In order to heal from an abusive marriage, it is important to understand what happened. The following are some scenarios and tactics of the perpetrator used to keep you under his/her thumb. See if you can identify any you recognize and let’s see if we can unravel this abusive puzzle. The first scenario will be an example with the male being the perpetrator and the female the victim. The second example a prototype of female to male and the third could be either sex and is parent to child. Let me state again, the abuser can be either male or female.
I, the wife, am reading a catalogue when my abusive husband walks into the room. Now let’s be clear, I am minding my own business reading a clothing catalogue. He starts screaming at me that I am always spending money, I am selfish, I don’t deserve to have any more clothes, I have so many and on and on. Now I am a self- supporting wife who makes her own money and in the past believed I was competent at taking care of my needs. My husband also has no evidence I am buying. I am looking at the catalogue, not on the phone ordering. My husband is undermining my confidence and history of being able to financially take care of myself. If I hear this type of criticism every time I peruse or buy anything be it groceries, clothes, things for the home etc. and I believe him, I am going to start to question what I know and the essence of who I am. He is probably working to make himself the authority on how to spend money and eventually control all the money in the home. He wants to be the only one who decides how we are going to spend our money regardless of who makes it.
I, the husband this time, after working all day, managing a staff of thousands, successfully resolving regularly, hundreds of breakdowns, arrive home to my wife screaming how I am always late, am a horrible father, have damaged all the children, am a terrible husband, a failure, am selfish, and I can’t now and have never done anything for the family. She goes on to, of course, speak about how she is the only one who has held this family together, no one would ever put up with what she has to, and on and on. I hear this type of dialogue whenever I am in the house and the children hear this harangue all the time. In spite of my success at work, I begin to lose my confidence in my personal life. She always has a story on why we don’t spend time with any of my/our friends so I am more isolated and can’t compare my home life with others. Toxicity becomes my normal.
I, as the child, come home every day from a hard day at school because I don’t have any self- esteem and get bullied, to my Mom criticizing me. It starts the minute I get home. I am told how stupid, lazy, useless, a drain on the family, and she is sorry she ever had me. Every mistake I made is brought up over and over again. I am a child so I make a lot of mistakes and I can recite every one of them because I hear about them over and over. I have never been complimented, encouraged, heard, supported, asked how I felt, or been spoken to respectfully. If I am lucky and find one place that I feel good outside of the home, I will have a glimpse of something that feels better than it does at home. And if my parents find out about this good feeling place you can be sure they will put it down and sabotage my efforts to go there.
Childhood should be carefree, playing in the sun; not living a nightmare in the darkness of the soul.― Dave Pelzer, A Child Called “It”
The above scenarios are accompanied by isolation, no friends allowed because there is something wrong with everyone. This brainwashing by the abuser goes on all the time and there are never any compliments unless it is about my doing well in the brainwashing.
What is happening here?
- Remove my self-confidence, make sure I lose my sense of self.
- Create a new normal that is toxic by keeping me isolated.
- Control all aspects of my thinking. Every opinion I have is vetoed and replaced by yours.
- Rewrite my history getting rid of my interpretation of the world and myself in it.
- Brainwash, brainwash, brainwash.
- Insecurity, I start to believe I am responsible for everything that goes wrong.
- Powerlessness, I start to believe you know best and are always right
- Dependent on you. I don’t trust myself.
- Trapped I have bonded with your toxicity and have no confidence to leave.
- I have to stay because no one will have me
The more we understand how extensive, covert, manipulative, devious, and damaging this process is the more we can have compassion for those who are stuck here. If you are stuck here, you MUST understand how damaged you are and how you need to trust someone other than your abuser. If you know someone in a situation like this, stay in contact with him/her as best as possible, listen, and let him know as best as possible this is an unhealthy situation and not normal. Build up his self -esteem, validate his reality and support any effort to leave the abusive situation safely.
One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized, and cruelly mocked, but it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered. ― Michael J. Fox
Take a stand against domestic violence. To learn more see www.ncadv.org/takeastand .
This article originally appeared at DivorceForce
© 2019 Dr. Anne Brown; Psychotherapist, Speaker, and Author of Backbone Power The Science of Saying No