I read an article in Psychology Today entitled What drives emotional abuse in relationships. I could identify with so much of it.
Firstly, the blame. ‘I feel bad, and it’s your fault…You push my buttons’ is the accusation the article highlights. For me, this translates into ‘You make me angry’ and what this does is shift the blame onto me. The article suggests that angry and abusive partners fear their inability to cope and seek to control their environment and the people in it. My sister recently mentioned how he has always been quick to anger. She cited the example of when the girls were young and they dropped their ice cream. He would shout at them but, as she pointed out the other day, no child deliberately drops their ice cream; it’s an accident.
‘Disengaging partners…try to deal with their sense of inadequacy about relationships by simply not trying – since no attempt means no failure’, the article goes on to explain. So true, as every time I tried to discuss us, he got angry and blaming and gave no indication that he cared about me or the relationship. Stonewalling and disengaging by one partner can make the other feel ‘unseen and unheard; unattrative; like you don’t count; like a single parent.’ This was exactly how I felt. I used to describe myself as being single in a relationship. I know I was definitely lonely, incredibly lonely when I was with him, yet fine when I was alone.
The following extract sums up my situation in a nutshell: ‘The most insidious aspect of living with an angry or abusive partner is not the obvious – nervous reactions to shouting, name-calling, criticism or other demeaning behaviour. It’s the adaptations you make to try to prevent these episodes. You walk on eggshells to keep the peace, or a semblance of connection.’ No relationship should be conducted in this manner. Even now, I’m finding it very hard to stop automatically reacting to others in this way. It’s become my way of life. I engage in ‘constant self-editing and self-criticism to keep from pushing [people’s] buttons’. I second-guess myself to the extent that I’m aware that I don’t know who I really am. But I’m working on changing this.
‘Victims’ it goes on to say ‘will blame themselves…when the abuse is subtle…implying that you’re ugly, a bad parent, stupid, incompetent, not worth attention…you are more likely to think it’s your problem’. This couldn’t be more true. Look back through my past journals and you’ll find me analysing situations and searching for ways to get things right. I had an ‘if only I could be a better wife, mother, housekeeper, cook blah blah blah, or sexier, thinner, better organised, more fun blah blah blah. I didn’t feel that I was good enough in any respect. I was working out and losing weight, to the point where I was less than 8 stone and could pull my jeans over my hips without undoing them. His response: a look of disgust and a comment that I wasn’t back to my pre-baby weight. I had a housework schedule to ensure that everything was done on a regular basis: he would always find something to fault. I was cooking meals from fresh and on a budget: he didn’t want fish that day, he wanted a roast. There was always something. And I’d kick myself for getting it wrong. Why? I was never going to get it right. For him, it would always be wrong. I asked him what he found fun – I would do it, just to try and get some kind of connection, but ‘I don’t find anything fun’ he would say. And I felt that was somehow my fault too. I look back to that time and think I was pathetic, pathetic to be trying so desperately hard to please him. Then I think, no – I should admire myself for being so determined to do my best to make it work. At least, I can say with utmost honesty that I tried everything. And despite his constant blaming me for ‘what you’ve done to me and our family’, I know that there was nothing more I could have done and I am not to blame. I’m so thankful I wised up.
So now I need to watch my reactions and put a halt to the habitual responses. We are divorcing, the relationship has been dead for a long, long time, and it’s time for me to make no apology for getting on with my life.
Thank you Psychology Today for giving me greater insight into my situation.
It’s my life!