I.- LEARN TO THINK OF ABUSE AS CONTROL
In a basic way, we can say that emotional abuse has to do with control. Someone is emotionally abusive when they try to exert control over someone else, in a way that produces pain (physical or emotional). Of course, it is easier to see first the pain and humiliation aspects of being controlled by another as a grown up (not a child any more), but the fact is that the two aspects go together. We can see the emotional abuse causing suffering, (from the abused person’s experience) but in the end, it is one part of the couple who wants to be able to control behaviors, thoughts and emotions of the other person, in any way possible.
When dishing out emotional abuse, the abuser will take whatever they know is a weak spot for the other person, and use it against them. For example, your abuser might:
- Remember a confession from you, done in an environment of trust, and twist it
- Bring up embarrassing childhood (or current) insecurities
- Publicly humiliate you about eating habits, ways of speaking, your attire, etc
- Insult your intelligence
- Critique your sexual performance
- Guilt-trip you about your parenting skills
Insults, criticism and threats are connected with this weak spot, in this way your abuser devalues you as a person and tries to take away your self-esteem. Conveniently for the abuser, you may also be made to lose trust in others, which keeps you close at your abuser’s side and away from family or friends. So, you are disconnected from people who could reinforce your self-esteem.
In each instance, because your partner adopts a “I’m better than you, so I can critique you” attitude, it creates an environment where you are subservient to their “superiority.” Because, they say they know better or their decisions are better, or say whatever puts you in the inferior position, you have to begin training yourself on the basic idea:
They are no better because they say so, or because someone has decided they have to have control of everything in the marriage, primarily you and your own life and decisions: THEY ARE ONLY SAYING SO!
Now, repeat with me:
“HE SAYS THAT HE KNOWS BEST, AND MY JOB EACH TIME IS TO DECIDE IF I BELIEVE HIM OR NOT”
What he is doing, is framing his control as part and parcel of the marriage deal…If, in his frame, the man has always the power and authority to control the female, he is only doing what is “natural” and “normal.”
In the end, it is only his belief; there are no rules written in heaven that say that you must submit against your good sense. Our job here is to challenge this frame, first by not accepting it as a God-given reality…not all husbands control their wives, right?
Challenging his frame: What you do, is ask yourself:
- Why is it that he needs to control me by abusive means?
- If I did not provoke him, where is this behavior coming from?
- What makes him so insecure he needs to resort to abuse?
KEEP asking yourself those questions, up until you find the deep answers. It is not that abuse is not wrong; it always is…
Now, you are beginning to use your brain to understand that his “God-given right to control his wife,” could be described as several things:
I’m the only target for his anger which will not retaliate against him (because I have less strength, or more tolerance, etc)
He does it when things go bad in his office and he feels behind, underestimated or humiliated by his colleagues;
Sometimes, seeing me able to think and come up with good ideas scares him, because it makes him feel inferior…(instead of being happy for me, he is competing with me and doesn’t want to acknowledge my intelligence)
He has been treated as insignificant by his family for any reason (gender, age, some disability, etc) and wants now to be the king of this marriage by subduing me…in short, he is compensating HIS own feelings of inferiority by making me feel inferior.
He can’t compete against his male buddies, and then compensates by putting me down, as they put him down before….and so on and so forth
As you can see, as soon as you stop looking at your pain, and watch him and his motivations, you can see that controlling you is a desperate maneuver to feel powerful and in control over something…(of course, the wrong choice!)
What do you do with this knowledge?
FIRST: you stop believing that he has a God-given right to control you. And see his abuse as the most miserable behavior he can do to recover a bit of his self-respect. It never can be real love.
SECOND: the human motivations behind his control are not signals of loving care and attention to your needs, but generated by his fear and insecurity
THIRD: you have ways of managing his abuse, by just knowing that he is not powerful, but a pitiful person (or child) hiding his insecurities behind a projected powerful and menacing persona he creates only to scare you into submission.
3.- POINTS TO REMEMBER
1.- As soon as you realize his motivations, you get empowered: he is not your master, but a weak person oblivious to the fact that his insecurity is damaging both of you.
2.- Each time you see him doing something abusive, ask yourself:’
‘What is the right, supportive and caring behavior I need/want to have or receive here?”
By telling yourself, you remember what is normal, supportive and nurturing in a relationship, and give yourself permission to hope that you will find it in the near future.
If you want a reminder here, let me share with you the basics of a real, good and healthy marriage:
- He consistently values and appreciates you;
- Listens and shows interest in you and your projects;
- Is compassionate and helpful when you need him to be there for you;
- Cares about how you feel, even when you disagree with him;
- Shows affection without always expecting sex in return;
- Regulates his own baggage: (guilt, anxiety, resentment, anger, depression) without blaming them on you.
- Shares everything in the partnership: money, time, household chores, etc. without any complain, as normal.
Once you recognize abuse for what is it : a pathetic attempt to build up his own self-esteem, by controlling your own ideas and creativity, you know that it’s not “love” but insecurity.
You have the choice now to avoid taking seriously whatever negative comment he makes of you, and think: “I must been doing some good things, if he gets scared of my growth…”
You have the choice now to stop expecting appreciation from him and begin developing your own self-esteem…Protect your self and plan how to survive in this challenge and you will emerge with a stronger sense of who you are and what is your life mission!