Abusive vs healthy relationships: What’s the difference?

People I meet say, “Isn’t everyone psychologically abusive sometimes?” Yes many people are. But there’s a big difference between healthy relationships and abusive relationships.

In a healthy relationship a person uses abuse on one-off occasions. You can predict that they will be caring, loving and respectful most of the time.

But in an abusive relationship a person uses abuse and control often. You can predict that they will abuse you – and that they will control you. Sometimes they are caring and loving.

One-off moments of abusiveness

In a healthy relationship the person using psychologically abusive behaviours will be abusive sometimes, not many times a day, not everyday. This person is willing to pull themselves back. They take responsibility for the harm they’ve caused. They are willing to learn – that means they are willing to be vulnerable. They are willing to grow and change – that means the relationship is a work in progress. The relationship is a creative adventure. When that person is abusive their apology means something. Their apology means something because they take real steps to build equality. Their apology means something because their behaviours change. Let’s pluck a figure out of the air – 95% of the time they are respectful.  They are willing to empathise with the pain they have caused. They compromise. There might be moments – 5% of the time – when they want things their way. Don’t we all? 

A healthy relationship takes two to tango

A healthy relationship entails two people who are willing – and do – resolve (or agree to differ) issues that crop up. Both people take responsibility for their behaviours. If one of the people wants and needs to win – this is not to the extent that the other person becomes physically and psychologically ill because of it. No one in a healthy relationship fears the other person. If they do feel fear – this will be short-lived because the other person takes responsibility and never behaves that way ever again. A healthy relationship is a safe place. A nurturing and nourishing place.

One-sided continuous pattern of abusiveness

An abusive relationship is a one-sided affair. One person is determined to get their way. They use ‘power and control’ to do so. They use a continuous pattern of behaviours over time. The behaviours are intended to dominate and to win. The behaviours are aimed at being right at all costs. The abuser intentionally chooses to use those behaviours to achieve their aim. To win. The victim must alter their behaviour but the abuser refuses to alter theirs.

The abuser does not want to resolve relationship issues

In a relationship with a control freak in charge, it is wrong to say, “it takes two to tango”. The abuser’s attitudes are destructive. The abuser might say they want to change – but they do not. They might make efforts to change – but revert. They might make a change – but add another abusive or controlling behaviour to their repertoire. The abuser has a sense of safety, the victim lives with fear. To win, the abuser ensures the victim’s self-hood must be diminished on all levels. The abuser uses any tactic to achieve their aim. Therefore, many tactics appear to be contradictory. The only constant is the intention to establish their ‘power and control’.

The victim does want to resolve relationship issues

The victim is often desperate to resolve relationship issues. They spend years trying to figure out why the abuser does what they do. They spend years altering their own behaviours. They continually try new ways to stop the abuse. This is why it is a misnomer to say that “it takes two to tango” in a relationship marked by one-sided power and control. The victim tries to figure out how to please the controller. The victim obeys. They victim resists. The victim fights. The victim lashes out in anger. The victim silences themselves. The victim pleads. The victim becomes ill – physically ill and/or psychologically ill. The victim might attempt suicide. They might attempt murder. The victim might kill themselves. They might kill the perpetrator.

What’s your story?

What are your experiences that define differences between a relationship marked by one-sided power and control and a healthy relationship where both people take responsibility for their actions and make changes accordingly? Please tell me your stories.

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{ 13 comments… add one }

  • neats August 11 2010, 11:34 am

    This is incredible stuff to read. I have just separated after a 23 year marriage of one sided power and abuse. My husband wanted to control me and then my son, but not my daughter, well not yet. He controlled what I did, where I went, the mood in the house, whether we did something as a family or not. Then I would get the tears, the promises to change and I believed him and trusted him. I was a fool, when he said he was sorry there was always a BUT, it was always because of someone or something. He has never changed, never admitted he has issues and it has got worse instead of better. It has only been a week and I still feel strange. I do not feel immediate relief as I thought I would, I don’t know how to be me without him – at age 41 that is so sad. I feel vulnerable and scared and unsure of the future. Everyone has supported me and just wondered why it has taken me so long – but as you have describe, as a victim, you think it is you and you do everything to make it right. Sadly the perpetrator just gets stronger. I am hoping for a future of peace and quiet and freedom.

    • Gill August 29 2014, 7:45 am

      Hi, I want you to know it gets better. I had lost my self esteem, I had no job and have young children. When I accepted my husband had not only been cruel to me, but had been deceitful, my heart sunk. I’d given him the best years of my life, I couldn’t have been a more perfect wife, but it was never good enough for him. I finally had the courage to end it 3months ago. At first I was just numb and buried my head in the sand. After the initial shock I knew I had to start acting. I now have a new job, which fits around school, so I don’t need to rely on him, my kids are coping well, thankfully he is playing fair. He knows he has lost his power over me. Every now and then he tries to regain it, but I stand my ground. I now challenge his behaviours confidently and without fear. My self esteem has never been better and I no longer need him to validate my worth. My energy has increased and I’m able to do a lot more because of it. I did lose quite a lot of weight, but I took advantage of that and bought myself some nice new clothes. I am now so comfortable in my own skin, I’d be happy with or without a man. I refuse to let him damage any potential future relationships. I have had my fair share of offers since, but I’m not ready yet, but it’s nice to know the offers are there. Give yourself a little time to recognise your situation, and you will be amazed how much better off you will become. Good luck, and god bless you hun. I am 39, and finally feeling fabulous, like I should have all those years x

  • Pam March 26 2011, 10:10 pm

    I keep giving excuses and feeling sorry for him – he is not my husband nor lives with me. So why is it so strong and me so weak. He doesn’t help me or support in any way – I am always there for him. I have read so many books and still all the answers are right but I can’t go. I want to leave and change the goalpost each time because something comes up or I test him again, if he does this I will leave but sometimes he does the opposite to what I think will happen. It’s so subtle I can’t explain it. He has a hold but what it is I don’t know.

  • lena November 2 2011, 1:34 am

    The first thing to go was my freinds but I will admit he ditched his too. Then the way I dressed. Then there were no hugs, no kisses and no sign of affection in public or barely even behind doors. Of course we had sex but in the quiet of the bedroom. He worked everyday and he kept up with his responsibilites as far as that went and he did love me and there were times he has been awesome. 20 years later I still have no friends, no education because I was never smart enough to do anything, I was always the reason why or wrong and I still am. He took the one person from me that mattered the most other than our family my grandma so to keep the arguments down I stopped coming around and then she died but at least we kept in touch by phone. I had cancer, fixed it, then he wouldn’t get fixed so he couldn’t have kids but I had to lose such a huge part of myself and my body. I found out I had lupus and one day it went out of remission I came home crying and asked him to hug me and he told me I was getting on his nerves and that everyone died eventually. He has blamed me for everything that has been wrong in his life from job losses to jail. I love him with all of my heart but I have given up so much of myself and now I am ready to find myself and reclaim myself again. I want to believe in me but for some reason I can’t get back to that place. Just because he worked and I didn’t the whole time doesn’t mean I am any less but to him it seems that way. It is hard and I hope I can find myself and go back to school and reclaim me and begin to be the person I suppressed all of these years ago. I want me back and I think once that happens he holds no more power over me.

  • Alison November 2 2011, 9:02 pm

    After 20 years of marriage I have a beautiful home, keep the peace. I’m the perfect wife, host, cook, mother and general dog’s body. On the outside everyone sees the perfect family. I’m not beaten up, but he controls where I go and what I do. I’m not an individual, I’m angry and frustrated. I want to leave and know I can support myself financially but I don’t want to disrupt my children’s lives. They have everything they need and I don’t want to get divorced again (this is my second marriage) and unsettle them. But I want a life! I don’t know who I am anymore. We have a terrible sexual relationship (he has ED), but he makes me feel like it’s my fault! I want to be loved and told that I am special.

  • leslie June 23 2012, 1:40 am

    I left home as a teenager, a cutter, and had already been through abusive relationships which my family ignored. I have had years of therapy and am now 31. I am no longer a self abuser and take cautions not to be in abusive relationship. I had medication side effects that gave me physical health problems and Fibromyalgia. I had been feeling this type of pain in my body as a child, and after a stalker at my old complex beat me. My family is religious and shuns me now over a year and I have already got disability for psychiatric issues, the majority of which are not an issue. When looking for support during my illness I began to understand I was the recipient of emotional and verbal abuse from my mother and a few other females in my family. I was highly dependent on them during years of bouncing from one abusive relationship to the next. Due to my physical pain I am now unable be around most of my family. I was always isolated and treated differently from my younger siblings who are also hateful and have been for years. The most shocking thing is [in retrospect] it seems like it should have been obvious to me. When I found my own voice and became my own advocate they reject me and have been abusive to the point my therapist and social worker suggest I do not even continue to be around them. The emotional toll is now a physical one. They make me physically ill to be around in the form of nerve pain. I did not realize they used the men as the large part of the blame when I was responsible and they were not supportive and largely absent from my life. To this day they would rather see me go to a man for my problems then to be involved other than in the way they want, which compromises my health and safety at times. I have never felt so betrayed.

  • Numb in Mass November 15 2012, 10:07 am

    My family was dysfunctional from the start. My parents were in a co-dependent relationship filled with drugs and the DSS taking one of my brothers away. When I was 8 they finally got a divorce because my father caught my mother cheating, and he chose homelessness and took showers out of a loose pipe at his work. Even though my brothers came out more like my manipulative and energy-sucking mother, I ended up more like my dad – the people pleaser and workaholic, and I get screwed over by most of the company I keep.

    But my current problem stems from another level of abuse: when I started getting molested when I was 6, my mother covered everything up and covertly put me in the path of danger of it again and again with different people, leaving me with post-traumatic stress and a self-mutilation problem at age 8.

    Then I became her sole caretaker when I was 13 (on top of school). For her and my brother while she recovered from breast cancer and chemo. I had no problem doing that, but the psychological and emotional abuse got worse, and I shut down. I stopped talking with most people by this stage, never really went out to see friends, and just focused on trying to get through school with good grades, hoping to get away from everyone with getting my own apartment and job.

    But that didn’t happen: when I was 17, after years of ‘cat and mouse’ games with the boys sent to my room, and social manipulation so she could keep herself in control of me, and all the belitting and psychotic abuse, I had to move because of her denying me medical access, which is Munchausen * by proxy. After I had a neurological ailment that made me go from 200 to 126 pounds, I moved in with my father to receive medical attention, and I tried to explain to them I felt like I was going mad; I had extreme OCD to cope with the pain I was in, and due to PTSD I was having horrible acute flashbacks over a lot of things. But my stepmother and father offered to give me a gun to go kill myself and got flippant with me. I never trusted them again. Living on my own I’ve been homeless, bruised, sexually harassed (in personal life and at work, without proper handling), mercilessly stalked. I even ended up having to do volunteer work and being on probation because of one of my stalkers falsifying evidence when I had to physically protect myself from strangulation.

    I thought things would get better when I moved in with my boyfriend, but he showed all of his colors as being a pig and a chauvinist. His actions and responses to my limits and asking for help is with angry retaliation and criticism. Even after my being hospitalized for PTSD, his friends attacked me and keep trying to pick fights way after I stopped talking to him. He still hangs over their house, and says “You expect me to sacrifice my friends for you? I do everything for you”. He wouldn’t even hold a door open for me, or hold my waterbottle in public while I was in a sling for a shoulder injury. Anything dealing with the past sexual abuse he tells me to “deal with it”. And he says he does everything for me…

    I’m trying to move out and all he says is he’s sorry. But “he keeps making things worse” and never reflects at his own actions. I feel like I’m dating my mother. At least I’ve been assertive enough. I fought tooth and nail through all of this, but…I need out. Even fighting for my own rights is draining me enough I want to go back to the hospital…
    Hurrah

    * Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy – a mental disorder in which a person seeks attention by inducing or feigning illness in another person, typically a child.

    • venefica January 13 2013, 10:46 am

      Wow. I didn’t know that I had an emotional twin in the world…the details are unnervingly similar, too.

      It hurts so damn much to have sacrificed your whole youth and better years by caring for selfish ‘loved ones’, only to have no one there for you when you’re in need….

      No one understands how painful it is, how fragile and vulnerable it leaves you to give and give for nothing.

      You keep expecting that everyone will see how obviously you’ve been wronged, what a trooper you are for getting through such a nightmare, how special you are for being selfless and loving when most wouldn’t….and instead receive criticism because you aren’t perfectly normal.

      Ugh.

      Hugs and kisses from someone who understands, though.

  • Erica December 18 2012, 8:33 am

    I’m wondering about the description of a victim that might end up “lashing out in anger.” From an analytical viewpoint, how can it be defined which party is the victim if he/she “lashes out in anger” even physically? Many abusers feel that they are in fact the victims, and that their anger is justifiable and they are lashing out at the other party because THEY are abusing them. Or something like that.

  • Tina January 31 2013, 4:23 am

    What this article forgot to say is abuse is a CYCLE. This is what makes it confusing. The abuser feels sorry after abusing and then gives flowers, showers of love, and is a gentleman – called the honeymoon phase. Then the tension builds again, then he abuses, then the honeymoon phase happens again. It is because the wonderful moments can be so wonderful, that a woman can keep on believing he is a sweetheart and will change. It is because the wonderful moments are so enjoyable that the woman fears being without that.

    While the tension builds he, in part, is taking control again, which can appear to be his way of protecting himself from being found out. It can appear that he is wanting to be a ‘strong’ man. He isolates her because he wants control. He appears jealous…but it is all about power and control.

    I know 20 years married – to a man who nearly took my life and the lives of my children again and again. He suffered from depression which also guilted me into feeling sorry for him and feeling he couldn’t help it. He knew exactly what he was doing. After I divorced, he married his own first cousin because both of her parents were terminally ill and she was the only child and they were worth millions. Luckily the uncle saw through him and made it so the daughter could never access large amounts of money at a time. Now she is abused and they live together and apart in a chaotic and dangerous relationship – just like I did.

  • Lily February 8 2013, 6:23 am

    It’s easier said than done to say ‘don’t worry, there really are some genuine, trustworthy and beautiful people in this world, who won’t judge you, who won’t abuse you but will understand your past and will want to help you become a more safe, comfortable and happy individual’ … but it is true and there are people out there who want to help and be your friend.

    Reading the abuse that some have suffered, makes me feel so sad about the people in this world.

    I think people like us – caring, trusting, nice, loyal …. we attract the bad ones. We attract the abusers. They know they can guilt us. We’re nice and we put their feelings first before our own. We sacrifice our own happiness for others. And narcissists (and others alike) feed off this and they hide it so well. They pull you in and eventually wear you down into nothing.

    BUT, no matter what, I always try to keep hope. Try to believe that there are good people in the world and as long as YOU’RE one of them … then you should feel happy. Not happiness from what others say or do, but happiness in yourself. Happiness that you’re not that person. That you DO have empathy, that you are caring and nice and want to do a lot for others. Remember these things and think of how special you really are.

    The main thing I’ve found throughout all this is (and everyone says it) you have to love yourself … which is not an easy thing to do. Not after years of abuse, being told you’re nothing, worthless, being hit, kicked, spat at …

    But realise that NO-ONE deserves that treatment. NO-ONE … under any circumstance.

    Put a limit on how much you are willing to sacrifice for others. You’re in control of your own life and your own well-being. And once you feel that inside, your confidence will build, you’ll start to have a real image of yourself and will find a safe place in society.

    Just keep hope and keep faith, and be selfish sometimes. Do it for YOU because YOU want to. And if people don’t like it … well it’s none of your business what others think of you. Plus, you wouldn’t want to be with someone that wants to control you to do what they want. Someone who loves you and cares for you will never want to make you unhappy, they won’t do cruel things to make themselves happy.

    Start believing how worthy you really are. Good luck to everyone, I wish you all the happiness and succes you deserve.

  • Rae February 18 2013, 11:14 am

    I was always one of those people who say “that will never be me, I would never allow someone to do that to me” but in reality you were just never put in the situation. It’s not like the abuser started out being abusive.

    When I met my children’s father he was great. Always a gentleman, always professing his love for me to me and anyone else. Sure there were some red flags, but I didn’t realize them at the time. When I found out we were having a baby he carried that paper from the doctor in his wallet everyday, then the ultrasound picture. I really thought we had something special. For the first two years we lived with my family (I was 19 when we met he was 23). Signs I should have headed to were his jealousy, but I didn’t pay that any mind. I thought he was silly because I would never cheat on him. Another was when he tossed a whole glass of orange juice in my face when we were in an argument. But the real him came out after we moved into our own place.

    We moved into our first apartment and things really started to change. He slowly isolated me from friends and family. I used to be a social butterfly and have a ton of friends. He called almost all my girlfriends whores and had a major problem that I had guy friends. These guy friends were friends that I had grown up with since I was a little kid, they were like family to me. But he had a ton of friends and always was out running the streets. If I ever went out I always regretted it later because he would harass me the whole time I was out and accuse me of cheating. I eventually stopped going out because it was not worth the aggravation. Always critical of what I wore, unless I looked like an old lady. Anytime I did something for myself like get my hair done or buy nice clothes he would think I was trying to impress someone. If I talked to another man, even his own brother or father he would accuse me of leading them on or whatever. Like the world is made up of both men and women and I cannot associate only with women. If I was being inappropriate I could understand but the conversations were never anything of that nature. Even one time I was in the car with him and one of his friends an we were driving thru a part of the city that both me and his friend grew up by. The conversation me and his friend had was so benign, we just said we couldn’t believe how much that neighborhood had been improved by the city. But yet again I was opening the door for his friend to make a move. Really?!? And generally this arguments lead into physical abuse. Even once when the same friend was around me and my kids father got into an argument and he got abusive. Really letting me have it. The friend jumped in and pulled him off of me. Of course I got it again later because I must of been screwing his friend for him to defend me! It always lead to physical. It didn’t matter what the argument was. That was his way of winning.

    With the mental and physical abuse, along with the loss of many friends and the ones I still had, I was too ashamed to talk to them. I knew I needed to leave but didn’t have the strength. Finally we parted ways. He left me. But didn’t fully leave me alone. I was still in this mental disarray of fantasy and reality. I was clinging to that fantasy that he will be good to me and I would have that family I wanted with him. Not thinking that God just answered my prayers. I didn’t understand why I was so hurt by him leaving, after all that’s what I thought I wanted. We decided to work things out because financially it was better on both of us and easier on the kids. We had a good run for about a year. We settled matters in a adult manner, no violence. I really felt like we were growing and he grew up. I had always made excuses for him because of his poor upbringing and always thought I could show him life can be better.

    So after a year of this nice behavior, things started reverting. He lost his job. I was so supportive to him about it, because in the past I would get on him about another job. So since we had been doing so well I didn’t want to go backwards. I thought his attitude was due to losing his job. Slowly we regressed, I couldn’t understand why. I was being supportive and not nagging him. I went out with my brother for his birthday, he lives quite a distance from me. I didn’t get home until about 5am. But at least I came home. I really didn’t want to make that drive that night but I did anyway. While I was out he started harassing me about being out and all of that. I’m thinking, here we go again. During the next day I could just feel this negative vibe coming from him. So I went outside on the steps because I didn’t feel like dealing with another one of his ‘o woe is me’.

    This just triggered it. He came out started on me. Tells me mid-argument, and for his win, “that’s why I have a son”. When I decided to get back to him I was prepared to leave if the bs started again. I was like there is nothing else left he can do to me. No, he still found something. He had a 3 month old son, he got someone pregnant during our breakup. Why not tell me? Why not put it on the table that you may have a kid on the way, before we try to fix things? I felt so betrayed, like all the effort I thought you put in to change was just bs to set me up mentally so I would still be with you when the news came out.

    I decided to stay, I know stupid right. But I reasoned it happened while we were not together. So I stayed for about another year and a half. Completely reverting into the old abusive routine. No matter how many times I kicked him out, he always weaseled his was back in. Finally about a little over a year ago I told him to leave an for good. Of course he didnt think it was for real and the threats kept coming in. He attacked me when I came home from work while he had my kids for me. I went and filed a protection for abuse order.

    So he was out of my home for good, but not my life. He would find any aspect of my life he thought he could use, ie not watching my kids so I could work, or go to school. Ok not a problem, my family will help. He stopped giving me $, my bills are still paid. The threats continued strong for a few months but now have basically subsided. But that is because I cannot even say “hi how was your day” to him. Not because I don’t want to be civil just because he looks at it as an invite back into my life. Sure I would love to be civil for my kids, but he is not a normal.

    I feel so much happier, even put on some weight :) However I am realizing now that I should go to therapy. Because as far as I have come, I now am in constant survivor mode, constant defense mode and constantly guarded. When someone says something to me I don’t feel is appropriate, I now have this rage, this sense of being attacked. I don’t like that about myself. I don’t know how to turn it off. It’s like I am so obsessed with never allowing my self to be treated that way again. I know I have not fully recovered. I thought I did, until I realized I feel I can’t trust many people. My anxiety level has now gone up in other ways. So my journey to a happy life still continues…

  • Erin July 14 2013, 7:20 am

    The man I love is abusive. While physical violence has occurred more than once in the last three years of our dysfunctional relationship, it is far more precise to state the form of abuse that I am imprisoned by, is psychological/emotional. He is masterful in making promises, but never once has he actually followed through with any lasting dedication on any of them– from the minor romantic vows of marriage and adopting children to the more hefty ones of swearing to never degrade, humiliate or evict me from his life (or our home) again. He always cycles back to a position of punitive, angry control. His decisions, as he sees it, are “rational and logical”, yet, he fails to recognize the polarity of his words and beliefs day to day. He has literally changed the locks, only to give me the new keys two days later, then 4 weeks later, do the same thing all over again. And the reasons are never rooted in anything actual or real– they always come from his PERCEPTION of distrust. When he changes his mind, any opposition to it as being unfair, unreasonable or unkind, results only in further punitive force of action– stonewalling, degrading insults via text or emails… There is never a safe middle ground with this man. He constantly preports himself as “moderate in most to all things”, yet that statement could not be further from reality. He either calls me the “love of his life”, “a blessing”, “the most loving woman he ever met” OR “a C***”, “crazy”, “idiot”… and worse. He is black or he is white. All or nothing. He divides his beliefs according to his hourly MOODS. And my emotional security hangs in the balance of those mood swings.

    I conjured the strength to stay away from him in all ways for 6 months, only to be “hovered” (as psychologists call it– when the abuser sucks you back into his world). Upon returning to him, with great, voiced apprehension on my part, he proposed, made gallant plans for our wedding and honeymoon, told me how he was “in a better place and sees the emptiness of life without” me with him… Which is true, as Narcissists need supply, and the supply is anyone who cares deeply enough to subject themselves to the abuser’s/Narcissist’s repeated degradation. He swore to “cherish” me and make me “the center of his life”. These things, true to form with him, began gradually then quickly falling to the wayside of his returning irritability, disapprovals, perceived offense, accusations and full-on rage.

    Last night he told me he wanted to murder me. Why? Well because he told me a riddle, asked me what I would do in the scenario, and my answer was not one that matched his, so he started calling me a “F****** Idiot” and a “Stupid C****”. This is a man that is 23.5 years older than me; a man who is a well known, respected attorney… This is a person who appears to be a gentle giant, a scholarly thinker and a laid back guy. He told me I ruin good people– that I am poisonous to their soul and turn them into monsters. He said he would never marry me, and he will never change how he talks to me because, ultimately, whether he is wrong or right in any argument I am “still the definition on a C****”. He screamed in my face; it was a fist extending from inside of his mouth and grabbing my throat. When I couldn’t take any more, I threw a glass of wine in his face and hid in a closet… like a frightened child. He said I was “the closest thing next to a whore” as he obsessively cleaned the spots off the bedsheets where he was laying. He was drunk. Very drunk, last night. That is unusual for him, but the rage and cruelty he expels once he is in that mind frame of “control and anger” is all too familiar, regardless of the presence of alcohol.

    He is scheduled to go to The Mayo Clinic in about 6 weeks. I think he needs to seek out a psychiatrist here in town immediately. I believe that he suffers from a mood disorder or a personality disorder or some kind of chemical imbalance. The extremes of his personality and resultant behavior towards me in particular (as I am the closest to him by far), are so astonishing and frightening, it’s difficult to explain. I’m aware, as is he, and uses it wisely to discredit or dismiss me, that anyone on the outside in his structured legal world, would never believe me. They would call me dramatic or crazy. And they have. And he lets them. He lets his family think he is golden– never admitting to his affairs on his ex wife or the abuse he has put me through. He lets me live in this limbo– hoping and holding onto the moments where he is wonderful, and dreading the instant he decides he is unhappy, as his unhappiness is always taken out on me, at least emotionally.

    I cannot believe what a battered cliche I come off as. It angers me. It confuses me as to how it got to the point where I KNOW exactly what is in store with him and I literally cannot tear myself away. It’s called co-dependence, of course. And just as I thought I was rising like a pheonix out of the ashes of shame and secrecy, I find myself trampled in the stampede of his recycled rage. Everything is a cloud of dust as I try to separate the longing in my heart from the intelligence of collected data of his pathology. There is this glimmering dot of hope, like a faint star in desolate sky… Thinking there is a medication that will quell his impulses for rage or bouts of controversy. Even then, though, will he agree to take such a treatment? He claims he needs to know what is wrong with him before committing to me. I say, what does it matter what it is called, all that matters is his commitment to addressing and ceasing that which creates such living hell in our lives. On some level, he KNOWS he is out of control, but with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), the very admission of any accountability is a near impossibility. He always diverts the blame in one way or another, making it impossible to address the issue.

    He is not a bad man, though, if I were to ever publish a recording of his berating diatribes, it would appear he is down right sociopathic. I think he is conflicted internally, just as I am –being in love with a man that hurts me. Admitting he is abusive would unravel the essence of all he pretends to be on the outside. It would be like wiping out his existence; he cannot fathom that his decisions in life have not just been selfish, but, rather, destructive to anyone who dared to love him regardless. He has fractured relationships with his grown children and a very disingenuous relationship with his sisters (who adore him). He describes his infidelities with his ex of 30 years not as abusive or disrespectful, but as something he HAD to do because SHE made him so unhappy, sexually.

    He hides behind his wealth… he controls the situations with that dollop of power. He is habitually offering things (love, stability, a home), only to take them away, piece by piece– a demotion of sorts so you know exactly where you were and how far from his good graces you are now. And it becomes a constant climb to get where you were (that place of affectionate respect) and once you climb up there, you fight like hell not to be knocked down again. But he is stronger and quicker and insidious in his maneuvers to throw you off balance every time. Only to deny all of it. The crazy-making is ingenious on his part and too sadistic for me to allow myself to consider for very long. It leaves a hole that only tears wider inside of me as time goes on. The longer he denies the existence of this pain that HE causes, the deeper I get consumed by it. The addiction, and I use that word intentionally, that I have to finding a solution for peace with him, has, in most ways, become the center of my life. Every time he tells me I am starting every argument, I crawl into this place of doubt, anger and frustration. The choices become very evident: do as he wants and says without exception, or suffer… and the creative ways he has found to trod over new territories of untouched sensitivity… Every time, I think “Well, what else could he possibly do that was more hurtful than—”, he comes up with it! And he seems at once, amused with it and yet indignant that he even knows what I’m talking about.

    I think he hates. I think he doesn’t understand that’s what he feels. It seems to come from a fear of loss of control… If he is too vulnerable (i.e. happy in love), he must snap back into a militant mind frame, and he taps into hate to avoid feeling anything else. He now claims my empathy is “phony”. What else is there left of me if not empathy? If I had none, I would not be here… I would be safer, and unaffected by his manipulations, ironically. Strength and abstaining from contact never for a moment left me without the desire that things were different.

    There are signs all around me, pointing to better choices and different paths. This is my life. My only shot at living, being happy, maybe having a child one day… And yet, nothing seems worthwhile without him. After all I described, all I am oppressed with in this cyclone… I feel that this man is somehow my destiny. I hate it and yet I think there is a reason I am here and cannot go. It must be more than cowardice; I have left bad relationships before!

    I need to believe. I do not want to ever feel hatred for the pain I have absorbed. And the best way to avoid hate, is to pour more love into the wound, I guess. Everyone deserves love. I wish he had the ability to accept it and feel good about it. Maybe there is help for him. Maybe that will help me move on.

    Thank you for reading this. XO

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