Archives for the day of: March 28, 2013

When Love Hurts: The Emotionally Abused Man

January 23, 2009

Does your relationship with your girlfriend or wife leave you feeling bad about yourself? Do you frequently feel misunderstood, rejected, vilified and devalued in your relationship? Do you feel trapped or stuck? Do you believe it’s possible for men to be emotionally abused by women?

Believe it. It happens all the time. The stereotype of an abusive relationship is that of a man physically beating a woman. Society has yet to acknowledge the vast number of women who emotionally abuse men. In fact, the men who are being abused oftentimes don’t realize that their wife’s or girlfriend’s behavior is abusive.

2569321033_221a5b6a20-copy-2They use different terms to describe this behavior like nagging, bossy, difficult, strong-willed, tough, harsh, argumentative, “passionate,” or aggressive, which they always follow up with some excuse such as, “She had a really tough childhood. She was abused.” Lots of people have had less than ideal beginnings, but they don’t take it out on others in their adult relationships.

Men have been brainwashed into believing that it’s normal for women to be irrational, moody, emotional, and demanding. Most men accept these behaviors under the guise that a woman is ‘just expressing her feelings’ and men are uncomfortable with because ‘men aren’t good at expressing their feelings.’ This is ridiculous.  This behavior makes men uncomfortable, just as it would make most women on the receiving end of it uncomfortable because it’s abusive.

Men, you need to wake up and stop blinding yourself to the obvious. If you walk on eggshells around your partner because you’re afraid she’ll flip out on you for minor transgressions or simply because she’s in a bad mood, you’re experiencing emotional abuse. If nothing you do, no matter how hard you try pleases her, you’re experiencing emotional abuse. If she regularly puts you down, criticizes or demeans you through name-calling and humiliation, you’re experiencing emotional abuse. If she shuts you out, gives you the cold shoulder or refuses to have sex with you in order to control your behavior, you’re experiencing emotional abuse. There’s no shame in admitting this. In fact, it’s your wife or girlfriend who ought to be ashamed.

Emotional abuse is like a cancer that eats away at your psyche until you’re left feeling powerless, worthless, anxious and/or depressed. Most of the time it happens so gradually that you don’t notice it. You explain away the first few tantrums, emotional outbursts and rage episodes. You take her criticisms to heart because you want to please her. You’d give anything for her to go back to the way she was during the honeymoon phase of your relationship when she was fun, sweet and loving and therein lies the problem.

2569321033_221a5b6a20-copy-2-copyShe’s not abusive all the time. Sometimes she’s nice. Now and again, she’ll even make a grand loving gesture and you convince yourself that the relationship isn’t that bad. Abusive personality types frequently have a very charismatic and seductive side. If she was all bad all the time, you’d have never become involved with her, right? Their charming side is how they suck people in. Over time, the charm wears thin and their abusive traits dominate.

You can’t fix this. You can’t make her stop. You can’t make your relationship better. You can go to all the therapy sessions in the world and read all the How to Understand Women books on Amazon, but you won’t be able to change her behavior. Why?

First, it’s highly unlikely that your girlfriend or wife will see her behavior as abusive because “everything’s your fault” and, most importantly, her abusive behaviors are how she gets what she wants. It’s a learned and highly effective behavioral technique, which, even if she gains awareness about it, will be terribly difficult (if not impossible) for her to break. The goal of an abuser is control and the way they control you is through emotional abuse.

Don’t want to admit you’re being controlled or abused? Ok. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you spending more and more time at work because you don’t want to go home?
  • Have you dropped out of touch with friends and family? When you communicate periodically, do you smile and tell them everything’s great as you feel the knot in your stomach tighten and the lump in your throat harden?
  • Do you always feel like you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop?
  • Have you withdrawn from life while retreating into alternate realities, e.g., books, films or the Internet?
  • Are you experiencing feelings of shame, worthlessness, low self-esteem or emotional numbness?
  • Are you experiencing physical symptoms like chronic stomach pain, nausea, headaches, digestive problems, insomnia or fatigue that your doctor can’t diagnose beyond “may be stress-related?”
  • Are you drinking more or using recreational drugs more than you used to? Are you using them to escape from or numb yourself to the unhappiness of your situation?
  • Do you feel unlovable? Like something’s “wrong” with you or that you’re “bad” or “crazy?” Do you worry that if you left your partner that no one else would want you?
  • Do you experience symptoms of depression, including thoughts of suicide?
  • Do you engage in risky behaviors in which your death would be considered “accidental” like reckless driving, riding your bike alone through rough terrain, going into dangerous neighborhoods,or walking into traffic without looking?

If you answered “yes” to more than one of these questions it’s highly likely that you’re suffering the effects of emotional abuse. Most often women (and men) with these traits either have Borderline Personality Disorder, Histrionic Personality Disorder and/or Narcissistic Personality Disorder characteristics, if not full blown personality disorders. These psychiatric conditions are extremely difficult to treat. All three can be extremely emotionally abusive types who are incapable of feeling true empathy, which does not bode well for you.

You need to decide if you want to spend the rest of your life being treated like this or if you want a chance at real love and happiness. You should probably seek some form of formal support to:

  1. Help resurrect your feelings of self-esteem and worth.
  2. Understand why you were attracted to this woman in the first place so you don’t end up in another abusive relationship again.
  3. Learn some behavioral techniques to deal and cope with these behaviors.
  4. Help you decide if you want to end this relationship and, if so, support you through it.

by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

http://shrink4men.wordpress.com/2009/01/23/when-love-hurts-the-emotionally-abused-man/#comment-87445

How to Get Over an Abusive Girlfriend or Wife: Break the Routines

Written by on November 16, 2010

She’s finally out of your life. The last of her things have been removed from your home, and she’s gone. You have a tremendous sense of emptiness, and a tremendous sense of relief. And, let’s face it, you feel pretty guilty about feeling the relief.

What do you do next? The house is finally quiet. She’s not there to scream at you. She’s not there to dictate what you eat, what you watch on TV, what music you listen to, what you wear, how long you’re in the bathroom, what brand of soap to use, how long to wash your hands, how to fold the towels, or the sheets, what time you go to bed, or what time you get up, when and how you talk to her, and what time you’re allowed to come home from work.  What do you do?!

 

Your ex may not have been this controlling.  Mine was. And when she was finally gone, the silence was deafening.

As I’ve written about before, her controlling nature and gaslighting eventually caused me severe cognitive difficulties. I was simply unable to function. One day, I even made it halfway to work, and noticed I was still wearing my pajamas.  I had to stop at Target and buy clothes on my way in.  Even now, two years out, I still have memory lapses, difficulty remembering names or other simple things.  But that’s something for another post.

What do you do when she’s gone? Break the routines.  Stop doing everything her way. Stop. You didn’t do things that way before she came into your life and you managed pretty well, didn’t you?  Remember? Every habit of hers you’ve taken on, even if it is something as simple as folding the towels a certain way to appease her, needs to stop.

This will take effort.

One thing my ex insisted on was that we enter and exit the apartment via the back door. The front door was not to be used under any circumstances. To this day, I have no idea why. After she left, I noticed that I was still using the back door. I forced myself to stop. Even if I’d already entered or exited via the back door, I made myself turn around, go back, and use the front door. It took a while, but I got it.

Now is your chance to do all those things you were forbidden to do. Watch gory movies! Turn the music up loud! Leave the dishes until the following day! Cook what you want for dinner. Stay up as late as you want. Rediscover the things you used to enjoy doing.

Did she make you sit through endless hours of Sex and the City or Grey’s Anatomy? Put in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, or The Godfather. Go buy that thing she wouldn’t let you own.

When you’re ready to take the next step, there are a few things I would suggest:

  1. Get a new bed: Seriously, I cannot even begin to emphasize how much this helps psychologically. There’s too much history wrapped up in the old bed. Get rid of it. Start fresh. I promise, you will sleep better.
  2. Change the locks: This should be a no-brainer. You don’t know if she’s surreptitiously made copies of keys, or taken hers with her. Take charge of the security of your surroundings. She does NOT need access to the home anymore. You don’t need to come home and find her there or your personal possessions missing.
  3. Return her mail: Chances are that she probably has not filed a change-of-address form with the post office. You will get mail for her, which she can then blame you for not forwarding. DO NOT FORWARD HER MAIL TO HER. YOU ARE NOT HER POST OFFICE. There are trained professionals who do that. They are called mail carriers. There is something deeply satisfying about marking her mail “no longer lives here, return to sender” and dropping it in the mailbox. Not your fault if she doesn’t get her latest credit card, W-2 or other important document on time. She should have filed with the post office.
  4. Change your phone number: If you have children, this, unfortunately, probably isn’t good advice. But, if you don’t, there’s no reason she needs to know how to get a hold of you anymore.
  5. Change your e-mail address: See above. Coupled with the fact that she, in all honesty, has probably hacked into your e-mail, looking for something to use against you. My ex gained access to my e-mail and I felt extremely violated. In fact, I stopped answering (or even checking) my e-mail for months afterward.  Eventually, upon settling on a new e-mail address, I’ve gotten better about this. Again, if you have kids (which, really is the only reason to maintain contact that I can think of, this may not be an option).
  6. Move: Eventually, the memories of being with her in my old apartment became too much. I was in constant fear that I would find her there waiting for me. Additionally, there wasn’t a room in the apartment that didn’t have “psychic residue” of too many fights lingering in the air. I relocated to another town entirely and live in a place that has no shared history with her. I am happier and feel safer than I ever did in the old place.  She and I lived together for 7 months, but that was enough to completely obliterate the “good” memories I’d had in the two years in that apartment prior to her being there. Start over. Start fresh.

If you are the one leaving, rather than her, you can still do pretty much all of these things. If there aren’t kids involved, again, I can’t think of any good or logical reason for her to know your whereabouts. Just make sure you fill out the change-of-address card with the post office. You don’t need her reading your mail.

Finally, and this is particularly hard – I KNOW – be prepared to sacrifice mutual friends. I know that some of them are good people. I know that some of them are close friends. But if they weren’t your friends before the relationship, they may not be your friends after the relationship.

Chances are, you’ve been smeared to them for quite some time and they will probably have a warped view of you. Even if that’s not the case, you don’t need to accidentally run into her, via them, or have them inadvertently let her know where you are. Letting go of some of these friends will hurt. But, I promise you, the security and peace of mind you have with her out of your life, and not knowing where you are, will more than make up for it. While I’m at it, there is absolutely NO reason to maintain contact with her family, unless, again, there are kids involved.

Break the routines she instilled in you.

Build new ones, and better ones; ones that are your own.

It’s your life, again. You have it back.

Shrink4Men Coaching and Consulting Services:

Dr Tara J. Palmatier provides confidential, fee-for-service, consultation/coaching services to help both men and women work through their relationship issues via telephone and/or Skype chat. Her practice combines practical advice, support, reality testing and goal-oriented outcomes.

Be Sociable, Share!