Can a Malignant Narcissist Ever Change?

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Photo by Rakicevic Nenad on Pexels.com

 

Here is an excerpt from the book ‘Malignant Narcissism: Understanding and Overcoming Malignant Narcissistic Abuse’ that discusses if a narc can really ever change:

 

After much debate on this topic, which has no definitive ‘official’ answer, myself and the countless other victims I’ve spoken to believe this to be the most accurate response to this question: don’t bank on it.

I did hesitate in keeping this chapter in the book because people reforming and bettering themselves is something I don’t like to count people out on. I think the majority of people who want to change for the better can do so – but I have one exception: narcissists.

Because of this contradictory belief, you may think that I’m being a bit unfair or undiplomatic towards malignant narcissists by saying I don’t believe they can (in most cases) ever change – but narcissists and sociopaths are the only exceptions to my opinion that anyone can change.

I wanted to find a broader answer on this question, and I didn’t want this chapter to just reflect my own opinion, so I sought out other victims’ point of view on this often-asked question. I got a lofty response when I asked this question to people who’ve been in a relationship with a malignant narcissist: it was a resounding ‘no’ after ‘no’ flooding my inbox.

Whilst I’d ideally have liked a varying degree of answers for this chapter, the barrage of people who vehemently disagree that a malignant narcissist can ever change did help cement in my mind that I was correct in my original opinion. It helped solidify that, just like I’d always thought, a malignant narcissist is simply too far in the depths of their abusive, toxic and sadistic world wilderness to ever change. What’s more, even if a narcissist could change – would they want to?

In order to come to my final conclusion of ‘absolutely not – a malignant narcissist can never change’, I did a lot of back and forth in my head to try and break down this belief. I so much wanted to have faith that anyone can change and tried to find valid arguments to help me shoot down this opinion that I’d formed. So, any potential argument I could think of to help me explain why a malignant narcissist could change was promptly (but accurately) dismissed by the group I was conversing with about this question. Here is a breakdown of why a malignant narcissist will never change:

They Don’t Want to Change

Abusive people are often rewarded by their toxic and abhorrent behavior and malignant narcissists are incapable of believing anything is wrong with them or the way they behave. Their intrinsic sense of superiority and consistent and lacking of empathy, readiness to exploit other people, as well as a very blatant lack of willingness to change their behavior, are all elemental to their extreme disorder.
As I mentioned earlier, malignant narcissists don’t go to seek help voluntarily – they’ll only go along with therapy if they have an agenda or manipulative trick in mind. In the group I pitched this question to, one former victim told us that her ex did end up going to therapy to seek help for his narcissism. However, this was ordered by the court after he was arrested for assaulting her, and it was the only way he would have avoided a harsher penalty. His acceptance to get help wasn’t motivated by an authentic want to change, but rather to avoid punishment and appear to be wanting to better himself.
They’re Not Abusive Because of Past Trauma – This Isn’t a Valid Excuse for Abusive Behavior.

Mental illness is no joke, and as someone who has (and, in certain ways, always will) battled with mental health in the form of depression, I understand how misunderstood it can be and how difficult it is to live with. I understand the importance of prioritizing your mental health, and I have the utmost empathy for those who battle with their own mental health demons. However, I don’t buy the notion that people with traumatic pasts have a hall pass to inflict terror and fear into others, and I don’t like the misconception that all narcissists and abusers have had a traumatic upbringing; there is still no final, certain clinical verdict on what causes malignant narcissism, only theories; this, however, is one theory I’m inclined to disagree with.

Some abusers do come from troubled and traumatic backgrounds, just like some come from very privileged and comfortable upbringings with no traumatic experiences. And it goes without saying, there are millions and millions of survivors of malignant narcissistic abuse, cruel sociopaths, and psychopaths. These survivors, who’ve suffered horrific traumas at the hands of others, choose not to abuse as a result of their hurt. Inflicting abuse is a choice.

Much like any other disorder, it’s often a mix of nature as well as nurture at the root of the issue – that’s probably true for every human characteristic, both good and bad. Clinicians are uncertain of what causes narcissism, but there are a number of theories. Some theories suggest that those who have narcissistic traits tend to grow up in households where they’ve been brought up as overvalued, pandered to, spoiled, and raised to believe they should have a sense of entitlement. It’s then theorized that these narcissistic traits, founded in childhood, can sometimes later turn into full-on narcissism in adulthood.

The need that many of us have to rationalize traumatic, abusive behavior based on a story of past traumas can cause abuse victims to repeatedly minimize their own emotional pain, constantly excusing their tormentor’s behavior whilst still looping around the abuse cycle. Additionally, because malignant narcissists have such a limited emotional radar, and for the most part, can only experience shallow emotions, they don’t feel the same empathy you would expect from someone who has been through trauma.

The victims of malignant narcissists certainly endure horrible abuse and are undeniably traumatized by them. Not only can I vouch for this myself, but I’ve spoken with lots of narcissism survivors who’ve endured the trauma of abuse at the hands of a malignant narcissist. Some were abused by narcissists who came from happy, nourishing, loving families with an idyllic upbringing. Those who are full-on psychopaths could have been born like that, and so their upbringing would have no bearing on their abusive ways at all.

It’s important to remember to have empathy for the traumas that survivors of abuse have endured – not the perpetrators. Most abuse survivors chose not to abuse other people, instead, they allow their traumas to guide them on how to treat others with more empathy and respect.

What ‘Gaslighting’ Means and How You Can Spot The Warning Signs

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Gaslighting, for a long period of my life, was part of my day to day living. This emotional abuse was something that had won me down to the point where is simply accepted it as part of my daily life. I didn’t see an escape and I felt utterly helpless.

 

For such a long time in my life, my feelings were never validated. Any concerns I had were dismissed or met with a defensive reaction. I was undermined, ignored and blamed for my abusers behaviour, to the point that I didn’t know what reality was anymore. My perception of truth wass completely distorted.

 

I had two abusive relationships, and both of them utilised gaslighting as a way to manipulate me. They used it to get away with any toxic or bad behaviour. They used it to blame me for their misgivings. When it comes to the art of manipulation, gaslighters are the Picasso, and we are the unwitting canvas.

 

In short, gaslighting is a strategy in which someone uses to gain more power over another individual or situation. In their quest for more power, the gaslighter will make their victim question their view on reality and their perception of what the truth is. Gaslighting is a very common technique utilised by emotional abusers and narcissists.

 

Nobody is immune from gaslighting. It’s done very slowly and craftily, leaving the victim unable to see how much they’re being brainwashed by their abuser. Very often, the abuser will manipulate until their victim thinks they’re losing their mind.

 

It can be quite difficult to spot a gaslighter, especially if you’re in a relationship with one. You maybe don’t want to confront the fact that your significant other is emotionally abusing you, or perhaps they’re being so covert about the abuse that’s your unsure if it’s actually gaslighting. To help you recognise a gaslighter, I’ve compiled some of the typical traits and techniques they exhibit below. This is designed to help you spot the warning signs of a very complex, confusing and upsetting form of abuse:

 

 

  • They lie. Blatantly.

 

 

Even if you know it’s an outright lie, gas lighter will blatantly lie to your face –  with a straight face.

 

This blatant lying ends up setting up a precedent; if they can lie about something so convincingly, how can you be sure anything else they say is true? This then keeps you unsteady, full of doubt and off-kilter.This of course, is just tell how the gas lighter wants you to be.

 

  1. Incessant denial.

 

Gaslighters will deny, deny, deny; even if you have solid proof to say the contrary. They’ll deny they said something, they’ll deny bad behaviour and they’ll deny conversations you know you’ve had with them.

 

This is beyond frustrating, because you know they have in fact said or done the things that you’re confronting them about. Even in the face of damning evidence, the gaslighter will refuse to accept responsibility or knowledge around what you’re questioning them about. the more they deny, the more you’ll be questioning yourself about your own perception of reality. Did I really make that up? Am I imagining that we had that conversation? Am I imagining things?

 

Eventually, you’ll begin to accept the gaslighters version of reality instead of your own.

 

  1.     Personal attacks.

 

Gas lighters use emotional ammunition in their verbal attacks. They don’t need to think twice about using what is dear to you against you. If they know how important something is to you, they’ll use this to attack you. For example if you’ve got children, they may tell you that you don’t deserve them or that you should never have had them at all. Or if you’ve got an interview for a job, they may act like it’s already been decided that you won’t be getting it.

 

A gaslighter will use personal insults and put downs to build a long list ofVerbal attacks against you. this element of gaslighting is designed to make you feel unworthy, undeserving and simply not good enough.

 

  1. It’s done gradually.

 

The sinister thing about gaslighting is that it’s done slowly, over time. It’s not something the abuser will exhibit in the early stages of the relationship, it’s something they will begin to introduce gradually as the relationship evolves. Once the gaslighter has you in their snare, that’s when they can begin to ramp up the abuse. It can start with a snide comment here and there, gradually getting more and more frequent with the gaslighting getting nastier.

 

No matter how self-aware or bright you are, you are not immune from being sucked into a gaslighters trap. think of it as the boiling frog analogy.

 

The boiling frog analogy is a fable that is a really apt way to analogise how gaslighting can engulf you without you realising. The premise of this is that if you suddenly place a frog into a boiling pan of water, it’ll immediately jump out. However, if you place the frog into warm, tepid water, then slowly bring it to the boil, the frog won’t perceive any danger and will be cooked in the pan.

 

This is a great metaphor to explain the way victims of gaslighting often find it hard to see the warning signs of abuse. Because it’s done gradually, it’s much harder to perceive any threat or malice.

 

  1. Their words and actions can contradict each other.

 

A gaslighters words will often not match their actions. A lot of what they say or promise doesn’t materialise, and ends up being just talk. For example, if they behaved particularly badly whilst drunk, they may later claim to you that they are no longer drinking and are on the wagon. However, it may not take them long to backtrack on their promises of sobriety, thus making their words and actions contradictory.

 

Whilst their promises may have initially pacified you, it’s undeniably hurtful and frustrating when their actions go the opposite way to their words. Unfortunately this is a key trait of a gaslighter.

 

  1.      Inconsistent compliments.

 

Sometimes a gaslighter will offer some positive reinforcement, which can be surprising. Instead of making you feel devalued and worthless, they’re actually praising you. This only adds to your unsteadiness within the relationship. You may question why they’re praising you at all, or it may even make you think that they’re ‘not so bad’. You might even start thinking that you’ve been too hard on them, and that they just have your best interests at heart.

 

The thing to remember about gaslighters is that they’re very calculated. Their words and actions have method behind the madness. They want to keep you unsteady and off-kilter, and throwing in some surprise compliments is another way for them to do that.

 

It’s a good idea to take a look at exactly what they’re praising you for; you might find it’s something that serves their best interests.

 

  1.      Purposeful confusion.

 

Gaslighters have mastered the art of confusion. they know that people require sense of normality and stability, and the gas lighter looks to shake the foundations of your reality with confusion. of course this will make you question everything, and you’ll no doubt look for comfort and stability; this just so happens to be in the arms of the gaslighter.

 

It’s a very manipulative, covert and damaging way for the gas lighter to ensure they have control over their significant other and the relationship.

 

  1.      Projecting.

 

They’ll project their own bad behaviour onto you. for example if if they’re cheating, and you confront them about this, they’ll accuse you to distract from their own bad behaviour.

 

This distraction technique works by not only focusing the negative attention on to the victim, but it also helps to keep the victim in a state of confusion.

 

  1. Using people as ammunition.

 

Gas lighters will often curate people that will stick by them no matter what. they will learn these people to be used as ammunition against you.

 

For example a gaslighter may say things like, “this person warned me about you”, or they may say something like “this person knows that you’re deluded too”. Whilst these people may or may not have said anything about you, these are still individuals who are in the gaslighters corner, and are people they will utilise as ammunition against you.

 

This tactic of using people against you also makes you feel like you can’t trust anyone. It’ll make you feel like you’ve got nobody to turn to, and that nobody has your back. This invariably leads you right back to your source of comfort –  the gaslighter.

 

A formula you should remember is this:

 

Victim + isolation = control.

 

And control is the very thing the gaslighter needs.

 

  1.      They will try to damage your reputation.

 

A smear campaign is something a gaslighter will utilise to discredit you and damage your reputation. They will bring into question your character, your behaviours and your motives in order to encourage other people to believe that you’re crazy or unhinged.

 

This is also a handy technique for the gaslighter, because they know that if you try to speak out about the emotional abuse you’re going through, people will be less inclined to believe you. This is because the gaslighter has got in there first and warned people about your ‘out of control’ behaviour, after making others believe that you are the abuser.

 

  1.     They make you distrust those around you.

 

Remember that take gas lighters main driver is control. also remember the formula I mentioned just before; isolation equals control.

 

By telling you that everybody else –  including your family friends, the news, celebrities and people of authority – is a liar, this again puts you into a state of confusion and isolation. by doing this, the gaslighter is making you question your own perception of reality. you’ve probably never known anybody with the audacity to such outlandish things, so therefore you must be being told the truth… right?

 

This, in turn, will make you feel like the gaslighter is the only person being true to you, and you will turn to them for answers and information. Although you don’t see it at the time, this is just another form of manipulation from the gaslighter in order to entrap you. the sooner they strip you of other people, the quicker they are in control.

After The Break-Up: Opening Yourself Up Again After a Bad Break-Up

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Getting over an ex is one of the toughest things any of us ever have to do. However, once we get over the initial grieving and anger towards our ex and the relationship that could have been, we usually end up left with a great big emotional wall up. Anyone who dares to try enter will be met with a huge, impenetrable stone wall.

This described me after I was broken up with by my ex. I didn’t see the split coming, I was beyond heartbroken about it and it took me many months to come to terms with it. Once I did, that’s when I promised myself I’d never feel that way again, and up came that gigantic emotional barrier.

When I met my current partner, my plans were all very ‘me’ central – the way it needed to be after my heartbreaking split. I had plans in place to move to London, I had already relocated to a lovely, isolated house for the time being (to help escape memories from the one I shared with my ex) and I had taken up a few new hobbies. As it should have been, I was focusing on me.

I found life exciting again. I was looking forward to new experiences, opportunities and places.  

Then, as soon as I was well and truly back on my feet, this person came into my life and blew me away.

I was very cautious; I was doing fantastically well for myself and didn’t want to be heartbroken again. The fact that I had already overcome such heartache proved to me that I could get over a break-up – I just didn’t want to have to go through that again. So, up my walls went.  

I was incredibly hard work; I was emotionally unavailable and mistrusting. At the same time, however, I was mesmerized by this being. And they were with me, too; it was confusing and exciting at the same time.  

To help you avoid the same mistakes I made when meeting someone new after a break-up, I’d like to share some advice on behaviors to encourage and discourage when you meet someone who you can see yourself being with.

Tip #1 – Be Honest

Of course, I don’t mean spilling your guts about all of the tragedies that have befallen you over the course of your lifetime on date number one. But, be honest about the fact that you’ve been hurt and that your previous relationship left you emotionally damaged and drained.  

Share your truth. It will also enable your prospective partner to be a little more understanding when you’re perhaps being a little colder than you were the last time they seen you, or it may explain mistrustful emotions.  

Whilst you may feel vulnerable and open to hurt by being honest, it’s always the best way to start out a new relationship. If you go into this new venture full of bravado, falseness and an “I don’t care” attitude, you could end up ruining something that could have been good for you. Not only that, you run the risk of hurting someone who put themselves out there for you.

I did this to my current partner – my bravado and visible lack of care really did run them to the ground.

Deep down, however, I was enamored with this person and looking back I regret not being as honest with them – it would have saved months of wasted emotion and time.

Tip #2 – Be You

Even if you think you’re too weird, too loud, too quiet, too whatever – be you. It’s the most attractive thing a person can be when opposite the right person.

I’m naturally quirky with quite a dry sense of humor, and I was worried this might be off-putting for my (then) new partner. Still, I decided to remain who I was because if that side of me put them off, then it wasn’t meant to be anyhow.

It turns out that my quirks and oddities were something my new partner found attractive, and after several dates together, I picked up that he had very similar quirks and a dry sense of humor. He now admits he was afraid to show this side of him too early as he didn’t want to scare me off.

Image how much fun we missed out on in the beginning when he wasn’t being true to himself or me?

The advice here is to just be you, no matter what.

Tip #3 – Be Adventurous

With a new significant other, try something neither of you has ever done before. Create new memories and don’t be afraid to do so in case this relationship doesn’t work out. A life lived in fear isn’t a life worth living, after all – get out there and be adventurous!

Remember earlier when I said change stimulates your brain to make you happier? It’s something you ought to keep in mind, and the beginning of a new relationship is a great time to be adventurous and change things up.

I don’t necessarily mean jump out of a plane with your new beau (although you absolutely could), but trying new things together is a fantastic way to help ease you back into emotional fulfillment with another person and stimulate your mind.  

Why not try a cooking class together, go wine tasting, visit a drive-thru cinema or take a trip to a theme park?

Tip #4 – Be Open

This is uber important – you can’t shut yourself down because you’ve had bad experiences. I’ve overcome domestic and emotional abuse and still found it within myself to open up to somebody new. Whatever you have experienced or been through, I know you can open up, too.

Putting defenses up when we are faced with a prospect that may hurt us in the future is natural. It’s what your mind does to avoid the danger of repeating the emotional trauma you went through with your ex. However, to go into a new relationship when you are unwilling to be open is likely to only end one way; you’ll end up hurting the other person.

I suggest that you don’t allow the heartache of the past affect your openness with your new suitor. As hard as it may be at first, when you begin to feel your barriers rising you need to explain this to your partner and actively work at breaking them down.  

Don’t hide away from your partner – this was a huge mistake I made at the beginning of my current relationship. As I said before, I look back now and see my time as being reserved and closed down towards my partner as wasted time. Even if it never worked out between us, having that guard so far up would have served no purpose – it would have also meant I hadn’t given then relationship my all.

Tip #5 – Have Fun

The more fun you have without a significant other, the more fun you can have with the one that finally gets your heart.  

In fact, I think this is the way I found my partner – I was busy having fun. I was collecting new friends, memories, living in new places and even having a lot of success networking for my job.  

I was so busy growing, having fun and genuinely enjoying myself. My partner seen this and it intrigued him. I can’t say he’d have felt the same if I was downbeat, full of resentment and holding onto the anger of my break-up.

So, if you’re newly single, feeling the sting of a recent split or find that you’re hung up on an ex, I hope my advice can help give you some food for thought, and help you move forward.

Grieving and Healing: The Seven Stages of Grieving an Ex

Grieving and Healing – What you are feeling now, what you’re going to feel and why you need to feel it: The Seven Stages of Grieving an Ex

 

There are no two ways about it: you will feel dreadful emotional pain during the process of getting over your ex. It will feel like there’s no other pain in the world that matters. In fact, it may hurt so much you swear you can feel it physically. You may feel like there is a bottomless pit of hurt, anger, desperation, and questions and you’re just falling helplessly into this black pit of heartbreak. It’s hard to imagine when you’re tumbling through the black hole that these feelings will ever go away.

To help you better understand the process you’re going through, I’ve dedicated a whole chapter explaining what’s going to happen and what you will feel during each stage. You’ll likely recognize which Stage you’re currently at and I’ll help you prepare for what’s next.

Stage One: Desperation

 

Desperation and fixation is the beginning stage of a break-up. I recall my ‘Stage One’ vividly, as I endured it many times throughout relationships. Combined, these relationships took up well over a decade of my life – that’s a long time to suffer the helpless feeling of desperation.  

During this phase, you may be desperate to know why the break-up occurred, why you deserve to be feeling the way you do or you may be yearning to know why you simply aren’t wanted anymore. There are numerous ‘why’s’ that you will be asking, and the answers will seem so far away from your grasp right now.  

During your ‘Stage One’ process, you (just like I did), may begin to fixate on things of the past; old conversations, events and broken promises that may hide clues to the demise of your relationship. If you can access those clues, you tell yourself you can maybe find a way to rectify the wrongdoing that killed your relationship and ignite that fire that was once there.

This stage of the grieving and healing process is one of the hardest to go through. But trust me, once you begin making your way through these seven steps, you are getting stronger and stronger at each pass – no matter how weak you feel or how close to giving up you think you are.

The sheer weight of desperation during this phase fogs your mind. Your vision of your ex becomes very rose tinted. They are the only person that can break you free from your anguished prison, yet they are the one who locked you in there (although during my very last ‘Stage One’, I realized this isn’t true. It was ME who had locked myself in there and it was only ME who could free myself from my anguished prison).

 

Fundamentally, this stage can turn you into a big, answer-seeking mess. During my break-up with my first serious relationship, I suffered in silence. I didn’t tell anyone, I didn’t talk to anyone and I kept it all inside. A big part of this was that very few people knew we were together; it was a physically abusive relationship (yes, I sure know how to pick them) and friends and family were unhappy about me continuously returning to him, even after numerous trips to hospital and many days in hiding until black eyes and bruises had gone.  

 

As a result of the relationship being mostly secret, I had no one to talk to. If you currently have no one to talk to, you may be like I was; asking rhetorical questions in your head, spending hours upon hours going over old messages, living inside your head, sobbing alone. I can tell you from experience (and you may know this already), that this is absolutely unhealthy. Even if you are choosing not to talk to anybody because you don’t want to, keeping things bottled inside will only cause you to implode with the energy sucking emotion that drives your desperation.

 

Instead of keeping things tightly contained, I would highly recommend the following:

 

  • Write your thoughts and feelings down. Even if you don’t want to keep them or think it’s ‘silly’ to do so. You can always get it down on paper, read it back to yourself and then rip the paper up (or burn it in my case. I had penned a letter to my ex that I found stuffed in a drawer. I think I was roughly at Stage Six when I found it after hiding it away during Stage One. Although it reminded me of how I had felt, and brought a little pain back, it also reaffirmed to me how far I had come and how much further I can go. I even smiled after I had read it; partly due to the cringe worthy content, mostly because I was proud of me).
  • Speak aloud. Again, you may feel stupid, but you’ll feel less weighed once you have decompressed and let your desperation out. Whatever is going through your head – say it! I had my trusty Jack Russell who would listen to me as I explained my feelings, questioned why I was going through this pain and expressing my loss at what to do next. Although you may think it’s odd to talk to your dog (don’t worry – I wasn’t expecting a response from him), getting my thoughts and feelings out of my system did help me declutter my mind and feel slightly better. If you’re lacking a dog, simply talk aloud. You WILL feel better.

 

The Stage One of my second break-up was much different. This time, I didn’t keep it all in. I would cry to friends and family, ask them questions about their thoughts on what I did so wrong, what I needed to do next and ask them to debate my failings with me. I was lucky enough to have one friend who had also recently split from his boyfriend and was also taking it hard. He would come round to my house and we would spill our guts for hours. Sometimes when he left I would feel worse, but knowing what I know now, it was something I needed to do in order to overcome my (as I now know it) Stage One and break through this gut churning break-up.  

 

Stage One – and remember this – like all of the Seven Stages, can only last so long.  

The desperation and fixation on things period certainly takes its toll, however. This means your fragile mind will need to find a way to fix this, and will eventually move on to the next Stage of the grieving and healing process – denial.

 

Stage Two – Denial  

 

It’s not true. You were both in love. He’s/she’s made a huge mistake and just doesn’t realize it yet! This relationship is NOT over – it’s just a tremulous period that will have to come to an end because you belong to each other. You truly know this. Sound like you? Then welcome to Stage Two – Denial.  

 

Although I know you won’t necessarily be actually ‘welcoming’ any of these Stages, once your grieving process is over, I can tell you that you’ll look back and be proud of how far you’ve came and just how much strength you truly have. You really will surprise yourself in the best possible way – especially later on in the book, where I share with you the same methods, steps to happiness and habits of self-care that I adopted to ensure I became a much better version of myself (and found the love of my life, but more on that later).

 

For now any of the above may seem miles away, if attainable at all. In fact, it’s highly likely you don’t want to move on right now, you just want to be with your ex. I was the same – we all are. It’s happened to me, it’s happening to you and it’ll happen to people as long as the world is turning.  

 

Switching from desperation to denial gives your overactive mind a break. It ensures you stop asking questions, pleading with yourself for answers and fixating on your loss. It allows your mind to rest.  

Your mind is now counteracting the desperation of Stage One and filling it with hope in Stage Two, in the form of denial. This is a case of your mind ‘playing tricks’, however.

 

The purpose of denial is to prevent you from feeling anymore emotional pain and is your mind’s way of helping you avoid more distress.

 

So whilst your mind is trying to be helpful and give you some feelings of hope and reassurance, you need to know that this is simply a phase of the Seven Stages and isn’t a true reflection of where your relationship with your ex is.

 

Think of it as a mirage; you’re in an unbearably hot desert, surrounded by miles upon miles of scorching hot sand. All of a sudden you see a sparkling oasis in the distance, with the water shining bright sunlight reflections into your eyes. The elation you feel when you see hope of water and comfort in the distance would be enough to spur you on further in your plight.  

 

It’s the same with Stage Two of your grieving process. Denial is your mind’s very own ‘mirage’ that is there to give you a renewed sense of hope and offers a place to channel all of your emotions. So, whilst your mind thinks it’s being helpful, it’s in fact just a detour from facing reality.

I have, many times, used denial to maintain my horrendous past relationships. I would argue that we were meant to be, that the years we have spent together mean too much to throw away. Obviously none of that was true, although I didn’t know that then. Getting stuck at Stage Two was often my downfall. I’d use my denial-driven sales pitch and tell my ex exactly why we shouldn’t split up. Inevitably, we’d stay together. Lo and behold, I’d find myself repeating the same situation time after time (which is also known as Stage Four – Relapse. My arch nemesis for many, many years. More on that in a bit).

Whilst your situation may be different, as all of our break-up circumstances are, the element of denial still rears its ugly head regardless of the separation conditions.

 

Denial leads to Stage Three – bargaining. This is driven by denial so it is the natural next step in the process.  

Stage Three – Bargaining

You’re currently at the edge of a chasm and are doing anything you can to avoid going down there. You’re doing everything in your power to cling on to the known and avoid stepping into the unknown, which is (often unfortunately) the makings of human nature.  

 

This next step of avoidance ensures us heartbroken folk aren’t leaving this without a fight. From the classic promises of how much you’ll be better this time round to even offering conditions that you aren’t comfortable with, it’s all in aid of keeping this ‘special someone’ with you.

 

If you put me in front of a potential customer and told me to sell a product, I’d be a bumbling halfwit; giving nonsensical reasons for them to buy the product and generally having no real clue what I was doing. Selling is just something I’d be uncomfortable doing and don’t have the knack of.  

 

However, if you imagine me all those years ago, giving my exes my bargaining sales pitch, I was a maestro at selling. I’d spew the reasons they ought to be with me and offer them the benefits of returning to the relationship like a pro saleswoman. I’d sell myself until I was back in the comfort of that relationship (although, as I know now, it was always just a temporary comfort – I was too scared to go it alone and feel the dreadful things I’d need to in order to become truly happy).

 

Heartbreak and the agony of separation can really ensure all logic is thrown out of the window. This might be a good time to mention that it’s best not to make any big choices whilst you are going through this time in your life. I got myself into a heavy amount of debt during my last break-up. Whilst this may seem small time in comparison to those who really do extreme things when making their way through heartbreak, it’s still more stress added onto an already extremely stressful (to say the least) situation. Where possible, try and have a few moments thought and clarity (ways of how to do this are later on in the book) before embarking on anything major.

 

Back to bargaining – the Stage Three phase of your break-up. Whilst you’re here, remember to note that you are making progress, regardless of how you feel.  

 

Getting back to the psychology of the bargaining phase, much like the Stage Two period of denial, your mind is acting as a distraction from facing the reality of loss and the anxiety of separation. Bargaining has you adopting the mindset of winning him/her back, at any cost. You’ll even be willing to take the blame for everything that contributed to the demise of the relationship.

 

By bargaining, you’re trying to take control of something that has rendered you powerless. You’re taking responsibility for the end of your relationship and begin giving yourself the illusion that by doing so, you can fix it. And by any means necessary! The sheer grit and determination you gain during this phase of breaking up can astounding. By allowing yourself to perceive that the relationship is salvageable, you are putting off feeling the sheer devastation of loss.  

 

Bargaining, as I am especially all too aware, leads to Stage Four – relapsing. You may or may not relapse, as you may have no choice in the matter if your ex is sticking tightly to their guns and not getting back with you. This, although you likely don’t see or feel it now, is a positive for you in your heartbreak journey to happiness.  

Stage Four – Relapse

 

If you are like I was, it may be a case of relapsing (plural) than a singular relapse. I did it time and time again, somehow each time convincing myself that this time it will work out.

 

If relapse isn’t an option for you, you’re one of the lucky ones. I’m aware you’ll be reading this and pondering how so, when all you want is to be back in the arms of your ex. But trust me, by this stage not being made available to you, your ex is doing you a serious time-saving favor.

 

I felt, and in all probability you feel, that the only way to quash the pain is to be with your ex. This gives you a temporary (stressing the word temporary) feeling of elation, then the comfortable feeling of safety. However, you are only prolonging the emotional distress even more by giving into makeshift comfort.

 

I would feel so euphoric when I was finally back in the arms of my ex, regardless of what he had done to me. Just to feel safe and loved and like things could just be better and nicer from now on gave me a short-term feeling of happiness. I literally had withdrawals when we were apart, so when he agreed each time to give it another go (given that I abide by his newly enforced terms and conditions), I felt somewhat ‘me’ again. My panic attacks would subside and I could sleep better, believing that I was loved and cared for.

 

This was the worst thing I could do. And if this sounds like you, I have some harsh truths for you (that you will look back on in a couple of months time and #1 agree with me and #2 be glad you heard them).

You can’t carry the relationship alone, nor can you be responsible for the burden of everything that goes wrong in  the relationship. For someone else to allow you to do this more than indicates that they don’t truly care for your well-being.

 

Reconciling more than once is the norm for us broken hearted ones. I recall a friend of mine asking me, “how many times do you need to make the same mistake before you learn” when I returned to my cheating ex. Such a simple question that she probably thought nothing more of after asking me it. However, it got to me and I did think about the answers to that question. So, if you are in the same routine of relapsing like I was, have a think about that question and ponder your answers to it. Just for a few moments.

 

How many times do you need to make the same mistake before you learn?

 

If you are on the other end of the relapsing spectrum, and are being coaxed back to your relationship by your ex (even though you know it’s only going to crash and burn), the above question still applies.  

 

Before I hit Stage Five – the resentment phase – I relapsed more times than I care to remember. During my decade (and then some) of two bad relationships, I hit double figures with my relapses. Perhaps I just needed to know the relationship was a dud for sure (rolling my eyes as I write this). I am the type who will work at something to ensure the best outcome, however I was damaging my health and happiness in the long run with my constant relapses.  

 

More than this, I was feeding my attachment issues by not looking into the true reasons I couldn’t be apart from my then-lovers. It was only when I did this, that I realized that if I didn’t change, then neither would my situation.  

It was during a relapse that we argued about something irrelevant, then he up and left me laying on the floor (a sobbing heap, if you recall). It was those days after that I knew that I had to stop repeating this same demeaning behavior. I had to take control of myself and my life. Those awful days I laid in bed, didn’t eat and broke out in cold sweats constantly. But – I was adamant that I was going to get through this, somehow, someway. And it all began with taking control.

 

Your reading of this book suggests you are at that point too, which can often be a very difficult place to get to. Change isn’t something us humans are particularly accommodating to, especially when it comes to matters of the heart.  

 

Once we pass through the Stage Four process of relapsing, we will enter the new phase of emotions. Resentment is an ugly word that is used to describe even uglier feelings, and that is what you will feel next.

Stage Five – Resentment

 

Whilst the feelings are ugly, it’s a good thing to feel resentment during this time. It means you’re in the midst of taking back control and taking that grey cloud over your head and turning it into thunder. Again, that might sound bad – but your anger and resentment are going to empower you.

 

Up until now, you could only connect with feelings of despair, desperation and loss. You have been thrust into the unknown, which naturally evokes feelings of fear and anxiety. Up until this point you have felt immobilized with your emotions, knowing only dread and anxiety. Despair and desperation were winning the war of emotions, trumping all others with ease.  

 

As you progress through the seven stages, as I mentioned earlier, it’s important to remember that they will all pass in time. You may think I’m spinning you a cliché and that next I’ll be telling you how a ‘smooth sea never made a skilled sailor’ (very true – I do like that expression) among other pick-me-up phrases. I’m sure you’ve been given enough sympathetic looks accompanying those types of phrases lately, but some of them are very true and insightful. 

 

Returning to resentment, this can take shape in a few ways. It all depends on your own personality, temperament, how screwed over you feel or pretty much just your own set of separation circumstances. You may feel anger at the situation, your ex, yourself, your family. Misdirected or not, this resentment is the fuel you will use to power yourself through this tormented time. Its ironic that a misdirection of feelings can somehow be the guide pointing you in the right direction, allowing you to feel more awakened to the situation.  

 

Like the majority of us broken hearted, you’re probably aiming a lot of that anger and resentment at yourself. Defeatist and counteractive could be what you are thinking, however I disagree – you are no longer the lifeless pit of emotions you were a few stages back. You are now hurtling through the grieving process and have came so far. By this point in your progress through the Stages, you have hosted enough hurt, anger and discomfort inside of you that you are able to use that to shift your way of thinking. Perspectives change and proactivity is something within reach at this point now.

Of course, you’re only human; even during my Stage Five, I had bad days. I still had days where it all got a bit much, and I would excuse myself from social situations to go home and lay down alone and in silence. However, these days were getting fewer and fewer, and more to the point, I was actively putting myself in social situations now. I recall a meal out with friends one afternoon and I just sat quiet, barely ate, offered nothing but my physical presence. I was having a bad day. But even just getting ready, heading out and socializing was something I couldn’t even think of a few Stages ago.  

 

And more encouragingly, I began laughing and smiling again. I was finding jokes funny, I was enjoying television and began reading again. Resentment and anger were still very much there, but their presence became less and less. Amongst the anger and frustration, I was becoming human again.

 

Time was passing and I would go fifteen minutes without a thought for my ex. Then half an hour, then an hour, then a whole three hours without a thought for my ex! Days passed and I began proactively seeking alternative things to keep myself occupied. Whether it was binge watching whole seasons of sitcoms, going to meet friends and drink lots of wine and find my sense of humor again or begin making homemade bracelets – I was keeping busy and find new parts of me at the same time.  

 

Understandably, throughout this I would have moments of wishing I was partaking in these activities with my ex, or that I was able to travel back in time to when we were together and happy. Sometimes it would hit me like a ton of bricks. However, fueled by my newfound passionate feelings of resentment, I was ready to make more changes.

 

By this point, it’s ready to move on to Stage Six – the beginnings of acceptance.

Stage Six – The Beginnings of Acceptance

 

By this point, you are still grieving. You’re very much here because you have to be and not because you want to be. And that’s okay. Because by this point, you have been through enough and generated enough emotions to conclude the following:

 

It’s no good for you to keep trying any longer.

And it’s such a wonderful feeling to know that you have developed enough thought for yourself and enough awareness of your situation that you can now think this way.

 

Boundaries are being stuck to because it’s for your own self-care. The want for contact will be nowhere near as bad as it was a few Stages ago; it will be fleeting by this point. Still, controlling the impulse for contact must be avoided.

 

I recall my ex emailing me whilst I begun my foray into Stage Six. It was for something silly, like some paperwork that he so desperately needed, months after we had last spoken. I knew he didn’t need this paperwork, in fact it was something that was easily printed off of the internet and he knew I knew this.

 

He wanted contact. After ending it with me, treating me with such disdain during our break-up and leaving me in pieces, he now decided he wanted contact. Just as I was gaining control of my life again.

I didn’t reply. I didn’t reply to the next two emails asking if I had gotten the first, then asking how I was doing. I didn’t accept the attempt at messages on social media. Only when he emailed again, this time when I was in a new relationship, did I reply to firmly but politely. I told him yes, I did get the emails, but I wish to have no correspondence.

 

The point of me telling you this, is that I had now mustered enough willpower not to message or be sucked into replying. That’s not to say I didn’t at times draft up a response to say how much he’d hurt me; the main takeaway is the fact that I didn’t reply. And I couldn’t have been prouder of me. I was accepting that it was no good for me to keep trying any longer.

 

You will have many defining moments during this Stage. You will have moments where you surprise yourself and abstain from doing the damaging things you were doing only just a few Stages ago. That could be stopping yourself sending texts or posting Facebook statuses that you hope will evoke jealousy in your ex. It could be talking yourself out of staying in and hiding away, it could be reminding yourself of the things that went wrong in your relationship.  

 

With your mind now in acceptance mode, you will feel your cocoon slowly loosening around your new self, readying yourself to break free of this heartbreak prison.

 

Stage Seven is awaiting you, and it’s the most wonderful sense of achievement.

 

Stage Seven – Renewed Hope

 

When your relationship died, so did hope.

Hope was replaced with panic, dread and desperation. The jarring feeling of initial acceptance allows your reserves of hope to rise up to the surface again. Even when you believe your last glimmer of hope has gone, be comforted by the fact that hope is always within you and know that it’s part of why us humans are so resilient. Don’t doubt your own resilience.

 

Renewed hope means you can now see a future for yourself without your ex in it. You can envision yourself in a week, month, two months time and know you’re going to be okay. In fact, more than okay – you know you’ll be happy, free and excited at the prospects you are going to create for yourself.  

 

My defining Stage Seven moment occurred a few days after I seen my ex whilst out shopping. He was with someone else, and I was with a friend of mine. My heart lurched into my throat and I tried my best to avoid him. I was semi successful, but I knew he saw me and continued to look when he thought I couldn’t see. Stages earlier, this would have broken me. I would have felt physically sick.

But now, I really just wanted to avoid him and get on with some retail therapy. And once he was out of my sight, I breathed a sigh of relief and continued with my day. I worried that this would have a two steps back effect on me. I had a date the next evening and was worried it would cause some sort of delayed adverse reaction during our date.  

 

It didn’t. My date and I got on very well. We drank, we laughed, we mocked each others unfamiliar accents and actually got deep in emotional conversation. Not something that usually occurs on a first date, but we had similar backgrounds, with our difficult childhoods and just-as-tough relationships.  

After a fleeting try at romance, we became friends. He went on to meet a lovely girl shortly after and (as far as I’m aware) is very happy.

 

But it was after this date, and the lack of anything meaningful developing from it, that I knew I was full of renewed hope and a real lust for life without my ex was emerging.

It was amazing. And when this feeling arrives at your feet, I hope you remember your time reading this article and recall how elated I told you you’d feel.  

Domestic Abuse: Some Advice From A Victim of Domestic Violence

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Those few seconds between waking up and reality hitting you are the most calm, carefree moments life can offer. However, they never last long enough, and reality always hits.

My reality, waking up this particular morning, was barely being able to move my body. My legs were in unthinkable pain, covered in purple and red bruises, from my feet up to my thighs.

The iron fire poker my boyfriend had used to attack me the night before had left lightsaber-like patterns all over my body. All purple and angry, bruises surrounded my split, bloodied skin that stung to the touch.  

I was on the floor as he was striking me with the poker, and I raised my legs up to protect myself, leaving me with crisscross patterns all over.

My kneecaps and ankles stung and throbbed as the sheets of my bed brushed against them.

Looking down at my torso, my arms had bite marks and bruises on them. The fire poker had also been used to strike my top half, and the gargantuan bruises on my forearms showed that they took the brunt of it as I was trying to protect myself.

The worst pain of all was reserved for my jaw and my head. I couldn’t open my mouth, and the tin-like, metallic taste of blood swished around my mouth every time I moved my tongue. When I separated my mouth and tried to bite down, I realised that my jaw wasn’t aligned – my teeth didn’t fit together like they should. My jaw was jutting out to the right, and panic washed over me as I traced my finger down my new jawline. I could only imagine what my face looked like.

My head was full of lumps and bumps, all of which caused immense pain. I felt like I looked like a cartoon character.

I very slowly pulled myself up, trying to avoid the covers touching my legs too much. I’d experienced domestic violence many, many times before, and I always dreaded the look in the mirror the next day. Many times I’d been shocked at the monster glaring back at me.

Sometimes the monster would have one swollen, purple eye shut. The other would be bloodshot and have blurred vision. Sometimes her lips would be crimson red from all of the blood that had seeped from her nose or mouth. Other times, the monster staring back would have less hair than she did the day before.

Looking down at your feet to see clumps of your hair matted with your own blood is a feeling I know far too well. The dried, dark red blood would entwine itself with my blonde hair, and gazing down at it would always give me a humiliating churn in my stomach.

When my injuries were obvious, I would have to make up a lie to cover up what had actually happened. I couldn’t tell friends or family, or anyone, about the abuse. Initially it was out of embarrassment, and I didn’t want to be seen as a ‘victim’. When people started to uncover what was actually going on, they implored me to leave him; they offered me places to live, safe havens and opportunities to have a fresh start.

After declining all offers of help, I soon found friends disappeared and my family would only scold me if they found out the abuse was still happening. It’s very easy for people to say ‘why don’t you just leave him’, or ‘all you need to do is pack a bag, then it’s over’. I can’t be angry at those people, as their intentions were good, but you and I know that being in a abusive relationship is much more complex than that. If it were that simple, there would be a hell of a lot less domestic violence in the world.

I knew people didn’t really believe my cover-ups. I could see it in their eyes when they glared at my obvious injuries. Sometimes they would be looks of pity. Other times they’d offer looks of judgment, or even sometimes I would feel like they looked at me like I deserved it.

From walking into my wardrobe door, to a book falling off a shelf onto my eye, my excuses were lackluster at best. At the time, I thought they were believable, often trying to convince myself that it was in fact the truth — I had smacked my face off the wardrobe door, or my lip did bust open when I had an accident putting up shelves.

Of course, I wasn’t even fooling myself. Looking back, I can see things from a much different, clearer perspective. Now I’m stronger and a far cry from the battered down young woman I was.

*******

It  began from my very early childhood, witnessing my mother covering up her blackened eyes and bust lips. It was a sad irony that I would go on to cover up my own black eyes and bust lips.

I was engulfed in a world of violence from as far back as I could remember, and today I’ve given my past a lot of thought. I’ve come do far and healed so much, but I watched something on television that really triggered some memories for me and I felt compelled to write a post about domestic violence. I know there are millions of women out there who are dealing with effects of an abusive relationship – God knows you and I wish we didn’t have such a thorough understanding of the trauma of domestic violence.

However, I wanted to write something –  to go through a few things with you, to fully equip you with an enhanced knowledge of what domestic violence entails (it might not be as simple as one spouse hitting the other – I’ll explain this in greater detail shortly). I also want to debunk some myths associated with domestic abuse, as well as talk about the stereotypical ‘victim of domestic violence’.

It may seem easy enough to describe what domestic violence is. In a nutshell, most people would summarise that it’s one spouse using violent behavior towards the other.

We both know that this is a very basic and superficial way to describe domestic abuse.

Domestic violence is a much more complex and unforgiving beast than a husband giving his wife a backhand because his tea was cold, although this seems to be the general consensus around what people assume domestic violence is.

I’m going to briefly explain the lesser talked about factors of domestic abuse, aside from the widely assumed stereotypical view of the ‘husband hitting his wife’ scenario.

First of all, there is the psychological abuse. This often starts small, with the abuser chipping away with their subtle psychological games. At first, it can be difficult to pinpoint. The abuser often tests the waters with small doses of psychological abuse. Effectively, they’re seeing how much they can get away with.

Once they’ve established that they can manipulate you or make you believe what they’re saying is the truth, then the subtle signs turn into something much bigger and frightening.

As well as yelling, name calling, swearing and threatening, the abuser can also find ways to abuse you psychologically without being so aggressive. They can offer hurtful and humiliating abuse in the form of mocking you, ignoring you or isolating you. Often, they’ll exclude you from events or places knowing just how much it’ll cripple your self-worth.

The often frustrating thing about some of the psychological abuse outlined above is that a lot of it can be done in plain sight. More often than not, my ex partner would mock me in front of other people, making sure his audience laughed at his humiliating imitation of me. He would also make jokes about my input in a conversation, making me feel stupid and worthless whenever I tried to join in a conversation. Ultimately, I ended up just keeping my mouth shut to avoid being berated or mocked.

This element of abuse can turn the most outgoing person into a wallflower. I went from a bright and thoughtful (albeit shy and insular) young woman to a shell of a human being who didn’t have much of an opinion on anything at all. I believed I was stupid and that I didn’t have anything worthwhile to offer.

This is one element of domestic violence that’s rarely discussed or brought up as part of the topic, but it’s something that I feel strongly about. I’ll offer my thoughts and advice on that later in the book.

Another factor of domestic violence is financial abuse.

This can mean the abuser is the breadwinner and withholds money from their victim, in order to keep a tight grip on their control. It can also work the other way around, whereby the victim is the breadwinner, but has to have their wages paid into the abusers bank account, or give them the majority of their paycheck.

The end goal in either situation is the same for the abuser: to seize control and restrict the victims freedom.

Financial abuse can also reflect the abuser putting debt into the victims name or using their credit cards or bank cards without their consent. This can often ensure that the victim doesn’t have enough money left over for essentials such as food, bills or clothing.

My ex partner would often drink himself to oblivion, and my bank card was often the way he bankrolled this, although often not to my knowledge; until I tried to buy milk with a debit card that had no money on it, of course. One time I was left with minus figures in my account, and couldn’t afford to get to work. I had to walk to and from work for a fortnight until I got paid, during the Christmas period.

Here in this part of the U.K, the snow is pretty tough during winter, so I became pretty ill after walking a three and a half hour round trip in freezing weather.

What made it worse is that I couldn’t afford a winter coat, or any kind of sturdy shoe or boot that would keep the freezing, sludgy snow from making its way into my flimsy tennis shoes. Where I worked had a free tea and coffee machine that dispensed hot chocolate, and I was so thankful for that machine when I got into work. I would set off a little early heading into work so I could sit and wrap my freezing hands around the steaming plastic hot chocolate cup and dry my feet and hair before work began.

I didn’t have anyone to ask for help at this point in the relationship, so times could be very tough when my abusive ex would literally leave me with nothing. He would explain that it was ‘my fault’ he took the card and felt it necessary to buy him and his friends rounds of drinks. It was ‘my fault’ for stressing him out and ‘making him’ behave that way. Does that kind of blameful manipulation sound familiar to you?

Here are some statistics on financial abuse in relationships, directly from a survey made by UK women’s charity Women’s Aid.

Out of 126 survivors surveyed, the charity discovered:

 

  • 71% went without essentials as they didn’t have enough money.

    · 61% were in debt because of financial abuse, as well as 37% having a bad credit rating as a result.

    · 52% of those living with their abuser said they had no money so could not leave.

 

There’s also the harassment and stalking side of domestic violence. Most people don’t understand that you can absolutely be harrassed and stalked by someone you’re in a relationship with.

I endured stalking both during and after this relationship ended. Whilst I was in this abusive relationship, my partner would follow me to work to ensure I was actually going to work. When I worked overtime, he would wait outside of my workplace to see me coming out to ensure I had actually been working overtime, not socialising or seeing other people as he suspected.

One time when I was doing some extra hours at work, he was constantly messaging me to ‘get home’ and threatening to me ‘leave work immediately’ as he had it in his head that I was seeing a coworker. As I had already committed to working overtime, I couldn’t just up and leave, so I made the gut churning decision to turn my phone off. I knew I’d have to deal with the consequences later.

Before I knew it, he had barged himself into my workplace, embarrassing me in front of my coworkers. He was stinking of alcohol, and he swung into my office to tell me to get home. I threw my coat on and rushed out of the door, humiliation washing over me as I imagined all of the things my colleagues would be saying about me and my home life. I knew they pitied my and it made me feel worse.

Stalking can also mean damaging property, sending unwanted gifts or harassing through text,  Facebook or other social media.

Another complex component to domestic abuse is the use of coercive control. This is the use of  intimidation, degradation, isolation and the use (or the threat of) physical or sexual violence.

The last point there, sexual violence, is also another aspect of domestic abuse that isn’t often viewed or looked into when considering what domestic abuse actually is. Again, because someone is in a relationship with their abuser, there is a common misconception that sexual abuse can’t take place. It can often be widely assumed that being in a relationship means you automatically consent to sex. This is not the case, that ‘black and white’ view of sex is something that is slowly but surely getting turned on its head, although there is still a long way to go.

I also want to quickly touch on the perceptions people have about domestic violence, as well as some common myths about abuse.

 

Womens Aid did another survey on 4,500 participants and asked them various questions around domestic abuse. Both an equal number of men and women answered, and in response to the question ‘is it acceptable to to hit your partner for nagging or moaning’, 9% of men and 8% of women thought that this was okay.

Those figures increase dramatically when the question was changed to ‘is it acceptable to hit your partner if you’ve discovered they’ve cheated or had an affair’, with 24% of men saying that this is an okay scenario in which to hit your spouse, followed by 22% of women agreeing.

I was shocked at discovering this when I first read those statistics. How do they make you feel? Do you think those numbers reflect society’s view on domestic abuse? Has your experience with domestic abuse shown you how outsiders view violence in a relationship?

That last question I asked you leads into my say in this blog – the myths about domestic abuse. There are several myths associated with the dynamic of an abusive relationship, as well as some myths directly about the victims themselves, too. I wasn’t a ‘stereotypical’ victim of domestic violence, nor do I believe there is one, stereotypical mold.

Domestic abuse can happen in the wealthiest of families, to the most confident and outgoing people. It can affect people in seemingly ‘perfect’ relationships, and the abusers are just as likely to be policemen and doctors as they are drunken louts.

Here are some myths about domestic violence:

 

  • It only happens in poor locations, involving poor families.

 

To answer this myth in one sentence, I would have to retort: anyone can be abused, anyone can be the abuser. Wealth doesn’t protect someone from being a victim of domestic abuse, nor does the size of the house stop someone from becoming the abuser.

 

  • If the abuse is that bad, just leave!

 

This is a very basic answer to a very complex situation, and it also offers very little understanding to the plight victims of domestic abuse go through.

It can be extremely difficult to leave a violent and abusive partner.

The fear of what their partner will do if they leave is a huge sticking point, particularly if there are threats of violence to the victim or their loved ones. If there are children involved, it can be incredibly tricky – often the victim has the safety of their children in mind, and the abuser may threaten to harm the children should the victim try and leave.

There are also practical considerations to be mindful of. The victim might not have access to money, or have anywhere to go. They may not know where to turn for help. There’s also situations where English is not the victims first language. If they are emotionally and financially dependent on their partner, then there is a huge element of isolation in place that makes it so hard for the victim to escape.

An abused persons self-esteem is repeatedly worn down. They carry guilt, shame and embarrassment with them, and often see no way out.

Some victims, like myself, hope that their partner will change. There were good times, and the start of the relationship sparked a hope in me that I would be loved and cared for – it was this thought that fueled me during the tough times, as well as the longing for my partner to go back to the person they were when we met.

  • Abusers and abusees grow up in violent households.

I grew up in a violent and abusive household. My abusive ex partner also grew up in one. Did this mean we were destined to be abused and abuser? No. Did it offer a risk factor that meant we had a higher chance of becoming those things? Yes. But many, many more people who have endured abusive childhoods do not grow up to become anything less than compassionate, understanding human beings who break free of the abusive cycle.

Abusers can come from any background, as can victims. Those who blame violence on their childhood or life growing up are essentially avoiding taking any responsibility for their actions. Violence is a choice an abuser makes; only they are responsible for their violence, nobody else is.

  • A person who abuses must have a mental illness, so it’s not really their fault.

Research published by Refuge.org has found that the vast majority of abusers are not mentally ill. They stated that the proportion of abusers with mental health issues is no higher than in society as a whole.

If you went by the assumption that abusive partners were mentally ill, why would they then only abuse their partner – not colleagues who annoy them or stress them out, or a stranger who accidentally pushes into him whilst shopping?

As someone who is an advocate for talking about mental health and supports the freedom to talk about it openly and without judgement – as well as someone who has suffered from depression and anxiety – I’m in no way downplaying mental health issues and the ramifications the can have. My retaliation to this myth is that, oftentimes, this is another way of making excuses for the abuser’s behavior.

  • They just lost control; they were stressed out.

Sometimes people justify domestic abuse by saying the abuser ‘lost their temper’, or describe them as being ‘out of control’.

The truth is that they are very much in control.

To pull this theory apart, abusers are often selective about when they hit their partner, usually in private, when guests go home or when the children go to bed. They also often choose not to mark the victims face or body parts that will be overly visible. As I mentioned before, they never ‘lose their temper’ with other people.

This would suggest that they are absolutely aware of what they are doing and are very much ‘in control’.


Now I hope I’ve given you a little more context around domestic abuse. Simply just hearing some facts and having a deeper discussion about the topic can help you see things about the abuse that you didn’t before. I wanted to lay a solid foundation for those of you who are enduring an abusive relationship to be able to view it for what it really is. 

I know it can often take multiple attempts to leave a violent partner, and mustering up the courage to eave in the first place is undeniably difficult. But the main thing I want you to understand from this post is that you are not to blame for the violence. You can’t control the violence. And, most importantly, you don’t deserve the violence.

 

The Emotional Abuse Test

I recall doing an emotional abuse test online years ago when I was first accepting the idea that I was in an abusive relationship. With almost every question answered I was mouthing “ah-ha” to each one – it was dawning on me that I was being abused.

I’ve compiled a little questionnaire to help you quash any doubt if you think you’re being emotionally abused or not.

  1. Are your accomplishments ever ridiculed? YES/NO
  2. Can you think of occasions of being put down by your partner? YES/NO
  3. Do you often feel dismissed? YES/NO
  4. Do you often feel like you’re at risk of being humiliated by your partner? YES/NO
  5. Does your partner ‘tease’ you with upsetting remarks? YES/NO
  6. Are you often made to feel unworthy? YES/NO
  7. Do you require permission to do certain things? YES/NO
  8. Does your partner make you feel intimidated? YES/NO
  9. Do you find that you are to blame for your partner’s unhappiness? YES/NO
  10. Do you walk on eggshells, afraid of your partner’s reaction? YES/NO
  11. Does your partner make you feel shame or fear? YES/NO
  12. If you upset your partner, are you punished, i.e. ignored? YES/NO
  13. If you have a concern, are you afraid to confront your partner? YES/NO
  14. Are you frequently made to feel insecure and inferior? YES/NO

If you answered ‘yes’ to even one of the above, you are the victim of an emotional abuser.

Hopefully this shows you how broad the term is for such an array of scenarios, and how you don’t need to be shoved around physically or yelled at daily to be a victim of abuse. Just having ensured ONE of the above means that you’ve been subjected to emotional abuse, even if you didn’t recognise this at the time.

The more you answered ‘yes’, the further away you are from a healthy relationship. Harsh words, I know; but sugar-coating the issue won’t make it better or make it disappear. 

Knowing is the first step towards change and healing.

What Causes Emotional Abuse?

When you’re on the receiving end of anger or abuse, it can leave you in an utter state of confusion. The confusion alone is a hard-enough emotion to deal with, let alone the upset and distress caused by the hurtful actions and words directed towards you.

Therefore, it’s important to understand that you aren’t to blame for the treatment you’re receiving.

No matter if you’re told you’re the root of their emotional outbursts or the cause of their bad moods, you need to know that you aren’t to blame.

Nobody is ‘perfect’ in a relationship, so it’s natural to have moments where we can be a little harder to handle; perhaps the stresses of life can get in the way of us acting like our partner would ideally want. Lord knows I could sometimes be hard work if my job was pressuring me or if I was feeling a little low. This is no reason for anybody to have the right to emotionally abuse the other person; so, don’t allow your partner to tip the blame of their actions onto you.

To fully believe that you aren’t to blame for the treatment you’re receiving, it helps to gain a better insight as to why your abuser behaves the way they do. Once you have established where their abuse comes from, you can then understand how you aren’t culpable for their behaviors.

The truth is that the question “why do people abuse” has several answers. It totally depends on the abuser’s circumstances – something that’s out of your control entirely.

After reading the below root causes of emotional abusive behavior developing, I hope it’ll comfort you and help you understand that you’re not to blame for anybody else’s actions.

Trauma

It’s a common theme among abusers to have had complex childhoods. Although it’s not a prerequisite to have suffered a difficult upbringing, it’s something that appears to be a common pattern with abusers.

The trauma suffered by the abuser could be a number of things throughout their childhood. They could have witnessed abuse, have been victim to abuse themselves or grown up in an environment filled with conflict.

You may or may not know about this trauma, or they have perhaps not revealed the full extent of their history to you.

Unaddressed and unresolved trauma can rear its head in adulthood in many forms, one of them making the victim abusive. It’s a sad and all too common irony that victims often end up becoming the abuser.

Traumatic histories can mean that abusive behavior is normal to an abuser and it’s the way they cope with the emotions of relationships.

This was the case for my ex-partners who were emotionally abusive to me. Both of them had particularly difficult and emotionally damaging upbringings, and they had a high volume of unresolved trauma that was still in the forefront of their minds as adults.

I would often excuse their abusive comments and behaviors and blame it on their troubled upbringings; I would try to be understanding that they hadn’t been shown the right kind of affection and tell myself that their abuse was attempts to push me away and down to the fact that they were afraid of getting hurt.

It was the same for my parents; my father had grown up in a very violent and abusive household. He held a lot of anger about this, and he was traumatised about several aspects of his childhood. He was open about this for the most part, and my mother used his damaged upbringing as an excuse for his behavior.

In reality, she was doing the exact same thing I would end up doing years later: making excuses.

Trying to overlook or defend emotionally abusive behavior only enables the abuser to carry on, and do so with a sense of entitlement, which is also a reason in itself that some people abuse and is explained further on in this list.

I would like to note that being exposed to abusive situations does not mean a person will then go on to be abusive, but those that have been through a traumatic childhood are statistically higher to go on to abuse.

Difficulty Accepting Injury

When I refer to injury, I don’t mean the physical kind. An emotional abuser finds it incredibly difficult when dealing with their feelings being hurt. In fact, they don’t deal with it at all – it transpires as abuse and manipulation.

Tolerating emotional injury, i.e. managing the feelings of being embarrassed or disappointed is an important life skill, especially in a relationship.

Again, transcending from childhood, an abuser learns this dysfunctional way of dealing with emotions from an early age.

An example of this could be picked up from a young age, with the young abuser being unable to handle small embarrassments like a trip in the playground. Something so small would be devastating to them, and this heightened reaction to emotions would continue into adolescence.

By this point, it would be stormy tantrums that are displayed at embarrassing or disappointing scenarios. Things such as not being picked for a sports team would ignite a fire that would cause the young abuser to overreact.

Often in these types of cases, the abuser is protected, either by family or teachers. They would aim to soothe this behavior and placate the youngster. They would be encouraging towards them, and would only be doing so with the best intentions.

However, this has a negative impact on the child / teenager, as it protects them from confronting emotions and teaches them that they don’t need to confront them. In a scenario like the one above, the youngster wouldn’t be given the opportunity to learn how to handle emotions like disappointment, shame or upset in a way that is acceptable. The parents / teachers would be reinforcing to the child that they should be protected from emotional discomfort. This entitlement continues into adulthood.

Growing up, learning to tolerate being hurt is important. To grow into a well-rounded and emotionally open person, we all need to be exposed to emotional discomfort and learn healthy ways to deal with the emotions that arise from it. It can often be the case that an abuser hasn’t fully been exposed to this opportunity, which leads to the next point:

Entitlement

The abuser, beginning from an early age or during adolescence, believes they have a right not to be hurt, upset or embarrassed.

It’s when this ‘right’ has been violated that their sense of entitlement is exchanged for more sinister emotions. If you have unwittingly embarrassed them or been as bold to confront their unreasonable behavior, in the eyes of the abuser you will have completely disregarded their right.

Because of this, they will reciprocate by punishing you. This can be seen in many forms; they can ignore you, they can become aggressive or defensive or they can behave in ways they know will upset you.

As an example, I’ll give you a scenario with fictional couple John and Jane. John returns home from work and argues with Jane. When Jane confronts him about his behavior and brands John’s actions hurtful and unpleasant. He knows she’s right – he can be hurtful. However, because he feels entitled to have his feelings protected and not be confronted about them, he will punish Jane by becoming emotionally abusive towards her.

 

Lacking in Accountability

This one ties in with the above point. In a world that deems it mostly acceptable to hurt others when they have hurt us, an emotional abuser can take this to the next level.

If an abuser is hurt (or injured, as mentioned above) by their spouse, even over something seemingly small, they feel like it’s okay to retaliate and hurt them.

Because the world often accepts the notion ‘an eye for an eye’, the abuser feels no accountability for their actions or words.

During my abusive relationships, I would often wonder how someone could treat me like this and not feel bad about it – even if they apologized, I would sense how disingenuous it was. Tying this point in with the above ones, my abusers would feel entitled to make me feel belittled or bad about myself if I somehow injured their feelings. Most of the time, I wouldn’t realize I was hurting their feelings.

My first ex-partner was highly sensitive to normal, day-to-day activities. If I let slip I went for lunch with co-workers, he’d be hurt. If I had already been to a place with somebody else before him, he’d be hurt and refuse to go. If I spent too long at my mother’s house, he’d be hurt. Upon  my return home, I would be branded degrading names, followed around the house being mentally tormented and goaded into crying.

The list goes on, and even though I’d never done anything to purposefully hurt him, I would still feel the wrath of his emotional abuse when I inadvertently made him feel injured.

It was the same with my second partner, although there was a variation in what made each of my exes treat me so badly. One thing remained the same, however; they both lacked any kind of accountability for their treatment of me.

Lacking in Empathy

As a characteristic that humans have only possessed for a short period of time in our history, empathy is in low supply with emotional abusers.

If you ask a handful of people what empathy means, you’ll get a general set of answers that all amount to something like “empathy is being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes”.

This is a simple enough explanation to summarize what empathy is, and emotional abusers are capable of showing empathy. It’s the actual feeling of empathy for their victim that is lacking.

Empathy requires generosity of kindness and the ability to give the benefit of the doubt, two things emotionally abusive partners don’t tend to offer up when they are constantly feeling injured or attacked.

I hope the above points can help you gain a better understanding as to why this emotional abuse could be happening, and more importantly, I hope any blame you have been made to feel about the abuse has been lifted. One of the most important things to know at this stage is that it is not your fault.

I understand if you feel pity or compassion to your abuser – you love them, so it’s natural. However, you can’t let your feelings of care overshadow your own mental well-being.

You aren’t to blame for any of the scenarios or reasons why your spouse deems it acceptable to emotionally abuse you, nor are you acceptable for your other half not seeking the relevant help in order to overcome the problem.

Under no circumstances does any blame, responsibility or fault lay with you. I hope this post goes some way into helping you realise that.