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Discussion:
Some traits of emotional abusers...
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One of the more subtle but effective ways an abuser can "wind" his partner up is by invalidating/rejecting/showing no compassion for the feelings of his partner - especially in conjunction with a deliberate act of malice that was designed to upset or hurt the partner.

He will claim the act was either "accidental" or intended to help the partner. He will try to tell his partner that it is NOT OK to feel angry or hurt or upset by his actions - or that if she DOES feel those things, her "feelings are her own" - that he has no responsibility towards repairing any emotional damage he may have caused.

As part of this tactic he may pay lip-service to personal responsibility by saying he "takes responsibility" for his actions, but then make no offer to do anything about the resulting emotional pain, or say that there is nothing he can do to repair the damage or make restitution. If she tries to get him to do anything to make restitution he will use the word "blame" as if it is a dirty word, and accuse her of trying to lay "blame" on him for his actions.

This is the functional equivalent of someone using a board to "fan" you and when he "accidentally" hits you over the head, telling you that he was just trying to HELP and that if you feel PAIN, well, your feelings are your own, and he can't be responsible for YOUR feelings, and there is nothing HE can do about it now... Non-abusers who genuinely ACCIDENTALLY hurt a loved one's feelings, do not refuse to nurture those feelings - they help repair the emotional damage, and they don't repeatedly make the same "mistakes" over and over with their partners.

The flip side of this, of course, is that emotional abusers want to reap the emotional rewards for being nice and doing "good" things for their partners - they want the affirmation, appreciation and attention they feel they deserve when they do something positive for a partner.

The truth about responsibility for one's feelings is that if you love and trust someone - if you open your heart to the love and caring, you also open it to the potential for hurt. Yes, in the strictest sense of the word, no one can make you feel anything - you choose to let them affect you for good or bad.

But very few people, (except perhaps those with borderline personality disorder), can be completely "unfeeling" when dealing with someone they care deeply for. Most people are unable to open their hearts up completely to love and be able to "let" only good things affect their feelings and not the bad. To disconnect yourself from feeling hurt and pain is to disconnect yourself from feeling love and joy.

When you open your heart to someone, you are granting them your trust as well as your love. You are trusting them to respect and honor your love. If someone abuses you by violating your trust, you are not wrong for trusting - THEY are wrong for breaking that trust and using it to hurt you.

Emotional abusers have huge double standards. What is ok for them, is NOT ok for their partners. I.e. THEY are allowed to get angry - their partners are not.

Abusers will blame their partner for "allowing" or encouraging them to be abusive. In as much as a refusal to capitulate can trigger an abusive attack, any sign of "guilty" feelings or weakness in a partner is like blood in the water for sharks, when it comes to abusers. Of course, according to the abuser, it is up to the woman not to provide him with the temptation to abuse, by changing HER behavior.

If caught in a lie or exposed in a situation where he can't immediately manipulate his partner into taking the rap, he may try to go for the sympathy ploy, in an attempt deflect the situation away from his bad behavior. For example, one abuser caught in the middle of a lie, blamed his lie on "bad memory", almost started crying, and began bemoaning what he would do if his memory was going, because his whole job depended on being able to remember lots of details. All of a sudden, the situation turned from him being caught in a lie, to his partner being expected to feel sorry for him because of his "bad memory"... Other deflection techniques he may use when his behavior is exposed, are:


-to bring up stories of childhood/parental abuse (watch these, they are the same old stories each time, and if you listen closely, you may see that his behaviors closely match those childhood abuse patterns...)
-to bring up troubles and things bothering him at work
-to bring up his hurt and "pain" over something YOU did ages ago, and have long-since paid for.
-"missing" a grown child who has left the home, or children he abandoned and his former partner "won't let him" visit (big wonder why...).

If you DO manage to get an abuser to a relationship counsellor, (something many abusers will insist you two don't need - he'll insist that you "can work things out yourselves..."), the abuser will work to ensure that the counsellor sees HIM as the mistreated partner, or at the very least, that his behaviors are one-time incidents rooted in just cause. These kinds of emotional abusers are often highly intelligent and manipulative. They will manipulate and lie to the counsellor, pinning the onus back on YOU to change your behavior for HIM. You may find it very frustrating and difficult. Even if he can't avoid having his trust-breaking behavior exposed, he may find a way to manipulate the situation so that his "reasons" for breaking trust were because of YOUR inability to meet his needs. Beware. Sometimes counsellors buy into that stuff, and you end up getting a double-whammy.

Emotional abusers will hide their abuse in acts that they can claim were done to "try and help" their partner. For example, taking a partner's kids away camping for the weekend, ostensibly, "to give her some time off", but without phoning and checking with her first, "forgetting" she had made plans with them already, and deliberately making sure the kids didn't have time to pack up and be properly equipped.

This is designed to get her upset, but have it look like, on the surface, he was "just trying to be helpful and she got upset at me." Similarly, an abuser might do some of your laundry "as a favor" to you, without your asking, and then shrink or stain your clothes.

When you get upset about the fact that not only did he do this without asking, but it caused damage, an abuser will imply that your anger is invalid and unwarranted, that you are ungrateful, and that there is nothing he can do about it now. The abuser learns and goes for the most sensitive "buttons" on his partner, so that he can get a response out of her.

The abuser seeks ways to violate her boundaries through calculated "acts of kindess", and may resort to using her children, her personal belongings, her friends, or her personal space as tools.

In addition to favors which cause damage, the emotional abuser may do legitimately helpful "favors" for his partner, but again, ones that the partner never asked for. The problem is that the abuser never gives freely or unconditionally.

He expects some kind of recompense in return, often without stating what that expectation is. This then gives him another opportunity to feel justified in punishing his partner when she doesn't live up to his unstated expectations of gratitude and reciprocation.

When his partner stands up for herself, you may hear him using phrases like, "everything I did, I did for her", and "after all I did for her, THIS is how she treats me!". Abusers will often complain (especially to others outside the relationship) about how unappreciated they are/were, and how they gave and gave and gave, and got so little in return...

Another destabilizing tactic that the abuser may use is to renege on a committment, or on a stated belief, catching you off-guard, possibly even putting you in a position where he can accuse you of "hurting" him because you didn't know his beliefs/principles/goals had changed. He will use the excuse that he "changed his mind" as a tool for keeping you off-balance. If you question his about-face, he will accuse you of not allowing him the right to change his mind. While people legitimately DO change their minds about things, abusers will do it often, and without warning, with maximum rug-yanking effect for their partners.

Emotional abusers will use the "mind change" tactic to set a partner up in a no-win situation. No matter what the partner does, the abuser will find a way to find fault with it - if the cat craps on his bed and she doesn't clean it up, she is uncaring and selfish. If she DOES clean it up, then she was invading his personal space.

Emotional abusers encourage their partners to do "self-indulgent" things that the abuser will later resent them for. It may be as simple as encouraging her to go out dancing with her friends, or to go visit her mother, or it may be as serious as encouraging her to take a job or go back to school. In many cases, his "encouragement" is part of the "if she really loves me" test - if she does what he encourages her to do, she is diverting her attention from him, and he will feel justified in hurting her as a result.

Once someone starts to detach from an abuser and refuses to play the games, he may go for the sympathy ploy. If his partner doesn't capitulate and refuses to pander to his emotional blackmail, she will be accused of being cold and heartless, in the hopes that THIS escalation of emotional blackmail will hurt her further.

Emotional abusers often display different personalities to other people in their lives - watch for a completely changed demeanor, behavior, body language and even tone of voice, when they are at work, or with a circle of friends. The abuser may claim that this is just different "facets" of his personality, but in fact, it is a warning sign that he puts on different personnas to suit the situation, and you will never know which one is the REAL person. It belies huge insecurities - the way children try to act like the crowd they are with in order to be accepted - and is an indication of the emotional immaturity of the typical abuser.

Emotional abusers, like physical abusers, can be exceedingly charming -that's why it's so hard for the victim of abuse - their friends only see the charming side, and don't see the discourtesy, lies, meanness, condescension and rudeness that happens inside the relationship.

Because abuse is about power and control, the abuser will often try to become "buddies" or friends with his partner's closest friends. If her female friends are attracted to him at all, he may even try to prey on that, so that if she has a conflict or a problem with him, she doesn't have a close supportive friend to turn to. Abusers will use things like stories of childhood abuse or trauma, lost friends or the death of relatives to get her friends to feel sorry for him. He will play up the "sensitive guy" role. If he can cozy up to her best friend, the friend will feel caught in the middle - which is exactly what the abuser wants - to cut off his partner from external support. If he can, he may even flirt heavily with her friends, have an affair with one of her friends, or become pals with one or more of her former friends as another way to hurt and attempt to shame her. As much as possible, he will perpetrate this behavior in front of his partner, so that he is exhibiting his control - going for maximum hurt to her through a blatant display of compassionless disrespect.

The emotional abuser often plays pushme-pullyou. He will indicate that his interest in his partner is waning, and when she begins to start separating from him, he will become attentive and interested again. He may even use sex as a weapon against her - by telling her that she isn't paying enough attention to him, spending enough time with him, or isn't initiating sex enough, but then will reject her advances when she tries to initiate.

Abusers are completely self-centered. They blame other people and seldom take responsibility for their own actions.

Abusers are self-righteous. They find ways to justify their behavior. As a result, he always focuses on her problems, and insists that she change to make the relationship better.

Emotional abusers hate apologizing - and if they DO apologize, they will only do the same thing again. They know this, and will even try to make it seem like any expectation of an apology is really an attempt to "blame" them. (Again, "blame" being that dirty word). For example, "You just want me to say I'm sorry and promise I'll never do it again, so that when I screw up again, you can point a finger and blame me and get angry with me and say, "See? You did it again and you promised you wouldn't!"" This is called "projection" - abusers do it all the time. They project THEIR issues onto their partner, and try to make it their partner's problem. They make it sound like the partner's is somehow wrong or attempting to set them up for "blame", for wanting some sign of compassion and remorse, and an indication of willingness to work on the behavior problem.

If you do get an apology out of an abuser, it is a quick-fix, not a long-term solution, because they will do the same behavior over again - that is why they are often so resistant to apologizing and saying that they will work on the behavior - because they KNOW they will repeat it at another time.

Abusers may, early in the relationship, in a moment of "opening up", tell you of their abusive or manipulative nature. At the time you may think that this is some kind of indication of a willingness to work on their past problems, or that somehow it will be different for you. In fact, what they are looking for is absolution in advance for behavior they will later inflict on you. They may even go so far as to say, "I told you this is how I am."

Emotional abusers often grow OLD without growing UP. They are emotionally stunted and immature. Emotional abusers are self-preoccupied, and demonstrate a passive-aggressive interpersonal style.


Emotional abusers may do seemingly loving, kind and considerate things, that actually convey a subtle message that you aren't "perfect", that you aren't quite good enough. For example, it may seem very sweet that he rubs cream into your hands before bed, but then you remember that he also didn't like you touching him if your hands were the least bit dry or rough - it "hurt" his skin, so you always had to have hand cream to make your hands soft before you touched him. Sadly, the REAL message behind the seemingly loving act of rubbing cream in your hands is that you aren't perfect, you aren't living up to his needs and expectations, NOT that he loves you... In their own subversive way, these "messages", couched in "loving" acts, eat away and erode your sense of self-worth.

Emotional abusers deny that they have any problems and/or project their problems onto their partner, often accusing their partners of abuse - especially AFTER the partner has woken up and called the abuser on his behavior. At this point he will be sure to tell as many *mutual* friends as will listen, that she is controlling and abusive to him, in an attempt to further undermine any support she might get.

In order to gain sympathy, the abuser will share convincing stories of his burdens, including stories of how he was abused as a child, or how he witnessed his mother being assaulted by his father.

An emotional abuser demonstrates little capacity to appreciate the perspective of another person when his own interests are at stake. Emotional abusers often flip between being a martyr and a self-absorbed asshole - there is no middle ground, and they use the martyrdom as an excuse for their behavior when they are in self-absorbed asshole mode ("I was just doing something for *me*. I'm tired of you making me feel bad about myself."). However, that "something" often winds up breaking a relationship agreement, a promise, or involves him being condescending, ignoring, or rude.

An emotional abuser sees himself as a blameless victim, and denies his own provocative behavior, even going so far as to bemoan the fact that a partner left him, or threw him out, "after all the things I did for her"... The emotional abuser will play up the "pathos" in an attempt to garner sympathy, all the while, continuing to stalk his ex, making jokes about things he could do to upset her, and invading her personal space and boundaries at social functions.

Like physical abusers, emotional abusers will often stalk their former partners. The stalker's objective is often to control her through cultivating fear rather than making direct or specific threats, or confronting the her. Sometimes this stalking can take the form of simply moving into the same neighborhood as a former partner, and letting her know, through friends, where he is living. His move into her neighborhood will be "justified" by him for some specious reason, but the reality is, he can't let go and is still trying to control her and inflict pain on her after the relationship is over.

This is a subtle form of terrorism, because abuse victims are often very emotionally (if not physically) afraid of their abusers once they wake up. She will know that she might run into him at the local convenience store, gas station, supermarket, or on a walk. He is, in effect, pissing on her boundaries (something abusers have no respect for) and trying to make them his own. He may even begin dating someone who lives very close to her, so that he has an excuse to go by her house, or park his car nearby.

Ex-partners of abusers will often express fear of their abuser, and will have no desire to be anywhere near the abuser. On the other hand, the abuser may try to appear as if he is calm, rational, and still supportive of his ex-partner, despite the fact that he will also express the opinion that he believes she is quite unstable.

He will make statements such as saying that he "bears her no ill-will", etc., but then will show no respect for her boundaries or her requests for him to stay away from her. The abuser will still inquire with friends as to how she is doing, implying that his inquiry is because he cares about her - he does care - about retaining those last vestiges of control, even after the breakup.

What he really wants to know is if she is suffering or doing badly, because that feeds his sick ego. He feels best when he puts other people in as much pain as he is in.

People in relationships have conflicts. But there is a right way and a wrong way to resolve them, and no matter what the other person does, no matter what a person's "issues" are, abuse is the wrong way. Emotional cruelty and abuse are choices. A man can choose to be abusive or choose to be non-abusive; he can choose to be honest and straightforward, or passive-aggressive and covert, and no matter how hard a man tries to blame his partner, there is no justification for abuse.

If you are a victim of emotional abuse, you have to wake up to the fact that this person *does not love you* and probably hasn't loved you for a very long time, if ever. Because the truth of the matter is, someone who can be emotionally cruel, malicious, and compassionless with people who have given him their love and their trust, is so absorbed in self-hate that he is incapable of loving himself, much less anyone else. What the abuser feels is obsession, not love.

If you find that you are having to explain the basics of respect and courtesy to a partner - if you are finding that he just DOESN'T SEEM TO GET IT, when you try to explain why his behavior or actions were disrespectful - run far and run fast. People who are capable of maintaining and contributing to a loving, supportive, healthy relationship, DON'T need to constantly have the concepts of respect, compassion, and consideration explained to them.

Just because he admits his behavior (and WATCH - some abusers are VERY good at acknowledging they did something without apologizing, or admitting there was anything WRONG with the behavior.), does NOT mean he is willing to change it, that he will not repeat the behavior, nor that he even believes he did anything unacceptable, hurtful or wrong. DO NOT take admission of an act as a sign of integrity, acceptance of responsibility, a show of remorse, or an indication of genuine caring, unless you see EXPLICIT behavior that demonstrates it.

It is NOT wrong, or unhealthy to want someone to love and care about you and care for you, and to want to reciprocate. It is only through this kind of openness that we can acheive true intimacy with another individual. And two emotionally healthy people, CAN do this without becoming co-dependent.

Unfortunately, abusers violate the trust that this kind of relationship requires, and are incapable of true intimacy. They want you to be dependent. People who ARE capable of genuinely loving you in a healthy and safe way, DON'T WANT TO HURT YOU, and do not DELIBERATELY DO THINGS TO HURT YOU.

They don't play on your insecurities and they don't wage psychological warfare on you. They don't blame YOU for all the relationship problems, and they don't fabricate problems just so you can be the scapegoat.

People who love you will treat you with respect, consideration, courtesty, honesty and compassion. If you are with someone who matches the abusive behavior in this article, get help. The sooner you wake up to the fact that the relationship is unhealthy, and move on, the sooner your life will improve.

Remember: Safe People are people who draw you closer to who you were meant to be spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically. They encourage you to be your most loving, growing self.

More links to web pages/sites about Abusers and Emotional Abuse:

Romeo is Bleeding - how to recognize and avoid abusers and controllers

Angry Affirmations - how abusers stay mad at the world

how to be Unhappy - how abusers stay miserable

The Blame Game - How Abusers with Borderline Personality Disorder set people up in "no win" situations. If you want to learn more about BPD, check out the entire section at Suite101. It might be that the abuser you are dealing with has this very debilitating disorder.

A Non-Borderline's Quest to Understand Borderlines - Q&A about why Borderlines act the way they do (abusively), to people close to them.

Devaluation - How borderlines "devalue" people close to them so they can feel justified in acting out.

Good book resources include:

Emotional Blackmail - When the People in your Life Use Fear, Obligation and Guilt to Manipulate you, by Susan Forward, Ph.D.


Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse: By Gregory L. Jantz. Ph. dip.
Posted on 09/21/08, 02:12 pm
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Reply #1 - 09/21/08  2:24pm
" Yes (an understatement),

and THANKS! "
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Reply #2 - 09/21/08  3:41pm
" I often read articles and sometimes feel very alone in my "nightmare" because I cannot relate to many of them. Here is one of the exceptions. Thank you so very much for posting this. It describes abuse I have been subjected to over and over again, but that I cannot always clearly describe to others when I am trying to describe the horror of it. Thank you. "
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Reply #3 - 09/21/08  5:04pm
" Awesome post!! That is HIM!!! I will have to get busy on some reading!!! "
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Reply #4 - 09/21/08  6:10pm
" This sounds so much like what I live! Just yesterday I was told that I shouldn't express my feelings. That if I shut up and just let the relationship happen it would work out. Who can live with no expression? Thanks for the post! "
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Reply #5 - 09/22/08  2:04am
" True, many of these paragraphs I've lived through too. I've been through so much of it, that I just get so tired of saying I've been through it. I don't know if anyone can relate to that.

I am a beaten person from all the emotional abuse I have gone through. His family or mother was mad at me and treating me improperly because he told her I think, that I was bossy and told him what to do all the time, and I just thought it was two ppl conversing in a marriage. So, they all think i'm this controlling you know what.

He undermines everything I do basically. Everything important. He talks bad to ppl behind my back, so they will think ill of me. Never admits to things you know he's done. Won't until he's actually caught in it. Is the same way as the above posting, you can't ever work anything out really. He's happy with things, so just leave it.

I'm at fault for everything. Meaning if I open my mouth and talk, its my fault. I suppose to just sit there, have no opinion or comment. That is a happy marriage to him. He does talk and act nice to everyone else. He would die if he had to have a confrontation with another person, but he has no problem with me.

This was along article, and I can't comment on all of it, but that too is alot like my husband. It is hell. Life is never an even keel. You always have to be ready for the unexpected. I've been saying that it's because he had a bad childhood, but now because I confided about a few things in my childhoo, that believe you me, was not perfect but not like his horrible one. Well, now it's his family is close because they were brought up like that, and I had a horrible one and that is why he wants to keep in touch with his family more and I don't keep in touch with mine because of all my problems with them. Well, actually it's because of his families problems and their dysfunction that we've had alot of problems. See how he twists it. I just don't say anything anymore.

Anyways, I'm just venting. And I am a beaten woman. I use to be so strong, I still am, but I am weary too. "
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Reply #6 - 09/22/08  12:26pm
" thanks for posting this.i see most of what he does in here.I am at a loss on how to deal with it in the meantime.I am gonna try to get a chance to read those other articles when i get a moment alone.Honestly to e it all seems sick and i dont understand ow someone could do that to another. "
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Reply #7 - 09/22/08  4:37pm
" It is truly awful. That was the life I lead, that our little girl witnessed. The control, name calling...he actually said "you can't take a joke" and "you have no sense of humor"...classic and yet I wanted to keep tryiing. It ended with him threatening me...do what I tell you to do or else you don't want to know what's going to happen. WHAT?!?!?!?!?

Now, I am divorcing him. I don't know if he ever loved me. I guess to question his love is validation that it never existed. My only regrett in my entire lifetime is returning the first time. "
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Reply #8 - 09/23/08  9:17am
" Thanks for this. It really resonated with me. "
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Reply #9 - 09/23/08  1:42pm
" My husband exactly. . . I cannot wait for this attorney to return my call. I am so angry. "
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Reply #10 - 09/23/08  3:46pm
" Thank you for this posting!! Reading this has reminded me to stay strong and that the "charming" stage of the usual cycle will be gone as soon as let him back into my life. He is just like you described. "

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