Seven Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships and How To Defeat Each One of Them

by John Shore on April 6, 2010 · 178 comments

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Since its publication thousands of women have used John Shore’s revelatory Seven Reasons Women Find Themselves in Abusive Relationships to completely and permanently turn around their lives. Penetratingly clear and breathtakingly insightful, Seven Reasons is a must-read for any woman ensnared in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship. Such a relationship is like a frighteningly dark cave; Seven Reasons carefully, directly, and lovingly walks any women trapped in such a cave back out into the light. As surely as any abused woman will recognize herself in the seven reasons Shore gives for why people first get attracted to and then stuck in such relationships, she will find salvation in his prescription for defeating each one. A women in an abusive relationship has lost something core to herself; Seven Reasons restores it to her.

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Seven Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships, and How To Defeat Each One of Them, paperback edition, 6 x 9 in., softcover, signed by John Shore and inscribed per your request. (Each book also comes with one of John’s utterly bookmark-worthy business cards, signed and dated on back.) $7.99.

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Praise for Seven Reasons:

This is a very detailed and extremely supportive article about the reasons women tell themselves they need to stay put in abusive relationships. — CreativeConflicts.com

An excellent piece of writing that speaks very practically about the reasons someone stays in a bad relationship. Worth looking at, even if you are not someone, nor do you know someone who is abusive. The answers John gives helps us understand how it is that we may do things that do not seem like it’s in our best interest. It is a wonderfully well written, easy to understand and non-clinical approach to answering the question, “Why do some women stay in abusive relationships?” — RealHope.com

Whether this is a problem for you now, or for someone you know, it impacts people too often. There are many reasons we stay in abusive relationships. Shore’s insights, understanding, wit and humor can help all of us—male and female. — MenAlive.com

From readers:

“Thank you…your post has helped me finally leave a emotionally abusive relationship with a man. Thanks for describing this dynamic. I’ve never heard it done so eloquently.”— Heather.

“I credit 7 Reasons with changing and saving my life” — Lisa E

“John, as someone who works with DV (domestic violence) victims, I’d like to thank you for this great resource. There is an amazing amount of good, solid information out there on emotional/physical abuse. But your short blogs go right to the heart. Thank you so much for caring about women, encouraging us, and sharing your ideas. You’re right on.” — Anonymous

“Bless you, John Shore.” — Mindy

“John Shore – what comes through the most in these writings is your love and tender-hearted care for women. Wow. It’s amazing. Thank you.”— Rkerstetter1

“I sit here with my mouth wide open in amazement at the way John describes to a ‘T’ the reason why I cannot move “him” out of my life … I don’t really know if I am glad that I have read this or if I am in shock …” — Anonymous

“This is fantastic. Thank you. Mr. Shore, please keep up your beautiful, empowering, compassionate, thoughtful and passionate advocacy of women!” — Lara

“Thank you so much. You deserve an award for posting this info! Great info indeed.” — Anonymous

“I have really, really appreciated finding this.” — christinej

“BRILLIANT! Oh bravo, bravo!!!” — Freda

“Thank you John, for opening your heart to take in some of the pain of we who carry such vile memories deep inside our still struggling and shaking psyches and emotions. You’re a true brother.” — Anonymous

“Are you really a woman? LOL You nail abusive relationships. Thanks for getting it.”– Strong.

“This article is just what I needed to read, just when I needed it! Thank you.” — TS

“Most helpful, strong stuff I have read in a long time. Very sobering.” — Anonymous

“BRAVO BRAVO BRAVO!! Just had to shout.” — Laura W.

“This is an amazing article that I have to view as an answer to prayer. I’ve never before seen your blog or articles and was amazed at the clarity of the truths you’ve written about so well.” — Anonymous

“I posted the link to this wonderful article on my Facebook page, and my son (20) sarcastically commented … ‘I think you should listen to that dude, Mom.’” — Anonymous

“I wish I had discovered your article years ago.” — Sylvie.

“John – Thank you so much for this! I really related to Reason #4 – Old Family Tapes. This site is extraordinarily helpful and I will recommend to my friends dealing with the same issues. Thanks so much!!!” — Maren S.

“I agree very much with what you have said here John.” — Anonymous

“Thank you for posting this information. Thank you a million times. I read it almost daily to keep myself out of the “marinade” that my soon-to-be ex-husband tries to douse me with constantly.” — April

“Having worked in a local women’s shelter, I absolutely applaud your latest opus!!!” — Anonymous

“Wow. Thank you. Thank you for your affirmation.” — Deb.

“Really empowering. Life changing. Something I’ll come back to again and again.” — Anonymous

“Rereading this today, and sending it out to any woman having trouble saying ‘Things Ain’t What They Used to Be.’” — Helen Winslow Black

“Wow. Great stuff. This will be worth several reads.” — Erica H.

“Thank you SO MUCH for posting this … funny stuff, but oh-so true! I’ve only scanned over the article once, but I can already see there is SO MUCH GOOD STUFF that will help me and I think will also help my kids!” — Anonymous

“I just discovered this this morning and I honestly can’t tell you how much they mean and how serendipitous it was that I found them today of all days….Thanks again for your help in all this, it is greatly appreciated.” — Anon.

“Thank you very much for such an insightful article.” — Jose

“WOW. Amazing. So true.” — CJ

“Once again, John, you have truly and bravely spoken words that many are afraid to voice. You can’t even imagine how much your blog-site on this very subject is ministering to women in this situation.” — Anonymous

“John, What a wonderful article and there are so many women going though the deep angst you talk about.” — Lain

“Powerful and profound insight into the nightmare of abusive relationships and the people who inhabit them…..the most loving and thoughtful exposition I’ve ever read about the dynamics of domestic abuse.” — Not AVictim

“John: thank you thank you … so needed to be said.” Anonymous

“Very good summary. I left my 15 years of hell 5 years ago. You WILL survive. You WILL feel better than you ever thought possible. This article is insightful and accurate.” — Flanders

“I very much approve of your way of writing things. I very much approve of your common sense and the priorities you set.”— Jule

“Thanks for the part about power. It has explained a lot.” — Diane

“This is one of the most powerful bits of writing on abuse I’ve read.” — Anonymous

“Thank you for this.” — MHD

“Oh my goodness you couldn’t be more right! I’m going through this right now. Thanks for the help” — Anonymous

“I found your insights helpful in my counseling service to battered women. You are doing amazing work here.” — Greta

“I love the comparison of an abusive man to a rabid dog, it is an excellent one. I have a friend who was in an abusive relationship for about a year. This series has helped me understand her better.” — Melinda

“Wow! this is what I needed to hear, right now. stuff I haven’t heard before about men & power in this context. really, really thank you. only wish I’d known it sooner. thank you John, this has given me new understandings I can really use NOW.” — Merk

“Words can not express how proud/happy/beaming I am that you said what you said John. Just wanna fly to America and give you a big hug!!! Keep preaching preacher, we all love you.” — Anonymous

“Your comments here are sure to help a lot of people, not just women.” — Anonymous

John, why do you understand this subject so well? It’s hard to believe you’re not really a woman.” — HJ

“Thank you John, gonna download this now, know a few people who need to read it. Thank you so much for these posts, you have hit the nail on the head so many times, something I have to say I have never read/heard/seen a man do effectively on this topic before.” — CB

{ 178 comments… read them below or add one }

Doretha November 6, 2014 at 8:46 pm

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visit this website, Keep up the nice job.

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Nathalie campoverde December 3, 2013 at 5:10 am

Maybe this can relate to something I learned in psychology class something called the halo effect which is a type of cognitive bias in which our overall impression of a person influences how we feel and think about his or her character. Essentially, your overall impression of a person (for example : “He is nice!”) impacts your evaluations of that person’s specific traits (“He is also smart!”).

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DR August 11, 2013 at 8:00 pm

I wasn’t aware that John was running a non-profit, he’s an author. Are you used to paying for books others write for free?

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Katharine I. Weaver October 6, 2012 at 12:56 pm
Sharon September 30, 2012 at 5:57 am

As a licensed mental health professional who’s worked with numerous survivors of domestic abuse, I just want to thank you for doing what you can to help women (and men) take responsibility for and regain control over their lives. The more people understand how coercion, violence, and abuse get started and know that they can and deserve to be treated better, the more our society will prosper. Keep up the great work!

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John Shore September 30, 2012 at 9:26 am

Thank you, Sharon; I really appreciate this.

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Darlene February 10, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Thank you for writing about this topic. Over three million incidents of domestic violence are reported each year, and that includes men as well as women. One-fourth of U.S. women and one-third of women worldwide will experience violence in her lifetime.

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Jackson Westbrook February 3, 2012 at 2:26 am

I really liked your blog.Thanks Again. Keep writing.

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John Shore via Facebook October 13, 2011 at 8:41 pm

That’s lovely. Thank you.

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Laura Green Chaplinski via Facebook October 13, 2011 at 4:57 pm

I have my two teens read most of your work, hoping generations to come learn to use more logic. Besides your funny

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Crystal E. Long via Facebook October 13, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Sharing :)

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Sarah Moon via Facebook October 13, 2011 at 4:14 pm

This was definitely one of the best/most helpful articles about abusive relationships I’ve ever read.

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D Dixon October 6, 2011 at 11:13 am

I’ve always considered myself a fairly intelligent person, a working professional. So how is it that after 30, I could lay awake at night starring into the face of a man I feel I’ve never known and have come to hate. My first lover, the father of child.

First it was drugs, then daily drinking, I’d come home to a “local hangout”. That was only the beginning.. night after night I was shaken awake, to listen to drunken ramplings of insecutites, accusations of affairs, treats of sucide, killing anyone who interferred and unwanted sex… When confronted, he’d claim he didn’t remember, if I threatened to leave, he’d promise to quit drinking. Cry that he couldn’t live without me, that I would ruin our sons life by and that he would come to hate me for breaking our family.

As part of my search for answers, I stumbled upon this article… I couldn’t believe how it seemed to be talking directly to me. It gave me the strength to take a stand up to him and say “that’s it, I’m not living my life like this anymore”. I won’t say it was easy, because it wasn’t, the weeks that followed were pure hell. At his every angle, and he tried them all, I’d come back to the article and re-read it.

6 months later, I’m finding myself and becoming a different person. I’ve let my family and friends into my life, and I realize how foolish I was to keep them out of it, when they’ve been so supportive.

You have two choices: 1. take the necessary steps to save yourself or 2. die waiting for someone else to save you …. Life is to short, and I’ve wasted enough. Last week I got a birthday card from sister-in-law that said “Live your life, no one deserves one more than you”.

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Cathy Elings September 11, 2011 at 6:33 am

You can love a man all you want, and you may never stop loving him, but no love in the world can change a man. You can’t let him kill you physically, mentally, emotionally. When you are dead inside, it is only marginally less than being dead on the outside. You may never stop feeling you love the man, but you can’t let him poison your mind, your life, take away everything you’ve ever worked for. No man is worth your life. Let me repeat, no amount of your love, your sacrifice, your pain will change him. He has you convinced he can only be a good man if you are suffering, that you have to prove your love by your pain and sacrifice. That is not love. That is oppression in the worst and most personal sense. Just because he says he loves you, when he isn’t busy treating you like a dog, does not mean his version is love is the same as yours or anyone else’s. Ask yourself, will he suffer and sacrifice for you the way he demands you do for him? He doesn’t love you. He doesn’t value you. He loves the power he has over you. He loves the fear and pain in your eyes. He loves that he is so powerful that you keep coming back for more. Save yourself. Get help. For God’s sake if you have children, get away from him. He will ruin their lives as much as he is ruining yours. They will be scarred and may think that is the way relationships should be, and they will suffer for it. Get friends who DO NOT encourage you to take his shit. Get to a shelter. Don’t let him tie you down with fear of lonliness, lack of money, shame. There is no shame in saving YOUR life. Ever. Anyone who tells you there is is also a LIAR and does NOT love you. Even if it is your parents, your so-called friends, your siblings, your minister, your therapist. Anyone who says you should just stay and take the abuse and be a martyr for the institution of marriage is a fake and a liar. No man who and no person who abuses you or encourages you to be abuses deserves your love, and you don’t deserve his or anyone else’s abuse.

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Glenda Theos September 24, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Amen my dear, amen. A person does not hit and degrade a person he loves, period.

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sara September 6, 2011 at 5:23 pm

So much attention is given to why abusive women stay in abusive relationships, and at times, a womans intelligence is suspect for staying.

Well, I have an opposite statement. Its the abusive men that are so stupid. How could they act like that and think they are gaining any respect? I know I know, the abusive man does not give a crap about their partner, but 9 times out of 10, if you go around hitting people and being emotionally abusive, etc. most people do retaliate, and the abuser is the one that ends up worse off.

I’ve dated, and had my share of men that have tried to “own” me and act all controlling, etc. and to me, its an immediate red flag, “EWW, stalker, loser, desperate” and I would cut off all contact. The phone would ring, and there would be 87 messages. Really.. Its amazing to me how stupid so many of these guys are!!

But maybe they are so black hearted that they dont have anything else better to do than troll the earth for the 1% chance of getting to beat someone up, (physically, verbally, etc. )

I dated this guy for about a year, and he turned out to be a total yahoo. He felt entitled to act like a jerk. The stupid idiot still calls and leaves messages and its been 7 years!!

Abusive men are stupid, stupid stupid.. I say, cut off all their penises so they dont bring any children into the world!!

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BROWN August 26, 2011 at 8:45 am

I feel like such a FOOL for having stayed in this emotionally and verbally abusive relationship for so long. We have been married for 21 years! I am finally working fulltime again and have been saving what I can so I have some small measure of security. I need to end this. I want to end this. How do I get over feeling like such an idiot for having stayed so long? At this point, it is fear of admitting what a dope I’ve been that is holding me back.

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Ann Y August 27, 2011 at 7:26 am

You are not a dope or a fool. Plain and simple, his verbal abuse has taught you to believe that. You were duped and fooled. Tell yourself that over and over. It will sink in. We all feel like idiots at some point in our lives, and it is okay. Years after my divorce, I still shake my head in disbelief that I stayed married to him for so long. And, I can laugh about it. Being a child of the 60’s, I sometimes refer to that period of my life as the world’s longest bad acid trip . . .

I applaud you for working full time. That is another proof of your courage and strength. Entering the workplace can be frightening, and you did it anyway! You can leave him and you will. God will always love you and is always there for you.

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km August 25, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Just left an emotionally abusive man. Abusive to others besides me, too, like his employees. Thankfully, I have no children.
I’ve moved to a town very, very far north, about 1500miles from where he is.
I have to go back to his place for 3 weeks, and I’m not really sure why I agreed to going back in the first place. He’ll be away (he wants me to run his business while he’s out of town) for most of the time, but still. It’s going to be very strange.
I promise I will read this article daily while I am in his house, to remind me of why I left. And then I will delete it from my browser history.
I promise I will find the courage to talk to him about how I feel, in the hopes of preventing the pattern from continuing with another woman in the future.
I promise I will do the things I need to do for ME, and not worry about how he is going to react.
I promise I will not let myself listen when he tells me the nasty things I am sure he will come up with. I will not let them enter my ears, because that way I will not be able to replay those words long after he has said them.

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nhiii September 8, 2011 at 6:10 pm

be careful
he might kill you…i seen it all the time on crime shows…

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Glenda September 24, 2011 at 2:26 pm

He sounds dangerous, you don’t have to go back, you are choosing to. At least reconsider where you will you will be staying, his house does not seem like a good choice for you.
nhiii has a valid point – be very careful

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Donna Powers August 23, 2011 at 6:03 am

Thank you for writing this; my four daughters and I left our abuser 12 years ago-and not with the blessings of our church-as a matter of fact, I was told I would be taking the children and I out of the hands of God if I left. I was also told that I needed to pray harder for our abuser; that it sometimes took our knees bleeding to open ourselves up to hear Gods answers. Our pastor felt like God had spoken to him and told him no divorces under any circumstances-pray harder. I finally stayed gone for good-by that time I had pretty much lost contact with all friends and family members-moving to another state hadn’t helped-I felt very alone. But I had started taken the girls to a martial arts class months before we left, and had began kick boxing myself. The instructor pulled me aside one day and told me he recognized the eyes of an abused woman-I started to argue, he told me there was no point-he shared with me how I didn’t deserve it, and that he wanted to start teaching me techniques to protect myself and the children; and that’s exactly what happened. My ex was off on one of his “your mother is filled with Satan” speeches to the children and told them they all needed to pray for me to be more like Jesus-this was all happening as he was loading them into the car to get away from me-I remember standing there and feeling hopeless and feeling very sure that he was going to disappear with my girls this time. I barely remember taking that first step towards him, picking him up and slamming him on his back, with my knee to his chest and my hand to his throat-I than let him know that at that very moment his life was in my hands and that if he ever, ever tried to take them again I would kill him-I remember the look of fear in his eyes-and it felt good. I than took my children out of the car and into the house, and locked the door.

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Jenn N October 5, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Donna, you’re an inspiration. I am so glad you got yourself and your daughters free of this man and that church that just didn’t understand. Righteous anger is a gift from God! Thank you for sharing your story.

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Suzanne Perry August 22, 2011 at 11:53 am

Awesomely amazing, crisp and clear, blatant truth. There is no better way to put it .. I love this write up.
Makes me feel like you’ve said it all, I have nothing to add. WELL DONE. We need to spread it round like wildfire. Truth. Facts. There is a better life out there but you have to take the leap.

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eve August 13, 2011 at 12:24 am

ive been out of my abusive marriage for 20 yrs. since then, even after changing my mindset, i cannot find a good man. they all hvae these “requirements’ that are not realistic. looks,money, pooch out babies for them. do everything, while they do , what? donate sperm? ads on singles sites are ridiculous. so, I dont blame a woman when she is afraid to have nothing, after leaving a bad one. thing is, alone is better than alone with the abuser. no argument about it. and you are alone, with the abuser, mor e alone than living alone could ever be. its worse because you expect to be not alone, and you always are. it makes the real alone, look like, lots of company by comparison. because yo u suddenly dont have to exclude others to service him. your world opens up . that is, if you dont go on and look fo r the same kind of man. which many do.
I f you go to a shelter, don t expect that the women you shared this intense adrenalin fueled experience with, will be your friends. mostly they won’t want to see you ever again, because they dont’ want to be reminded of the experience of the shelter. its normal.

http://www.shelterlistings.org/
http://www.ncdsv.org/images/DVSheltersUS.pdf

no reason not to go now.

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eloisa August 6, 2011 at 11:58 am

I have been in a mentally abusive relationship for almost 5 years.. this man has repeatedly cheated, talked down to me and had a baby in the middle of our relationship. his baby’s mother has always been in the picture she created an illusion of by having his baby that he will stay with her and they will have a happy family… I’ve tolerated and accepted they had a kid together and I became so passive that I no longer know how to stand up for my self.. I have watched this man have sex with someone else in the ladies room, caught him flirting on facebook with a numerous amount of girls. Found out he made out with his coworker.. and the most recent thing he has done was I woke up from my sleep with him standing in front of me with bloody hands i found out that he busted two of my house doors and busted through the bathroom window… I became numb to the messed up things he has done and start to think its so us.. its just another one of his cheating days we will get pass this.. I’m hurting when im not with him but im not happy with him.. I just love him so much how could tomorrow be without him… Im doubting my self I dont have faith in my self anymore I dont know how to let go of him my strength is totally gone to stand up for my self.. I asked him to go to counseling with me just to get him to speak up about why is he so troubled and treats his relationships like garbage if he supposedly loves me.. I am scared for my family to find out what he has done to the house they are helping me out with.. I know I need help… Im williing to get help and save the rest of whats left of me. what should i do?

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cat rennolds August 6, 2011 at 1:08 pm

You have the right to love yourself. Find a counselor or call a hot line and get help soonest. If I were you I would be very cautious. It sounds like he might be willing to become violent if he thinks you are going to leave. But you need to take care of you. He isn’t doing it. Team, anybody good with the resources here?

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Mindy August 6, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Sweetie, listen to me carefully. YOU. DO. NOT. LOVE. HIM. You are addicted to him and you are caught in cycle you can’t see you way out of. But there is a way, and NO ONE deserves to be treated the way you have been treated. You cannot get out of this alone.

I’ve been there, Eloisa. Take Cat’s advice. You need to call a hotline and find a shelter and people who can help you plan and pull off a clean break from him. He’s dangerous. He’s narcissistic and he will try to convince you that all the pain you are suffering is your fault, not his. That is NOT true. This is on him, but he will never own it.

The house is merely a thing. If it is in your name, you will be able to deal with it later – make sure your homeowner’s insurance is current. You will need to pack what you need to live for a couple of weeks. If you have shared bank accounts, withdraw your money and put it in your own name.

For now, don’t tell anyone what you are doing – because if word gets back to him, he will hurt you. I repeat – he is dangerous. Once you are away from your house and safely in a shelter, they will help you contact your family. They will help you do all of this is such a way that he can’t get to you to hurt you.

John – you have my permission to share my email address with Eloisa if she wants it. If I know where she located, I can help her find local help.

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John Shore August 6, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Let’s see if she returns.

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Mindy August 6, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Of course. Thanks.

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John Shore August 6, 2011 at 2:11 pm

(And great answers, Cat and Mindy.)

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Allie October 5, 2011 at 9:24 pm

It’s been my experience that men who bust things will eventually graduate to busting people until something happens to change their fundamental belief that they can’t control themselves when angry. Please think hard about this. You shouldn’t have to lie to protect him from the consequences of his behavior in messing up your house, and you shouldn’t be blaming yourself for his wrongdoing. Please please, if you come back and read this, get some help! If your family loves you enough to help pay for a house I bet they would not blame you or want you to be with someone who treats you badly.

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maria July 17, 2011 at 4:03 pm

Tomorrow I am going to the library to print out the article , I feel like I need to have a tangible copy of it to highlight, re- read and keep near me, for when I doubt myself. There are stages of grief, when you lose someone you love through death, divorce or separation. Its easy to get out when you are angry, or when he turns on the kids, or the pets, or escalates to name calling, which was what happened with me. But you still have to go through the stages, the grief that follows. Its not just about him, its about your dreams dying, the time you wasted, the letting go and giving up of that love. It helped me to learn about the identity. My mom kept telling me, you need to remember who you are in Christ. I didnt understand why she thought this was important, while I was going through a divorce. Now it is a little more clear. I feel so lost, like I don’t know who I am. for the past four years, since my husband stepped off the plane from colombia, I have been trying to make him happy, as well as keep peace between him and my older kids, keep a job (unsuccessfully) and raise my son. I feel like instead of feeling this burden lifting off, he is finally out of the house, the divorce is filed, he paid me child support last month, I feel completely lost. I don’t even know how to describe it. Shouldn’t I be happy? but of course not, he was the love of my life, I rode his highs and his lows for years, when he was content with me and the house, I was happy. How sick is that? But I still mentally blame myself, if I had been a stronger woman, if I had not let him get to me, he would have respected me, if I had stuck up more for the girls in the beginning he wouldn’t have treated them the way he did. I like what you said about how it happens slowly, bit by bit. I always thought of it as erosion. He wore me down, on whatever issue it was, like a constant drip. Once he had me get rid of my dog, and I actually thought i was doing the right thing, choosing my marriage over a dog. He handed that dog in while I sat in the car and cried, but I got secret satisfaction over the fact that he had to pay ten dollars to do it, which made him mad. when you are in a situation like this, it affects your whole reality, it consumes your thoughts, I’v e heard it described as walking on egg shells. In our house there was always tension, it never felt peaceful when he was around. My kids have just moved on, they are happy, acting like little girls again, like they emotionally went back to a place they were in ten years ago. Im struggling though, i think maybe because we have a son, I didn’t want him to grow up being bounced back and forth between two places, also, I really wanted us to have a happy marriage, it sounds so simplistic and like such a cliche, but it’s true. the question “why” was so prevalent in my mind, why couldn’t he love me, why couldn’t we make it? Why did he push me away, force me to do this? Why can’t I have a normal relationship/ Why did he act like he hated me? And yesterday he cut my grass and put the mailbox up. It is so hard to give up hope, it’s like you are falling, and there is no bottom. while you still have hope things will change, it keeps you going,, its like your fuel every day. Once you make that decision, its like a panic that comes over you. I do feel at times like a lost child, like I lost every thing good in my life, my marriage, growing old, the dreams we had together, this person, that I served daily, that I cooked and cleaned for, its like what do I do now? It’s not that I don’t think I can live without him, it’s that I didn’t want to. its so unfair, how could he do this to us? My situation is different, he doesnt say he is sorry. the day I left the state, to await him being served, he called me stupid. He didn’t know I had filed for a divorce. It helped me realize I was doing the right thing. But it’s like your mind blocks it out. I think it is some kind of coping mechanism, and our friends know it. They say, stay strong, don’t cave. My daughter told me today, who cares why he cut the grass, he made you crazy, you couldn’t even do your job. I just wish I could snap my fingers and snap myself out of it, but it’s not that easy, the longer you stay the more messed up you are, I really believe that. Im glad I didn’t give him any more or my life, I just wish I could stop thinking about it, but it’s like you have to to be able to move on. Sooo, this week I am going to call some counselours and try and get my head screwed back on right.

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Tricia July 26, 2011 at 1:10 pm

John, I must say that this is by far the best read that I have found spiritually to date that is applicable to believers and non-believers alike. I am a Christian Family Enrichment Counselor and I can not tell how I so appreciate your forthright style and ability to articulate to people, the cycles, the effects of those cycles, and the practicalities described in moving forward from these ‘deathening’ cycles of abuse. (Especially addressing the reasons why people stay in unhealthy, unrewarding relationships for the sake of God)! All I can say is thank you for allowing God to use you in this way to reach many. I believe and support everything that you have stated in your blog. I pray for every person, male or female that is going through this way of life; to choose life! Please know that God will not ever disappoint you, EVER. You don’t have to stay with an individual who is killing you slowly just because they don’t love themselves. Learn to love ‘YOU’ enough to know that love does not continue to hurt the ones they say that they love. Please just learn to love YOU~ because you are some kinda special! Much affection and compassion to all of you!

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Charlotte July 17, 2011 at 9:43 am

Wow, I am a retired therapist and have never seen an article or book as straight forward on the subject as this one. I also grew up in an abusive home and was told the lies you mention. It took a lot of help and support to let myself know that I deserved better. Fortunately I was never physically abused by a male partner but was emotionally and sexually abused until I learned better. How can I buy this article in print? I came up on it with a facebook link but would like to share it with friends. Bless you and I will pray for your work.

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John Shore July 17, 2011 at 11:13 am

Thank you, Charlotte. I don’t have “7 Reasons” available for purchase in print; but, of course, you could always just copy and paste the text from the blog into a Word doc, and print it out. I do have it available for e-readers Kindle and Nook, as you see at the top of the piece. Helpful? Thanks again for your kind letter.

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Char July 16, 2011 at 9:26 am

Thank u for writing this article, it was an eye opener. I like the way you write, it made m smile a couple of times. Im involved in an abusive relationship myself. Its been 3years. I love this man beyond words but i seem to be miserable everyday becoz of him. I started dating him wen i was young so at times i used to tel myself that maybe he was acting the way he was because of my immaturity. H was 27 wen w started dating. H has given m sexually transmitd infections(nt aids at least) b4, h has beaten m up many times(the last time was ystrday), h constantly insults m(today h cold m stupid), kips on talking bout how im a whore, thrown m out of his house… The list is endless! Oh, i even caught him with anatha woman in his house! Thts where i am rite nw, in his house.. On his bed. I even saw anatha girls shoes in his room today. I feel so stupid! I read al these articles, i knw i must leave him bt ive tried to so many times only to go back! I dont think im able to move on, h means the world to m. one of my friends saw him picking up a prostitute.. I just dont understnd myself. Who stays wit a man like tht? Im jus so young! Maybe its because i grew up without a father. Im not looking for a reason to justify but im jus rily desperate to get out of this relationship! H makes m feel worthless but.. I see a good side. and when h shows it to m i feel real gud. Its like a heroine rush. H was once wealthy but now hes broke, people laugh at him but i feel like i should b there for him. I kip in hoping tht h will apreciate m. Ive prayed and prayed for the Lord to change him but.. Ive even tried to b more mature.. I went to skul and now ive got a job and i take beta care of myself. I even ask him to let m spend sme time wit his daughter. My wory is i know two of his exes and they too complained about abuse. Im scared its who h is. H blames m for the state of our relationship. At times i think hes mentaly unstable becoz wen clearly smthing is his fault h makes it look like im victimising him. I feel so helples and h knows it. H dumped m today but i dnt believe we will ever break up. Im trapped. My mother and al my friends dislike him. I see why bt i dnt feel like im able to get out. I am frustrated, its sad. I know i dont deserve this.

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DR July 17, 2011 at 10:13 pm

Char, don’t think about all of the other times you tried to leave and it just didn’t work. Don’t be ashamed of those times, they required bravery. It only takes one time for this to stick.

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Char July 21, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Thanx DR, ive left him again. Yesterday h tried to col m a couple of times and i ignored him. H then textd m. Cold m a lunatic in tht text. Never replied tho. Hpe this time it wil stick. I feel very optimistic and much happier. Even people at work have noticed.

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Jessica July 8, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Thank u so much for writing this and the way u wrote it truly captured my attention, and now I feel I have some wisdom and am stopping this relationship it only gets worse the abuse spaces out a few months but then it happens again and yes its very embarrassing to have to tell people but I dont care Like u said they should be happy and if anything my kids need to see me happy not putting up with this anymore!!!

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The Rev. Dr. Larry Bunnell July 1, 2011 at 8:07 am

I spent 30 years in an increasingly emotionally abusive relationship, so I object to the idea that women are the only victims of abuse.

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DR July 8, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Who suggested that?

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Debbie Kos June 24, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Wow. All I can say is that, though, the physical abuse was limited to two instances of trading punches, I endured eight years of emotional abuse and have experienced most, if not all of what you describe here. Raised as a catholic, leaving my husband was never a thought in my mind. I had succumbed to the “this is my life now” mentality. The first blessing, the first Divine intervention was him divorcing ME. I was in a panic because I also never had to take care of myself, I was isolated. I begged him not to leave me, but to no avail (thank you, God!). I even agreed to stay the house during tax season because he didn’t want the house to be empty fornthose long hours. Yeah pitiful. I’ll not clog up any more space here, but it does have a happy ending. I’m married now to a good man for almost as long as the other, but every minute has been filled with love and respect for each other… Even when we argue, which we hardly do… But now I have a VOICE.

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S June 21, 2011 at 1:26 pm

How do you know all of this?! I can’t believe some of the references and metaphors that you use in this post, it really hits home and are the SAME EXACT ones that I have used to try to deal with this very sad/hurtful/unhealthy situation that I am in. Specifically, the “dangling carrot” that of course, I can never seem to catch. Thank you so much for writing this and reaching out to help so many women. You are amazing!

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COnfidential June 13, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Wow, getting out of one now. I’ve had to find a new church because of the GOd thing. The abuser, though it was only verbal and emotional abuse, continues to condemn me and tell me I’m going to hell while he goes to church with the pastor that told me “God ALWAYS hates divorce” even after I told him I’ve lived with Domestic violence and abuse for 20 years! I am getting stronger and glad to know I am finally confident enough to get out of it though I still have my rough spots.
Awesome article!

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DR June 13, 2011 at 12:55 pm

You go girl. Seriously, women who do this have some SERIOUS strength, Let it rise in you, stay true to your intuition that an institution designed by a loving God would not enable or foster emotional, verbal, spiritual, sexual or physical abuse. Much, much love to you.

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Don Whitt June 6, 2011 at 11:01 pm

Why do men stay in abusive relationships? Maybe you could craft a version of this for them?

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DR June 13, 2011 at 12:55 pm

What a great idea!

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D June 3, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Perhaps one of the BEST articles on abusive relationships I’ve ever read. I’ve been through much of this (was married to an emotional abuser for many years).Thankfully, that is the past! The future is bright! I encourage any women who are stuck, please value yourself. Please begin planning. Please keep asking for help (discreetly) and you will not regret getting out. As for him (your abuser), he’ll get over it. He may act like he is dying, but he isn’t. His welfare is no longer your concern. Yours and your children’s is your main business now. Let God handle the man. I can now wake up in the mornings with something to look forward to! Hurray for freedom!

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A August 24, 2011 at 8:26 am

D….you give me hope. Thank you.

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Christy June 1, 2011 at 9:40 pm

Brilliant, John. Just brilliant. Thank you.

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Sussana Aristondo May 28, 2011 at 9:14 pm

It’s incredible but the more I read the more I realize that my life is been completely same as you ladies, I made my self believe I had this perfect marriage even though I spend 8 years been abuse by my husband, mantaining this perfect couple look in front of my family and friends, yes he always will make bad coments about anybody that will get to close to my especially ,my family, yes I believe in his tears of guilt and yes I believing in his lies and promises.
I finally got the balls to leave him, I couldn’t do it anymore, my body was telling that something was wrong, I started to getting sick without been sick, I would not sleep terrified of the arguments, manipulations, and the constant feeling that He was never pleased with nothing until finally in one of those arguments he turn aggressive and something inside of my exploited, I went crazy ,I run away I got to a lawyers and I file for divorce, we are in the process now,
I fighting with constant feeling of guilt, confusion, fear and deception at the same time, I grow weak one minute and strong one minute, I haven’t been able to find that power in my to completely detach from this monster, he has destroy my self esteem, but I would not let him destroy my daughter,she needs to know that mammy has balls and will no let her grow up like this, she may not understand it yet she’s only 4 but later in life she will, I understand that she must have contact with her father, that the law right, but at least he will see her knowing that is because of him we end up like this, he probably blame me like always but Hey! believe when he got those papers of divorce at his mother house, that was victory me I never felt so reproved in my life, hopefully he will realize that he destroy our family and hopefully leave me alone for once, I don’t even want to see his face since I’m still scare he might have some power over me,and he does I will do everything in my power to convince myself that is just an illusion that he’s that monster that hit me.
I promise this time around I will fight like a tiger, I’m claiming my life back.

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Don Rappe May 30, 2011 at 4:17 am

Yes, fight like a tiger!

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Sephera Giron May 19, 2011 at 10:48 am

I love this article. You put concisely into one place many ideas that I’ve been reading about over the past couple of years. I put a link to it on facebook because I’m hoping that women who are in abusive relationships may see it.

In many articles and books that I’ve read about abuse, narcissists, psychopaths, cheaters, and gaslighting, it “feels” like the writer is “attacking” or “blaming” the victim. It may feel like this because of the truths of the nature of these dances we do. However, the reality is, as pointed out, is that we can only fix “us.” Only I know what is in my head, how I dance or don’t dance with others, and if I keep choosing the wrong partners, I need to learn new steps in my dance. It’s not blame, it’s reality and human nature. We can wish it could be different all we want, but it isn’t.

We can wish the abuser will be cured one day, but in most cases, they can not. So we can only take care of ourselves, our thoughts, and our reactions to those around us.

Getting away and staying away is a whole different ballgame then recognizing and taking steps towards independence. Certainly no one should expect to find the solution to all their life’s problems on a blog. Every situation is unique and every woman and man who has been abused should take advantage of the social services that are available to him or her in the community whether it’s the cops, a shelter, friends, psychologists, welfare, job retraining programs, free babysitting swaps, and so on. Once you recognize your situation, you will be amazed how much help is there for you to start a new life of freedom and happiness.

One last thought I wanted to point out was the section about who your friends are when you break up with your spouse. It’s so true that people you would never suspect come out of the woodwork to love you and help you. Embrace this reality, that we all touch other lives and never know what effect we have on others until a time of crisis. Like the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” if you’ve been kind and helpful to others, they will rally around you when you are ready to spread your wings towards a new life.

There are truly angels here on earth in our day to day friends. Reach out and help each other. Life is too short and precious to be living one minute that isn’t authentic.

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Becky May 18, 2011 at 10:15 am

This article is infuriating. Why is it the woman’s fault? Why does society not ask “Why does he do that?” Did you know that the most dangerous time for a woman in an abusive relationship is when she leaves? 75% of domestic violence homicides happen AFTER the woman has left her abuser. She is actually safer staying in the relationship. Also, when she does decide to leave, where can she go? Abuse shelters are available, but not always practical. More often than not the abuser has all control of the money. There are very few housing resources available and because of the social stigma attached to DV, the woman may find herself without support from family or friends. Please stop blaming the woman–if you were in her situation, what would you honestly do? The answer is never as simple as “just leave.”

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trapped May 25, 2011 at 9:25 am

I’ve been married 22 years and tried leaving my husband a few times.

I spent my 18th anniversary in a shelter for abused women. That was not easy. It was like living in a house with 20 female versions of my husband; ie, mentally unbalanced, angry, unpredictable and bi-polarish.

When I was able to move back into my own home, my husband began breaking in daily and terrorizing me.

I want to leave him, but I’m convinced he would track me down and kill me. No one could protect me.

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DR May 29, 2011 at 8:56 am

Dear trapped,

There are other women here who can provide excellent counsel, but it seems from what they’ve indicated the first step in getting out is trying as hard as you can to change the mindset that you’re trapped. When we feel powerless, we lose our ability to think creatively. I would bet a thousand dollars that before you were married, people recognized you as bright – smart – funny – capable. I’m sure many still do. I bet there were people in your life, perhaps your family, that challenged that belief and made you doubt it but there are memories of others recognizing all of that in you. And something happens in the abuse process where we hand all of the best – the strongest of ourselves – to our abuser. So we actually stop believing we can get out.

FInding the power to connect to resources that will help you, finding the energy to do that is gargantuan-sized difficult. And none of this is your fault. Your job now is to take back the strong parts of yourself that this man has and to turn off the part of you that became convinced she doesn’t exist anymore.

Please keep us updated and let us know how you’re doing.

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Jeannie May 29, 2011 at 8:05 am

The shelter situation is very difficult. The first time I left my husband my children and I stayed in a shelter. It was a very difficult place to be. It smelled bad. There were no locks on our door and I would sleep with my back to the door to keep someone from breaking into our room.

They gave me a list of chores to do in order to earn my “keep”. Many of the chores I was physically unable to do due to phyical disability. For example, I cannot climb a ladder to change lightbulbs in my wildest dreams. One of my children is a high functioning autistic. She was having a particularly hard time coping with all the changes. One of her responses to extreme stress is to twirl and flap., The shelter people kept on asking me to make her stop. When I replied I couldn’t, that was part of who she is I was told that we would have to stay in our room then. Overall the enviroment felt oppressive and threatening – just like my marriage.

My first attempt to escape my husband failed largely because of that shelter experience. The whole thing of the devil you know is better than the devil youdon’t is true. I went home to my familiar devil. But I learned something for the next time. The next time I left I had planned for a to leave him that involved getting my own place right away. No shelter for me or my girls ever again!

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Julie June 17, 2011 at 8:47 am

Like Jeannie and trapped, there are MANY women who are trapped in situations where it really is safer to live with their abuser than to flee.

I am only alive today because of a miracle – not because there was any help for me.

I stayed with a violent animal of a man because for years, there was NO other option.

Like Jeannie, I have physical disabilities and an autistic daughter. Even if we could have found an available shelter (which would have been a miracle in itself), there is no way we could have gone into one. For years I was having operations every 1-2 years. I’d just finish recovering from one and need another. While my husband beat me (on a daily basis by the end), at least he helped me out of bed in the morning (most days anyway – something I couldn’t do) – enough that I could just manage (despite agonising pain) to get our daughter off to childcare in the morning and care for her in the afternoons and evenings when she came home.

Shelters in this state are simply not set up to help women with disabilities and children with special needs. My daughter’s autistic behaviours would have seen us kicked out of any shelter we managed to get to, and they simply would not have taken me in in the first place with my disabilities. I’d have ended up in disability care facilities where children are not allowed, and my daughter would have been taken away and before being put in foster care, they would have offered her to my (now-ex) husband to “care” for. And he would have just taken his vile anger out on her.

The family court doesn’t protect children from violent monsters here. The “right” for a convicted child abuser to have shared custody is considered more important than the genuine right of a child not to be abused. I kicked my ex out after he bashed our daughter in the head when she was 5yo. He plead guilty in court to do so and got a criminal record for it (only for violating a DVO, not for assault which is what he should have been charged with). But the family court didn’t care that he’d been convicted for bashing a 5yo in the head as hard as he could, that apparently doesn’t make him a bad father, nor does his many convictions for bashing me.

Had I left him before I managed to care for myself, he’d have got custody of our daughter, and she’d have been dead within weeks. As long as were together, every time he became violent, I could step in and take the beating he’d gone to give her. In the end, I left when I realised I was so physically broken, I was no longer quick enough to step in and threw my daughter on the mercy of the family court – of which they had none at all. Again, my daughter would be dead if they had their way.

But I got lucky to leave exactly when I did.

Another problem is that had I left any earlier, I would have had no income at all. Not just reduced income, but NONE ZERO not a cent.

We had no assets for me to get any of when I left. In fact, he ran up nearly $100,000 of debt in my name by the time I left. They don’t have alimony here in australia, and when it comes to child support, he deliberately got himself fired so he didn’t have to pay more than the maximum of $12.76 a fortnight. He’s not stupid – if he quit, he’d have to pay the same as if he’d been working, but becuase he got fired, he could claim he couldn’t help being unemployed.

Despite my disabilities and being totally unable to work (I could barely look after myself), I ended up battling for four YEARS to get a disability penson. Many disabled women I have met stay with abusive husbands because they spend a lifetime disabled but unable to get a disability pension because of the cruel way centrelink treats applications (they’ve been known to knock back people who were dying and only had months to live).

Had I left before I got my pension, my sole income would have been $12.76 a fortnight child support and around $140 a fortnight in child benefits that all parents get. That wouldn’t even cover food.

I dunno about shelters elsewhere, but here, shelters will only take people for a few days or a few weeks maximum. After that they, they move you into short term subsidised accomodations – like a shelter but for periods of 1 week to six months, and while the accomodations is very cheap, they expect that your minimum income is unemployment benefits and charge accordingly. They refuse to believe that people have no income – they forget that sole parents benefit get cut off when your child turns 6yo, and to get unemployment benefits, you have to be applying for 10 jobs a week, going to interviews and doing unpaid work – when you’re too disabled to care for yourself, doing job interviews and unpaid work is just not possible – and they refuse to acknowledge that many disabled people can’t get the disability pension.

And there is as was said, the danger period for battered wives being killed is AFTER they leave. I am only very lucky that my ex is an extremely easily manipulated person by others who are willing to be manipulative and when I kicked him out,one of his mistresses convinced him that he’d chosen to leave me to be with her in a ploy to get him to pick her over his other mistresses. if it weren’t for her convincing him that he left willingly rather than the truth which is I threw his sorry self out, he’d have stalked me to the ends of the earth. he’d have been back to beat me to a pulp the instant the police left and would have continued to do so until I took him back or was dead or he was in jail (and would have kept doing so the instant he got out of jail).

Even after wards, he still harassed and stalked me, but not to the same extent as he would have done if he hadn’t been tricked into thinking he chose to leave.

And that’s the only was I was able to escape – had I left any sooner, I would have no income, no shelter to stay in for more than a few days financially and none that would have taken either my daughter or I with our disabilities, he would have stalked me til I was dead and he would have ended up with custody of our custody of our daughter and she would have definitely been killed by him. I had to wait til I was healthy enough to not need much help and til I had a disability pension in place and I needed him to believe he chose to leave. Any sooner and it would have not been possible.

As it is, our daughter still wasn’t safe with the family court fools giving him weekend custody, but thankfully his psycho violent mistress got jealous of our daughter and insisted he cut off contact with our daughter altogether. While the psycho thinks she’s somehow “won”, I celebrated that day he called to say he wasn’t allowed to see our daughter anymore. That woman is more violent and abusive than my ex (who is now the battered spouse in that relationship) and had my daughter had to go there (and there is no arguing with the fmaily court – it’s hand your kid over or the police can forcibly do it), she’d have been abused by that woman, seen her father abused by that woman and had her father abuse her to cope with being abused by that woman.

Had I left any sooner (before the day he attacked our daughter), he’d have been granted equal shared custody instantly, instead of supervised visits for two years and then every second weekend for a few months, and she’d have been killed by him or his psycho mistress in a very short space of time – he could barely manage her autism for the two days/one night a fortnight he had. having her every second week for 6 nights at a time and he’d have lost it within days.

So many women are in this situation – if they stay, their husband beats them and leaves the kids alone, if they leave though, the husband is automatically granted share custody (because wife beating doesn’t make you a bad father according to the courts) and he abuses the kids instead. And again, disabled women are in an even worse situation – if they leave, they have to go into care and their exes get full custody of the kids, and even if they aren’t quite that bad physically and can care for themselves and the kids, most of them can’t work, and then as soon as their child turns 6, they are cut off from parenting benefits, can’t access unemployment benefits and can’t get a disability pension and they end up homeless, living on the streets and hteir children taken away and either put in foster care or given over to their father to abuse.

Women with children or women who have disabilities (or the poor women who have children, are disabled themselves and/or have disabled children) often simply cannot leave. There are no services to support them. People need to realise this and tackle the problem.

Making women feel bad, telling them they can leave and putting them down when they don’t, only makes an impossible situation worse. No wonder so many of thse women attempt to kill themselves to try and find a way out.

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Trying May 9, 2011 at 4:15 pm

I’m so glad I found this website and at last people who understand the dilemma of whether to stay or go.
I’ve been with my partner 9 years and have a 6 year old. Although there is marginal physical abuse (recently he’s become more agressive but left no marks), he regularly chants to me about how I have no friends or family who care and how he has hundreds of friends (he does, where as I have key close friends and no mother or father), he makes racist remarks about my eastern European descent, the very thing he adored when we first met. He says I’m crazy and f@@@ed up and always will be, that he decides when it’s over, one day our daughter will grow to hate me too and see for herself how wicked I am. He says if I die I’ll only have a handful of people mourn my loss whereas he would have about 500. He recently recovered from debilitating illness which resulted in him losing 8 stone and having to learn to walk again along with horrendous surgical procedures, everyone said he would be humbled and changed, but a year on he’s back to full physical strength and arrogance, yelling at me and calling me thick and dopey, im a terrible cook, fat, bad breath, big ears, criticises my genitals and breasts, ( I am size 10), says I talk like a mouse, claps in my face “your mom’s dead and dad doesn’t give a sh&& about you” and says I will always be nothing but a tea and coffee maker ( I’m finally in a managerial role after working very hard to get here) had helped nurse him back to health and took our daughter to see him at a hospital far from our home each weekend and I also work full time and visited him twice in the week alone (she didn’t believe it was her daddy at first) while he was in a critical state in hospital (not while he was attached to frightening equipment and in intensive care, but back on a regular ward) and got my happiness and independence back while he was away. Many will think it wicked of me but i truely believed him being so close to death (doctors said he had 24 hours and made a miraculous recovery) would make him turn his life around, and value us ( he begged for us and said all he wanted was to be a family man, that we meant the world to him and promised he would prove he was a changed man) but I’m slowly and sadly being forced to realise it has not. He hacked into my facebook account and publicly humiliated me by putting up a status update from myself airing dirty laundry about our relationship so now I’ve removed myself from there out of total shame as I have work colleagues and elderly relatives on there, he hated me being on there, saying it was because I have no real friends, when it really cheered me up and helped me feel less lonely seeing what everyone was up to. He also condemns all my friends as ugly/boring/thick/calls them racist names/invents cruel nick names.
I’m going to my doctor to look for a support group, I can’t lose any more friends or family over this, I’m trying so hard to be strong, I made him stay at his mom’s mid week ( I feel I’m making the break more gradually this way, I also found out he had been smsing a nurse and arranging to meet her- all the time he was ill- the discovery of numerous infidelities/inappropriate flirtations throughout our relationship- I estimate he must have cheated- and I mean sexually- on me with anywhere between 5 and 40 women but of course as I’ve never caught him in the act he says therefore there is no real proof, even though I’ve received calls from women to tell me in the past) he’s also verbally abusive to her and his father, the only others who are aware of his true colours but also allow him to treat them the same) indeed he is the natural charmer with the looks of a movie star. He saves his venom, and I truly believe, self hatred, (where did it come from? I too try to analyse and save him from his demons) up for me where it is released. Even as I write this I miss him, his cuddles and warmth and power, terrified to be a single mum and wishing it could work, but I refuse to be tragic, I will
do it, I really am trying, for the sake of my child, I won’t let her carry on this pattern. Thank you for being
the first step in me recognising abuse is not just physical.

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DR May 29, 2011 at 9:25 am

These comments made me cry. It’s so brave that you women are stepping up and finding the determination to make a different kind of life for yourself and your children. I’m prone to loving men who treat me terribly – I guess I’ve known that enough about myself so I stay out of relationships as a result – but I understand the confusion that you’re all feeling to a small degree, I think, and the strength you are finding is inspiring as well as motivating.

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Nikki September 11, 2011 at 6:10 pm

I understand you, believe me, i didn’t even realize the toll it had taken on me, my man is terribly addicted to lortab taking 40 plus a day, and i feel so stupid not to have recognized it when i met him 5 years ago, When I met him it was just weeks after Hurricane Katrina wiped my whole life out ( I was 35 years old with 2 teen age sons) and i guess this is an excuse but i think the trauma from that made him look like a knight in shining armour, he came from out of town as a contractor for the storm damage, (from 9 hours away) therefore he kept a good cover….and it wasn’t until i fell deeply in love with him when I realized what a monster a person addicted to pills of the magnitude he was was capable of & when I managed to help get him clean of drugs it turned out that there was no wonder why he was drugging himself to the degree that he was. & I just got him out of my life, i almost married him, my heart is totally broken, & not one person next to me or in my professional life has had one good thing to say about him, and over time I have found out that he is a predator on women just like me & uses trauma as opportunity to “slide” right on in under the radar & “swoo” you and make you think that he is the source of your security at a time when tragedy is surrounding you, …once I went to his home town to live with him there is when I found out about his long trail of destroyed lives he left in his wake of “charming, cuddles, warmth & power” of decent very nice women he literally robbed of their sanity, money, reputations,….when I felt like I was the “special one”..by then I was totally under his spell….I finally have broken free from the madness, but the pathetic thing is I like you miss him terribly, even at this moment he’s only been gone for 3 months, & he is as i’m writing this with yet another woman, his next victim, who is as i write this, not even realizing she’s enabling him to do drugs at her expense & it will literally cost her her hard earned money, her sanity & her reputation, he picks out people who are “dumb” to the drug world & then isolates his “prey” from her freinds & family & the rest is probably the same as your story, and i’m trying to keep from dying of a broken heart, I know i’m not a stupid person, I hate myself for missing him, and am doing my best to get over this…….I never understood mental abuse, and sooner or later the mental abuse does get to be physical abuse & the mental abuse trickles right down to your kids, they see the torture from the name calling, false accusations, blame, and in my case 5 years my young boys have turned into young men, and when they began to step up to defend me even when I didn’t even realize i had been assaulted, that’s when I didn’t really understand why, but I knew someone had to go, & since I know I didnt raise stupid kids, and my friends arent stupid, and I’m not stupid (even though i sincerlsy feel like I am) that he had to go, I hope I can stand by this, 3 months seems forever & I’m back to my cheery self (I cover my pain with laughter unless i’m behind closed doors, i save the tears for privacy) but to be honest I don’t even know why i deserve to be grief stricken, that’s what so sucks about this, he had me convincd that I needed mental help…now i’m wondering if i do, i sometimes feel like i made a mistake, but i truly know i didn’t….the confusion is sickening to me, because i know i made the right decision & i’m lucky i didn’ wait until something seriously bad happened, so if i know those things, then why am i so damn sad? —i’m glad you have this blog…. thanks, at least i can see that i’m not alone & maybe not so crazy after all

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Diana A. September 11, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Nikki, you probably do need mental help, but only because this man did such a number on you. It’s hard to find the right counselor, but well worth it when you do. I would check with some of these groups that work with women who have been in abusive situations and see if they have any recommendations for someone who can work with you to help you get back your sense of worth–your sense of deserving much better than what this man was dishing out to you. You’re on the right track, but you could do with someone in your corner, someone who can help you remain strong in your decision while empathizing with the pain you feel in spite of having made the correct decision. Take care of yourself, Nikki. You are worth it.

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SJ May 5, 2011 at 9:11 am

You forgot reason #8 Staying for the children, so they could have a whole family and not be those kids that people whisper about, from a broken home. As it turns out this reason is completely faulty, as the kids get damaged too, and will turn into the next generation of abuser/victim. The only way to stop this dynamic is to get out, and to them teach the kids the right way to treat people, so they can identify abusers and not be a victim.

My only regret, having been in an abusive relationship, is not leaving sooner, for me, and for my kids.

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Matthew Tweedell April 9, 2011 at 12:40 pm

Hi, Gina.
I’m no expert, but I hope my two cents might be of any value.

You said, “He is sorry for how he acted….”
Although I don’t know him, or your situation, is it possible that what you’re really saying is that he acts like / says that he is? Perhaps God only knows. Maybe he’s sorry that it’s led to the consequences that it has for him but not really sorry about what he did to you.

You said, “I don’t know that that will ever change.”
And I don’t know if it’s wise to take chances then. You’ve only got one life to live right now. If I’ve only got one dollar, I’m not headed for the casino. When you can only make one investment, it’s prudent to avoid investing in any significant uncertainties. I understand that emotions tend to interfere with such cold calculations: that’s what leads to gambling addictions and overexposure to subprime mortgages in a bull market, and that’s what compels us to try to love people in ways that they aren’t really ready, able, or willing to be loved.
I’m not saying that love itself can ever be given a “rational” basis, but there are rational and irrational ways to express it: It might be more loving of your neighbor AND yourself if you stayed away from this neighbor, so he’s forced to get his own house in order rather than project his unclean spirits onto you. Again, I don’t know your situation: perhaps you should at least wait until you can be as certain as the sunrise that he’s got a long term commitment to sobriety, isn’t after anyone but you, and values you for who you are—a masterpiece by the very hand of the Almighty; or perhaps you should move on with someone else.

God bless, Gina.

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DR April 9, 2011 at 9:14 am

What a powerful note. I’m not John, but this sentence stood out to me: “Part of me loves him like he is my own child. I have a lot of empathy for his past.”

In ALANON (for family members of addicts), we learned that love is not pity but that addicts and people supporting them often mix the two up. You do seem like a lovely, deeply sensitive woman. Empathy comes naturally to you, I’m sure of it, that is probably a gift in your life that serves you well and makes you really wonderful to be around. But how much of this empathy is pity for him? That is not love. That is not a reason to stay in the relationship. You can know him, for sure, support him for sure, but for me? I’ve dated someone who made me feel stupid before. I was diminished and depressed as a result for a very long time. When someone cuts you down in that way, they often are simply hoping you’ll feel as miserable as they do so they don’t have to change.

John will give you some great advice, I’m sure. Take care.

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Matthew Tweedell April 9, 2011 at 12:41 pm

What if there is no John? It’s important to consider this, just in case, because it means we have to help one another and to rely on one another and not to think, “oh, John will take care of it”. (And perhaps that’s exactly what John wants us to do and so is why he doesn’t step in and make his presence known, though he may be watching these comments from afar and might return to them when we least expect him.)

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Still Struggling to Stop March 20, 2011 at 8:07 am

I found this today after watching the SFC on HuffPost. I was married for 24 years before filing for divorce. it took more courage to do that than anything I have ever done in my life. My husband was physically abuse only a handful of times (slap/push/choke–never any marks left), but emotionally and verbally abusive. His main form of abuse was neglect and ignoring me, telling me I was intolerable, a pest, a spy, a terrible housekeeper (meanwhile, my house was cleaner than most), and then the swear words were always things that would make a sailor blush. And then the next day it was how wonderful I was, how beautiful, how smart, how capable, why, I could be a president’s wife! Or the president herself! But it was the infidelity–again–that finally made me summon up all my courage to file. Addiction, lying, deception, you name it. I gave up all those years of my life to make HIM successful, to help him achieve HIS dreams, and all I got was blame that I had not achieved anything myself.

I am 53 years old. I started counseling within a couple months of filing for divorce when I realized I could not stop obsessing about him/us/life. I went to counseling weekly for about seven months, then on and off for about a year, then took some time off (no insurance), and then finally went back some months ago (still no insurance but the need outweighed the finances). I feel like a failure in so many ways even though I never wanted anything but happiness and to make him happy.

I went back to counseling this last time because the man I met and fell in love with discarded me after I was done being of any use to him, and I had fallen in love with him. Very powerful, well-to-do, moral (antithesis of my ex), my intellectual equal, and yet, I ended up feeling awful all the time and yet longing for him to just SEE me and WANT me and LOVE me.

Sometimes I think this lack within us, from a childhood absence of unconditional love (Gee, you mean like when my father got angry at me for writing poetry about the father-daughter relationship, when I was 11? Or when he told me no man would ever love me or want to marry me because I was sick, like my mother, and like her mother before her, when I was 17? Or like how my dad could never ever hug me or kiss me or say anything nice about how I looked so I felt like the ugliest girl around and was ashamed of my sexuality?) anyway…sometimes I think that this lack within me is one I cannot overcome. I feel like I am paralyzed by indecision and I am watching my life go by while waiting for my youngest to finish high school this year…and then? My hopes to move away, to try to do something for myself, to try to live with joy, instead of always with such deep sadness–and this from someone whose touchpoint in life was a relationship with God through Christ (and nothing I was raised with but rather through a born again experience followed by 30 years of deep faith)–I do not even believe the same way anymore, and just can’t anymore. I hover between atheism and belief most days, with an undercurrent of failure, rejection, and longing.

But you are right–it is ALL UP TO US to rescue ourselves. It is hard to know how to do this, even though we may have spent a lifetime rescuing someone else.

I am over my ex-husband now–I think–but I am still struggling to stop caring about and longing for the man who suddenly broke up with me (after telling me when he was with me, he felt the cares of the world lift off his shoulders) and who cannot understand my devastation. He hopes I find the serenity and happiness I am looking for…

God have mercy. If there is a God, that is.

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Heather March 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Thank you…your post has helped me finally leave a emotionally abusive relationship with a man. Even though it was from a distance, he somehow mananged to gain power over me by constantly making plans for “our life together” and then canceling them, teasing me, or denying me the things he promised and knew I wanted. I’m a really strong woman, generally, but I’d just lost my job and was in a vulnerable place.

Well, never again! Even though we were introduced by “family,” and he came with a very nice (albeit fake) resume/sales pitch, I’ve come to realize he is someone who has absolutely no power in the world, not nearly as much as I do, and was using me (a powerful woman) to lift himself up. Thanks for describing this dynamic. I’ve never heard it done so eloquently.

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Julie March 5, 2011 at 3:37 am

I have enjoyed reading John’s article and the posts through the night. Pulling strength together to follow through with going back to an attorney I consulted with in October of 2010. I left my husband for being abusive after our first year of marriage and he received 21 weeks anger management. Victom’s advocate helped me too. Six months later he moved in with me. Nine years later I made him leave. We went to couples counceling, but it wasn’t that useful. I just got to hear in front of someone else everything I don’t do right. I can’t possibly keep it under control. After he physically fought with my 17 year old son I made him leave in October with police escorts – but we tried to work it out a month later. My husband has never worn a ring, never given one to me, calls me the most horrible names in front of our four children. This week my daughter said my husband always says he’s just here for them. In front of my kids he said my only value to our family was to be the driver. He says ge can replace me by hiring a nanny and she’ll never complain. He follows me around to critique my approach on dealing with the kids. Approves or disapproves of the amount of work I accomplished in the day. If he’s in a good mood I can rub his back while we watch tv and snuggle and that’s how I feel loved.
So

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DR March 5, 2011 at 11:29 am

Julie, how awful. Let the strength you discovered back in October rise again, in new and powerful ways that will move you and your kids to a new, emotionally safe place.

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Wise Fairy April 2, 2011 at 9:33 am

Julie, I lived with being told I was wonderful, beautiful, could do ANYthing, so talented…and then told I was a M-Fing B***ch, how any man married to me would not have been able to stand it, how any man married to me would have had affairs long before he ever did, that I was intolerable and no one could stand me–and then maybe the next day it was how great I was. Crazy making, and SICK. My ex-husband also fought with our son, reaching for his neck and choking him. When I think about this, the feeling inside of me is something I cannot explain. My son was about 19 when it happened. My ex-husband would also say, from the time our son was about 4, “Why did I have to get a son like HIM?!” because our son was easily overwhelmed–probably had some ADD and/or slight autism–and which mother can stand hearing it? Meanwhile, he also told our youngest that she was the only thing that made him happy. Heavy load for a little one.

I have a friend whose marriage sounds like yours; her husband routinely demeans her in front of their children. She says that she made the decision to marry him and has to take responsibility for helping to create the situation. She is from the Middle East, as is he (as is my ex) and cannot give herself permission to divorce so she goes along telling herself it’s not so bad.

it waxes and wanes, as did mine. Your life goes by. None of the time can be recaptured. Abuse chips away slowly but SURELY as the soul. It eventually kills it. If you had a horrible cancer that the doctor said had to be cut out in order for you to have a chance to live, you’d have to consider if you wanted to live. If the doctor told you the cancer was in a dangerous location and they’d have to do the surgery without anesthesia, the choice is harder. The pain tremendous–you don’t know if you’ll survive–but it’s your only chance. That’s how my divorce was. I am so grateful I did it, but it doesn’t make life perfect.

I hope you will find a way to value yourself, and find your self respect–I know it has been destroyed–to finally fight for your life and get out. And your children. Give them an example of a woman who has had enough and can leave, even though you will be ridiculed and abused by him–and maybe them–for having dared.

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Anna February 9, 2011 at 11:03 am

I have to say as a domestic violence service provider, this post pushes my buttons. Here are some reasons I know:
1. Because she is afraid he will kill her if she leaves. This is often a very legitimate fear, in over 60% of cases where women who are killed or severely injured by their partners they are either trying to leave, or have recently left.
2. Because she is financially dependent on him.
3. Because she has been socialized to believe that her children need their father, and fears being shamed by her community and/or her family if she leaves him.
4. Because her religion tells her that marriage is for life.
5. Because her mother stayed with her father despite abuse, because her grandmother stayed with her grandfather despite abuse, because every model she has seen in her life tells her this is normal.

Please, please, please start asking a different question. Why do batterers do this? Why does abuse continue? Why does society allow it to happen? Why don’t community members and family members stand up against abusive behavior?

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John Shore February 9, 2011 at 11:07 am

Man. Did you ever clearly not read the piece.

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Anna February 10, 2011 at 2:02 pm

You caught me. I didn’t, actually. I read the headings, they pushed my buttons, I posted in an agitated state. I’m sorry, and I am admitting it publically because it is a good lesson for me, and probably for some other people too… woops.

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Lille February 24, 2011 at 10:18 am

Another point worth considering: women traditionally achieve status in our society through marriage. Their social standing is largely determined by the financial status of their husband. A lot of women will put up with quite a bit before letting go of that status. This aspect of society is lightening up a bit now, but it used to be iron-clad, folks.

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Mandy January 9, 2011 at 5:01 am

I think my biggest problem is confusion. I’ve lived in chaos for so long, I don’t even know what’s right and wrong anymore. Sometimes I feel like I should leave my marriage for the sake of everyone involved and sometimes I feel like I’m supposed to stick it out until something changes and that it is allowing God to develop me and him. But then I think if things don’t change and he EVER makes my girls (who are 1 and 3 years old right now) feel the way he has made me feel, then I couldn’t handle that.

I can honestly say I want out of my marriage. I don’t want to have to live in this kind of pain anymore. I don’t love my husband as a husband anymore because of what he has put me through. But I don’t feel “allowed” to leave my marriage. Like I don’t have biblical grounds and that is all that is holding me back. It would be so much clearer if I were being physically abused then I would know and I would leave. I have become so bitter and hard, that I am starting to become a little like him, towards him anyway. And that to me is the scariest part. I have been married for 6 years and they have been the most painful years of my life. I have never had support or understanding in any way from him. Everyone around me besides maybe a handful of people tell me to leave him.

For the first few years I was so blind I just took it because I loved him. I believed everything he said about me. He would call me lazy, irresponsible, stupid, an idiot. Anything he could think of at the time really. Then there were the actions and the faces that he would make. Many times if things weren’t or aren’t to his pleasing he would dump it on my side of the bed or anywhere and I would just cry and clean it up, whether it was trash or dirty laundry. He always makes me feel so worthless and like there is something so wrong with me. He is manipulative and he lies, but claims he would never do such a thing. He claims to be this organized and clean person, but he plays video games and does nothing while I do everything for our girls and the house. Then once in a while if I haven’t got things done yet he’ll get up and start ranting and raving and pretty much saying any other woman would be doing what he’s doing right now and how I’ve never been much of a woman anyway. Then he even takes it back to my childhood and makes me feel like I was a bad child even though he didn’t know me then.

Then there are those things I just can’t seem to let go of or move on from no matter how hard I try. Like when I lost my cousin and how the day he died when I told him he acted sorry to hear it, but then a little while later he called me back and told me basically to leave him alone and let him do his thing and I’ll do mine. That was in the first year of marriage. He still hurts me every single day in some way or another, but I don’t let it affect me in the same way. I act bitter and mean just like him. When I told him I was pregnant the first time we were getting ready to leave for a bible study and he said that I told him at the wrong time and basically made me feel like I was a bad person for getting pregnant. There are countless stories and things I wish I could share from over the years just cause it feels good to have someones understanding, but my biggest dilemma right now is the confusion. I walk in confusion everyday…saying yes and no to myself about leaving. I pretty much live in a daze. I can’t concentrate or operate like I used to and I am depressed. I don’t know I just wish someone could make sense of things for me even though many have tried and I believe them for the first hour or two and then I’m back to questioning. Is that normal?

Also, my husband told me in our first year of marriage that if he had it to do all over again he wouldn’t have married me and from that point on he stopped telling me he loved me. I haven’t heard those words again until within the past year and that was because I left him for over half a year. He told me on our one year anniversary that he had feelings for someone else and that it wasn’t necessarily a sexual or physical attraction, but a spiritual one. He has told me countless times over the years that he doesn’t believe I’m saved or that I need to get saved because I don’t “bare fruit”. Almost a year ago he said God changed him and he told me he loved me which to me was such a big change that I believed him, but on day one he was already back to making me feel so stupid. I just feel like I’ve lost who I once was and that it’s almost impossible (except for a miracle) to ever even know who I really am again. I do feel stronger because I don’t take it like I used to, but then I feel weak because I am acting like him. It’s just so much to deal with and sort through. I really appreciate this blog and I can identify with so much of it. I know it is the truth for other women, but sometimes for some reason I feel like my situation is unique and that I am supposed to deal with this somehow. I don’t know.

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Birdie January 9, 2011 at 7:49 am

Mandy, if you won’t leave for yourself, do it for your children. They are learning from you what to expect in their marriages. This is the template for their future. What do you wish to instill in your daughters? They need to see you respect yourself, take control of your life, and work toward a happy future. Your happiness in only your hands; that will always be the case.

You don’t seem confused at all, honestly. You close with the realization that other women should leave in similar circumstances. Why are you different? The real question is: what do you fear? Is the awful present really better than an unknown future? Every city has an agency to deal with domestic abuse—and make no mistake, that’s what is happening in your marriage. Call them. Talk to them. Find out your options so that the fear can be faced. Having done it, I can tell you that the fear does not go away until you step through it and act. We’re rooting for you and your children, honey. You know what to do.

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Megan February 12, 2011 at 10:06 pm

Mandy,

Birdie has already made some wonderful points, and I hope they’ve helped support you in making this very important decision to act on behalf of yourself and your children. I would like, however, to briefly address your concern about allowing God to develop you and him and not having a biblical reason to leave. My sister’s Catholic priest expressed this very clearly in a consultation he had with her very troubled close friend who was also confused in an abusive relationship. He said, “The Catholic Church does not condone divorce. But it also doesn’t condone a husband abusing his wife and family members. Leave him, and become safe. Divorce him or not, whatever you feel is right in your heart. But leave, live safely somewhere else, and have nothing more to do with him.”

So many people talk about the covenant of marriage. They talk about “in sickness and in health” and “for better and for worse.” These are true things, valuable things. Marriage IS a covenant. But it’s also a covenant that includes clauses to “love, honor, cherish, and protect.” A husband (or wife) who abuses their spouse has already broken that covenant long before you learn to stand up for yourself. You leaving AFTERWARDS is just a matter of logistics.

Good luck, sweetie. We’re ALL in your corner. We’ve never even met you, and we love you more than your husband ever had the capacity to. Not because you didn’t deserve it, but because he’s just too broken. Don’t try to own his broken, or fix it, or feel sorry for it. Just handle your own. On that note, let me leave you a bit of the text of my favorite song on this subject:

Doing 80 miles an hour, I roll the window down
And with freedom heavy on the air, I feel like I could drown.
And everything is different, and though freedom had its price
Like a poor man’s Joan of Arc, through the ashes, still I rise. . .

‘Cause I did wait, for you to come around
And I did wait, for you to change your mind
And I did give you your “one last chance,”
Over and over a thousand times

And I will live out of love, and I will act out of fairness
And I will be the richness that lies, beneath the surface of awareness.

(Jennifer Nettles – The Awakening)

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Silly Girl December 16, 2010 at 7:36 am

I am a college girl living with my boyfriend. I don’t know if I am being emotionally abused or neglected, but I feel like it and don’t know who to ask. The first thing that really gets my goat is that I have had to support him for over 2 years now. He just got a decent job, but is still relying on me to pay the rent, power, etc. He never helped around the house when he didn’t have a job and still doesn’t unless I ask. He got arrested over the summer for something really stupid and didn’t even say thank you when I offered to pay his bail/court fees totaling over $1,700. The night before I finally got to go see my parents for Thanksgiving(I live in 2 states over), he stayed out until I told him to come home because his friend got a PS3, and then got upset with me because I was upset over that fact. He uses my car everyday and complains about it just as much. I have a part-time job and 17 credit hours at school. I shouldn’t be responsible for him, but I have been. I should have told him to live with his friends that are obviously more important than I, but I haven’t. Am I just being childish, or is this a bad relationship?

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Suz December 16, 2010 at 11:58 am

Good heavens! For him it’s a GREAT relationship! You support him just like Mommy and Daddy did, but you don’t have the authority to require him to behave. He spends his money and his time as he pleases, and he gets sex whenever he wants it! Is he abusive? I don’t know, maybe in a passive way. He is definitely immature, irresponsible and selfish, and contributes nothing to the relationship. Why? Because you let him. He will do it as long as you allow him to. I doubt that there is room to compromise here; if you start making demands, he will do as little as he can get away with to accommodate you, and expect you to be grateful for his effort. Kick his sorry ass to the curb NOW, or you will spend your entire life apologizing and making excuses for him. Save your mothering skills for your own child, not somebody else’s overgrown baby. You will DEFINITELY be better off without him; he’s a loser. Maybe someday he’ll grow up, , but not until he has to.

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Strong April 15, 2011 at 9:33 pm

Ditto. And please use birth control.

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DC December 13, 2010 at 7:59 pm

I know this is kind of an old post here, but are you saying that it’s okay for a woman who was in an abusive marriage to get out of it and to get remarried?

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Rkerstetter1 December 8, 2010 at 3:24 am

John Shore – what comes through the most in these writings is your love and tender-hearted care for women. Wow. It’s amazing. Thank you.

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Anonymous December 8, 2010 at 6:35 am

What a lovely comment. Thanks, Rk.

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NowIknow November 21, 2010 at 2:05 am

Karen, I agree with you. While I love the seven reasons given here, my reason was almost like that of a slave in the early 1800’s. None of my support systems endorsed leaving a marriage – in fact, it never even crossed my mind that I could leave. Of course my own ex made it clear that I couldn’t – it scared me to disagree even in small matters, I didn’t know how I could even tell him I wanted out of a marriage without suffering severe repercussions. But he didn’t have to be physical, his psychological hold on me was so strong that I found it hard to even have my own opinion or believe that my opinion could be right. When I finally felt that it was the right and rational thing to do, several people of authority told me I couldn’t and shouldn’t, which put me right back where I was. It took a womens worker who said, “What’s stopping you from just walking out?” that I realised I was a free agent. It didn’t matter what anyone said, and even if I was doing the morally and ethically wrong thing, who’s to stop me? Sociopaths don’t care if they do the wrong thing, and they get away with it. So who could stop me if I decided to do what I wanted to do?

So while all seven reasons were applicable, there was an eighth one that ultimately stopped me – I didn’t know that a person could legitimately leave a marriage.

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christinej October 21, 2010 at 10:38 am

I have really, really appreciated finding this blog. I am currently in what I think is the beginning of an abusive relationship but perhaps I have managed to ‘cotton on’ early enough that I can leave…. I am typically not drawn to men, not ever looking for a relationship exactly but a certain type of man is drawn to me and I have difficulty in saying no if someone is persistent. Why this is the case I can’t exactly understand but perhaps it comes from being a ‘people-pleaser’.

(This whole post is likely to be me, analysing me – apologies! I am just so glad to have this chance to think it through, so much rang so many bells in the above blog :-))

I am someone who is most happy when I am doing things for others. It gives me a sense of validation. Does that mean I feel unworthy or that I am taking up space unfairly or unjustifiably if I am not doing for others…? I think so. This is perhaps what it means to be a co-dependent.

I am not ambitious. I do not have goals for myself. I like to help others. To help others gives me great satisfaction and a sense of worthwhile-ness. So, as a matter of course, I seem to attract those who are extremely ambitious and who are looking for a helpmate, I guess… So far, so good – quite a good match, except that somewhere it seems to shift and the balance moves from being a helper to being expected/demanded/aggressed at/and then (as happened a few weeks ago) the threat of violence. Exact words being “If you don’t shut-up, I am going to smack you.”

I will leave. It is just it is so complicated. At least we don’t have children. I thought I was pregnant – my period was so late, I am so relieved that that is not the case. Why do I still remain?

It is all of the above in the blog – excepting the fear of death, he won’t kill me if I leave that is certain. For me more, it is the emotional attachment. Abusers are clever, they will never make a false move until they KNOW they have got you hooked emotionally. It is like my achilles heel. How I love to be loved –

– And also to love, and isn’t there a lot to love about him. In practical terms very much to be loved about him even – successful (hence the aggression, I suppose in business one is less likely to be successful without that aggression anyway) – but extremely mean with his money and calculating down to the last penny – although that could be seen as being prudent/financially sensible and a good quality but it isn’t because he argues and argues with everyone – a taxi driver/someone presenting a bill/a friend/his renters from his properties it doesn’t exactly matter, he will try to shout them out of any penny he can. But here we are with a good-looking, ambitious, mid-thirties man who dresses well, is cosmopolitan, has houses in London, New York, India, South of France and LA. He is a hard-worker too – he is NOT lazy. He wants me – should I not be happy, be flattered? He is a catch!

Yet he is controlling, unfair, aggressive and beginning to be threatening. Everything has to be done according to his wishes (which is easy for me generally as I easily fit into other people’s plans – having none particularly of my own – hence his attraction to me on one level, the other being purely physical — he just fancies me. I think that annoys him, too!)

I need to leave, I know deep in my heart it will only get worse. I know he will have no compunction about physically hitting a woman, I know that. I know he will be able to blame it entirely on me “provoking” him, on his anger which apparently I know he can’t control…. that’s the way he is.

He is committed to me, he is not one to play around – I am fairly sure of that. But it will just get worse, I know it. I need to leave.

Why are we all such fools?

Thank you for the article. I do need to stop being such a co-dependent. I need to try to take ahold of my own life, instead of constantly offering it to the nearest person who will take it and subsume it. C’mon, c’mon, c’mon. Oh!

Ah well.

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Jule October 5, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Dear John,

I'm an atheist for many many reasons. One of them is that Christians often make the impression that they would stop at nothing to prove their faith in the bible (in the literally sense). Even if it means that somebody will get hurt or die.

I very much approve of your way of writing things. I very much approve of your common sense and the priorities you set. And I am impressed how you manage to walk that thin line (does it have to be that thin?) between your faith and common human decency.

I hope I'm not too harsh.

I don't have faith in Christ, but you give me faith in Christians.

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Diane October 4, 2010 at 9:19 am

Thanks for the part about power. It has explained a lot. While I am lucky to have a fantastic husband my boss last year was a nightmare! He was the principal/assistant pastor at a church school where I taught. I went from being "independent" (not said as a compliment) to being "offensive" and "having a problem with submission" in 6 months. What you said about these type of men harboring resentment is so true! When I resisted the verbal insults he would get me in passive/agressive ways for awhile and then later the verbal assults became worse! For the last 2 months since I quit I have been doubting my decision because I loved teaching the kids so much! I kept thinking that I should have just walked out of the office after 5 minutes and he would have stopped. My husband tells me that it would never have stopped but just would have become worse. Your explaination of my boss's drive for power has made it clear to me. I only regret that I could not stay and be a support for several of the young male students that he also abuses verbally. One has an ulcer (his son) and several have had emotional breakdowns. Luckily, since I was an employee I was able to file a complaint against him with our state department of human rights and the EEOC! To bad there is not a complaint department that would work on husbands for the women who marry these monsters!

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Jacqueline September 13, 2010 at 7:38 pm

God hates violence. Psalm 11:5. Jesus is love.

I am an overcomer of domestic violence, generational. The Lord saved my life from being shot at, brutally beaten, raped, hand cuffed behind my back and held hostage—the Lord miraclously enabled me to escape. The precious Blood of Jesus healed me, and continues to heal me. I thank Jesus for His love and breaking the deep roots of self hate, low self esteem and denial. Jesus is my husband and I love walking with Him, raising my daughter to love Jesus, and never be a victim and we love worshipping Him. By Jesus Stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:5.

my web site is
http://www.changedwomanoutreach.com

God bless you

Jacqueline

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Freda August 25, 2010 at 4:35 am

BRILLIANT! Oh bravo, bravo!!!

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Angie August 25, 2010 at 2:21 am

Nice! I totally agree with your reasons – lived a few myself. And I think it's important to note that abuse isn't always beating or verbal. Some women stay with men who just flat out don't love them or don't treat them like they should. After my fill of bad relationships, I've decided to walk with God and take a minimum of 12 months off from dating. I'm also blogging about it as I learn and grow in hopes of helping others going through the same scenerio. Maybe this will spare me another bad episode and teach me what it is that I lack. One day I will find a relationship that holds merit. I'm tired of the dead end ones…this world is too focused on self and we've forgotten what true & real love is all about. But I haven't given up; I'm just taking a break. Reason #1 for stopping the maddness: I'M JUST PLAIN SICK OF IT.

:) Peace & Love.

http://angnic.wordpress.com

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Craig Benno July 30, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Hi Strong. I am sorry to hear your story. How horrible for you.

I am a 43 year old male and was married for 12 years. My ex wife used to often threaten to stab me with a knife or hit, kick, bite, verbally abuse me etc….

And because I was a man was told, because your a man, you just have to suck it in, and don't ever retaliate…

Abuse is not a gender issue, its an issue of broken humanity struggling for identity.

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Strong July 30, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Are you really a woman? LOL You nail abusive relationships. I am just coming out of one. I was with him for 31 years total, 24 married. One child, 19. Your comments about "they live a lie" is so true. We were called "Ken and Barbie", people at church thought we were the "perfect family." Well, if total control, mean "joking" and finally black eyes, broken rib, and being thrown to the ground in your business is "perfect', then I guess we were.

Abuse doesn't get better, it gets worse. And children see that is how you handle life. Boys learn to abuse, girls learn to take it.

And yes, church members CAN be the worst. I had a snot-nosed 20-something tell me, "He has changed. You are giving up on your marriage." Well, then, you go send your sister, mother, girlfriend, wife over to live with him! And when he hits her, I will say, "But he's changed! Don't give up!" If you have never lived in fear of being killed, you won't understand it.

Forgiveness is another thing. I completely agree with your view. I can forgive, let go of the anger, bitterness, etc. But that doesn't mean I have to go back. Someone said, "God is never glorified by a woman submitting to beatings."

Thanks for "getting" it.

There are so many woman/girls in our country that think this is what life is. No it is not! I am late 40's, divorcing only man I ever "knew", no job, lost my business, will file bankruptcy this year, and am losing my house to foreclosure. Doesn't get harder than that. But I am SAFE, HAPPY and have SELF-RESPECT. I am down, but all there is is UP!

Keep telling woman/girls: a real man never hits a woman, he would lay his life down for her.

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T July 18, 2010 at 8:23 am

This article is just what I needed to read, just when I needed it!

Thank you

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Barb June 29, 2010 at 3:08 am

I am currently in an emotionally abusive relationship, but it is one where he wants me to work and make good money and have good benefits so he does'nt have to and so he can spend anyway he wants. He tells me get a job bitch. He is mad because I don't have a job right now because he wants to take a lay off at work and get some training so he can get another job.I really don't have friends I can go to or stay with. I have a 17 and 18 year old and they have no means either. I have isolated myself from shame and depression. I had a good job but I messed that up myself.I am just one big screw up and have no where to go and nobody for support. My relatives have all passed away and I am ready to run out of unemployment soon. We can't afford to live with or without my husband when the unemployment runs out. I have allowed him to run up a bunch of debt and we are screwed without me working. My kids are a mess and our lives pretty much suck! Any suggestions? I am barely functioning right now.

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randix June 29, 2010 at 3:23 am

Barb, you may be the one that John's original post was directed to. There are a lot of organizations out there that can help you. Don't become desperate because you think you are trapped. Evaluate (perhaps with a good counselor (if you can find one!)) your situation, whether the two of you can be helped together. If you determine that there is no hope, then find a place to go. Re-read John's post and go find the help you need. If you break an arm, maybe it was your fault, but you still go to a doctor. If you break yourself psychologically and/or spiritually, you have to go find help. You cannot set your broken arm and are probably not able to get back on track spiritually and psychologically without help. Go get it!

A 17 and especially an 18 year old are too old to be involved in the parents issues. They will have issues of their own, direct them to get the help they need, too. But the finances cannot be the final issue that keeps you or them trapped in an abusive relationship — just don't let finances be the cage that hold you.

I think you are among friends here. There is lots of information available on the internet, start searching. John has a lot of tips above.

If you can find the help you need as a couple, and recover your relationship, that is preferable, but that requires two people who truly want to, and can admit they don't know how, and are willing to get outside help. A very rare set of "if"s.

I wish you the best.

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David E. Brown, MS, LMHC July 7, 2010 at 9:56 am

Barb,

The most hurtful part of all abuse is the emotional part, the sense of betrayal we experience when someone who supposedly cares about us uses or otherwise hurts us without regard for our feelings. You are in a very abusive relationship, and it is not your fault!

I would suggest that you consider calling the national domestic violence hotline (1-800-799-7233) so you can find a program in your vicinity. When you call them you will find that they are very supportive and can help you decide what the best solution to this situation is.

If you are reluctant to call them, please consider calling them anyway, not necessarily to make a decision right away, most people aren’t prepared to decide what to do right now.

Instead, at least call to get information on what options are available to you. The reason you’re feeling helpless right now is not because you are helpless, but because you aren’t aware of some of the options that will be available to you. The local program can help you identify them.

No matter what obstacles you are experiencing, they will be able to help you overcome them, and will not suggest you do anything that you can’t, or don’t want to, do.

My best wishes to you, we’ll be thinking of you.

Dave

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Craig Benno May 29, 2010 at 4:31 am

I am a 42 year old make and a victim and survior of spousal abuse. I collapsed at work on the 17th october 2007 paralysed on the right side and hospitalised for 2 months. Upong coming home I was denied a shower chair so had to shower sitting on the floor…and my wife would barrage me for not being a real man able to stand up for myself.

I was hit, punched, spat on, had stuff destroyed, threatened to be stabbed with a knife, was disbelieved by my church and pastor, finally had to move out after being bitten on my wrist to the bone…had no where to go and lived in my car for 6 weeks.

You can read a poem I wrote called "words that cut deep" and more of my story here http://mencanbeabusedtoo.wordpress.com/2010/05/18

There was no help for me as a male victim…and one service provider after I told them my story of abuse wanted me to join a anger management course because the abuse was my fault.

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David E. Brown, MS, June 1, 2010 at 2:32 am

(Craig, I posted this initially on your site, along with a couple of issue specific comments, but will repost it here so that others may derive any benefit it proffers.)

Craig,

I am profoundly saddened and appalled at your story, and can appreciate what a devastating experience it has been for you. No one deserves to be treated like that, let alone experience the suffering you report.

Thank you for telling your story and helping the many men who may read this who have similar stories to tell, so that they can begin to escape their horror, rebuild their lives and begin the process of healing which can bring you and them to a place where you will find yourself better off than you could have ever been without these experiences (what some people refer to as a “thriver,” the stage following “survivor,” which in turn follows the “victim” stage).

For the sake of yourself and others who are still out there in the lonely state of continued victimization, I want to assure that there are some people out there who can help you and others.

I’m not sure of conditions in Australia, or anywhere besides here in the US and in Canada, but I can predict with some assurance that while male victims may meet with initial skepticism, most programs which provide services primarily for women, have encountered cases similar to yours and can provide support and assistance. If you have more than one in your area you may need to shop around until you find the best one. If none of them are receptive, this may be an opportunity for you to help educate and sensitize them.

Also, aggression towards another individual is a crime in most jurisdictions. Sometimes it is necessary to gather significant amounts of evidence to support charges against someone who commits their crimes in private, but it can be done.

As you have found, churches are an iffy proposition so it is important to seek out one which is focused more on supporting those in need than in judging them or requiring them to conform to some preconceived model of behavior. And never assume that a pastor is qualified ex-officio to be a counselor in anything.

I would guess that you have a government sponsored family services program in your area. Many programs like that, while they focus primarily on children’s issues, also have an adult services section which is accustomed to helping protect adults from abusive behaviors.

Most disability advocacy organizations also are accustomed to dealing with issues of abuse and can provide important support, no matter the level of the disability.

Finally, there are the counselors. As a member of that profession I am acutely aware that the quality of services available is too often appalling. Most counselors believe that if they mean well that’s all they need to help people. Thus when they encounter issues such as intimate violence, which they never studied in school, except perhaps in passing and very superficial detail, they are not only ill-equipped to help, but often cause more damage than they help heal.

I have been working with intimate violence issues for over 14 years, have countless hours of very specialized training, and am still learning new and often vital information nearly every day.

In choosing a counselor, as with doctors, one way is to ask a few counselors who they believe are the best practitioners in the area with respect to these issues.

In any case, while it is customary for counselors to see both partners together in the initial session, anyone who continues to see them as a couple after that first session doesn’t know what they’re doing. It simply isn’t safe for the clients.

They need to receive very issue specific individual counseling for a considerable period (often a year or more), and group (not couples) counseling for their respective issues, if available, before, if ever, they can be brought together safely (and that rarely happens).

My best wishes to you as you continue your struggle.

Dave

PS: You are likely to attract a number of people who are aggressors, but want to be seen as victims. One way I approach that issue is that I focus on the impact this problem they have in their lives is having on their feelings and their behavior, without automatically validating the details of their story.

No matter the truth of their situation they are wasting time if they focus on someone else’s need to change, regardless of how appropriate or beneficial such change would be. That’s for agencies like the legal system to deal with.

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lucky May 23, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Thanks so much David for that clear response, which ultimately comes back to my conclusion that it's not so important what's "wrong" with him, as long as I protect myself and my child.

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David E. Brown, MS, LMHC May 23, 2010 at 11:30 am

Thanks all for these useful comments and links.

I do not (nor does anyone else, so far as I am aware) consider me a trained diagnostician, even though diagnosis plays a part in my practice. I am a psycho-therapist, and while I try to emphasize the second half of that title, I suspect that many think the first part more accurately describes me. The bottom line is that I urge you to use great caution when listening to people like me.

That having been said I believe I can contribute a couple more thoughts to the discussion, then perhaps it would be helpful to others for us to close out this thread, and refocus the discussion on helping people free themselves from abusive behavior. Perhaps someone else could contribute a “DV 201” thread to supplement this.

While I just skimmed the articles linked above, they appear to be very good, but my impression is that they don’t really help Lucky as much as they could.

My sense of this, gained primarily from my relatively limited exposure to both disorders, is that the bulk of borderlines, if not all, are primarily a product of severe trauma, perhaps aggravated by other issues, such as sensitivity, a generally less than optimal childhood environment, marginal socialization skills, etc.

One way I have described it which has registered with many, is to characterize it as a product of the internal tension between wanting to be connected to someone for the security that condition promises, and fearing that connection because of the increase in vulnerability that accompanies it. As a consequence, in close relationships, especially with family and partners, the borderline is simultaneously experiencing a sense of being too close, AND, being too far away from someone, as well as a sense of not being close enough, OR, far enough away from the person in question.

As you might imagine this produces considerable volatility in both the individual and their relationships and is not easily addressed.

If you think about the dynamics of childhood sexual abuse, a lot of this makes sense. A high percentage of childhood abuse evolves from what, initially, at least, can be a relatively benign and even healthy relationship. As an example, we might have a lonely child who comes from an environment where the parents are so preoccupied with their own desperate struggle for emotional and/or physical survival that they are not able to adequately tend to the needs, let alone the nurturing of the child.

Then someone discovers, or is discovered by, the child, and a relationship begins which may well, initially at least, be mutually beneficial in that it serves to meet some of the emotional deficits in each.

At some point, however, the relationship becomes exploitative on the part of the emotionally, socially, and/or physically more powerful of the two. Exploitation, no matter how otherwise benign, is inherently harmful, because it sends the message that “your needs are insignificant compared to mine.”

Thus we have a child learning that “in order to have a relationship, which I desperately want, especially because I don’t feel whole within myself, I have to subject myself to harm, and the harm cancels out the benefit, but I need the benefit, etc., etc.”

This is a classic approach/avoidance conflict. As we fast forward to adulthood, any significant relationship evokes echoes of this internal struggle, because of important parallels with that childhood experience. So that, regardless of the objective realities of this relationship, the echoes have been so reinforced, and are so powerful, that I feel the internal conflict and have to respond to it.

In treatment, it is only when we can begin to drive a cognitive wedge in between the echoes and the reality, that we can introduce the possibilities of choosing alternative behaviors. In order to do that work we have to undergo a very painful reexamination and reframing of those past experiences, understand that regardless of how real they feel, the echoes from the past are not real, then slowly, painfully, begin learn how to challenge the reality of our feelings and choose different outcomes, that we can truly begin to see the light.

While this synopsis hardly does justice to the magnitude of the struggle for borderlines, NONE OF WHOM CHOSE THEIR PAST, there is always the hope that, if and when they are successful in their internal struggle, they will come out of it a better person than they could ever have been without all of these factors in their history.

The other somewhat less dramatically hopeful characteristic of Borderline Personality Disorder is that there is considerable evidence that regardless of the presence or absence of any treatment, the condition moderates over time. I suspect this is a natural product of the importance of our experience in shaping our view of the world and our attendant interactions with it. As we build a greater fund of experience, if the value of those experiences differs with the consensus of our previous experiences, our world view will tend to shift a little more in that direction, all other things being equal.

I’ll only make a couple quick comments about Bi-Polar Disorder, and then let you go.

My understanding is that this disorder has a very strong bio-chemical component, and may be a product, in part, at least, of a dysfunctional bio-chemical regulation mechanism. Understanding it is complicated by the many forms it takes, and by all accounts it is every bit as formidable a condition as Borderline Personality Disorder, for all involved. The good news is that medications appear to have been of clear value in most cases, especially when compliance is strong (often an acute problem, in being lacking in many Bi-Polars, especially during the manic phase), and that when combined with cognitive-behavioral treatment aimed at helping the client manage the condition can often lead to a relatively normal lifestyle.

Finally, in response to Lucky’s specific case, it’s not impossible that your former partner might be borderline, but the behavior of abusers closely mimics the volatility of borderlines, even though it has far more elements of choice in it. I guess that I would describe it as less trauma based, even though it might often involve elements of that. Also Bi-Polar, especially the rapid cycling version, can resemble Borderline Personality Disorder as well as the Abuse Cycle.

Bottom line, just about every one of these conditions exist on a continuum which may well intersect with the continuum of other conditions, and, while I don’t want to minimize the impact of any of these conditions, there is good reason to believe that, at some level, all of us experience at least traces of each condition. Many see that as a very positive sign, in that we all share in each others’ struggle because we incorporate parts of their struggle in ours.

But in any case, each of us has more control over our choices than we usually believe we do, and it is well that we limit ourselves to trying to control our own behavior and take full responsibility for that behavior by trying to make the future better than the past in a manner which is consistent with respect of others.

By way of corollary it is well for us all to respect ourselves enough (we deserve to) to not cede control of any part of our life to others (not so subtle segue back to the major thrust of this blog).

End of the sermon of the day (AMEN! [old habits die hard]).

Best wishes to all,

Dave

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Rand May 23, 2010 at 3:44 am

Thank you, Dave!

Back to you John!

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Rand May 22, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Dave,

Thank you!

I notice one slight difference if usage of BPD between us: it can be Bi-Polar-Disorder or Borderline-Personality-Disorder. I am referring throughout to borderline, which, as you know, seems more to emanate from the combination of an over-controlling parent with sexual abuse.

Lucky: perhaps Dave can come up with a better direction, but I think a good layman’s introduction to the topic of these personality structures can be found on Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Borderline_personality_disorder and
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bipolar_disorder

I have delved into this deeply. As Dave has so clearly pointed out, something about these personality types attracts us (as they say: “Non”s). We then choose them. Dave didn’t explicitly say this: we then often enter into some sort of “co-dependent” relationship. It is all about our Choices.

I can whole-heartedly recommend Dave’s comments about determining your own part of the relationship. That is also what Christ would have us do, take the log out of our own eye before we try to remove the speck from the eye of our partner (or ex-partner).

Thanks again, Dave for the comments about my daughter. I am also fully aware of what you pointed out. I was just expressing the pain of watching a human being harming another, who is very close to me, and being powerless to intervene (as so often happens in life). My daughter has loudly expressed, as well in court, that she wants to come live with me, and she herself has a high level of fear, both of her mother, and now of the authorities, who force her to stay in a situation that is clearly unhealthy. I agree that it is just a matter of time. My “duty” is to get as healthy as possible. In that regard, I will refer this back to the fact that this is John’s web site, and getting healthy has a lot to do with getting into the hands of the Healer.

Rand

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David E. Brown, MS, LMHC May 22, 2010 at 10:37 am

Rand,

Sorry to be so long in responding to your well-articulated and understandable concerns.

Men have no monopoly on power and control behaviors, let alone abusive behaviors.

Your experience appears to have been a nightmare for you and your daughter both, and closely parallels in substance, if not in detail, the experience of many women dealing with these issues in a legal system where the myth that men and women have equal power before the court has led to countless tragedies that mirror your own.

Also, having fallen prey to this bias myself, at times, I recognize that those to whom men sometimes reach out for help are, sometimes at least, slow to recognize the validity of some of their complaints. There are a couple of reasons (not excuses) for this.

The vast majority of intimate violence is characterized by male aggression (a chosen behavior, which is not a product of mental illness, but rather societal training and values, and connected male myths and associated belief systems), therefore in the relatively infrequent instances where males present as the victims there is an unfortunate skepticism, which often results in delays in, and/or denial of, the provision of appropriate services.

Another factor is that, as I noted in an earlier post, every abuser I ever met characterized himself as a victim of his partner. After a few of those complaints prove to be untenable, it is easy to dismiss, without the necessary careful assessment, male complaints as without credibility.

As you rightly point out it is imperative for service providers to be rigorous in examining cases with an objectivity which will accurately identify the aggressor and victim and render the appropriate assistance.

There are a couple of factors which complicate this process. First, almost all domestic violence programs began when women, who had been directly or indirectly touched by this violence, banded together to help their sisters in need. This was given a tremendous boost by the feminist movement. Related is the fact that intimate violence is so widespread across the world (even in our relatively “civilized” nation, studies have suggested that 1 in 4 of our women are, have been, and/or, will be, a victim of intimate violence). It is understandable, as a consequence, that some bias might infect the process. However, the bulk of programs do a pretty good job of assessment of new cases.

It is true that there have been some studies which have suggested that the perpetration of intimate violence is roughly equally divided between male and female aggressors. That is, in my view, at least, a product, however of the superficiality of those studies, which have almost invariably depended on self-report.

One of the confusing dynamics of intimate violence is a strong gender bias regarding acceptance of responsibility for the violence. Men tend to minimize their own responsibility for the violence and exaggerate their partner’s responsibility for the violence. Women, on the other hand minimize their partner’s responsibility for the violence and exaggerate their own responsibility for the violence. As a consequence, we can’t determine responsibility solely by self-report.

If I may indulge myself here parenthetically, an interesting and ironic consequence of this in my work was that I had to begin by helping women understand that the violence in their relationship was emphatically not their fault, but once they had attained that understanding, I had to then begin helping them to understand how they were responsible for getting themselves into the relationship in the first place, and for extricating themselves from the relationship as soon as possible, if they wanted a chance at safety for themselves and their children.

Another complicating factor is that, while there are similarities between male and female aggression, particularly in the devastating harm they do to others, there are often important differences also.

As I indicated, male aggression is almost always a choice of behavior, without any significant, or at least direct, involvement of mental illness issues. On the other hand, female, unprovoked, aggression, while it is still, in large part a choice, it is also, often at least, driven in large part by a diagnosable mental illness, e.g.: Bi-Polar Disorder or Borderline Personality Disorder (the later of which is almost always a product of being a victim of sexual violence).

This enormously complicates both the diagnosis of, and the response to, female aggression.

So what is the answer? I have not yet discovered definitive and/or effective answers to all of these issues, but in the meantime, my approach seems to be pretty effective at cutting through some of the confusion and providing a promising path to a safer life and the healing that safety can support.

There are two pillars upon which I base my work. Respect and Choice.

Most of us think of respect in terms of the respect others have (or don’t have) for us. My emphasis is on the respect we have for others and ourselves, which, not coincidently are the only forms of respect we control. The key to my view of the role of respect in our lives was turned when I realized that the people I respect most are the ones who appeared to respect me. The corollary was that if I respect others (no matter how they respond to me (see, for example, Martin Luther King, Ghandi, and Jesus of Nazareth) I improve the chance that they will respect me.

Self-respect became a key factor when I realized that, for all of the regrets, mistakes, harm, etc. for which I have been responsible, I am, in my core, a good person, and my interests are best served when I accept that and seek out ways to free up and express that core reality clearly instead of distorting its expressions with the products of misunderstandings of what my historical, let alone present, experiences have appeared to tell me.

As for Choice. All of my choices are solely my responsibility, in large part because they are the only parts of my life over which I have sole control, and while I cannot change my historical choices I alone determine what choices I make in the present and the future (unless, of course I cede control to some external person, cause, or other entity, in which case I damn well better make the right decision). That means that I am best served if I seek out all potential choices so that I can approach my future with the best information I can gather about what my options truly are. Knowledge is power.

Finally, it is important to recognize that each moment I spend complaining about the choices of others, or wishing that they would, let alone depending on them to, make different choices, is time better spent on discovering, choosing, and implementing the choices available to me.

But I’ve rambled on far too long. Fortunately (for me at least) it was your choice, not mine, whether you read this far.

I hope that some of it may be of help to you, and others like you, Rand.

Dave

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Rand May 22, 2010 at 5:04 am

Dave,

Just a quick response first, I may have more to say after thinking about what you wrote. In essence, I can agree completely with what you have said. I am quite well aware of the background of particularly the BPD syndrome — my wife was apparently raped by her brother and one or more priests. How extremely sad. I am sure that was not her choice. Yes, my choice was in going way to far in trying to "help" her. The first threats of suicide came within weeks of our getting to know each other. There was an actual attempt shortly after we married.

This, too, is all water under the bridge for me. Now my concern is for my daughter. I am living in a society that seems to come straight out of the '50s, this society's judicial system is apparently totally unaware of essentially all that you wrote above, and has given custody to her mother, and very limited visitation to me. My daughter is now being raised mostly alone by this woman, and has been at times left alone with a 40 year old male babysitter (I am sure that you are also informed about how BPD is often propagated). My choices now available to help my daughter are very limited. As far as for me, I think that I have come a long way through all of this. You won't see me trying to "help" needy women anymore, in fact, I am convinced that they (at least the BPDs) are seemingly blind to their own situation, and thus (since they don't recognize any need for help) are not help-able, even by the professionals.

Yes, knowledge is power. I think I am in the process of learning to make better choices. Thank you for your detailed and enlightened comments.

Rand

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David E. Brown, MS, May 22, 2010 at 7:17 am

You're very kind.

One of the hardest tasks in life is letting go of our "need" to take care of those about whom we care. It may help us when we can examine carefully, and often challenge, our perception of exactly whom we are trying to help, them or ourselves. All too often we are primarily trying to assert control over a situation which triggers our feelings of being out of control. Any such effort is inherently counter-profuctive.

It may help also to realize that often our continued involvement in this loved one's life may actually retard the process which they have to undergo in order to be more open to help. Sometimes the best way to help is to let go.

You have encountered similar societal and legal realities to those which too often obtain in this country also. What becomes important in these cases is for us to hew to the most sound course possible and not let our frustration lead us to behavior which can distract those, who are in a position to help, from the opportunity to more clearly see the realities we're concerned about. Again, letting go is often the best way forward, no matter how counter-intuitive (and sometimes dangerous) it may seem.

I can appreciate the agony you experience about your daughter's plight. Again, this kind of situation can elicit feelings of profound helplessness, and often guilt, or even shame, about being unable to help someone we love, and for whom we consider ourselves responsible.

I can assure you, however that, regardless of what happens in the interim there will come a time when you can be reunited with your daughter, but I strongly urge you that, while it is well to make it clear that you invite such contact when it becomes possible to safely transmit that message, that you, nevertheless leave the contact to her initiative. In the meantime, you can best expend your attention and energy with the help of a good guide in sorting through the impact this, and any historical factors in your life which may be relevant, have had on yourself and your perception of reality. You need to be in the best position possible to be able to help both your daughter and yourself to heal when (not if) the opportunity comes.

I can assure you also that, regardless of anything which happens in the interim, your daughter's love for you, and the importance for her which you play in her life cannot be extinguished by anything that you, or anyone else, may do or have done. There may be anger and/or all kinds of other strong negative emotions on her part, but the love for, and the desire to safely connect with, you will still be there.

In the meantime you are more likely to trigger more complications in her life to the extent that you try to remain engaged with your ex. Let her go.

My best wishes for you and confidence in the opportunities which are and will be available to you.

Peace

Dave

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lucky May 22, 2010 at 8:27 am

I'm interested in this distinction between bipolar and borderline personality. My abuser has been diagnosed with bipolar (or so he said when I was with him. Now, in a custody proceeding, he denies it), but a couple of therapists my daughter and I have worked with (none of whom have met him) have suggested that according to my accounts it sounds like he may fit the borderline profile. I have bipolar relatives so I am fairly familiar with that disease, but I know little about borderline personality disorder.

Of course at this point my interest in what is wrong with him is far far below my interest in getting him out of my life and my daughter's life if at all possible (very unlikely now that I've been forced into the court system), but I'd like to know more about it.

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denver May 22, 2010 at 11:42 am

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/borde
Here is some information on borderline from NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health). Hope this helps!

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David E. Brown, MS, May 22, 2010 at 7:46 am

I just had another thought that I should transmit, perhaps more for the sake of others who read these posts than for any help it may provide for you Rand, except in trying to reach a better understanding of your experiences.

While mental health diagnoses like BPD (Bi-Polar Disorder) and Borderline Personality Disorder, can be very useful, particularly in looking for less obvious manifestations of the conditions under discussion and/or pointing to underlying causes, they can also be very misleading, especially in a couple of respects.

First, they are, to a large extent, still subjective judgements, based upon the presence of a certain assortment and level of symptomology, which, in turn are often more subjectively identified than we would like.

An example is the application of the diagnosis of Conduct Disorder which is often invoked in the case of juveniles who are exhibiting problematic behaviors. What is too often missed is that the diagnostic criteria is only to be employed when the behavior of the subject is not a response to environmental factors. When we miss that fact, subsequent treatment providers may well blame the child for choosing behaviors which, however counter-productive, are, nevertheless, very understandable, and even the best available response to the circumstances. This leads to treatment missteps which can have profoundly devastating consequences for the whole subsequent life of the youth.

In cases similar to yours, I have seen a number of occasions where there was an apparent confusion between a diagnosis of BPD and Borderline Personality Disorder. Both the etiologies and the courses of treatment are very different for the two disorders, but the mood swings can be very similar.

In my opinion and practice I spend much less attention to any diagnosis which has been attached than to what the behavior is and what is driving that behavior. In the most popular example, just because I have been diagnosed with paranoia doesn't mean that I don't have enemies who are out to get me.

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Rand May 19, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Why would anyone use ANY disordered behavior? It is all about power and control. This is by far not exclusive to men.

I think if you do any research, you'll find that what I described happens more than you seem to think!

Rand

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Rand May 19, 2010 at 3:02 am

This all very well and good. However, there are two threads through all of this which converge all too often in a total catastrophe. The first thread is that it is mostly women that are abused. But if the woman is the abuser, then the second thread may come into play. As John made very clear: the women’s shelters are extremely inviting, they are desperate to acquire new “clients”, to draw more women in. The system is so ingrained and thorough that it is easy to collude to a catastrophe.

As was ofter stated above, it is a process to decide to leave. When the abused man finally gets to the point of deciding to go, the women’s shelters can provide the most dramatic and effective weapon against him. The abuse from a woman on her partner tends to be less physical (let’s face it, most of the time he is larger). So she uses other weapons: threatening to kill herself, threatening to take the children and leave, etc.

When she notices that he is actually getting ready to leave, the final solution and weapon is presented nicely to her: take the children and go to a women’s shelter, claiming that she is the abuse victim. The simple act of going to the shelter convinces almost all of society that she is the victim, the shelters are not supposed to take anyone who is not! But they need and want new clients! And, as also pointed out manifestly above, the abuser is normally an incredibly good liar!

This resulted in my case in nine months of seeing my child every two weeks for two hours supervised. The financial burden, the automatic assumption in court that the woman is the victim (how many times have I heard, just before the verdict: “but she went into a woman’s shelter”???) is just too much. This going into the shelter removed what little protection the child had, both physically and emotionally, as well as psychologically. The child is now old enough to see the whole situation, but the mother has custody, full control (yes, power and control is what it is all about!).

There are better ways to protect an abused woman; going into the shelter generally only protects her from physical violence for a short time at most, and as is well stated above, abusers generally don’t change – so there is really no long-term protection.

If you want to see this topic elaborated on, search the internet for articles on Borderline Personality Disorder. You will find that this is a common occurrence. In fact, in the country where I live, and the language, there is a document that can be found online which details the steps a woman must go through to abuse the women’s shelters. Most abusive women are so disordered that they would not find such a guideline. But heaven help the poor man, if the woman finds an unscrupulous lawyer who knows about this document.

John, any comments from this perspective?

Rand

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r May 19, 2010 at 5:42 am

Wow, I don’t know what country Rand is speaking of, but there is no way most women would put themselves or their child through the trauma of entering a women’s shelter if the need were not very real. Having worked in one for years, I know they are always filled to capacity with a waiting list and experience desperate callers seeking entrance on a daily basis. Living in one is no picnic either and some form of counseling is usually a requirement.

I would also have to ask what would provoke a person to say she wanted to kill herself or leave and take the children in the first place.

I’m very sorry for Rand’s experience but surely don’t think this is a common occurence.

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John May 19, 2010 at 7:06 pm

Rand, would you advocate shutting shelters? If yes, then you think the potential for abuse of the system outweighs the lifeline it provides to some?

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Rand May 20, 2010 at 4:17 am

As with so many things, I think this is one of those untenable problems. I know that the shelters do help abused women. As you so well pointed out, though, John, the system provides a simple and certain “out” for women who are abused – the biggest problem is convincing them that they need to go and that the possibility exists. That you addressed that well in your original posts.

I’ll name the country where I am currently living. Germany. Here the law provides a better solution than to go to the shelters: a woman can go to court and within two hours have an order that her abusing husband may not approach within 500 meters of their home. This is very effective. Obviously, neighbors are on the lookout for him, if he shows, he will be quickly transported to jail. A good law, in my opinion. And if that law is abused, then there is a real judgement as to whether abuse really took place. BUT, the shelters here are openly inviting, as you described, and women are interviewed. Only abused women are to be allowed in. But the financial aspects of the shelter make it very convenient to let anyone in who can tell a good story. My wife is so good (at lying) that she convinced my pastor (she is neither a Christian, nor does she go to church). One day, she threatened again to leave (all about controlling my actions), and I finally said: fine, go! Instead she went to my pastor (after all, she says there is no God, so, if I myself believe, then I must have been brainwashed by this pastor, in effect: the pastor is then my god. So was her logic, then she just needed to convince my pastor to control me in the way she wanted!) The pastor convinced her to get counseling with me, and in the first private session, she convinced the counselor that I was physically abusing her. The pastor and counselor then advised separation! In order to “protect” her from me, neither the pastor nor the counselor told me anything about the abuse! I only discovered the lies about the abuse about seven months later. In the meantime (three years now), she has admitted to the court system that there was never any abuse!!! But the tracks were laid down by going into the shelter. The original abuse, by her against me and my daughter, continues now against my daughter, and I have been conveniently and consistently sidelined: “But she went into a women’s shelter!” She has custody and I have very limited visitation. My daughter desperately wants me to have custody (the court: “but she went into a shelter!”). The psychological damage to my daughter is being done. My only consolation is that, as you have so well stated elsewhere, we all have our injuries — this will be one of my daughter’s major ones. It is, however, painful to watch it happen. Obviously, God is teaching me something about trust.

As “r” just above stated, a shelter is no picnic. Counseling is not required here. The fact that my wife chose that route to accomplish her goals, and many other indicators, point to BPD. These people are very dangerous, and there are a lot more disordered people (including the abusers, either sex) out there than any of us tend to believe. You can not guess what they will do. I have long ago come to terms with what has and is happening to me and my daughter, I know God and that He is the one in authority. I was indeed worried the last couple of weeks before she went into the shelter that I might (or might not!) wake up one night with a knife in my chest.

So I guess we have something that is most of the time good (women’s shelters) but can be turned into a dangerous weapon. Is that cause to do away with them? No, of course not. But there should/must be a way of demonstrating that abuse actually is taking/took place. Shouldn’t the police become automatically involved after a woman goes into a shelter? Shouldn’t there be some sort of witness interviewing? Shouldn’t someone have come to me and asked?

Come on John, you are the blogger here with the good insights — what do you think?

BTW, I just found your blog recently, and I do appreciate it very much – indeed a lot of good insights. I especially appreciate the May 4th: Ten Ways Christians Tend ….

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Lara May 15, 2010 at 12:04 am

This is fantastic. Thank you.

Let me first correct one misconception, however: WOMEN DO NOT STAY IN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIPS.

If they did, we wouldn't have a divorce rate of 50%!

There's great research about this, and more is coming out all the time. The divorce rate of abusive couples is ten times higher than the general population. See John Gottman and Neil Jacobson's When Men Batter Women.

So from now on, when people ask the question, "Why do they stay?", we should all answer, "SHE DOESN'T!!!!"

That said, leaving is a process, and you have articulated many of the emotional and self-image obstacles brilliantly. I would rename your piece: "Seven Emotional Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships". Women stay in abusive relationships for many practical and material reasons. The best book out there about those practical issues (the legal system, their kids, material resources) is called "Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds Of Angry and Controlling Men" by Lundy Bancroft.

Abusers slowly and methodically destroy their victim's social support systems and cut them off from access to material resources. That is exactly their game–to make it impossible for the victim to leave. When women make efforts to remain or become more independent, abusers escalate their violent behavior, control tactics and threats. It isn't just "fear of the unknown" that keeps women where they are, it's fear of the known–him! When a man who has broken your jaw says he'll kill you (or himself, or the kids) if you ever leave him, the savvy and rational response is to believe what he says. Smart, self-protective women stay.

That is, they stay until it is safe to leave–especially for their children.

This is why researchers at the University of Illinois, Lyndal Khaw and Jennifer L. Hardesty, came up with a, excellent model of the process of leaving abusive relationships. People often get impatient and frustrated with abused women who seem to vacillate about leaving, or who leave and return, or who seem to "put up with" their abuser for way too long. But if we begin to think about leaving as a multi-stage process–one that nearly always involves trial-and-error–then it is much easier for us to be helpful and patient over the long haul.

The Process of Leaving a Batterer: Turning Points and Trajectories

1. Precontemplation: Women are often in denial about the abuse

2. Contemplation: Women begin to realize they are in an abusive relationship

3. Preparation: Women make efforts to become more independent, which makes abusers escalate violence and control tactics. This stage is often marked by a pileup of abusive episodes and noticeable effects of the violence on the children

4. Action: For which there are three possible scenarios or trajectories–

a. Empowerment and letting go: Regaining control of their lives and letting go of their desire to make the marriage work

b. Holding back: Regressing to the preparation or contemplation stages (may be necessary for success, but it often frustrates observers)

c. Leaping: Going directly from contemplation to action with little preparation (impulsive actions and little preparation can result in failure, and women often return to the relationship)

5. Maintenance: Women reclaim their identity and often continue to deal with an ex-husband's attempts to control them, especially through their children.

I am a doctoral student, and my dissertation looks at how women go back to school in order to cope with unsatisfactory or abusive marriages. Going to school is an extremely effective strategy.

So if you know a woman in an abusive marriage, suggest that she go take a class or two at a community college, or enroll in a Master's program! Being in an intellectually stimulating environment will accelerate her internal process and help her develop the material and social resources she needs before she can successfully make the break.

Now that we've solved the "why-does-she-stay" non-conundrum, we can turn our collective attention to the real question about abuse: Why do men kick the crap out of people whom they purport to love? I mean, what's up with that?

Mr. Shore, please keep up your beautiful, empowering, compassionate, thoughtful and passionate advocacy of women! Perhaps that is why God chose you (and me! and many others!). Maybe it wasn't just so you could tell Christians how they are getting it butt wrong…

Also, in another post elsewhere on your site I proposed marriage to you and your amazing wife. I was touched by your conversion processes and thought you two would make excellent spouses for me. Since the BIble is rife with polygamy, I thought, "What the heck!" I was just wondering if you had given the matter any thought.

(Do I need to add an LOL or a winky after that, or is it clear that I'm joshing? Well, kinda joshing, anyway.)

Sincerely,

Lara

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David E. Brown, MS, May 15, 2010 at 2:20 am

Very well said Lara, and right on target.

I agree that escape is a process for many women who find themselves apparently trapped in an abusive relationship (the fortunate ones disconnect at the first hint of abusive behavior, when it is easiest to escape, an important reason why all women would profit from learning the early warning signs of abusive behavior).

I have found in my work that the women who succeed in escaping have often made conscious and careful preparations and contingency plans, e.g.: deciding and preparing ahead of time for how to respond when the next abusive attack begins.

In aid of that, I have found it helpful, in discussing their situation with them, to help them examine the history of their abusive relationship in ways that make it clear to them how his behavior has escalated over time. By helping them identify, and understand the significance of, this escalation process as well as how it is an inevitable consequence of him trying to maintain control, we can help them see where that trend is heading, unless and until they can prepare themselves and their children to successfully leave.

This is something that they need to discover and decide on their own. We can only help them clarify their own awareness. If we substitute our "better" judgment for theirs, and try to tell them what is best for them, how are we any different than their primary abuser? They have to make these decisions on their own, because they are in the best position to take into account all the factors involved. Also they and their children (and pets) are the ones who will have to live with the consequences of their decisions, not us.

In this respect, I would observe that, while I agree that women will invariably benefit from self-growth inherent in activities such as getting a job, or a resumption of their education, their partners will almost always see such activities as a threat to their control over their partner. Even if they agree to and "allow" such activities, they will often undermine those activities in a variety of ways aimed at enhancing their own sense of confidence that their partner is still securely in their grip.

While it makes little effective difference for the apparent "prisoners" of abusers, for those who wish to try to work with abusers (and I would strongly suggest that you refrain unless you are well suited, and have been carefully and well trained, for that very specialized and challenging work) it is important that we understand that the behaviors abusers employ are not, for the most part, a product of malevolence on their part, rather, they are part of a process also, a process which starts from a base of learned behaviors, supported by an acquired, distorted, belief and values system, and which builds on that base, experiments with new behaviors instinctively aimed at helping them feel more secure, then modifying those behaviors over time (often via escalation) to make them more "effective" at achieving their goal, namely reducing the likelihood that their partner will "abandon" them.

One minor point. While it is often hard for all of us to remain clear about cause and effect in these relationships, the woman never "makes" the man do the things he does. His behaviors are always choices of responses to his partner's behaviors and other factors in his life. One of the keys to helping the men is to help them understand this point so they can begin the process of discovering and choosing healthy responses which will better achieve their true objective, achieving a future relationship (almost invariably with someone other than their current partner) which is mutually beneficial and secure because it is built on equality, mutual respect, and trust.

One last point. I would encourage anyone reading this to refrain from trying to diagram my sentences lest you severely injure yourself.

Good luck with your thesis Lara, sounds like you're on the right path.

Dave

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Anonymous May 12, 2010 at 7:23 pm

I am 18 months out of an emotionally abusive relationship. I grew up in the church, stable family. I married my high school sweetheart, and we continued in the church after our marriage. After we had our first child, things really started to go downhill. We went to counseling, but he refused to see himself as the cause of any issues in the marriage. We spent 5 YEARS in counseling through our church. After things turned physical and he raped me, I went to the church and they encouraged him to leave, and he did, we were supposed to continue in counseling. We did, but I saw no change in six months, so I filed for divorce 8 months after we had separated. This entire time I was encouraged to forgive and continue to work on “my issues”. Not claiming perfection but come on. I have stopped attending that church, any church at all really. No one could look me in the eye, most stopped talking to me after I filed for divorce. It is simply not done. I wish I had had the courage to start things earlier.

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Laura Williams May 11, 2010 at 10:03 am

BRAVO BRAVO BRAVO!! Just had to shout. This is the single best discussion I’ve seen on this subject in all of Christian blogdom. And for what you said to the churches who knowingly enable this sort of evil, thank you!!

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pennyleighg May 10, 2010 at 9:51 pm

I have to say that there are some reasonable points in this article. And I also have to say that I didn't read the entire thing — I am guilty of some skimming. But I don't see "fear of being murdered "or "fear of losing her children" among the top seven reasons — and really, they need to be the top two. The vast majority of domestic homicides take place while the victim is trying to leave or just after she has left. It's not an unfounded fear and there is no way to verbally "defeat" it as a reason. It's a reality. Also — unless the abuser has physically abused the children, he can count on getting shared custody. That means that the victim can't just be rid of the abuser. Further, once she leaves, goes into hiding, and gives up her financial security, it's not uncommon for courts to find the abuser to be the parent to be the one more able to care for the children. So sometimes he gets primary custody. Again — these aren't irrational fears that you can "defeat" with clever writing. You come close — but I'm not sure you entirely get it.

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robbi May 9, 2010 at 1:25 am

Thank you John and David for your true and encouraging words and the book suggestion. I shall order it immediately! It is somehow comforting to know others have struggled with these same things and found their truth and reclaimed their original selves. I'm very encouraged.

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John May 8, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Dear Robbi,

I understand so well about how the old tapes of humilation and rejection linger. I am 47, and I have not fully figured it out. One thing I can say, is that the family you make sometimes has to stand in for the one you are born with. I am so grateful to know exactly what not to do with my own kids, and though I still have issues from way back coming up in my relationship with my wife, and people at large, I am just so glad to claim my life as my own.

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robbi May 8, 2010 at 10:12 am

This is an amazing article that I have to view as an answer to prayer. I've never before seen your blog or articles and was amazed at the clarity of the truths you've written about so well. I survived two abusive marriages. In the first, I was repeatedly physically abused and I was able to leave only after a beating in which my husband would have taken my life but for a stroke of luck (God's intervention, I'm sure), and the second marriage was deeply emotionally abusive. It lasted nearly 2 decades and I could not muster the courage to leave because I didn't recognise it as a true form of abuse. Finally I discovered that on top of the emotioanl abuse and abandonment that had gone on since my wedding day, that my husband had been living a secret life the entire marriage and was heavily involved in the underground society of S & M, and had a separate address, etc. I am dumbfounded by my own stupidity at not seeing any of this going on for so long. At least it finally gave me an answer to why he would only very rarely engage in any sexual activity with me. Years of rejection left me feeling terribly insecure, though other men always seemed to find me attractive. I could never figure out why I drew the looks of others but seemed to repel my own husband. LOL

The part of your article which intrigued me most and that I would love to have further direction with is the issue of the damage done by early horrific parenting which left me barely able to function in life. I have times of strength, but have suffered a lifelong battle with severe depression and anxiety from the verbal, emotional, sexual and physical abuse I suffered at their hands. To this day my mother in particular still attempts to control me with guilt, shame, lies and so on. I am happily married for ten years now to a wonderful man and have a very blessed life, yet I still seem to be unable to break ties in my heart with these people I have wanted and needed so badly to have love and cherish me. It never happened, it never will happen, I have very limited communication with them but I still am tortured by these inner recordings of how worthless, unwanted, undeserserving and disappointing I am to them. I forgive them because I know they are not capable of being different than who they are. They are now in their late 80's (and embarrassingly I am 52 and still haven't figured this out!) and yet I fear, even after they pass on, the voices that they programmed me with will continue to haunt me. I suffer from depression, panic attacks, agoraphobia and several compounded events of PTSD, To the outer world I am married to a very successful business man, am an attractive woman who is materially blessed and who has nothing to complain about. Inside me, I'm a broken, lost girl looking for something I will never get. John, how do I let go of my parents, stand up straight and get them off my burdened back without feeling so guilty about it? Like I said, I have forgiven them, I have spent countless years trying to reunite and right all that is wrong with my birth family and have been hurt and humiliated countless times for my efforts. Do you have any further advice in letting go of them when they are so toxic to my well being? Do you have any books on the subject that you could recommend? I'm currently looking to find a counselor to talk to but am often traveling and thus it makes it difficult to do. I would be eternally grateful for any further help you could give on this step in the process of ridding myself of this first and last abusive relationship in my life. Thank you again for your insightful article!

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David E. Brown, MS, May 9, 2010 at 12:54 am

A good book on this issue is Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life by Dr, Susan Froward.

Ultimately, however, you don't need to change anyone or anything else. All that you need is already inside you. Discovering who and what you really are, rather than how others have defined and controlled you, is all you need. Everything that is good that you find within you is real. Everything that is bad that you believe you find in yourself is a product of the direct and indirect lies of others.

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Sylvie Galloway May 7, 2010 at 8:20 pm

I wish I had discovered your article years ago. I left my husband after nearly 23 years of marriage last October. He is a functional alcoholic and had violent tendencies when drinking, mostly emotional and verbal and occasionally physical. He could be quite charming, funny and personable and had everyone fooled as to our dark secret. I enabled just as you said, by living a lie to back up his claim of an excellent spouse. No one except our children knew how bad things really were. I regret that I didn't leave sooner for their sake.

Several of the reasons you listed were the very reasons I stopped short of leaving. But I thankfully did.

You were right. Being alone is preferable. You were right. I can survive financially, and heck, I am returning to school to get my degree. You were right. I've have people go so far out of their way to help, I am astounded and extremely and eternally grateful.

I now am at peace, sleep soundly at night (something I never did during my entire marriage) and am happy. I am looking forward to the finalization of my divorce in October.

I urge every woman who is in a situation like I was in to exit it as soon as possible. Trust me the other side is infinitely better. It's scary at first, can be quite frustrating as you deal with the legal end of things, and sad as you discover who is and who isn't on your side. But it's still worth it. And if you are a Christian like myself, you'll find that God is got some really cool things He's been wanting to get to you in preparation for your new awesome life.

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John May 7, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Speaking for Nuance, Asking for Help

There are harrowing situations related in these posts, many situations clearly untenable. Far be it from me to encourage anyone to stay in a dangerous situation. Yet, it is each individuals choice how far they want to go to save a relationship.

Painting with too broad a brush ignores two controversial facts:

Some abuse is tolerable. My wife and I have been together since 1992, nearly 18 years. We have a gorgeous son, and what seems to be a little girl on the way. She slapped me once, in 1995 or 1996. I gave her a swift kick in the pants once, around 2001. John’s posts asserts that one act of violence guarantees that it will happen again. That is a clear oversimpification. My wife has not struck me since, nor I her, and I seriously doubt either of us ever will.

Abusers, even the worst serial abusers, can get help. Though rare, some people stay in their abusive relationships, take and hold their power within them and see a rebirth in the abuser. And though I almost always advocate the victim leaving, I also do not judge those who stay in with their eyes open. We all have the right to gamble our well being, our very lives on whatever we will. That is the freedom of personhood.

Those things said, I have a personal appeal: I do engage in periodic psychological abuse, and I need help.

I had a violent stepfather, who, when I got to big to continue abusing, sent me away, first to military school, then to a private prison for kids from age 13. The ACLU sued that school and won a large money judement. The extreme level of violence and abuse I saw and experienced there left me with a rage that I manage well, but those closest to me see in an occassional acid-tongued comment, verbal conflicts with bystanders, and a nasty habit of breaking things (one of our best bowls), or throwing them down in frustration (a former friend’s handbag). It is dramatic, childish, and never ever directed to anybody’s person. Still, it scares and stresses my wife and I must find a way to stop, preferably also healing the trauma it springs from.

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David E. Brown, MS, May 9, 2010 at 12:40 am

John,

I agree that abusive behavior is characterized by a pattern of behavior, not a single incident. At the same time, as you have acknowledged, lack of physical violence does not necessarily signify the absence of a pattern of abuse. In many cases it is the psychological impact of the betrayal which is inherent in acts of physical violence which hurts the worst. Therefore you are right to be concerned about the impact of your own behavior, even absent the presence of physical violence.

A problem that many people have with anger and its expression is that it feels so spontaneous that it seems uncontrollable. But it is still a choice, and as with most choices we can alter the outcome if we decide to, AND, learn how.

The following is a quick summary of the process:

Most anger and its harmful expression is a product of echoes from the past, which seem so real that they appear to be an alarming product of present reality and therefore appear to require an aggressive response. It is when we become capable of recognizing that they are echoes rather than present realities that we begin to recognize that we may well have choices, the prerequisite for achieving a better outcome.

Every expression of anger is a product of a multi-staged series of decisions. The triggering reality or event is the only objective reality. Our response to the trigger consists of multiple opportunities to take another path.

Here are some of the most important stages:

First is awareness, if there is no awareness of the trigger we don't respond.

Second is the meaning we attach to the event, ie.: whether we perceive it as benign or a threat. For example most people interpret the cry of a baby as benign for everyone but the baby and those who care for it. It is simply a communication of need. Some, however interpret it as a threat to themselves, e.g.: a reminder of their belief that, from their perspective, when their environment is out of their control they are unacceptably vulnerable (usually a product of their interpretation of their historical experience).

For them, the third factor, the need to act decisively (in this case, to restore a sense of control), comes into play. It is this need, and especially their sense of urgency, that generates the feeling of anger which provides increased energy to act, at the expense of losing some awareness of options they might have available. Therefore, again in this case, they try to restore control, and if they don't know how to do that in a constructive manner, they use any means at hand (e.g.: shaking the baby until it stops crying because it is dead).

Abusive responses often appear to be the most immediately available, implementable, and effective responses, and therefore, especially in a perceived emergency, are often the response of choice. Unfortunately, the lack of respect for the wishes and needs of others inherent in abusive responses means they are, almost without exception, counter-productive, and, sometimes, as in the above instance, catastrophic.

It is when, out of a discontent with the product of our choices, and a hope that there are better available options, we decide to examine and, especially, challenge these perceptions and their attendant choices, even post-process, that we begin to prepare the way to become aware of other meanings and options that we can choose to employ in future events, and discover whether they lead to better outcomes.

It is discontent, and hope, that combine to generate change. You already have the discontent. Perhaps this provides you with the hope that will lead to a decision to, and a means of, change.

Good luck.

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lucky May 3, 2010 at 8:20 am

Kristin, He is going to keep doing this. Abuse escalates in nearly every single case. Also it is not about anger, it is about power and control, so anger management is probably not going to help. I strongly urge you to call your local domestic violence shelter and get their help. It is most important for you to keep yourself and your children safe. Take care, and good luck.

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Kristen May 3, 2010 at 8:11 am

I have only known my husband 2 years this coming June. I cheated on my first husband with this him. I seperated and divorced my 1st husband and Married this husband a month later. I married him right at a year of knowing him. By the time we married, I was doubting if we should have. The main reason I did was because we were expecting a son together. We had had a few big arguments and he had but his hands on me. He grabbed my face and screamed into it while arguing. 6 months into our marriage he has grabbed me a few times and finally christmas time he smacked me and knocked me onto the bed and refused to let me leave with the children (first child from first marriage) I left him a few days later when i could leave without him stopping me with both our children. Anytime i have left in the past he wants me to bring ‘his son back” Its never been about me its always that he wants his son. He has hit me again this time we were arguing in the car and he raised his hand to me to try and get me to shut up by scaring me. This made me angry and I told him to go ahead and do it. He grabbed my hair and yanked my head down. I started hitting him to get him to let go and a few times after he had let go. this made him madder and he punched me in the face multiple times busting my nose and leaving me with small bruises around both eyes. Once we got home i tried to get in the driver seat and leave with our son. He got between the door and stopped me grabbed me and told me I couldn’t leave with his son. He started strangling me and scream he would kill me and anyone else who tried to take his son away. I am 16 weeks pregnant and I think tha was the only thing that stopped him from strangling me longer i kept scream do you want to kill your unborn child. This doesn’t happen all the time but it has happened 2 major times since we got married in June of 09. I am scared to leave because I hurt so many people with my first divorce, I am so scared I don’t know if i could raise 3 children on my own. I am scared I will lose custody of my frist son too! He got a number of a lady who specializes in anger management and he is suppose to set up an appointment today….Should I stay and try to see if we can work through this or is he gonna keep doing this over an over? I found out just this pass time of abuse that he abused his first wife too. I wish I had known this before!

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NZ May 2, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Hello. Thank you for all the information. Where I am at today is a very difficult place. I am single now, living at home with my mom. I have been diagnosed with panic attacks and PTSD and still carry the abuse from my past. I feel unsafe in the world. The reason being is that no matter where I go, I have experienced forms of abuse and feel afraid of the next run in as I feel weak.

I used to be much stronger, but, due to major stress I fainted approximately 4 times and have developed strange symptoms, like agoraphobia, claustrophobia, fear of heights, feeling watched as a symptom of past abuse and present fear and basically feel dependent and stuck. It's like I am in my childhood in an adult world.

I do believe my parents loved me deep down, but, yes, messages of learned behavior are there in my belief system.

My reason for feeling stuck is that I have lived in one area all my life and I can honestly say that I feel dysfunction is everywhere I have gone.

I have faith in God and feel that slowly I need to regain trust, but, it seems in every job, organization, etc… this dynamic could be played out and I am scared.

My illness is keeping me stuck and I feel vulnerable. I think there is much I need to learn yet, but, in me there is a desire to be able to be strong to handle the imperfections out there, like addictions/alcoholism, abusive behavior, and, not be shaken. I don't feel called by God to marry into it, but, I have found that this wonderful healthy place seems nonexistent.

I have been abused in many places, lived with one parent being alcoholic, obsessed with me, abusive and charming. I believe he also suffered with panic attacks, PTSD, bipolar and I mainly grew up with him. I could go on, but, I have seen this played out in life. I can't change people, but, I don't want to be afraid anymore.

I was recommended to attend groups that may help me with my illness and I feel discouraged that I have them and feel I am around my dad all over again and others with these illnesses that have hurt me. I am tired, overwhelmed and want to be free. I used to listen to my dad for hours and others in my life, now, I have difficulty sitting still, focusing, listening as all these thoughts of things that bother me come into my mind. Things I wish I did not have to see or things that may happen.

I don't want to discourage anyone, but, for me I have been unable to find healthy friends that accept me as I need time to grow and change. I don't want to be a blamer, but, it seems difficult to develop healthy relationships and to talk about these kinds of things. So, it seems that those struggling with the same illness as me are an avenue. Though I have nothing but love and respect for them, I don't know how to be sure I will be safe. I am praying about it. I feel that though I am not an alcoholic like my faither, I developed his illness. Will I be healed? I pray to God I will, but, life has shown me that high stress on my own with God has not eliminated it so far.

I trust God's love and protection, but, I wonder if my future will be better. I really had a lot of hope before, but, after chemically imbalancing on the job and panicking, I am afraid now as I have never met anyone who would support me through it and accept me.

Right now, I am trying to heal with counselling, wanting to attend a group but not sure what will happen.

I want peace with my dad who is dead but his condemnation is there, peace with a broken family, relatives and how to find my way in spite of the circumstances.

I pray to God that He will keep me safe right now as things are challenging, but, I need to say that not a day goes by that I don't meet a person who has cheated, an alcoholic, mentally ill, healthy, controlling, angry, pleasant, and I could go on. Basically, a mixed bag.

Where I begin and another ends challenges me, but, I am trusting God's holy spirit to guide. I like peace, joy, respect, normal respectful frustration and anger and have been told this is my delusion of a perfect world. I still pray for it.

I hope God brings me some friends, guidance, and healing. Who wants someone who suffers with a mental illness and is healthy and good for me sent by God. I pray for it.

Well, I suppose I will close for now. Abusive relationships are awful. I pray for God's protection over me and if I am to weak to be protected if something bad happens, and, ultimately to have the strength of God's Holy Spirit in me to guide me in these situations that could happen. Though it is wishful thinking, I wish for a better healthier world with people being more kind, loving, respectful, and, compassionate with one another.

If you have any authentic thoughts, feelings, I welcome it. I would appreciate it if done with kindness.

Blessings to you all!

NZ

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Maren Sullivan May 1, 2010 at 6:30 am

John – Thank you so much for this! I really related to Reason #4 – Old Family Tapes. This site is extraordinarily helpful and I will recommend to my friends dealing with the same issues. Thanks so much!!!

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John Shore May 2, 2010 at 1:31 am

Thank you, Maren, very much. I appreciate you taking this time to write me.

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Emily April 23, 2010 at 4:24 am

Thank you for posting this information. Thank you a million times. I read it almost daily to keep myself out of the "marinade" that my soon-to-be ex-husband tries to douse me with constantly.

In addition to church leaders empowering abusers, I've found that family therapists do too. My husband plays a mean game of "victim," winning the hearts and minds of all of the therapists we've worked with. By the end of the session, I am usually labeled the controlling spouse, the codependent, the one with jealousy issues…combative even. The ride home in the car is typically worse. I am to blame for all the problems in our marriage, my husband screams and points all the way home.

Today was a new record: meeting with the family therapist together with hopes of keeping the impact of our divorce from affecting our kids. He showed up 40 minutes late, and high on pot. He says that my "over-responsibility" made him "under-responsible." I never let him do anything. I was controlling. I never communicated.

I explained to the therapist that I was conditioned to be over-responsible by the "walking on eggshells" existence I had for 17 years. I never communicated because he never listened, and when he did listen he reacted with rage or victimhood.

Her answer: I need to be assertive. I need to teach my children to be assertive with their abusive father. In essence, we are to compensate for his bad behavior and it is my responsibility to make sure that is done. Her advice to him? Take care of yourself. Learn how to communicate better.

I communicate for a living. I am not illiterate or dumb. I am successful in the corporate world and I lead projects that require assertiveness. My problem is not that I can't communicate or that I am not assertive. My problem is that I am abused. Unfortunately, I stayed in an abusive environment for way too long because I believed the therapists. I am not alone in this regard.

Why don't they listen to us?

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lucky April 23, 2010 at 4:45 am

Emily, you are so right, and I just want to tell you that you are NOT crazy, and you are NOT alone. There are therapists out there who Get It, but it is probably never going to be helpful to be in therapy with an abuser because they are not interested in changing and they are so good at manipulation. So sorry you're going through this.

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David E. Brown, MS, April 23, 2010 at 5:19 am

Emily,

I strongly recommend that you drop that therapist like a hot potato.

It may very well be that the therapist's motives are good, but the vast majority of therapists are not trained in issues of domestic violence, or other forms of intimate violence, so, as can be the case with some therapists who approach their therapeutic intervention from a family systems perspective (an otherwise useful understanding of relationship issues) they often assume (as, too often, do the courts) that both parties are playing on a level field.

They aren't. In most (but not all) cases women are at an enormous disadvantage in these situations, in part because they often assume that their partners can be influenced by either reason or compassion. They can't, except insofar as their private rational process is deciphered and employed to counter their choices of behavior.

There are therapists who understand these issues. Get in touch with a local domestic violence program to identify and access one.

A good clue to the quality of the therapist is whether they will see you as a couple beyond the first session. If they do (as you have found out) what is discussed in the sessions will put you in danger as soon as you walk out the door.

I refuse to see clients as a couple beyond the first session until and unless I deem that each of them has advanced individually in their understanding of the issues sufficiently to be playing on a level field, without danger to either. I also usually recommend to the woman that, in the meantime, she employ her most powerful weapon, removal of herself from his access, to a place of safety, until he can demonstrate that contact with him is safe.

Unfortunately the men often soon drop out of therapy, but that is a pretty reliable indication of their unwillingness to take responsibility for their behavior, a necessary ingredient if they are sincerely interested in any other than a relationship based upon power and control. Until your partner understands that his approach is counterproductive to attaining the kind of relationship with you that he and you both really want, he will be unable to consider any alternative, let alone take responsibility for making the changes in his behavior to achieve that relationship. Your continued presence as a handy hook to hang his sense of failure on will only impair that process. If you truly care for him you may need to let him go.

Good luck to you, but keep your safety (and that of any children or pets) in the forefront of your priorities. Your partner is not as vulnerable as he may appear at times, except to his own distorted reasoning process, and you cannot make even a dent in that, despite any appearance to the contrary.

David E. Brown, MS, LMHC

Thousand Islands Counseling Associates

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Deb Rah April 11, 2010 at 6:36 am

Wow. Thank you.

You have just nailed my father. He didn't pull that too much on my mom, and she'd try to protect me, but sometimes she'd leave the house and I became her stand-in.

Now she's gone (deceased), hence she's no longer there to buffer, still years later he tries that crap on me as an adult—even from remote thru the phone. POW!

I've had to accept that he's deeply disturbed, not just mean. And that I've got problems from not realizing this sooner—why I have never married. He thinks I'm also his pseudo-spouse and that I owe him the right to behave this way.

From my mother's ashes I have been rebirthing myself and letting go of my father.

Thank you for your affirmation that I just stumbled on to!

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ericahostetler April 10, 2010 at 8:44 pm

Wow. Great stuff. This will be worth several reads. Being in the Social Work, I can share and spread these thoughts often.

Thanks.

PS – Being a Good Daughter and Always Nice, I have feel a little guilty about this, but the the B'hai stuff is pretty funny.

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karen April 9, 2010 at 9:17 pm

I agree the emphasis should be more on abuser, not abuse while also acknowledging that practical situation now is that often that often the only person that can free the victim, not that the victim should, will be without aid or assistance. Typically abusers are abusers because they are in power…ie. part of a group, gender, race, whatever that is in power (economically, politically, culturally, whatever). A slave owner in Southern US in early 1800s was abusive not because his slaves lacked self-esteem or assertiveness, but because they would be tortured or murdered if they did not follow everyone requirement of their owner. Although some circumstances allowed for successful slave revolts, such as in Haiti, in most areas even quite tactical and well-thought rebellions were destine to failure given geography etc. While some slaves could escape or even stand up directly to some abuse successfully (Fredrick Douglas recounts such an incident in his bio) they would do so at clear risk of their life and in fear of great torture. So the only way to this particular form of slavery was ended was for slave owners to be stopped.

I think abusive relationships run a spectrum within which there is more, or less, free will of the victim to address the situation. Many abusers are so bad and the cultural, family, state/police situation is so bad, the victim might be as bad off as an 1800s southern slave, in that standing up directly will most likely get them killed or tortured and escaping on the underground railroad of women's shelters is a treacherous, danger-filled path. Though society/state might be more helpful than Southern states were to slaves, there are still many issues.

To these situations, where a man is reasonably likely to kill someone for leaving, I believe we must do a far better job as a society/state, we err far too much on the side of the liberties of the abuser…if we catch Russian mob pimping out enslaved women, we lock them up. Should we not deal with proven abusers and threaten-ers similarly, at some point you lose your liberty because you have harmed others and continue to threaten to.

However, I do believe there are abusive relationships where the victim has more free will than the above described. Not that it is as easy as it should be, just leave and have abuser that is left accept it and move one. However, the victim does sometimes have some free will and some ability to get out alive… wounded, impoverished perhaps, but alive. In those situations, I think its is helpful for victims to be encouraged and supported in exercising their free will, while of course at same time it is helpful for the abusers to be taken to task and encouraged to change or suffer consequences.

I know many women who have been in long-term emotionally abusive controlling relationships that that have hesitated leaving not for fear of their life, but due to the manipulation of the abuser. Does the abuser make it easy? Hell no. But does the woman have a choice in some cases? Yes.

What is more likely to end these horrible destructive relationships?: the controller/emotional abuser being forced into therapy and societally shamed into better behavior or the victim getting angry enough and having enough support and esteem to muster doing something that is extremely difficult and scary and more than most people could handle? Perhaps it is not an either/or question but some of both will do good.

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Susannah October 11, 2010 at 11:39 pm

What you said in the last paragraph about abusers being forced into therapy, shamed etc. It's a revelation. Why is this all too common problem only possibly addressed through outside help by criminalizing the abuser or putting all the onus on the woman to navigate through a very difficult course of leaving. The fact that there is nothing in society that will take a man to task, or force him to confront his wrong behavior is a big problem. Before criminalizing weak men with horrid coping skills we should make them get help just as we would take a sick individual to the doctor. If this was a norm in society and the first reaction and course of action mandatory for reports of this type of behavior how different would things be? What a great idea! I hope one day we get that enlightened.
As wrong as this behavior is, the individuals doing it are ill and not following their own best interests. it's frightening to see that statistically rehab for abusers is so ineffective, but when you contemplate the paradigm shift of something like this – a society that didn't hide the issue but addressed it immediately and put the shame where it belongs – it really says a lot about what's so hardwired into us all.

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Sarah Joy Albrecht April 9, 2010 at 5:10 pm

Saw this post in a friend’s twitter feed and read it over breakfast.

Your last point is SO true! How many women go to their pastors for HELP, risking anger at home, practically have to coerce their husbands to go to counseling, if at all, only to have the pastor NOT follow through or side with the husband without even giving the wife the opportunity to present her case. I don’t understand this. It is as if pastors are intimidated by the men in their own church. Do they not have enough faith in what they believe – how the Bible says that women should be treated by husbands – to confront? Pastors have no business preaching about marriage if they are not willing to pull men aside who are on an abusive path.

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Jose April 9, 2010 at 6:04 pm

Sarah, what you say is so true. My wife and I went for couseling with our local priest and all he ever did was defend how I was the bread winner and my wife had to understand that as such. I was bound to be under a lot of stress. That being said she would have to be more accepting of my “Character” as he put it. That she would just have to be more supportive of me and learn to tolerate my outbursts. Now after I’ve started my therapy, I wonder how is it that a man who has never been in a marriage with a woman can say that she has to be more supportive? I vividly remember how he would ask my wife to literally shut up so that I may speak. It’s amazing to me that this priest is still active at our local church, but that a question for another topic.

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Sarah G April 9, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Wow – as a confirmed (and contented) atheist, I wasn’t sure how much I’d like an article like this by a ‘Christian’, but I kept reading and I’m glad I did: reading reason #7 was the first time I’ve ever seen anyone (including myself) clearly articulate the fact that men who abuse their partners are somehow not all there.

I used to describe it as ‘talking through water’. Everything was blurred or distorted.

In my late 20s I was in an abusive (physical and verbal) relationship that followed fairly typical patterns: The first year was fine, but as soon as I moved to the US (I lived in Canada) to live with him (we were engaged), the physical stuff started, and got worse every time I had any success in my new home (i.e. getting a job, making friends, etc.). We went to counselling (because supposedly I was the one who was nuts); the therapist said it was my fault. Et cetera.

I was lucky, however: My ‘Good Daughter Syndrome’ actually saved me in the end. Somewhere, underneath all the insecurities about my appearance and desirability as a woman, my parents had managed to instill a bedrock of self-esteem, so I only suffered through a year of physical abuse before calling my family to rescue me.

When I came back to Canada, I wasn’t shy about telling people what had happened to me (“It’s not MY shame,” was the way I looked at it), and the responses were mixed – I discovered that for every man who thinks that hitting women is 100% wrong, there is at least one man who thinks that somewhere, somehow, the woman ‘provoked’ it or was ‘unreasonable’ or ‘could have controlled it’ or ‘should have known better’.

These men don’t understand that chronic wife abusers are so different from normal people as to be almost a totally different species: Using terms like ‘liars’ or ‘lying’ implies that these men think in terms of ‘truth’ or ‘falsehood’. They don’t. They aren’t capable of it.

I used to say that talking to my abuser (even MONTHS before the abuse started) was like ‘talking through water’, because even though we were apparently using the same language, communicating was always blurred or distorted or changing. If you’ve never had experience with an abuser, this communication gap can be extremely disorienting, and your Good Daughter Syndrome tells you to blame yourself and work harder to make yourself understood/understanding.

Since abusers’ first steps are to alienate you from your support system, you’re left in a world where the only person you interact with on an intimate basis is this nutjob, and the feeling of disorientation becomes worse and worse – you begin to think that you are, in fact, totally out of step with the rest of the world.

The result? You write things in your journal like “I’m keeping a detailed record of every day of my life, so that if I die, [his name] will be arrested first…” – and don’t even realize how BIZARRE it is.

People used to ask me why I didn’t press charges and force him into court-ordered therapy or something. I knew it’d be futile: As you point out, there is no steady core/centre/bedrock/fundamental morality to abusers.

( From my own research, I’ve learned that of every 100 abusive men who go to court-ordered counselling, only about 10 express true remorse, and 99 will go on to abuse again.)

I think the core issue is that abusers seem constitutionally unable to experience cognitive dissonance. While most men would say that punching their wife/girlfriend was an action that undermined their self-conception as ‘a good guy’, abusers make no such connection – even though they know that OTHER people will make that connection (“I know that my friend Bob will like me less if he finds out I hit my wife, so I need to keep the abuse secret”).

ANYWAY – sorry for the huge long comment here. But I know from my own experience that it’s VERY important for people like me (“you don’t look like the kind of person who’d get into an abusive relationship”) who have successfully extricated themselves to talk about this a LOT. Because once I started telling my story, I was SHOCKED at how many of my friends/colleagues then felt safe enough to reveal their own experiences with abuse.

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Kristen May 3, 2010 at 1:10 am

I know what you mean when you say you were "talking through water"! I have been with my husband almost 2 years and we never can seem to understand each other we both take things the wrong way. No matter what I do to explain what I mean and that I mean no meanness or harm or hate in something I said he always takes it wrong. Or when he says something that upsets me he never seems to understand why.

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Jose April 9, 2010 at 9:55 am

Thank you very much for such an insightfull article, i.e. collection of Blogs.

I happen to be an abuser who is now in therapy. Thru my therapist/psychologist I was forced to see what type of torture I wasgiving my wife. Emotional and psychological torture was my gift, and though I have never hit or abused physically of my wife, that does not make me any less of an abuser. an abuser will use any and all weapons that are available to him. An abuser will never accept that he is what he is, becauase in our eyes, we are only doing what we need to do to be understood and respected. My many shouting matches with my wife have always been about how she never listens to me and always ignores me, when in reality I was the one doing all I accused of her of doing. I honestly don't understand how she put up with me for so long, but now that I'm aware of what I am. She no longers fears the night (our fights took place mostly at night) and is quickly regaing her health. I can't beg her forgiveness enough and even though she has forgiven me, I can't forgive myself. I know that response here will bring upon me much hatred and many insults. But after readind your article and showing it to my therapist, I had to translate it for her for she only speaks spanish, she asked if it would be possible translate this article to spanish and make it available for the abused woman she treats. Which brings me to my question. With you permission John, I would like to translate this article in to Latin American Spanish and make it available in Mexico. That is where I happen to be living now and yes with my wife. Of course all credit and honors for the article will be yours, all I ask is to be able to translate it to spanish. Many thanks for your wonderfull article.

Oh, and I tried selfhelp groups, after my wife tried to kill herself, like N/A, all anon, and alternative medicine. They don't work for abusers, becuase an abuser doesn't believe in a higher power than himself. We are egoists and care little for the feelings of others. These types of groups may help, but only after acepting that we are not the center of everyones universe. I have a found an excelent selfhelp group here in the city where I live called "Familias Anonimas" or in english Families Anonymous. But they where of no use to me until I started to acept that the problem was in me and not in my wife.

**Please excuse my porr writing skills, tho I lived over 30 years in the states. I've had to readopt mspanish as my main language and I've forgotten many things in english.

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Cynthia April 9, 2010 at 12:54 am

This is bull s**t. The number one reason women don't leave abusive partners is because it provokes violence, often lethal. This happens because the abuser relies on control, when that control is taken away by the victim's dissent (leaving him,) he scrambles to regain that control through violence or threat of violence. Leaving is the most physically dangerous period for women in abusive relationships, not to mention their children.

This is absolutely sexist propaganda. It makes it seem like women are more afraid of losing their abusers control over them than they are of loosing their own lives or the lives of their children. Threat of violence is why women stay in these relationships.

Furthermore, when talking about abusive relationships why is the focus on what the victim should do. You are basically telling someone who has been completely disempowered and abused against their will by brute force both physically and sociologically based, why didn't you just take back that power? It is completely illogical and the purpose of such an argument cannot be to aid these women. It must be to empower abusers, and the culture that created them. It must be to sell books telling abused women what they have been hearing for years, that there is something wrong with them.

The truth is the victim is being abused on a daily basis and fears for her life and the lives of her children. Why don't we shame the abusers, the abusers mothers, the abusers family. How about setting up organizations that help women flee. How about looking at the misogynistic criminal justice system and police force that leaves women in these horrible situations with no hope of real justice. How about educating males at a young age that abusing and sexually assaulting women is wrong and criminal.

Our culture is sick and we need to look at the real problem here, prejudice and privilege, and not paint abused women as needy, fragile, helpless, pathetic infants. This is the equivalent of angry white people calling black people lazy. The problem is not us, the problem is the oppressive forces which does exactly that, oppresses us! These women you are invalidating and belittling endure more hardship in one day than the average person does in a lifetime. If you are a woman how dare you buy into this culture. Wake up. Your daughter will be born, if you live in the U.S., with at least a 20% chance of being raped. How is this her fault or responsibility?

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HB April 9, 2010 at 8:27 am

While this article may be interpreted as "victim blaming" by some, it has many credible points that should not be overlooked. You can be politically correct when reading this article or you can be realistic. I don't think what John has written is sexist propaganda, and I have studied such propaganda in an academic setting and in my career. I work at a non-profit DV agency that serves a very diverse group of clients (from all over the world and every faith). I specifically work with the non-custodial parent (lets call them the abusers for sake of arguement) in our child visitation program. I having been working directly with children, victim/survivors (both males and females), and abusers (males and females) for five years now. I have seen so much I could write a book, so trust me when I make the following comments.

I see too many men and women holding on to hope that their former partner is going to change, and this keeps them caught up in bad relationships. In my community many women, including my mother, struggle with the idea of how other people will see them if they leave their marriage. This is why my mother is still with my abusive father. If mom decided to leave dad, he won't try to kill her. YES, the risk of getting murdered by a partner increases when a victim is about to leave, but this does not happen in EVERY case. All DV cases are not alike. All DV victims/survivors are not alike. All abusers are not alike, though many have the same tactics of power and control. DV work is never black and white. I know you don't want to hear that because we in the DV field have been programmed not to think about DV is broad terms. We deny and overlook many things in this field, often to sooth our politically correct sentiments or to gain as much funding from State sources (like "the misogynistic criminal justice system and police force" that you mentioned).

Perhaps its time for you to check yourself and your multiple isms: Maybe you think he's being sexist because he is a white, hetrosexual, Chiristian, male who is obviously privileged in many ways. But that's not a good reason to dismiss what he is saying. Expand your knowledge of DV beyond Women's and Gender Studies 101 and your state's required 40 hour DV training. We can all agree that the first step in helping abused women is to convince them to leave, and that's where this article comes in.

Thanks and way to go John! If you could be more inclusive of DV in same-sex loving partnerships as well as male victims of DV that would be even better.

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David E. Brown, MS, April 8, 2010 at 11:50 am

Thank you for this piece.

I hope it gains wide distribution.

My life changed radically for the better, when I began working with women who were being abused by their partners.

As I grew in my new profession I came to understand much of what you have articulated here.

Eventually I got to the point where I and others in the agency i worked for recognized that we needed also to begin treating the other side of the issue.

That turned out to be significantly more difficult work for me, but in the process I learned one significant factor that I believe is a key to helping men understand why they continue to make the choices they do, and even believe that they have no choice in the matter, even though they invariably know that they don't want to treat their partner that way.

Every abuser I ever worked with sincerely believed that he was his partner's victim, and that he was forced by her behavior to do the things that he did to her. This was epitomized by the man who, while bashing his wife's head repeatedly against a concrete floor, kept telling her time after time, "I'm doing this because I love you!"

I was almost invariably able to help them understand that their behavior was abusive, was not a response to their partner's behavior, and was enormously counterproductive, at least in accomplishing their purported objective, namely to strengthen her connection to him. When they became aware of this they could objectively understand the reality of the damage they had caused to her and their relationship, and profoundly regret what they had done, but I can't remember one who ever fully abandoned the behavior.

The best they seemed to be able to achieve was to become what my boss referred to as "Non-Violent Terrorists." Unfortunately the most damage done in domestic violence, short of crippling injuries and death, is the sense of betrayal at the hands of someone who professes to love you. The bruises and broken bones heal but the sense of betrayal never leaves.

Fo the sake of everyone who gets caught up in this kind of horror, it is important to remember that abusive behavior is chosen, not reflexive or otherwise involuntary. It will not seem to the abuser to be a choice, but that's because it is a culmination of a whole series of choices, nurtured by a belief system, which have led him into a corner of his own making.

Changes will only come in his behavior if he takes full responsibility for his actions, and chooses to change.

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DG April 8, 2010 at 10:37 am

“You were once a little girl. That little girl deeply loved her parents, and believed everything her parents told her, especially about herself. If you are a woman involved in or drawn to abusive relationships, it’s a certainty that when you were a little girl at least some of what either or both of your parents taught you about yourself was just plain ol’ wrong.”

No. My parents loved me unconditionally, taught me that I was unconditionally good, had (and have, after 40+ years) a strong marriage, and I still wound up in an emotionally abusive relationship that was hard to leave. Often people fall into a cycle of abuse based on their family history, but that is NOT always the case.

I am horrified that your pastor was horrified about you seeing a therapist. I am a pastor, I see a psychotherapist, and my church-funded insurance pays for it.

P.S. Praise God that I have been in a happy marriage for some years now.

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cooper April 8, 2010 at 9:44 am

The Catholic church sees women and children as property. Look how many religious types still hide behind the bible in defence of sexually abusing children. They have no interest in protecting women. They never will. They are tied to ancient, outmoded dogma where the male (and let’s be honest…white males) retain power and dominence. Physicial abuse has never bothered the Church. Look at the history of The Mormons, The Inquisition, Witch Hunts, almost every war ever waged…the list is endless.

I agree with previous statements made here….get out of the abusive relationship this minute. There are ways to heal, other than the Church, that are filled with love and grace.

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Lavender April 8, 2010 at 8:58 am

My mother's identical twin sister was a person who you'd NEVER say "boo" to, and you'd know it immediately upon meeting her. She's an elegant, spirited, intelligent lady, but you don't give her any "cr4p". Somehow, I unconsciously — how do I put this? — inherited? adopted? that trait. People don't EVER give me "cr4p" about stuff that other people routinely have to put up with. Others just *know* somehow that you don't say so much as "boo" to me about certain personal stuff, like children, my appearance, how I live — stuff others' "friends" feel completely free to intrude into, lecture about, and comment upon. And I have to say, man, am I grateful for that personality trait, for it's saved me from a whole busload of interrelationship nonsense. And I have to add, though I'm married to a most wonderful and intelligent of man (Math Ph.D), most men can't stand me! Now, I'm not sure what that says about me, — but I'm thinking it says far worse about men!

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Chijioke April 8, 2010 at 9:38 am

This is not a pick up line. But It will be interesting to know more about your hypothesis that "most men can't stand you."

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karen April 9, 2010 at 8:24 pm

I had a former roomate that I would never mess with, and she always got her way, she was never in an abusive relationship, no one ever took advantage or her, but she went a bit far with its and itcame at some cost. I think most people err to one side or another, and if you have found the happy medium, congrats, I wish I had it. However, I can't shake the sneaking suspicion you found in you man, not someone who is an equal but someone who lets you get your way 90 percent of the time. Men less often will do that than women, due to cultural issues around gender. I suspect you are not abusive or mean to him, and you probably a great and generous, above average spouse in many ways but I also suspect you do not candle insorbdination much from him, not that he minds mostof the time, your requests are probably reasonable and not completely out of line with what he wants, but still, does he have as much free will in the relationship as you do? Can he give you legitimate criticism about his issues, concerns hes with your relationship, can he express his emotions and be heard out without being shut down? I do think your personality serves you way better than tolerately abuse, but being overly sensitive to the slightest slight to the point everyone is on egg shells around you has its own problems and costs. You have a great self-protection instinct and a great spouse, be relaxed in that security and make sure others feel as emotional safe around you as you do around them.

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Christine Conti May 8, 2010 at 8:14 pm

She's probably just not overtly deferential to men in general. The simple lack of this attitude, while a woman may be in every other way perfectly nice and polite, is enough to make a lot of men dislike her. Not all. Not her husband, obviously. I speak because I know.

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SPC April 8, 2010 at 8:25 am

Wow. I'm a single girl who was in an emotionally abusive relationship in college, and a longer relationship after that, while not being necessarily abusive, was trying because of the laziness/childishness of the guy and my dependence upon him because I was living alone working in a foreign country. As I say, I'm in neither relationship now, and I haven't been in one since, partly because I have a habit of rejecting men who exasperate me. Granted, none of this is to the severity of the relationships that you describe, but I can attest to the need to see the "goodness" in someone who is beneath me because of my emotional dependence, and (from a distance) I watched my sister deal with what appears to have been an emotionally abusive marriage. (She has since gotten away from the guy and is happily married to a much, much better man.)

In any case, what I would like to say in response to the family point is this: next time I go home, I'm going to hug my parents and thank them for setting the model for a good marriage, for not letting me be a person who takes crap, and for seeing me as valuable for my accomplishments, and not necessarily for whomever I marry.

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David April 8, 2010 at 5:52 am

While it is more rare, it is also far more hidden, and far less talked about, that fact that spousal abuse can go in both directions. The church, for the most part, also scoffs harshly at this notion. It took me ten years, and countless struggles before I finally said, enough, and if I go to hell for leaving my viciously abusive wife, then so be it.

After a long absence from the fellowshipping with other believers, God finally drew me back. Some scars are still there, definitely, but there has been restoration and healing. Scoff as you might, and it seems most of you will, but there are absolutely, definitely, most certainly, women who find ways to violently and horribly abuse their male spouses.

The counseling and feminist communities ferevently reject this, but it does happen.

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Another David April 8, 2010 at 8:54 am

Thanks for mentioning what you did – I completely relate to what you've said as well as literally everything in the article. Being a guy, I've spent 10 years in a relationship which has progressively worsened to emotionally unbearable levels for myself. I guess I've made the #1 mistake of waiting for her to change. It's never happened so far. Everything I've read in the article above seems to apply to my own experience in various ways. It may have been written towards women predominantly, but for men caught in this kind of torment, it's just as applicable. For where I'm at right now, I think the section on "The Real You to the Rescue!" really validated my deepest wounds. After so many years of a steady increase in verbal insults and threats of violence towards me (i.e. shooting/killing me if I get out of things, hiring someone to kill me, etc.), that particular section was quite validating, refreshing, and helpful.

When I was 21 (20 years ago), I spent a month in a Christian-based unit called Rapha. Not the type of place many churches, let alone the people in them, would have given an open ear to or encouragement with – not now either, it seems. Even after 10 years of using all that I learned through that, I ended up in the most emotionally twisted relationship I've ever known, and am still in. (Not trying to blame Rapha or what I learned there – I just found myself in an emotionally desperate situation 10 years ago and ended up in the relationship because I didn't have healthier boundaries).

I find it difficult to get out of it because of two things. One, I'm still trying to let go of the emotionally sick reality of how things actually are, rather than what I used to think they were. And two, the girl I'm in the relationship with is disabled, and I still feel a huge amount of guilt, shame, and blame with getting out of things (I at least now accept that I'm heavily rescuing her in hopes of feeling just the tiniest amount of respect and love on rare occasions).

So, I'm still in the process of trying to come to terms with where I actually am emotionally, and trying to figure out how to re-gain a long-lost identity. At least given some comments in this blog, it seems there's a few rays of hope, even when caught in this kind of torment.

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denver May 22, 2010 at 7:33 pm

Thanks to the two men who shared their stories – I often wonder if it’s harder for men because of the societal assumption that it doesn’t happen, or what people will think, etc. I don’t even know if emergency shelters always have facilities for men if and when they are needed (they should). I think if more men spoke out like you two just did, it would help lift the stigma. Blessings to you both! :)

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David E. Brown, MS, LMHC April 8, 2010 at 8:04 pm

As someone who has worked in this field for many years, I do know that women can be abusive of male partners (or female partners, for that matter).

I believe that it is important to note, however that the dynamics and roots of the behavior are significantly different in women than in men. That having been said, however, the damage is the same, and even aggravated by the societal myth which is implanted in men that we must be in control or we aren’t really a man.

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Kat May 9, 2010 at 4:41 pm

Not all the feminist communities will reject that.

It doesn't just go both ways … unhealthy power dynamics in relationships exist regardless of teh gender (or for that matter assigned birth sex) of the people involved.

I found a lot of this article very salient, but was somewhat bothered by how rooted it was in the model of a heterosexual relationship with the woman as victim and the man as abuser.

That said, it is true that this is the most common paradigm, and one can strip nearly allt he gendered language from the post and the core points will remain.

I was also a bit troubled by the "it is certain that your parents taught you this" language, because while I think that is *often* the case, there are other sources besides our parents that can teach us to devalue ourselves.

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Mary April 8, 2010 at 3:30 am

A book that is required reading for any woman in this situation is called "Why Does He Do That?-inside the minds of angry and controlling men" by Lundy Bancroft.

It changed my life. Instead of believing that he was somehow damaged by his controlling mother and I had to make it better, I realized that men abuse women for one simple reason. Because they can.

Although I endured a painful shunning from my church because I chose to leave, it literally saved my life. Ironically, trying to get away from him was so difficult, so painful, and so dangerous, that was when I most needed the support of my church and my so-called "Christian" friends. None could get past their judgement of me to extend any compassion, help, or forgiveness. And I was a member of a so-called "modern" mega-church, not an old school type. I think they are so fearful of those who have "failed" (their perception) in the flock, they would rather just get rid of them.

My pastor, my small group, everyone knew of my husban's abuse. They had witnessed his verbal abuse, but not the physical. And no one, not one person ever called him to accountability.

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Susan April 8, 2010 at 2:47 am

Dear John:

Thank you for writing this article. I was married for several years to a man who abused me physically and emotionally throughout our relationship. He is the father of my two children. I was fortunately able to leave him (and stick to it) when my youngest child was 3 months old. That child is now nearly 17, and his father has alienated him, and his older brother as well, by his abusive behavior.

One of the most important things you bring in this article is some answers to the question of “why does she stay”. Everyone asks that – EVERYONE. All of us who have lived this struggle with the answer, not only to respond to the questions of others, but to understand for ourselves why we stayed. It is really tough to gain that insight, and you have helped.

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CJ April 7, 2010 at 1:00 pm

WOW. Amazing. So true- and I love that it is from a position of faith + enlightenment. I've already sent this off to some battered women workers in my area. I am in a relationship like this- but there is the problem of his Asperger's, tinnitus and ADHD (yup- in one guy). He's also the child of an alchoholic and a beater (mom). I have used a lot of the above justifications when my friends tell me to leave- although some of my church friends tell me its "God's will". Thanks so much for sharing.

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Lavender April 8, 2010 at 8:43 am

I'm an orthodox Christian. By that, I mean I believe wholeheartedly in the Nicene creed — that Jesus is God incarnate, etc. ANYONE who answers the question, "Who do you say I am?" with "Lord and Savior" is a Christian, and IS the church, and I don't care if she's Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Coptic, or what have you. We who answer that question with "Lord and Savior" (not to mention Friend, Guide, Guardian, etc) ARE the church.

All that is explanatory preface to this: I am "un-churched", that is, I'm not a member of the corrupt, ultra-political, power-mad, worldly, hierarchical entity the World thinks of as "The Church". When I read, in post after post, how these abused women are afflicted by "supportive" church "friends" who tell them their desperate fear, suffering, anguish and deep unhappiness are "God's will"; that God is against their escape (i.e., divorce); that they must remain "humble" and "feminine" and "obedient" — well, now you know why I'm un-churched. If THAT is all the so-called church has to offer its most offended, wounded, vulnerable members — well, "Get thee hence, I never knew ye." If the shoe fits . . .

And that one woman's only help was a non-Christian friend?! 1) Now, there's ammo for the anti-Christian atheists! Hang our collective heads in shame! And 2) That friend may just make it into the Kingdom, for (metaphorically) when she saw someone naked, she clothed her; when she saw her deeply afflicted, she offered comfort to "the least of these My brethren".

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Iain April 7, 2010 at 12:07 pm

John, What a wonderful article and there are so many women going though the deep angst you talk about. I would like to offer a thought on: 'Selfless she knows, but selfish, not so much." If we really look at the (definitely) established premise of looking after others before self, one has to think, well ok I have to be selfish and look after me now. But if we in-truth love ourselves – by that I mean consider any action or demand that forces us to be who we are not, then we are separating from ourselves. Right back when as kids we all soon learned that through 'acceptance and recognition' we fitted in – even if it meant not living who we felt we truly were.

So as an adult we still seek acceptance and recognition and forget who we are in-truth. If each one of us is full – of self love and honour ourselves first, it surely means from that fullness we can give love, support, nuturing etc., to another and not betray who WE are. In doing so we are not left empty nor do we need to replace selflessness with selfish – but perhaps for the first time honouring the beauty, the gentleness, the uniqueness of being a woman and not permitting a man to suffocate this with their weakness. So a woman leaves such a man because she has not been 'met' in love. As love would never justify their actions and betrayal.

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Name April 7, 2010 at 6:16 am

While this article may apply to women who are dating jerks, this does not work for women who are victims of domestic violence. This article ignores that homicide is most likely when she leaves, post-separation abuse/stalking/harrassment, and child-custody issues. It's just another article focusing on victims and how we should change them, rather than focusing on making men stop abusing women and how society has a responsibility to keep women safe. This article allows us to ignore abuse because we can just keep wishing for her to leave.

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Elsie April 7, 2010 at 9:01 am

I absolutely agree with the above comment about too much focus being placed on the abused woman. I used to volunteer at a domestic abuse shelter in California and the women who came there had to basically go undercover because it was too dangerous for the other women at the shelter if the abuser found out where the woman was hiding. It is absolutely ridiculous that the woman who is being abused has to go into hiding; why not lock up her abuser? It's true that our society puts all the pressure on the women, and yet there is absolutely no pressure on men to change. And god forbid a woman actually fights back and physically harms her abuser; she's often put into jail.

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John Shore April 7, 2010 at 9:06 am

I agree with what you're saying; of course we need to hold abusive men responsible for their crimes. But what I wrote here isn't a comprehensive book on the subject. It's a collection of blog posts. And in them I focused exclusively upon what in these situations first needs focus, which is getting the woman who's being abused out of that terrible situation. After that, of course all sorts of other things need to start happening.

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Not a Victim April 8, 2010 at 3:16 am

Powerful and profound insight into the nightmare of abusive relationships and the people who inhabit them…..the most loving and thoughtful exposition I’ve ever read about the dynamics of domestic abuse. I’ve been there; I got out; you can too.

“Name” — please re-read reason #2 which addresses reaching out for protection and shelter. Women have the right to file assault charges against their abuser so that they do not have to be a victim. Yes; it’s dangerous when she leaves. It’s more dangerous for her to stay. Telling women–as you are doing–that “society” has the responsibility to protect them is tantamount to telling women that they don’t have any responsibility for their own lives, in effect, perpetuating the “good daughter” syndrome and indeed, the “cinderella” fantasy of rescue. The first step for any woman in an abusive relationship is to find a way to contact the local domestic violence shelter via their hotline; not carp in hopeless bitterness about how “society” protects abusive men. That is the same hopeless attitude that fosters victimization in the first place.

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Flanders April 7, 2010 at 3:16 am

Very good summary. I left my 15 years of hell 5 years ago. You WILL survive. You WILL feel better than you ever thought possible. This article is insightful and accurate. Please support those in abusive relationships and help them become free.

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cindy April 11, 2010 at 2:33 am

I left my first abuser when I was 25. I am now 55, sober and speaking out about Domestic Violence. I never thought I would be where I am in my life today. My children are grown and happy. I don't believe this would be the case if I hadn't have left. Ther are so many different types of abuse, emotional abuse runs rampant in our society.

I agree, you will survive and lead a very fulfilling life.

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myhypotheticaldivorc April 6, 2010 at 9:47 am

thank you for this.

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Elsie April 6, 2010 at 9:26 am

Thanks for this. I wonder, however, since abusive men are often addicts/ alcoholics, what's your feeling about 12 step programs like Al Anon which never come out and tell a woman to leave an abusive relationship. In fact, it actually tells a woman that she can be happy "whether the alcoholic is drinking or not." There is a real double standard between this message which is told (to the wives/ girlfriends of addicts) and what is told to the the addicts themselves: That if they want to get and stay sober, they have to change the "people, places and things" around them because they can't get healthy in a toxic environment. I wonder why the same isn't told to the women who live with addicts. Since AA is based on a Christian fundamentalist group from the 30s, I assume that this misogynistic message is just getting handed down due to ritual. Still, I wish there was more discussion about the fact that all of the traditional spiritual avenues are deeply misogynistic at their core, whether we're talking about the three monotheistic religions or Eastern disciplines like Buddhism – women are only second class citizens in all of these practices. By saying that women's salvation lies in the spiritual, you should realize that you are condemning us to be reliant on the very institutions and ideas that have enslaved us in the first place. I would really like to see women toss out all of these practices which treat us as poorly as our abusive parents/ lovers do and know that they are all they need. They don't need to pray to some male idea of spirituality.

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Maria April 7, 2010 at 10:01 am

As a veteran of both Al-Anon and abusive relationships, my take on this is that Al-Anon is a great place for friends and family of alcoholics and addicts, but a 12-step program is not the place to go for help in an abusive relationship. As an adjunct, sure, if one is in a relationship with an addict (whether it's the abuser or someone else). 12-step programs ask you to put the focus on healing yourself, which is entirely appropriate unless someone is trying to kill you or control you, in which case you really need to make yourself safe before worrying about healing. An abuser is not someone from whom you can 'detach with love' because the whole point of the abuse is that he will not allow you to detach. An addict's primary relationship is with a substance (or, I suppose, an outside activity like gambling or sex or whatever). An abuser's primary relationship is with power and control, and guess what? As the victim, you are the conduit for his high.

I was in Al-Anon when I got hooked into the relationship with my daughter's father, from which I am still trying to recover, and still trying to battle my way out of – I'm out of the relationship completely but he is still attempting to torture and control me through the courts. Al-Anon kept telling me to 'keep my side of the street clean', that 'he has his own Higher Power', and ultimately that it was possible to heal the relationship if *I* was healthy enough. Sadly, it took 5 years, tens of thousands of dollars, PTSD, and an emotionally damaged child before I was able to understand that this was never a problem Al-Anon could have helped me with.

I couldn't really start coming out of denial until I was completely away from him. Despite having left him four years previously it wasn't until last year that I finally got any distance at all from him – he made sure to contact me by phone or in person nearly every day, and the cycle of emotional abuse, manipulation, and mind-games was every bit as corrosive and powerful as it was when we were together, because of my child. It was excruciating but I eventually came to realize that my daughter would be better off without a father than with the one she had. Now I am in a no-holds-barred battle for custody (!!) of my daughter, which he doesn't want except as a means of maintaining contact with me and power over me. I am terrified because the courts almost never cut a father off from his children, and I have heard too many horror stories about abusive fathers being awarded generous visitation or custody because they don't tend to believe mothers.

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merk April 9, 2010 at 2:21 am

wow! this is what I needed to hear, right now. stuff I haven't heard heard before about men & power in this context. really, really thank you. only wish I'd known it sooner. thank you John, this has given me new understandings I can really use NOW

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Susan April 8, 2010 at 12:37 am

There is a non-misogynistic Christianity available: Christian Science. Discovered by a woman, Mary Baker Eddy, it also espouses sobriety, which seems to be part of the topic here… Her book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures", is a wonderful, logical, loving work. Available at bookstores and at Christian Science reading rooms. Bless you all, it does get better after you leave the abuser.

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Janet April 9, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Christian Science is evil. It is based on a belief that illness is an illusion, only in the mind, and to go to the doctor is sinful. As a result women and children have died horrible deaths for over a century. This legalistic cult is a crime against humanity .Please see CHILD, Children's Health-care is a Legal Duty, for the real facts about Christian (not) Science. For all the women out their who are in abusive religious environments do not go here! Imagine not taking your child to the doctor if they have a hard painful swelling in the abdomen, or if they are pale and losing weight and have been throwing up for two weeks. This is Christian Science.

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Louise Ranker July 9, 2010 at 6:07 am

Christian Science is not the problem it is the incorrect interpretation of what the 'believer' attached to it that is the problem. First off, I was raised in Christian Science and it is one of the few religions that teaches its followers to think for themselves. Christian Science never tells anyone to not go to the doctor. In fact in Science and Health Mrs. Eddy states emphatically if you are having a physical problem and the prayerful work that you are doing is not changing anything, then by all means go to the doctor. Your fear is keeping you from the healing.

Some people in our world get fanatical and that is about them not about how the religion offers its teachings. I have been healed many times and although as an adult I usually go to the doctor, what I was taught is the doctor will never be able to heal the fear one has over a physical problem. So if you go to the doctor at least work on dispelling the fear that was created when your physical health was in jeopardy. This is a very human and loving and honest assessment of what humans experience in fearful situations and NO, doctors do not make the fear go away.

Finally, I know many parents who have taken the children to the doctor and the doctor has misdiagnosed the condition and the child has suffered and died. I know of one friend of my Mother's who was treated for MS for 20 years before it was discovered as she was on her deathbed that she didn't have MS at all. She trusted her doctor and the truth is she had had a slight stroke, had fallen, broken her hip and the poor healing put her in wheelchairs and beds for most of the last 20 years of her life before her death.

Her son died many years later after being operated on for a broken leg. He got a staff infection and 4 years later died……

No one would accuse anyone of 'killing' their family member when they took them to a doctor and a horrible incorrect diagnosis took their loved one from them…….So do not do this to those who seek to follow a religion which shares so many elightened thoughts to the masses. Recognize that it might be individual people who bring a bad name to an otherwise good organization but Mrs. Eddy never ever said that going to a doctor was sinful, not in anything she has written. She simply said that if we can follow the examples of Jesus and heal ourselves then we are truly living what his example was…..But, if this isn't possible then do what seems to be the prudent thing to do……….

Please get your facts straight before you seek to malign a wonderful, comforting religion that supports learning, growing, thinking outside the box, etc. Chrisitan Science has recorded many healings too and they are documented in the Library of Congress. But, it is not just a religion about healings. It is much more….It gives people the ability to take charge of their life. Those who are looking for a crutch bring the negatives to any movement. Those who have observed it first hand and seek to grow and change see the beauty and the support in the teachings. They are many misguided doctors who have been responsible to terrible atrocities and there are many who have done miracles. The same is true for members of any organization.

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DR October 21, 2010 at 12:25 pm

This is such a slanted perspective on AA programs tnat I need to rebut it.

I wonder, however, since abusive men are often addicts/ alcoholics, what’s your feeling about 12 step programs like Al Anon which never come out and tell a woman to leave an abusive relationship. In fact, it actually tells a woman that she can be happy “whether the alcoholic is drinking or not.” There is a real double standard between this message:>>>

This is just, completely inaccurate. This is not an invitation to stay in the abuse. It is an invitation to remember that we get to *choose* our response. That we are not held hostage to the addict in our lives.

That if they want to get and stay sober, they have to change the “people, places and things” around them because they can’t get healthy in a toxic environment. I wonder why the same isn’t told to the women who live with addicts. >>>

It is, I think you’re just ignoring it.

They don’t need to pray to some male idea of spirituality.>>> This is just completely inaccurate. There are those in AA who have recovered quite successfully with the help of a “life force” they cannot explain that is neither male or female. This seems to be written by someone who has no direct, consistent experience with these programs. The implication that AA programs force a woman down any one particular path of belief is to violate the very nature of the program itself.

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