Pretend You Care

pretend-you-care

“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

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One Response to “Pretend You Care”

  1. nomorehurt Says:

    Thanks for this post. You covered SO MANY of the subtle practices of the abuser. With such subtle but damaging behavior, it is no wonder it’s difficult for the victim to see it for what it is. Sadly, I personally recognize much of what you’ve described. It is insidious, it is not?!!!


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