About Coercive Control and Psychological Abuse

Abusive vs healthy relationships: What’s the difference?

– Posted in: Healthy relationships

Speakoutloud.net abusive vs healthy relationship Clare Murphy PhDPeople 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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43 Comments… add one

DevonT November 4 2015, 2:58 pm

I found this site when researching signs of abuse – I thought it only mattered if it is physical. I am 19 years old and I have been with my 22 year old boyfriend for 3 years. It took me over a year to realise he was abusive, and by that stage I was already living with him, and also working with him.

We are hired as a ‘Herd Manager’ couple on a dairy farm. He constantly blames me if things go wrong at work. He tells me I am bad at my job, he calls me names like ‘fat bitch’, ‘lazy bitch’, ‘dumb slut’ ‘useless’, ‘dirty bitch’, etc. He has dragged me across the floor by my arm and thrown me outside. He has pushed me over, broken my things, punched holes in the wall. He also physically holds me on the bed or against the wall if I try to leave. He constantly exaggerates my flaws and mistakes, but will never congratulate me if I do something good, or pass an exam.

He just tells me ‘don’t be so up yourself’. He complains that we don’t have sex enough, he has never, not once given me an orgasm or even tried to. He does not help around the house when I am stressed and working all day and studying on top. He expects me to make him breakfast lunch and dinner and if I don’t he gets mad at me. He has sent and received messages to ex girlfriends/fuck buddies with x’s on the end, calling them ‘babe’ ‘sexy’ telling them he wants them and misses them and complains about me to them. He has sent and recieved naked pictures, and asked for pictures of them playing with themselves.

When I ask him to stop, he tells me he can talk to whoever he likes. The only reason I am with him is because if I leave I lose both my jobs. I can’t continue my study, I lose my house and my things and my car and my pets and my garden and all my friends. But these days I seem to cry over the smallest things. I feel worthless and unwanted and I keep thinking ‘How much easier would this all be if I just killed myself?’

Kins October 7 2015, 6:33 am

I was in an unhealthy relationship for about six months till I finally found the courage to end it. It had started out great, and he was really sweet, but as time went on things just started to go bad. He would intentionally say things to make me feel bad, and always made me feel like it was my fault that he was unhappy. That because I wasn’t good enough, or I was doing something wrong, he was upset. When I didn’t do as he wanted he threatened to leave and called me names. And when I told him no, or asked him to stop he would either ignore me, or his mood would turn bad, and he could be frightening when in a bad mood. After I while I realised that kind of relationship wasn’t what I wanted. I didn’t want to be afraid to tell my boyfriend no, or worry about what he would do when upset. I didn’t want to keep crying from cruel words, or hearing meaningless apologies. I broke up with him over the phone, because I was a little afraid to do it in person, and it was the best decision I ever made. I’m so much happier now.

Tony October 6 2015, 3:10 am

My wife of 12 years and I have an eleven year old. Of the last few years she has taken to insulting me, belittling me and name calling sometimes in front of the child. During the course of our marriage almost year over year she has torpedoed our joint finances. In the past she has: missed payments on the house, hidden credit card debt, bounced numerous checks on the joint account and hidden the court notices. Recently, I found out about two liens against the property after I attempted to refinance the family home. At Christmas she spends like there is no tomorrow; then she can’t help with the family finances afterward. We had words about this behavior and she has promised to do better repeatedly.
We were arguing one night about the child’s bed time she wanted to take him out to celebrate the first day of junior high school at 9:30pm. I strongly disagreed with her decision and pointed to several studies about sleep deprivation, and reiterated what our pediatrician has said on the matter and behavior issues in children. Our son has ADD or ADHD and takes meds for the problem. I hadn’t finished when she took a steak sandwich and attempted to force it into my mouth while pressing me backwards. I heard her daughter yelling at her to stop it. (I thought we were alone.) She continued to reprimand her mother, I just left the room.
I have since had words with her about this incident and have stated that I am tired of being insulted, called names and being made fun of when I ask questions. I have demanded that she apologize for her actions. Her answer was that I should apologize to her.
My question is – in your experience is this going to get worse?

Clare Murphy PhD October 6 2015, 1:06 pm

Tony, In my experience relationship problems, including abuse, do get worse if the perpetrator does not take responsibility for their behaviours. They also could get worse if couples have different value systems and different needs but go about meeting those needs in covert ways. Two people need to learn win-win ways to meet needs (usually best resolved if you have common value systems), otherwise things do get worse. —Clare

julieann September 28 2015, 8:16 am

Thank you for your research and this wonderful website. I came across it researching info for my own benefit.

After being in a relationship for over 8 years, I became epileptic due to the stress my partner and the relationship was causing me. I finally re-entered therapy and came to the realization that my partner was a functioning alcoholic and was slowly manipulating me to death— literally. AND I WAS ALLOWING IT TO HAPPEN!!

I soon moved out, and am trying to regain the personality I once had. I was once a bubbly, self-confident, open and proud woman. But it seems I had became just like him over the years— withdrawn, unconfident, and depressed.

I like to tell my friends who can’t understand how the extroverted old me could turn into such a turtle hiding in a shell: ‘It’s like an iceberg. You don’t see it. But before you know it, it’s changed from one shape into the another.’

Thank you again for the enlightening and inspiring scientific information about men, women and relationships.

It has brightened my day. :)

ser September 28 2015, 1:52 am

Hi, I came across this website on tumblr and decided to give it a go. I feel like my relationship with my ex boyfriend/best friend is semi abusive. He is able to lash out on me whenever he wants, gets mad at me when I raise my voice (whereas he gets to raise his all the time), constantly manipulates me, makes fun of me, lowers my self worth and a lot else. I’ve let him treat me this way since we dated and I still cannot admit to myself that what he’s doing to me is mental abuse. Reading this just opened my mind a bit and hopefully one day things will be better and I will stop hating myself just because someone decided to mark me as not worthy. x

Charley September 3 2015, 8:31 pm

Hi, I came accross this site whilst researching about bullying for work. I came across many various posts that I was able to relate to myself which I found extremley scary. I have been in an emotionally abusive relationship before, and it seems as though the guy I’m with now is going down the same route. He makes me feel like I’m crazy, and I’m always in the wrong. He blows hot and cold like one minute he will be all loving and caring and then the next I say something he doesn’t approve of and he turns. He doesn’t like me having a social life, he hates me going out with my friends and having a drink, he has been down my phone on more than 2 occasions, he says he trusts me but I know for a fact he doesn’t. When I get in from work I get “who have you spoken to today?” and if my phone goes off whilst I’m with him I get “who’s that?”. I have only been with him since December 2014 so it’s only been a few months.

He was so loving when I met him and caring. Over time he has shown me his true colours. I know what it is he is doing and I know I am being mentally abused by him so I just try and ignore him but sometimes it gets all too much and I really don’t know how much more I can take. He makes me think that I’m the controlling one. It gets worse….. I moved in with him, his 2 parents and his brother. I have tried ending it with him before and I actually spoke to his parents about me ending the relationship as I respect them and thank them for all they have helped me with. They told me “you’re just like the rest of them, you come into our home, we help you out and you just mug us off. We invested in you, we thought you were good for our son, we thought you were different etc. etc et.” I am made to feel guilty about wanting better. I know that my partner loves me and I have tried and tried to get him to see his ways. He will change for like a week and then we will be back round in a circle. This has been happening for too long now. I don’t know who to talk to. I don’t want to end it because I think if he gets the right help he can change. I just don’t know what to do anymore. :(

Carly September 8 2015, 9:35 am

I would advise leaving. I just left my ex after 4 years of dating. I have forgiven him for so many horrible things but he never stopped. I always made excuses for his behaviors, thinking he’d change, but he never did. Do not sacrifice your happiness for someone elses’!

Toni September 13 2015, 3:13 am

Charley, please don’t let his parents influence you, in fact don’t pay any attention to you at all. He probably learned his abusive patterns of behaviour from them after all, they probably think he’s God’s gift to women. It’s up to you if you want to stick around and try to help him change. I wouldn’t waste my energy personally, these people usually don’t change.

Ben November 23 2015, 10:43 am

Hi Charley,
First off I’m a uni graduate psychology minor 33 year old male from Australia.
What you’ve said sounds very similar to how I’m interpreting my girlfriend’s feelings towards me: sounds like something she’d say when she’s feeling mad/frustrated. The thing is, from my perspective, I feel like she doesn’t really understand what she’s responsible for, putting a lot of her responsibilities onto me. Also her emotions fly out of control and combine many unrelated things into her angry headspace. And then when I don’t deliver, her anxiety often flies out of control and she rattles off all these things that she feels I’ve ‘done to her’ but are really just expectations and assumptions that I should act and react in certain ways that doesn’t flair up her insecurities or make her anxious.

Her anxiety has, more so in the past, been misread by me as anger. And all of this is really hard to process from my end as I always question if I’m actually responsible for what she’s saying and also hard for me to find that line where I can be there for her as much as I can without losing out on my needs. It’s a bit of a jumble for me.

So yeah, sometimes it’s all too much for me and I get angry or frustrated…which I know is my responsibility…but just because a guy gets angry does not mean he is abusive. Anger by default can easily be abusive, i.e. I say harsh things I don’t mean when I’m angry. But I always try to clear up the mess I’ve made once I’ve calmed down. From my end, I feel a lot of it is her anxiety induced expectations which aren’t what I’m needing to thrive and I can get frustrated by her never ending ‘demands’. I try not to make out she is demanding as this makes it worse too. She’s insecure about being demanding and having it all about her.

Katherine August 24 2015, 7:03 am

About one year ago I left a heavily abusive relationship in terms of mental/emotional and sexual abuse. He marked me as territory and constantly blackmailed me into staying with him. Being 15 and him 17/18, I was stupid enough to be submissive. He made me starve myself, he made me stop wearing makeup, he made me wear revealing clothing so that everyone could see the marks he left. I was slut shamed for a year by former friends. It was horrible. I finally have cut all contact with him and I hope he never ever moves back.

shannon August 14 2015, 5:51 am

May I just say this site is inspiring to me, I found this site and many others I read and it took many others experiences to get me to leave my 2nd abusive marriage…yes twice…I am ashamed it happened twice and I just turned 28. But to those out there suffering, let me tell you it’s NEVER worth it..they say they will change..maybe they will for a bit and it goes back to the same crap. I lost so much of who I once was I’m not even the same person…he’d treat me so lovingly sometimes and bought me wonderful gifts…but his temper was one I won’t ever forget…slapping was something I handled just fine.. I was ok with it being used to it.. It was so sadly toxic.. Punches to the back of the head over and over till he knocked me down… He would beat me and his words were the worst.. The things he’d say cut so deeply. I was married less than a year to him but we were together for a couple dating. I can’t stress enough to people out there..if you think the effects of abuse are wearing on you and you have kids GET OUT!…RUN for your lives..it gets worse..it really does… I have no kids but that’s why I left cause I wanted them someday as did he and I’d never forgive myself if I put them through that or they even had to witness it… Lasting emotional problems will be instilled in them..I promise you that much.

It’s hard to leave..it’s so very very hard to leave but once you do you are free..it’s even harder to heal but it’s worth finding an amazing man for…I know I fall into trends and patterns with men and I thought after two divorces no one would want me, but I swear they will and can…and even if not..your life will be more at peace alone…

I ran away from him…and to a place no one knew me at.. I’ve run away from both of my abusive husbands..easier I know when you don’t have kids…but there are people out there that will help you start new and fresh… I almost went to a women’s shelter and I was terrified to.. I lost my association with my family cause they liked my second husband. ..they know enough about what was going on but were angry that I chose to take off and start fresh alone…

I miss and pray for them everyday but only you and God can know what goes on behind those closed doors… I have some severe scars and trauma from the 7 yrs and 2 abusive men I married… Please leave if you are being abused….you will be safer and learn healthy relationships.. It’ll be tough but it can be done. I pray for you all. Best of luck.

Angela July 12 2015, 11:27 pm

I have a story of control. My last marriage ended with my ex telling me he wanted more control in our marriage. He gave me a list (which follows) and the list scared me. I decided to stay to protect my children and as he had asked for “100%” of the list in order to continue in our marriage, I told him I would give this to him. He then said that wasn’t good enough for him and so we are divorced. The list: http://thehomemakersyear.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2013-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&updated-max=2014-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&max-results=1

Marie July 8 2015, 6:56 pm

Thank you so much for putting up this site as I finally feel like I’m not going mad! My daughter is 18 and is (I feel, as does everyone of her friends and family) in a controlling relationship. I don’t think there is any physical violence involved but I can feel us losing her every day and I don’t know what to do. She has known this guy for about 3 years apparently, but we never heard of him until about 8 weeks ago when she split up with her previous longterm boyfriend.

Two months ago I had a happy, well dressed, A grade student with lots of friends and interests who stayed at her boyfriends or other friends once or twice a week (never on a school night by her own choice as she needed her head clear for college). Since then she has spent more and more time with this boy at his home which is known by locals as a house of drug users and one messed up family! She has been withdrawing from us, lying, possibly stealing money and refusing to come home. She has told me in the last few days she is scared I’m going to hit her (I have never hit any of my children) that she doesn’t feel welcome in our home and never has (news to all of us) and that the only time she feels happy is with this boy and his family. She has completely cut off from all her friends through messages sent on Facebook and two friends have come to me and said they don’t think it’s my daughter messaging them as what she is saying just isn’t her. She is losing weight, dressing in his large baggy clothes and generally looking like she has been dragged through a hedge backwards.

From what I can make out his family are supporting him and are willing to let her move into their already overcrowded house for free although they live on benefits and seem to have nothing. It just seems they are all trying to take her away.

I’m being made out to be some kind of monster just because I said I wasn’t happy with her dropping out of college. I sometimes think she’s depressed but she has refused to see a doctor or speak to a counsellor. When I try to talk to her she can’t look at me and when she isn’t with him the phone buzzes constantly with texts and she has to reply straight away, when I suggested leaving her phone in another room for ten minutes so we could talk she looked panicked and then went nuts saying I was trying to split them up, control her life, etc.

Up until this weekend we had let him stay taken him out with us, etc. just to try to see her. But then he engineered for her to disappear from my mum’s house in the middle of the night (with help from his family) and generally it wasn’t pretty! Her dad wants to go down there and hurt him and I can’t eat, sleep or think anymore. What can I do? With every day it gets worse!

Lori July 4 2015, 2:36 am

I have been in abusive relationships and I ended a 15 year marriage with a narcissist. I have gone to counseling, and I was more concerned with my depression and what my husband did, and the things I did to him to make me look crazy. I thought for the longest time the way I reacted to the BS was my defenses. Today I was reading this article and some others and it dawned on me, that I also have abusive traits. I think I have gotten into relationships with other abusive people to see who would have more control or maybe it was the thrill of the challenge. I went through a depression when I was married, I can honestly say that I don’t believe I am narcissistic, but it seems that I need to work on me as an abuser and as a victim.

Kell June 21 2015, 9:52 pm

Hi, thank you for this great blog, it is relevant, helpful, and educational. I have (finally) just got my abusive partner to leave our home – it took a lot of work, counselling, patience, months of planning, even some manipulation on my part. But I got there in the end.

After 18 years I didn’t know who I was anymore. But I did know that I could not be ‘THAT’ person anymore – you know, the one that they project for you (fat, lazy, stupid bitch) to keep you down on their level. I finally found the strength. I had known for some time that I would probably have to do this, but getting up the courage was hard work.

He has abused me emotionally, psychologically and financially (he hadn’t worked for 8 years, giving him plenty of time to control me). He controlled where I went, ringing to check on me constantly, questioning me about how much I spent, why did I take so long (I would get nervous on the way home, thinking about what I would tell him if I was late). I was always wrong/to blame (and if it turned out I wasn’t we would have a little joke about it, ha ha ha! No apologies for being angry and abusive). He constantly criticized my family, isolating me further – believing he was right to do so (as he is always right!). He didn’t like my friends and criticised them often. Especially if they wanted my time. He would press my buttons, picking arguments over anything (when he was in a bad mood or bored). He would block my way if I tried to leave, follow me through the house or physically restrain me if I persisted (I learned not to). I used to think ‘if only you had a job, then you wouldn’t be here to do this’. But I was wrong about that. He would have probably done them anyway. He still can’t see how he is responsible for a lot of it. Admits ‘some’ responsibility, but reminds me ‘it takes 2 to tango’.

I got out for me, but I also got out for my 2 daughters (10 and 6). I imagined them bringing home a boyfriend who treated them with disrespect, who felt it his right to abuse them, and that they might accept this as ‘normal’. And I decided to go. I wanted my life back, but I want their lives to be better than this. I still have a long way to go, but I am feeling stronger and calmer already. I have relied heavily on my friends and family to get through this and am feeling gratitude for their help. I still feel angry and hurt, but I am not being constantly demoralised by him anymore. Next step is to get my solicitor to work :) But that’s another story. Thanks for this space.

Lyn June 5 2015, 3:15 pm

It’s good to share your stories as it could help someone else and it helps you by writing your story and possibly helps you gain some clarity and support.

I was married young to the best looking guy in the nightclub who ended up repeatedly cheating on me. It lasted 5 years. After a short break I met a man who I stayed with for 25 years. He was financially secure, hardworking and a different type of person to my first husband and I trusted he wouldn’t screw around behind my back. We had 2 kids but we were never really happy as we fought a lot and often. We were always fighting about money even though we had more than enough. He also hated me spending time with my sister. He was somewhat controlling but I stood up to him in the end.

We lived separate lives for the last 12 years of our relationship. I really struggled to break free from him even though it was not healthy to stay, but I eventually left after the kids got older and thought to myself never again. That was until I went out for the very first time only a few weeks after “separating”.

I went out with friends and met a guy who I would not normally have been interested in but he was interested in me and persistent. We talked and talked and after a couple of wines I let my guard down. He was well dressed, intelligent and we got on really well. He gave me his number and promised he would be there for me to help me through my pending divorce and emotional rollercoaster ahead. I checked with my friends the next day as to whether to pursue this guy and they said why not. Go for it because you deserve to be happy after what you’ve been through. So a whirlwind romance began.

He promised me – I only want to make you happy – I will be there for you – I want to give you a great life – I love you – you are beautiful – you are the best thing that has ever happened to me and I will love you forever – and it went on. 3 months later he proposed and I accepted. 12 months later we were married. I had never been happier and more in love. He was my best friend and soul mate. Then 6 months after our wedding he had a fallout with my sister. He blames her but it was his fault. He has never forgiven her and continues to call her vulgar names and blame her for many things. I wanted us to relocate so I could be closer to my family as we live an hours drive from them but he wouldn’t hear of it. I was missing my kids even though I saw them but not as regularly as I or they liked. We had family birthday gatherings which we attended but his behavior was just terrible and it caused massive arguments. Christmas was a stressful nightmare for me but I suffered through as I wanted to see my family.

We hardly go out with our local friends anymore even though they were his original friends. He has slowly but surely isolated us from any interaction with others, only on rare occasions. All I do is go to work, come home cook dinner and sit on the couch with him. I didn’t realize but for the past 10 months he has slowly been chipping away at my confidence. He is very angry on the inside, having yelling bouts occasionally but they have never been directed to me in the past until now.

Things are slowly changing for the worse as I realize I’m not happy being in a situation so similar to my previous marriage and I’m starting to look at our relationship from an outside perspective taking my emotion out of it. In the past week I have realized he is controlling me and isolating me from my family and anyone he feels threatened by, anyone who may say bad things about him to me, trying to put thoughts in my head like – I would only believe 10% of what she says because she likes to tell stories. As I write this today I feel like I’ve been kicked in the guts as my bubble has been burst. Made a fool of. Humiliated and ashamed that he could have duped me with all the beautiful words he used to seduce me 2 and a half years ago.

I feel embarrassed that I find myself in a failing 3rd marriage. Like maybe there is something wrong with me. I doubt it. I also know I am better than this and I am not willing to spend the rest of my life in a bad relationship. I still have a lot to offer someone and I’m not sure I have totally given up on love as I am a true romantic looking for the fairytale. Maybe one day.

But for now and for today I will take baby steps. Baby steps toward a future of love and happiness. The love I know that still grows in my heart I will turn towards myself for now to heal, nurture and revive my worn out soul so it can give me the strength I need to leave my current situation and face a brand new day soon. Many thanks to all of you lovely people for sharing your stories and inspiring other women who may feel things are hopeless and futile.

Just remember – you have the strength inside you to be who you want to be. The decision is ultimately yours whether you stay or go. For our sake I hope we all go as we all deserve better and we deserve the chance to be the best person we can be while being loved and supported by whomever makes us shine. xx

MomofWills3 April 29 2015, 3:51 am

I don’t know anymore. My husband has been emotionally abusive many times…scaring me with words, actions, throwing things, screaming, calling me hurtful names, kicking his foot through the door, throwing water on me while I slept. Recently I didn’t get him the towels he wanted… I told him to go get them himself. Big mistake. He took EVERY towel, handtowel, sheet, etc. and THREW IT out of the laundry closet onto the floor. I have lost all respect for him..and myself. We have so many periods of time when he doesn’t do this….but sooner or later another explosion happens. It has been a while and it seems to be recurring less and less….but I just don’t even think I love him anymore. The thought of him touching me makes my skin crawl. Do you think he gets that his behavior is hurtful to the marriage? I mean I can’t bring it up. Hell to pay. But I feel like the damage is done. I wanna just disappear.

Randi June 21 2015, 10:16 am

I know exactly how you feel. I went through almost the exact same thing with my boyfriend. We were together for five years. And the only thing that made me finally end the relationship was when I looked at our future of possibly getting married…and I didn’t like what I saw. I didn’t want to marry him. I didn’t love him anymore. I didn’t even want him to touch me. I was repulsed! I’m repulsed even now. I can’t imagine him ever being loving or gentle because as a person he was the exact opposite. And I couldn’t talk to him about these things, either. Hell to pay, as you said. I think if you’re married and it’s made you feel this bad, it’s good for you to escape. To leave him. You have to. You’ll rot away forever if you stay there. I don’t think he will change. My ex didn’t. I don’t even think abusers know…precisely what they’re doing when they’re doing it. That’s why they never seem to get any better. You have to make the choice. You have to do it for yourself, even though it’s going to hurt like hell.

Mary Mally April 28 2015, 9:47 am

I spent 14 yrs in abusive relationships and have been out of them for the past 16 yrs. I’m still recovering from the psychological effects.

My daughter is 18 and pregnant. She only sees her boyfriend’s family and friends. When she does see her friends he goes along, she rarely leaves the house without him, she used to do her hair and dress nicely, now she does neither. She no longer talks to long time male friends. Before she found out the gender of her baby he said that “he hoped it was a boy so he could slap it around”.

I’ve tried to talk to her about what I see happening and she thinks it’s okay and often won’t speak to me.

I know where her relationship is going and am helpless to help her.

Moxie March 10 2015, 6:27 pm

I feel that I am in an abusive relationship with my husband of 5 years. We live in a small town 45 miles away from my family. When he is out-of-town he wants to control how often I go see them, claiming that if I don’t stay home that indicates to him that I don’t love him and our home.

I have one child — an adult daughter, from a previous marriage that calls me very often. We are very close. I think he feels threatened by this and so when she calls he often says she calls too much and throws fits because I don’t ask her to stop calling. He has five adult children that only speak to him on Sundays and sparsely during the week. He tells me this is how it should be.

I do love him but this is just getting old and I feel like I need to walk on egg shells in my own home.

I feel that I may be imagining all this because I relish the independence I had prior to marrying him and sometimes just really miss that. Am I crazy?

Hannah May 20 2015, 1:37 pm

You’re not crazy. You feeling crazy is actually a symptom of his abuse. He has psychologically abused you into thinking that you are crazy to think of leaving him. I think you should leave him because although you love him, he is too destructive for you. Go back to your family who love and support you.

Mar1 May 23 2015, 4:51 pm

You are not crazy. I have been in your shoes and it began with small things and it only got worse. It started with the silent treatment when I didn’t do what he wanted or expected. I was to stay home while he did whatever he wanted. I missed my grandmother’s last Christmas. I was the only one not there. I couldn’t see my family.

He would get mad when I tried to give my family some money for watching our 2 children all week every week. He said they should be doing it for free. But when his mom did for 3 days he paid her.

He told me to go with my friends out of town when we were at a family function, so everyone could hear. At 2:00am, he called me, telling me that he was taking off with the kids if I didn’t get home by the morning. I was out of town and there was the worst fog. I was scared so I drove home. I could have been killed but he didn’t care and I was in so deep I hadn’t realized how bad.

He told me one day, if I went to work he would leave. He wanted me to quit and us move to the worst part of town since that would be all we could afford. He didn’t think of the kids, his controlling just got worse.

He was a different person in public so I suffered in silence until a good friend helped me out. Without her, I think I would still be there.

After lots of counseling, I learned that my ex was actually using non physical abuse also known as domestic violence

You don’t have little ones, but the time I stayed affected my children. They are adults now and understand why we separated. I never told them, but they started witnessing it themselves when they went to visit. I wish I had not allowed him to have any custody, but I was afraid what he would do.

Dana February 21 2015, 10:35 am

I’ve actually never been in a relationship before, but I feel as if I’m going to be the abuser when I am in a relationship, because when at home, I tend to get my way with my brothers when I tell them to do or get something for me. Also, I tend to harm my brothers–I’m also very moody, I assume that I’m bipolar, but I wouldn’t know for sure and I should probably get tested for that.

I don’t know. Could someone please give me some advice? Thanks.

Clare Murphy PhD February 21 2015, 1:29 pm

Dana, if you are concerned you have bipolar I suggest you go to your doctor for diagnosis to put your mind at rest. If you don’t have bipolar, you will then be able to explore other reasons for your behaviours. Clare

Jennifer September 17 2014, 3:25 am

My husband is this abuser! I have been with him since I was 17 years old, I am now 32! The last 5 years have been the worst he’s ever been but this last year has been absolute Hell! He’s taken my heart, my soul MY LIFE!! I don’t even know who I am anymore. I’m so empty inside, lonely, mad, sad and dying mentally and physically. I feel defeated! He told me years ago he’d make sure I have NOTHING and he actually has done that! I lost my job, my friends, family, car, my wedding rings and even has my kids turning on me! I have nobody because nobody can understand why I “let” him do this to me! All I know is it’s absolutely insane how much control someone can have over you and you don’t even realize it till it’s too late and you’ve been stripped of all your dignity and you’re left feeling like it’s all your fault, you’re crazy, stupid, ugly and will never be good enough.

Clare Murphy PhD September 17 2014, 11:07 am

Jennifer — Many many women have left controlling relationships when they have spiralled downwards and lost themselves after many years. I helped a 73 year old woman to leave (she had tried to leave 3 times previously and at age 73 was still hankering to get out — and she did!) I just want to reassure you that you can become free of coercive control. I suggest you contact people within domestic violence agencies in your country to support you. Many countries run individual or group programmes to support women in your situation. There are also some counsellors who are trained in domestic violence and understand what you’re going through. Alternatively I offer Skype or phone counselling in such situations. — I wish you well. You can do this one step at a time! Clare

Nancy September 11 2014, 11:09 pm

My husband does not fit any of these descriptions. He is a leader and pillar in our community. Everyone tells me how lucky I am to have such a husband. He makes tons of money each year, from which I am given an allowance that meets my needs and my kids’ needs. Yet, he treats me like property. If I get sick, he gets angry. If I disagree with him, I am such a horrible person. After 20 years, I do not know who I am any more. Two years ago, we went to therapy. The therapist made me apologize to my husband because I had told my mother and a close friend how I was feeling. My husband made me promise at therapy not to ever tell anybody anything about our private marriage again. I have not been able to keep that promise. Now I feel guilty for talking about it at all. Guilty for even writing this.

I am so lonely. I want to feel loved and special. I want to be free to be myself and make choices without having to second guess everything I say.

Sometimes, I lash out at others, scream at my kids, say rude, mean things. Sometimes, I attack my husband with my words, even though I know he is going to lash out at me something fierce and hurt me with his words even more. In a way it just feels good to rebel against him, even though I know it is going to get ugly.

I feel crazy. I have read about 50 self help books and Bible studies. I have tried so many things to change myself that I feel like a confused chameleon. I do not even know who I am anymore. I just know I do not like myself. I used to laugh about everything. I loved to play and laugh and dance. I was strong and independent. Now I am just a bitter, hollow, angry shrew.

I am scared to let go of the marriage. I want my children to have a good life. They are not abused by him like I am. Although, sometimes I become abusive to them with my words even though I used to be such a gentle, loving mother.

I feel so lost.

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

sadie September 11 2014, 1:12 pm

Erin, I think the key is focus your mind on your own addiction to this man. That is where you will find your power. Gently retrain your brain from attempting to find ways toward peace with him, to exploring yourself with radical new levels of compassion. Someone, at some time, may have taught you that your mission was to do the impossible, and you are faithfully and earnestly attempting to do just that with this man every day. When you truly accept that part of you with compassion and love and understanding, you will be able to pour love on the only wound you can heal – your own.

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…

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.

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.

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.

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…

* 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.


Hugs and kisses from someone who understands, though.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Diana November 5 2014, 2:59 am

I was in a 23 year marriage of abuse and I can tell you it takes years to find yourself again. I was once told rule of thumb for every year of marriage it takes 1/2 that to heal. Well, I found something called the Emotion Code and I heartily recommend it to you. I am a massage therapist and I’ve done all kinds of healing techniques but this one was and is the strongest. It took me 5 months to clear everything out which included my family of origin stuff too which is in my opinion how we end up in these abusive relationships to begin with. Yes, I prayed, I begged, I cried, I thought I was crazy, I thought it was my fault and tried sexy lingerie, showing up to surprise him with sexy clothes for lunch, I could write the book on it. Bottom line is these guys don’t love themselves so they can’t love you.
Focus on what you need to love yourself and heal. Let it go as much as you can because he still draws power over you when you obsess but know that you have every right to your anger over being cheated out of a better life. We were born into a male dominated conquering world that is suicidal at this point. In my opinion it’s up to the women and the men who love women to change this. So get strong and heal so you can be a part of the good things in life and take that love you gave him and give it to yourself and then to those who are worthy of it. May you be blessed with abundance and love!

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