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Old 20th Nov 2011, 09:29 AM   #1
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Emotional Abuse Awareness

I wasn't sure where to put this, so I thought I'd post it here.

After kicking my ex out, I realized just how few people are aware of emotional abuse. So I spent the last two days making an information post about it, and I would like opinions on it if at all possible.
Quote:
***What is emotional abuse?***

"Abuse is any behavior that is designed to control and subjugate another human being through the use of fear, humiliation, and verbal or physical assaults. Emotional abuse is any kind of abuse that is emotional rather than physical in nature. It can include anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism to more subtle tactics, such as intimidation, manipulation, and refusal to ever be pleased."
-- LINK

Abuse isn't just being slapped. Abuse isn't just being molested, hit with things, pushed around or physically threatened. Emotional abuse is very real, and just as damaging as physical abuse; sometimes it's even worse than physical abuse, because it leaves no visible marks, cannot be easily proven to doctors or police, and isn't accepted as reasonable grounds for issuing protective orders.

It's also harder to recognize, especially for younger people. We all understand that someone who hits you is abusive, but what about the wo/man who sneers at you and orders you to do the laundry again because you didn't get it just right, and "this time do it right you moron"? What about the wo/man who asks you to go to the store, then comes unglued when you're "late" getting home and "where have you been, what took you so long"? Or the wo/man who asks for an item (say a bottle of shampoo), says s/he doesn't care what type, and then gets upset when you come back with "the wrong kind"?

The fact is, emotional abuse is very common. Many people in the abusive relationship think the behavior is normal, or something that they are doing wrong. If only they'd payed more attention! If only they'd tried harder! If only they could just get it right and please their partner! If only this, if only that... The sad truth is that it's not the fault of the person involved, it's the person they're involved with that is the problem. A partner that makes snide comments in public, that threatens suicide if they don't get their way or are upset with you, that calls you names (and perhaps claims to be joking), that constantly changes their expectations and doesn't tell you yet gets upset if you fail their new expectations... this is all emotional abuse, and it is wrong.

Emotional abuse (as well as physical abuse) can come from friends, family, co-workers, spouses or people you are otherwise romantically involved with; it's not just something that happens between a husband and wife.

***What are "symptoms" of emotional abuse?***

* You are afraid to discuss things that bother you with the person in question.
* The person in question criticizes you, humiliates you and/or undermines your self-esteem on a regular basis.
* You are ridiculed by the person in question for expressing yourself.
* The person in question isolates you from friends, family and other support systems.
* Your access to money, work and material resources is limited by the person in question.
* The person in question has stolen from you.
* The person in question has run up debts that they expect you to handle.
* Your relationship with the person in questions goes back and forth between very emotionally close, and distant.
* You have had sex with the person in question just to avoid arguing about it.
* You feel trapped in the relationship.
* The person in question has thrown away your belongings.
* The person in question has threatened you, your loved ones or your pets.
* You are afraid of the person in question.

(Adapted from here.)

***What does an abusive person "look" like?***

Success Fantasies. They believe they will be (or already are!) rich, famous, successful and/or powerful. They believe they could have that, if only their victim wasn't holding them back.

Blaming. They shift responsibility to others, which justifies to them their anger towards the victim. To them, it's the fault of the victim for "making them" act in an abusive manner.

Excuse Making. They make excuses for their behavior, such as their parents being abusive, or having had a "bad day" or "hard life".

Redefining. They turn situations around so that they are not at fault, that the problems lie with people and events outside themselves.

Making Fools Of Others. They use manipulation to pit people against one another; they lie, upsetting the victims and causing a fight between them.

Assuming. They assume they know how others feel or what others think. They use this to excuse their behavior by pretending they knew how their victim would react in a given situation.

Emotional Dependence. They rely on other people to a great deal; they get angry at this weakness, and so they try and regain their sense of control by abusing and controlling others. They tend to get jealous, possessive and sexually controlling. They monitor their victims. They do anything possible to make their victims stay... except actually change.

Lying. They lie to keep their victims off-balance, and to manipulate situations.

Rigid Application Of Traditional Sex Attitudes. They fit exactly into the traditional role for their sex; men are domineering and want their spouses to stay at home, women are passive-aggressive and expect their spouses to go out and "bring home the bacon".

Drama. They need to have constant excitement and find it amusing to see people fight, argue and get upset. They tend to use their manipulation to set up "dramas".

Closed Channel. They don't open up about personal details or their feelings, nor do they open up to the feelings and information about other people, such as what their victims think of them. They believe they are right in every situation.

Ownership. They are very possessive, and believe that they should get anything they want. They believe that they can do with their possessions anything they want... and "possessions" include people. It justifies abuse and theft.

Poor Anger Management. They see violence as an acceptable and primary method of dealing with others; they don't see other ways to settle differences. They have emotional outbursts and can get emotionally violent (screaming and cursing) if not physically violent.

Minimizing. They try and make the problems of other people seem trivial, especially compared to their own problems.

Fragmentation. They are often different people around strangers, or those who aren't aware that the person is abusive. They might be enraged one minute, and then smiling and laughing the next when an unaware friend or family member drops by unexpectedly. They don't see any inconsistency in their behavior and feel it is justified.

Above The Rules. They feel they are superior to authority, and don't have to abide by the laws that "normal" people do. They think they are better than everyone else. They are also the sort to claim that they don't need therapy, either because it "doesn't work", there's "nothing wrong" or "therapists are a bunch of idiots".

Self-glorification. They see themselves as smart, strong, capable, and superior to others. They take offense when anyone questions their views, and sees anything that opposes their views as an attack or insult.

Inability To Express Feelings With Words. They are not capable of true intimacy, and they are unable to communicate properly. They feel that being open is threatening. They expect others to "read their mind" and "just know" what they want. They get angry when their victim doesn't know what to expect and takes it as a sign of rejection.

Vagueness. They justify abuse by not being clear; they might tell their victim to do the laundry, and then get angry because the victim didn't do it in the (not stated) "time frame" they expected it done. They also shirk responsibility by being vague, such as saying they couldn't come home and eat dinner with the family because they "had something to do at work".

(Adapted from here.)

Not ALL of these apply to EVERY abuser, but many of the elements are the same/similar.

It is also worthwhile to take a look at the psychpathy checklist, as well as the Narcissism 101 website. Most abusers are suffering from some form of sociopathy, psychopathy or Narcissism.

Quote:
"...More often than not, the typical psychopath will seem particularly agreeable and make a distinctly positive impression when he is first encountered. Alert and friendly in his attitude, he is easy to talk with and seems to have a good many genuine interests. There is nothing at all odd or queer about him, and in every respect he tends to embody the concept of a well-adjusted, happy person. Nor does he, on the other hand, seem to be artificially exerting himself like one who is covering up or who wants to sell you a bill of goods. He would seldom be confused with the professional backslapper or someone who is trying to ingratiate himself for a concealed purpose. Signs of affectation or excessive affability are not characteristic. He looks like the real thing."
Quote:
"Narcissists will discourage you from looking into mental diseases because they are afraid you will find out about them. When you understand narcissists, it becomes easier to deal with them. They are the simply the most immature people on earth. They are pancake people, superficial, running around trying to puff themselves up, always looking for people to exploit and for people to admire them.

It is not easy dealing with narcissists. You have to be an adult when they are running around acting like kids - it demands wisdom and strength. Narcissists exploit weakness, or they create it in people. They are charming. They make you feel you are the greatest, they make you dependent on their approval."
Quote:
"I sometimes think a narcissist is someone who is not human, but who looks human and acts human, an alien from outer-space, or a spoiled child, or a crazy person (crazy like a fox). Some alien race has snatched the humanity from the narcissist, leaving an empty husk that tries its best to act human. If you make the mistake of thinking they are normal human beings then you will remain their victim. Psychopaths are more dangerous but not as insidious as a narcissist."
Quote:
"Narcissistic personality disorder: SPECIAL (5 criteria).

S: Special (believes he or she is special and unique)
P: Preoccupied with fantasies (of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love)
E: Entitlement

C: Conceited (grandiose sense of self-importance)
I: Interpersonal exploitation
A: Arrogant (haughty)
L: Lacks empathy"
***Who gets emotionally abused?***

Anyone.

There is no one "face" of abuse; women are far more likely to get abused, statistically, but it could also be that reports from men are ignored, or men fail to report at all. Either way, anyone of any gender can be abused. Anyone of any sexuality can also be abused; abuse in same-sex relationships is often ignored by authorities, but it is very real and the victims need help as much as anyone else. It is worth noting that emotional abuse can and does happen between siblings, and between parents and children. Regardless of relation, being treated in such a way is not right; it doesn't matter if they are family, they have no business behaving in such a manner, and victims should seek help.

***What types of emotional abuse are there?***

Abusive Expectations. The abuser makes unreasonable demands, wants you to attend to their needs no matter what you are doing, and constantly criticizes you when you don't fulfill their needs. The secret is that it's never enough; the victim cannot possibly please the abuser.

Aggressing. Name calling, accusing the victim, blaming the victim, threatening, and ordering people around. The abuser tries to one-up the victim, seeks to destroy the sense of equality between them and the victim, and often assumes a parent-child sort of attitude. These behaviors are usually overt, but can be more indirect; they might try to pretend they are "helping" or "concerned", but there will always be an "I know best" attitude that undermines the victim's self-confidence.

Constant Chaos. The abuser purposefully starts conflicts or arguments; they tend to be surrounded by drama.

Denying. The abuser seeks to hurt, punish and/or humiliate the victim by denying the victim's needs. Even more sinister, the abuser denies incidents of abuse; they deny having called the victim names, they deny having started an argument, etc. They seeks to make the victim question themselves, and their own mind. The abuser might deny any views of the victim and insist that the views of the victim are invalid or wrong. Withholding, a variant of denial, is when an abuser ignores the victim, refuses to listen or communicate, and/or gives the victim the "silent treatment".

Dominating. The abuser seeks to control the victim. They want everything their way, and will mock, belittle, argue, cry and threaten to get it.

Emotional Blackmail. The abuser plays on the fears of the victim, or otherwise uses the victim's guilt, compassion and the like to manipulate the victim. The abuser figures out the victim's "buttons" and uses them against the victim. This can include suicide threats, threats to end the relationship and other tactics meant to frighten the victim.

Invalidation. The abuser fails to acknowledge the victim's reality; they seek to undermine the victim's perceptions, usually by saying things like "you're too sensitive", "you need to lighten up", etc.

Minimizing. A lesser form of denial; the abuser acts as if the victim is blowing things out of proportion, but doesn't outright deny their behaviors. The abuser pretends the victim is making it out to be worse than it is, and seeks to destroy the victim's sense of reality. A form of minimizing is trivializing, in which the abuser treats the feelings and thought of the victims as unimportant.

Unpredictable Responses. The abuser has drastic mood swings and/or emotional outbursts. They have different responses at different times to the same behaviors from the victim; for example, the victim might be told one day that the volume on the TV is fine, only to have the abuser scream at them the next day that the same volume level is unacceptable. The abuser might tell the victim that their laugh is cute one day, and tell the victim that their laugh is annoying the next. The abuser might ask the victim to do the dishes one day, and then snap at them for doing the dishes the next. (Probably because the victim "did it wrong".) It puts the victim constantly on edge, fearful of what will happen next; the victim can no longer anticipate what to expect when they behave a certain way.

Verbal Assaults. The abuser belittles, name-calls, screams, threatens and often uses excessive sarcasm. They might also make fun of the victim in front of other people. The abuser seeks to destroy the self-worth and confidence of the victim.

(Adapted from here.)

***What does it feel like to be in an emotionally abusive relationship?***

The cycle of abuse in a relationship follows a routine pattern.



In Phase 1, there is tension. The victim tends to feel a sense of unease, like something is going to happen. The victim might try and be extra nice to try and stave off the inevitable. The abuser might go into "silent treatment" mode.

In Phase 2, the abuse happens. The abuser has an emotional outburst or starts to belittle the victim; the victim is the one at fault, if only the victim behaved differently, if only the victim wouldn't make the abuser angry, etc. The abuser threatens to harm the victim or loved ones, or maybe threatens to leave or even hurt themselves. The victim likely tries to placate the abuser any way possible.

In Phase 3, the abuser is placated. They might apologize, they might say "if you just wouldn't have made me angry this wouldn't have happened", they might deny having been abusive. The victim is left feeling drained, scared, unsure of themselves. Usually the victim just wants it to be over so they can move on and be friendly again.

In Phase 4, the abuser acts like their "normal" self. The victim feels that maybe this time things will change. Everything seems to be fine.

... And then it starts all over again.

It's a tiring, no-win battle. The abuser will not change; they don't see that there's even a problem, or any reason for them to change, and it's because they don't feel what they are doing is wrong. To them, it's justified. The only thing the victim can truly do is leave, permanently. This can be extremely difficult though, and sometimes even dangerous. Abusers often get violent when they realize the person they are abusing is "waking up"; I speak of this from personal experience.

It's a cycle of fear, unease, distrust, shock, horror, pleading and begging, pain, uncertainty and ill-placed hope. Over and over and over again.

***When is it time to get help?***

The minute you realize what is going on! Emotional abuse has, can and probably will turn into physical abuse. Emotional abusers can and sometimes do kill their victims. The sooner the victim wakes up and realizes what is going on, and the sooner they resolve to leave, the better.

***How can someone get help?***

If an abuser becomes threatening-- either to the victim, loved ones of the victim (including pets) or themselves-- then the victim needs to either escape the building and go to a safe location OR lock themselves in a room with a phone and call the cops/911. Make sure the room has a window or door that can be escaped from. If the abuser actually becomes violent and begins to throw things, hit anyone (including pets) or other such behaviors, the victim must immediately call the cops/911.

Victims need to inform friends, family and even neighbors of what is happening. Let them know you're scared, and ask them to call the police if they see or hear anything suspicious. That way, if a phone cannot be reached, maybe someone will call the police. It will also let friends and family know that if they don't hear from you, they need to call someone.

Victims need to get a hold of the local authorities, or a lawyer if possible, and ask them what the options are for removing the person from their lives and staying safe.

If there is a domestic violence office near the victim, the victim should try and go there (or call if possible) and ask them what can be done. Sometimes if the police are unwilling to help (and sadly that is sometimes the case), they can and will help.

There are hotlines that can be called, for further information and advice:

FOR WOMEN
USA: the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233
UK: Womenís Aid at 0808 2000 247
CANADA: National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-363-9010
AUS: National Domestic Violence Hotline 1800 200 526
International Website: CLICK

FOR MEN
USA: The Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men & Women 24-hour helpline at 1-888-7HELPLINE (1-888-743-5754)
CANADA: ManKind Initiative at 01823 334244
AUS: website HERE

It also helps to remember the 13 rules of dealing with sociopaths:

1. Accept that some people (4% in western cultures) have no conscience. None. They lack the connectedness that makes a person "human" and there's nothing you can do about that.

2. Don't be fooled by their "role". They might be a doctor, a lawyer, a cop, a humanitarian... that changes nothing. They know how to fool people and they know how to blend in with whatever role they choose to take. It is a guise and nothing more.

3. The Rule Of Threes. Once is a misunderstanding, twice is a serious mistake, and three is on purpose. (This does NOT apply for physical abuse; once is one time too many and must be dealt with!)

4. Question authority. Even if the person is in a position of authority, if they say or do something and you get the feeling that something "isn't quite right", TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS! Don't blindly follow them just because they pretend to know better than you, or appear to have more power.

5. Beware of flattery. This is a sinister way of trying to win your affection by petting your ego. It might seem sincere, but don't let it hold sway over you. These people say what they must to earn your affection, trust and bank account number!

6. Don't confuse fear with respect. If someone has a large impact on your life and you find yourself bowing to them because of it, that is not respect. Just as animals learn to cower and obey people who abuse them, so do people. That is FEAR. Fear has no place in a loving, trusting relationship.

7. Don't play their game. You might be tempted to one-up them, hurt them or humiliate them to "get back" at them for the pain they cause you (or others). Your one and ONLY goal should be to AVOID DANGER, and get them out of your life as soon as possible. Playing their game just lowers you to their level and puts you in the way of serious harm.

8. Avoid the sociopath. Avoidance and ignoring people is NOT always wrong! In the case of the sociopath, it's the ONLY way. These are HIGHLY dangerous people, and the only way to "win the game" is to stop playing and to completely remove them from your life.

9. Resist feeling pity. If you find yourself feeling pity and/or sympathy for someone who has hurt themselves or others repeatedly, BEWARE. These people are expert manipulators, and they actively seek sympathy (even if they don't admit it or they deny it). Sympathy should be reserved for those who deserve it; sociopaths are not deserving, and are only exploiting our cultural urge to be civilized, good people.

10. Do not attempt to "redeem" them. You can only help those who want to be helped, and sociopaths do not want help; you cannot change a sociopath, you cannot control them, nor should you try to do so.

11. Never conceal a sociopath's true character. "Please don't tell" is just another way they try and control you. "You owe me" is another. You don't owe them anything, no matter how nice they were or what they did for you!

12. Defend your psyche. Don't let them convince you that people are inherently bad, immoral or evil. That is not the case. The sociopath can and will play on the occasional jaded attitudes of their victims.

13. Living well is the BEST revenge. Live with love, live with laughter and live with kindness.

(Adapted from a list made by Martha Stout.)

Abusers that are Narcissists are often called "emotional vampires". Here is another list of ways you can deal with them:

Quote:
"How to Protect Yourself

1. KNOW THEM, KNOW THEIR HISTORY, AND KNOW YOUR GOAL
The way to anticipate vampires is by knowing how theyíve acted in the past. Chances are pretty good that theyíll do the same thing in the future. The big mistake you can make with vampires is assuming, without evidence, that though their record has been bad in the past, that they have learned their lesson, and will do better this time. When you deal with vampires, always ask yourself what youíre trying to accomplish and why. If youíre not sure, donít do anything until youíve thought about it carefully.

2. GET OUTSIDE VERIFICATION
Vampires want you to listen to them alone. To control you, theyíll try to isolate you from your usual sources of information. Always check out what they say with a trusted friend, especially when youíd rather not. Vampires canít operate in the light of day.

3. DO WHAT THEY DONíT
To prevail over Emotional Vampires you must rush in where they fear to tread. Your greatest strengths lie in doing the things you can do that vampires canít.

4. PAY ATTENTION TO ACTIONS, NOT WORDS
What vampires say is often very different from what they do. To avoid being drained, always focus on what they do.

5. IDENTIFY HYPNOTIC STRATEGY
Vampires are consummate hypnotists. When you see through the smoke and mirrors, their illusions donít work nearly so well.

6. PICK YOUR BATTLES
To be an effective vampire fighter, you have to be able to pick the important battles and ignore the rest. You also have to avoid fighting battles you canít possibly win.

7. LET CONTINGENCIES DO THE WORK
A contingency is an if-then situation. If someone does a particular thing, then certain consequences will follow. The only way Emotional Vampires learn anything is by experiencing the consequences of their own behavior. If youíre ever tempted to rescue a vampire, think about what youíre teaching him or her about how the game of life is played.

8. CHOOSE YOUR WORDS AS CAREFULLY AS YOU PICK YOUR BATTLES
With Emotional Vampires what you say, how you say it, and when you say it are all crucial to the outcomes you are likely to achieve.

9. IGNORE TANTRUMS
When vampires donít get their way, they throw tantrums. They can explode into all sorts of emotional outbursts whose only purpose is to get you to give in. Donít.

10. KNOW YOUR OWN LIMITS
Dealing with Emotional Vampires requires a lot of effort. They may be worth it, they may not. Only you can decide. Sometimes itís better to run away, or not get involved in the first place."
(From here.)

***Where can I learn more?***

Symptoms of emotional abuse. (Christian website)
Heartless Bitches: Emotional Abuse. (Feminist website)
Signs of emotional abuse.
Everyday Health: Spotting emotional abuse.
About.com: Are you a victim of emotional abuse?
The process of emotional abuse. (Great site)
Help Guide: Domestic Violence.
Help with emotional abuse.
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: male victims. (PDF)
Resources for male victims.
Battered Men website.
Male Survivor website.
Article on GLBT domestic violence.
Rainbow Babies: domestic abuse.
LAMBDA.org: domestic violence.
New York City article on GLBT domestic violence.
Gay Menís Domestic Violence Project.
Children and the effects of domestic violence.
Domestic violence: children and teens.
Helping children.
Emotionally abusive parents.
Preventing child abuse.
KidsHealth: family abuse. (For teens)
How to spot a sociopath.
Psychopathy checklist.
Narcissism 101.
Leaving abuse.
The process of escaping emotional abuse.
Women and pets, escaping abuse.
How to escape an abusive relationship.
Recovering from abuse.
Recovering from a narcissist.
Abuse recovery for clergy. (For religious professionals)
Psychology Today: recovering the core self.
National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

* * *

I wrote this post because I recently broke off with an emotionally abusive and violent person. It took me over three years to realize what was going on; it was only when he threatened to "burn the house down with everyone in it, starting with the cats" that I truly realized something was wrong. Looking back, I am AMAZED I didn't see the signs. He belittled me, mocked me, insulted my family (called my disabled mother a "lazy bitch"), was mean to my pets and his behaviors caused me to feel unsafe in my own home. He lived here rent-free, with few expectations. My family and I bent over backward to make him feel comfortable, as he claimed his mother was a "crazy bitch" and he had nowhere else to go.

You CAN get fooled. You CAN fool yourself into thinking it'll get better, or that maybe it was a bad day; sometimes you fall for the "if only things were different then I wouldn't get this way" routine. It's not your fault.

Please, if you find yourself in this sort of situation... with a partner, with a sibling, with a parent or friend... seek help. You deserve to be in a mutually loving, supporting and healthy relationship; you deserve to have a healthy, happy life.

Thank you for reading.
Thoughts?

I just want to help others, if at all possible. No one should have to go through this sort of thing.
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Old 20th Nov 2011, 10:25 AM   #2
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Re: Emotional Abuse Awareness

Thanks for the read, it's certainly eye opening. Could you give advice for the person who is abusing the victim and how to let them break the habit of abusing? I'm in this situation and I just want to stop...but the cycle continues
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Old 20th Nov 2011, 11:01 AM   #3
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Re: Emotional Abuse Awareness

Perfect!
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Old 20th Nov 2011, 11:17 AM   #4
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Re: Emotional Abuse Awareness

Excellent article; I found it extremely informative.
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Old 20th Nov 2011, 11:31 AM   #5
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Re: Emotional Abuse Awareness

Thank you everyone! :] I'm glad you like it so far.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunandmoon View Post
Thanks for the read, it's certainly eye opening. Could you give advice for the person who is abusing the victim and how to let them break the habit of abusing? I'm in this situation and I just want to stop...but the cycle continues
Sadly, I'm not a professional, and I think that's the sort of help one would need. The only advice I could really offer is to learn what is and isn't abusive, and when the abuser feels it coming on, to stop themselves and think of a way to respond that isn't abusive.
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Old 7th Aug 2012, 01:02 AM   #6
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Re: Emotional Abuse Awareness

Bump.
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Old 7th Aug 2012, 01:32 AM   #7
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Re: Emotional Abuse Awareness

Thanks for that Seekingsanctuary!

You've put a lot of effort into putting together this article. It's logical and clear.

I can imagine that you found the process quite "cleansing", especially if, as you hope, it will be of use to someone else who finds themselves either as a victim or an abuser.

As you say, sometimes it's just too easy to slip into a situation like yours, but I think that the abuser can slip into it too, without meaning to.

I hope you are feeling better now you have made the decision to end the relationship. I had a similar experience, although not a violent as yours, when I decided to split from my second wife after 7 years. I was tired of the belittling, the days of silence as "punishment" and the anger when something didn't suit her. Then when she was talking about having kids, I just knew it was break time.

Within 15 months of me leaving, she was remarried and pregnant. I've heard from friends who still keep in contact with her that she is just the same with husband #2. A shame she didn't learn from our mistake.

Thank you for rationalizing it all so well. Will you post in on you blog for easy reference?


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Old 7th Aug 2012, 02:21 AM   #8
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Re: Emotional Abuse Awareness

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunandmoon View Post
Could you give advice for the person who is abusing the victim and how to let them break the habit of abusing? I'm in this situation and I just want to stop...but the cycle continues
I'm not clear here. Are you abusing someone else and don't know how to get it under control, or are you being abused and want the abusive behavior to stop. Very different actions based on the answer to that. Feel free to PM me if you would rather not discuss publicly, but if you're OK sharing publicly, it might help others.
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