional, are abusive because of their own self-hate and internal issues – not because of anything their partner did. No amount of work or attempting to please will stop an abuser from abusing. They have to be willing to recognize and actually work on their own issues before they can stop inflicting cruelty on the people who love them. In many cases, they don’t even love their partners, because they can’t even love themselves, and don’t feel that they deserve love, even though they crave it. Abusers may genuinely feel bad that they committed another act of abuse, not because they have any real compassion for the person they hurt, but because they get angry at themselves for “screwing up” again. This drives them further into self-loathing, and further into a cycle of abusive behavior.

It is common for men who are “called” on their abusive behavior to blame the woman, and claim SHE was the abuser. He may even point to his abusive childhood as proof that he is just an innocent victim. The truth of the matter is that abusers generally DO have a history of abuse stemming from their childhood, with emotionally abusive and/or physically abusive parents. However, it is important to note that though women can become abusers, MOST OFTEN (because of the way we are socialized and the power setups in society), if there has been no *successful* theraputic intervention, MEN from abusive families become “ABUSERS”, and WOMEN who grew up in abusive families become “Abuse VICTIMS”.

Like the alcoholic, an abuser must admit his behavior to himself and others, and seek help. Unfortunately, not all therapy works, and not all people who go into therapy are ready or willing to do the personal work necessary to get better and eliminate their destructive patterns. As such, abusers are not safe people – even after they enter therapy. It can take years of therapy to unravel and undo the damage and self-hate that has driven someone to abuse. During that time, the abuser may actually get worse before his behavior improves, if it changes at all.” Natalie P

Healthy Teen Relationships