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Tactic #10 — Denial, Minimising, Blaming

– Posted in: Intimate partner abuse Male perpetrators Why does he do it

This is the tenth of 16 blogs discussing the patterns of tactics from my power and control wheel — Denial, Minimising, Blaming.

Power & control wheel #10 Clare Murphy PhD

We are all responsible for the choices we make in life. We’re personally responsible for our own thoughts, beliefs, assumptions and interpretations of situations. Our thoughts lead to our feelings and in turn our thoughts and feelings influence our behaviours. When we’re in a “healthy” relationship and one of us causes harm to the other, the one who causes harm will acknowledge and own what they did — take responsibility for it — and take steps to never do that again, to change their behaviours with the aim of developing greater levels of love, care, empathy and respect for the other person. They do what it takes to try to hear, understand and empathise with the other, and in turn express themselves in helpful ways to help the other person understand them. Self-Responsibility requires giving up blaming others.

However, in a relationship where one person is motivated to be right and get their way at all costs, and to maintain power and control over the other, they relinquish personal responsibility for their harmful words and actions — they deny they’ve done wrong, they minimise their abusive and controlling behaviours — they blame the target of their abuse.

Men who use coercive control against their female partner deny their behaviours outright. Or he’ll admit to causing harm but minimise it saying the abuse was not that bad, or he’ll tell her their relationship is the best she can hope for. Men who use coercive control use rationality and reasoning, by for example reminding her of times he was right and she was wrong. When she gives him feedback about his behaviours he’ll divert attention away from himself and pick her personality apart. He’ll blame his abuse on his stress, drugs, alcohol, or anything or anyone outside of himself. He’ll blame her for his behaviours by twisting things around so that it appears she is responsible. And if she wants to escape the clutches of his incessant control tactics, he’ll use intimidation and threats by doing things like warning her that if she leaves, he’ll commit suicide and that she’ll be responsible.

Denying, minimising and blaming all lead to obstructing change. . . . . No matter what the victimised person says or does in an attempt to resolve the controlling person’s behaviours and attitudes, the controlling person prevents the development of a healthy relationship.

Here are some experiences that women have when living with a male partner who denies, minimises, and blames….

Denial

Denial entails acting as if he has not been abusive, not been controlling, not caused any harm. Therefore he believes there is nothing to be responsible and accountable for.

Elsie said her husband Leon “was a real control freak, but he never acknowledged it to himself. He would quite often say to people how nice he was. I don’t think he ever knew what he was ever like. I’d say nothing (laughter). He was so nasty if you crossed him, it just wasn’t worth it.”

It is common for some men to use counselling as an arena to continue denying their controlling behaviours and to try to get the counsellor to take his side.

For example, Elizabeth said her husband David “thought counselling was about telling me that I was wrong, so he came along to agree with the counsellor that I was wrong. Even in later years when I went to counselling over the whole sexual abuse thing and so on it was always about, ‘there was something wrong with me’. There was never any acknowledgement that anything he might be doing could be contributing to what was happening in our relationship.”

Minimising

Minimising entails acknowledging he may have done something harmful, but he refuses to take responsibility for the level of abusive behaviour and the level of harm caused — saying things like, “It wasn’t that bad, get over it.”

Karen said she “would feel guilty and self‑indulgent for arguing because he’d say, ‘What are you making all this fuss about? Settle down, calm down, live your life peacefully.’ So I started making these decisions to close myself down. You do begin to doubt how right you are if you’re just living this life in one continual power struggle and everything’s being constantly bitched over, everything. Everything (sigh of exhaustion). You just get exasperated and exhausted and you don’t know which battles to pick and which one’s important.”

Victoria said her partner Graham would minimise his behaviours mainly by saying, “things aren’t that bad”. She said that it wasn’t an overt, “this is what I think and you’ll damn well think that way, but if you don’t agree with what I’m saying then I’m going to make you doubt yourself, so I will manipulate you to believe the way I believe, but I won’t overtly tell you that you have to believe that way, but I’ll just make sure you feel so unsure about what you believe that you’ll take on what I believe anyway.”

As a response to Graham’s subtle ways of minimising his controlling behaviours and their effects, Victoria “started to believe that he was right and that maybe I really did misinterpret a lot of things, that I really wasn’t made for this marriage thing and that was my fault, that I was too pushy, that I wanted to change him and that was a wrong thing to do, and that I should accept him for who he was, and that I wasn’t a very nice person for doing that, and I must stop that immediately, and that that’s another bad aspect of my personality that must be fixed.”

When Victoria had an emotional response to something, Graham would say things to minimise what he’d done and to shut down the conversation and therefore obstruct change. He would tell her she was, “overreacting…. misinterpreting and … you just don’t understand… everything’s such a bloody big deal to you, just get over it… what are you on about, for God’s sake do we have to go through this again?”

Over time Victoria learnt not to trust my own judgements. I always thought if I was upset about something, I was overreacting. There wasn’t a degree of upset before I decided that I was overreacting, any minute hint of being upset I was overreacting. Get over it and move on and accept that there is nothing you can do about it. So just put up and shut up. Get on with it.”

Because Susan’s husband Anthony would deny, minimise and blame, and therefore close all doors to the possibility of resolving issues and developing a healthy relationship, Susan said, “I was the only person who ever said sorry. He’d be late home from the pub and I’d say, ‘I’m sorry, but I really missed you, that’s why I’m really angry that you’re not here.’ Whereas he’d say, ‘It’s only the pub, what’s your problem?’ I suppose that’s when it becomes my fault and I fully believed it was my fault for being so impatient, for being so controlling over his space.”

Rationalisation

Similar to minimising, people who use power and control to get their way will use reasoning and rationalisation. They’ll rationalise by saying things like, “I only did it one time” yet in actual fact they use controlling tactics daily, weekly … in an ongoing way over a long period of time. They rationalise by saying that one behaviour they did a moment ago was a one-off – and therefore minimise the incessant ongoing pattern of control across time.

Teresa said “It’s very clever because there’s a logic to what they say. At the time there isn’t an argument against it, it makes sense, it’s not till you go away afterwards and think about it and think ‘no that’s not right’.”

The controlling partner will rationalise by reminding her of all the times she did something wrong and he did something right. He’ll also compare his behaviours with other men’s saying that his were nowhere near as bad and that she has it good with him. Such comparisons especially happen when the man never uses physical violence. There is so little mention of coercive control in the news media — which means the victim has very little back-up from society to support her interpretation of his behaviours.

Justification

When a controlling person justifies their behaviours, they usually turn the attention onto the victim — saying that they would not have behaved that way if she had done what he expected of her, such as keep the children quiet, have the dinner on the table on time, not challenge a decision he made.

As Donna said, “Everything in Frank’s world was…he was justifiably right in everything.”

Blaming

Blaming entails admitting that he has used abusive, controlling behaviours, admitting she may feel harmed, BUT he takes absolutely no ownership or responsibility for his actions and their effects.

It’s common for men who use controlling behaviours to say to their partner “it’s all your fault you’ve done this.”

Elsie said Leon would “blame my dog for things and it obviously wasn’t. I remember his dog one day (laughter) had shat on the floor in the lounge, he’d been shut in or something. I was really cross about it and he blamed me for that. If he blamed me I would just agree and say I was sorry. I suppose I did that quite a bit and accept it was my fault just for peace, but internally I didn’t believe it.”

Being continually blamed for someone else’s behaviour can be crazymaking. However when I question deeply, the women who come to me for counselling, they will have been like Elsie — that is, even though many women start to outwardly behave as if they are “letting the abuse happen” or as if “they are putting up with his controlling behaviours” . . . .  In reality, somewhere deep inside them they will have quietly held onto their own voice as they learned it was not beneficial to continue to push for him to take personal-responsibility. 

The effect of being constantly blamed for her husband David’s behaviours would lead Elizabeth to “bend over backwards. I would say to him well, ‘How do you want me to be?’ I wanted him to tell me what I needed to do to be okay, to be the wife he wanted, to be the person he wanted.”

Teresa said her partner Patrick “blamed me for lots of things. The drinking was the thing he blamed me for most. He was a secret drinker. When I would confront him about being drunk or about drinking, it would be my fault because I’d upset him by telling somebody something, or I’d spent too much time with my friends, so what was he supposed to do. That sort of thing felt like a consequence of breaking the rules.”

Teresa said Patrick “tried to make me drink and said that the reason he drank was my fault because I had such an odd puritanical attitude about alcohol which is totally untrue. That he had to hide it from me because it would upset me and that if I would sit down and have 12 beers a night with him, then it would be fine.”

As many women do in response to incessantly being blamed, they do as Teresa did: “I apologised, said I wouldn’t do it again.”

Teresa said Patrick “blamed me for his marriage breaking up as well. The blaming me for the drinking is a thing I recall most vividly, because in retrospect it’s so absolutely bizarre (laughter). How could it be my fault that he got pissed every night and hid the cans under the floor and in the ceiling and in the filing cabinet, it’s not my fault. But I really thought it was, that I had some serious problem with alcohol that I couldn’t see that this was normal behaviour (laughter).

Women usually seek to engage their partner in conversation seeking to understand why he abuses and controls them. During such conversations with PatrickTeresa said he’d respond by saying, “Because I made him. Every behaviour of his I didn’t like, he did because I made him, because of my attitudes and my behaviour. He was doing it in response to me and a lot of the time he was doing it so he didn’t upset me, like hiding his drinking. It was my fault that I was upset about it because if I hadn’t snooped I would never have found out about it so what could I expect?”

Sally said throughout her seven year marriage to Dylan, she would never back down from trying to get him to take responsibility for his behaviours, but, “He never ever would work out any problems that we had. He always blamed me every single time, without fail. He would just never take responsibility for any of his actions.  I left him because he just would not meet me half way.” She said he blamed her all the time and like many women who are consistently made to feel responsible for their partner’s behaviours, she ended up believing it was true, so she “always tried hard to fix myself and I think that is why, in the end, I went on Prozac because I was exhausted from trying to fix myself when I actually wasn’t the problem.”

Raewyn said it might only be little things, but that Brian would often “blame me (laugh). If something went missing he would blame me, whereas really it had been him who put the thing somewhere, whatever it is, a book, or some tool, or whatever.”

Donna said her husband “wouldn’t acknowledge that there was anything wrong. To this day Frank will tell you that our whole marriage break up was my fault.”

Victoria said Graham would blame her for “everything! His actions, problems in the marriage. Everything was my fault. Everything, absolutely everything. Our first real fight once we got married, we’d been married about 20 minutes, and we got to the reception and his family threw rice at us sitting in the back of the car and it went down his shirt — That was my fault. So he stormed off and wouldn’t talk to me, and my sister’s husband had to go and get him into the reception. And then we went into the room after we got married that night he wanted to watch a video. We didn’t have the video cord adaptor thing, so I rung down to reception and asked them about it and they’re like, ‘aren’t you the newly weds?’ and I’m like, ‘don’t even go there’. They said, ‘we didn’t think you’d need the adaptor so we lent it to another room’. So that was my fault somehow, I should have been aware of the adaptor problem.”

Karen said her husband Felix “had this new age philosophy that we all construct our own lives, our own existence and he would say, ‘if you have got this problem Karen, then this is entirely your fault and your decision, and you are the only one who can do anything about it, it’s got nothing to do with me. You own your situation, it is yours not mine.’ Which is fine to an extent, I’m ok with this. But I do believe that we need to take responsibility for the way that we behave with each other and how our actions impose on other people. He’s got this philosophy if you’re sitting down watching tele at night on the couch and a piece of fuselage falls off a plane falls through your ceiling and kills you, then you obviously created that, you asked for it, it’s your fault. Everything he did was my creation.”

In response to Felix avoiding taking responsibility for his controlling behaviours, and twisting the concept of personal-responsibility around as a way of blaming Karen for his abusive and controlling behaviours, Karen “argued with it. I hated it. I still hate it. But I resisted it, I argued about it every time, and I’d say, ‘well how come it’s that way that everything in your life is my fault?’”

Denial, minimising and blaming are destructive tactics of power and control

The perpetrator’s belief that he has to be right — at all costs — every time . . . . . leads to a downward spiral over months and years, as the victim of control becomes more and more debilitated.

Ironically, as the victim loses her confidence, self-esteem, and dignity, many men end up not liking the result! That is, not liking the person she has become. And because the perpetrator of coercive control denies, minimises and blames throughout the course of the relationship — he is oblivious to the fact he is the one who — by using one control tactic at a time, over years, chipped away at her — as if chipping away at a slab of marble slowly shaping her into a shadow of her former self.

When a man constantly denies, minimises, rationalises, justifies and blames — over time — and seldom, if ever, takes personal responsibility — and does not show he is holding himself to account by actually changing his behaviours — then these control tactics are the hallmark of a relationship that will never ever become the loving, caring, healthy relationship the woman is hoping for.

Watch out for blogs on the following control tactics:

One-Sided power games
Mind games
Inappropriate restrictions
Isolation
Over-protection & ‘caring’
Emotional unkindness & violation of trust
Degradation & Suppression of Potential
Separation Abuse
Using social institutions & social prejudices
Using the children
Economic abuse
Sexual abuse
Symbolic aggression
Domestic slavery
Physical violence
Cyber Abuse

References:

  • Anderson, Kristin L., & Umberson, Debra. (2001). Gendering violence: Masculinity and power in men’s accounts of domestic violence. Gender & Society, 15, 358-380.
  • Cavanagh, Kate, Dobash, R. Emerson, Dobash, Russell P., & Lewis, Ruth. (2001). ‘Remedial work’: Men’s strategic responses to their violence against intimate female partners. Sociology, 35(3), 695-714.
  • Coleman, Karen H. (1980). Conjugal violence: What 33 men report. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 6, 207-213.
  • Eisikovits, Zvi C., & Buchbinder, Eli. (1997). Talking violent: A phenomenological study of metaphors battering men use. Violence Against Women, 3, 482-498.
  • Goodrum, Sarah, Umberson, Debra, & Anderson, Kristin L. (2001). The batterer’s view of the self and others in domestic violence. Sociological Inquiry, 71, 221-240.
  • Hearn, Jeff. (1998). The Violences of Men: How Men Talk About and How Agencies Respond to Men’s Violence to Women. London: Sage
  • Mullaney, Jamie L. (2007). Telling it like a man. Men and Masculinities, 10, 222-247.
  • Stamp, Glen H., & Sabourin, Teresa Chandler. (1995). Accounting for violence: An analysis of male spousal abuse narratives. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 23, 288-302.
  • Wood, Julia T. (2004). Monsters and victims: Male felons’ accounts of intimate partner violence. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 21, 555-576.

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Sara 14 April 2016, 1:20 pm

Thanks for this info. I am dealing with all of these issues. My ex keeps projecting, deflecting, and using false justification to keep himself in the clear. Somehow, no matter how many times I admit my mistakes, he spews anger and is never satisfied. Mind you, he NEVER has told one whole truth and continues to keep his anger focused on me and attention off him. He also will only speak by email…coward! I am starting to think he has some kind of disorder developed in his past. I have never seen a person in such denial and avoidance and this is nearly two years past now. Please advise!

tb 10 April 2016, 7:13 am

Hello, I was thinking about the abuse people endure, and I too am being abused. It is verbal and emotional, but has been going on all my life. It started with my abusive mother, then my older sister learned from my mother and became abusive too. Unfortunately I ended up with verbally abusive relationships as well, and sometimes even very unkind or toxic employers/work colleagues also, leading me now to want to be self-employed in order to avoid all these types of problems.

The hardest thing for me is feeling that no-one cares, that I am alone, having to feel so angry at how badly I am being treated and knowing that I don’t deserve that, feeling very anxious and nervous not knowing when I will be yelled at next, and knowing that these awful people don’t care about me, or my feelings. They lie all the time, and seem to delight in my suffering.

I also prayed to God for many, many years about all of this, to no avail it seems. I hate feeling so worthless, that I don’t matter, that my feelings are not important, and I find it hard to concentrate on anything now.

How do you deal with horrible people that you cannot always avoid who make you feel awful, twist the truth around to blame you, play awful mind games, and never care about how you end up feeling? I don’t even know why I even have to exist on this earth.

I hate having to deal with that anger at the injustice of it all. I think I might even have post-traumatic stress disorder now because of all this. How are people supposed to respond to really abusive people? And how do I deal with the awful feelings, especially the anger and feelings of zero worth? One abusive person I know will pretend to care, only to yell and lash out minutes later after he gains my trust. Then he starts laughing. What should I do? Thanks for reading my post.

Freedom fighter 5 March 2016, 7:11 pm

Hi,
Currently making preparations to leave what is an obviously abusive relationship after 12 years (thanks to hindsight, your website and DV counsellors). I’m quite confused on how to actually leave. Visualising the actual step. Just walk out the door and wait for the onslaught of phone calls? Leave a note? Try (again) to have a conversation (yeah right!!!). His erratic and inconsistent behaviours are, of course, huge contributors to this crazy confusion.
Any advice/experiences would be great!
Thanks

jayjay 22 May 2016, 4:39 pm

freedom fighter- Please be aware that the first 72 hours a woman leaves is the most dangerous. Keep safe. Good luck.

Diane 4 March 2016, 9:16 am

In the latest of the blame game I asked my partner if he would consider changing his plans because I had an awful week (child with severe mental distress and dog diagnosed with terminal illness). He said no and chose to go golfing with family instead and would not compromise. When I said I was disappointed and I felt hurt by it he instead blamed me. He said his only part is that he continues to buy into my attempts to guilt him and shame him. I feel like I’m going crazy and that I am the selfish one for expressing what I thought were legitimate needs.

Christine 25 February 2016, 4:18 am

I’ve just recently left a relationship. I’m still in the stage of sobbing uncontrollably and thinking that I was crazy for not being happy with how I was treated, that if I could just have fixed myself, things may have worked out. These are his words in my head. This article described him perfectly. And as I was slowly chipped away over the last few years, I began to think I was crazy. This article has been a godsend. Thank you. Every time his words echo through my thoughts, I will read this article for sanity.

Ann 5 February 2016, 1:43 pm

My husband of 30 years is a very nice man and we’ve had a fairly happy marriage. We would have blow-ups every couple of years because he would run up credit card debt on my cards and on new cards that he would take out. He always said it was my fault.

I would always be confused as to how and why, and then I would make the arrangements to pay off the debt. Second mortage, private loan, etc. Every time the debt would be higher.

In 2014 I discovered that while I had been traveling heavily for work he’d spent $20k on strip clubs, alcohol, an Ashley Madison account, etc. In one year he spent that. I know this because for the first time ever, I looked at the credit card records. Now we are in counseling. It is the first time I have ever had someone else hear him blame me. It is the most validating experience! He admits to the spending but says it is because of the way I have been throughout the course of our marriage. So here we are, being civil and pleasant. I think he thinks that I’m going to get over it like I have every other time.

I’ll be working again soon (job ended about the same time I discovered the debt). I think he thinks that it’s the same ol same ol, that I’ll get over it and we’ll move on.

No. I’ve peeked behind the curtain and marriage counseling has helped me see that no matter how nice he is, this BS behavior and lying and blaming me is what it is. And yet, I still feel that if I leave, then I am the bad guy.

I’m smart and educated and self-aware and yet got absorbed into this mess so slowly that I never saw it happening. I feel like the only self-respecting thing to do is to leave. So why, oh why, am I still the one feeling responsible?

Clare Murphy PhD 5 February 2016, 2:28 pm

Ann — Just one of the reasons you may feel like the bad guy is because our gender socialisation entails …. men should be independent, women should be responsible for the emotional health of the relationship. You can flourish out of relationship away from a man who denies, minimises and blames (this can equate to gaslighting and crazymaking) follow your gut instinct, name some dreams you’ve had hidden away for years and go for it! – Clare

Ann 6 February 2016, 5:19 am

Thank you very much for your response.

I really struggle with how he can be Mr. Hero Perfect Husband and also be Mr. Lying and Deceiving. How do these things go together? I realize there is not an answer that’s going to make him into a consistently honest person. But to finally, finally, finally be able to say it is a big start.

I think one of my underlying fears is, “what if I have mis-judged him? What if he’s going to change? What if leaving is a mistake that I’ll regret for the rest of my life?”

The answers at this point:
Listing only the facts as they are it is clear that he’s done what he’s done.
Change starts with him accepting responsibility. In all these years and in four months of counseling, he continues to shift blame to me.
Mistakes happen. I’ll survive. He’ll survive. Making a decision based on current info is not a mistake.

Clare Murphy PhD 6 February 2016, 8:53 am

Ann, you might also benefit from reading this post I wrote on the difference between an abusive vs healthy relationship. —Clare https://speakoutloud.net/helping-victims-survivors/healthy-relationships/abusive-vs-healthy-relationships

Anny 25 January 2016, 4:26 pm

What if he just told me, “I know I did things wrong but, I’m not the kind of person to punch walls.” Saying I evoked that from him. He also told me, “You can only keep promises others will let you keep..” When that pretzel confused me to no end he called me a mindfield. I was the reason he didn’t keep his promises….but he would let promises go to the wayside with excuses.

Is that abuse?

I know he’s mad at me and I have not been perfect. I’m trying to untangle my responses to him and take responsibility for them but it fell on deaf ears. I tried to tell him I’m sorry that I had gotten drunk and said some mean stuff to him. That that was my responsibility on how I decided to react, not his, therefore I couldn’t take responsibility for anything he has done. He told me that I had dranken long before him and that he never punched a wall before me. Which is hard to believe since his list of girlfriends before me he calls all derogatory names and that’s who I know them by.

When he got ahold of me after a year of no communication for three weeks he was texting me. Saying, “you hurt me more than words can say but I’m still in love with you but, you knew that…” and continued with I love yous, baby talk, I really miss yous on Christmas until New Years when I sent him pics of a special place we went to once… He texted, “I really loved the pics ;-)” and just stopped texting….ghosted out. Which he’s done before. 2 weeks later through a friend once removed I hear, “he’s moved on..”

I got really angry and said, “I’m sick of your lies and lies by omission!!” He responded to me then and said,”F*** you” for using semantics!! All I meant by that is I’m happy you’ve moved on because I have and yes I’m dating a friend she’s quite nice and I wasn’t dating her then anyway…(leaving only a two week gap between texts) and how I carpet bombed him with messages (huh? I just reciprocated his feelings)..and how it’s never going to f***g happen between us!

A month later he begins video chatting me…we talked for 6 months never touching on our issues. Said he wasn’t dating the girl anymore because she used him, she was younger…(a dig?) how he really didn’t think she was a really bad person. He tells me he loves me and how he always thought we’d end up like two of his friends that found each other again….
I later ask him about still being in love with me and he said, “I must have meant it at the time…” (Only two months prior) I asked again later because I wanted more depth and explanation.. he says, “I shouldn’t have said that…”

All the while he’s telling me he’s going to come down to see me…..(long distance half the 10 years of our relationship)….

I asked him once about a motorcycle trip we took and he was kinda distant so I kept trying to engage… We pulled over to a gas station and started calling me “you f****g bitch, several times…” We had to wait for his Dad and brother to pick up his bike. I took off then but was too upset to stay concentrated through a sand storm and a mountain range. So I pulled over fully intending to stay put until I felt better but they saw me and he jumped out like nothing was wrong and road it for me and I road in the truck…really really upset. I asked him about that way later on and asked what was that about? He said he didn’t remember it.

What is this?? I feel like I kept saying how sorry I was, genuinely and I kept getting this stuff….

At the end he screamed at me how the entire 10 years was shit! That I’m the reason he felt so badly about himself and he’s just getting over it!

Then no communication…..

I was hoping for a peaceful goodbye and I can’t get rid of this pain in my heart that was I really the reason he felt so bad, did I do no good?? 10 years…

Silent treatments, the worst was 3 months. This was after he promised me he was coming back for me. I discovered he had conned a friend and was doing heroin. He was in extreme pain but I orchestrated so much as to be really untrustworthy. When I sincerely confronted him, asked him about it, I told him I’d tell his parents if he didn’t. I saw him one more time and he disappeared leaving me in a very very strained state of how to feel.

I asked him way later “why did he lie to me?” and he said, “Because I was on drugs Anny!”

I have messed up. I tried so hard to own it….I wanted forgiveness for how I reacted….and acted. It’s really hard to keep doing that with someone who blames it all on you…

Is this abusive? It’s all I can think about now since he ditched out again…

lisa 2 February 2016, 9:56 pm

I feel like you just described me and my bf.. ex bf. This is exactly like the past 11 years of our relationship and it’s all my fault apparently. I push him to act that way he says because I need mental help. Jesus after this nightmare ya I probably do now.

Wen 4 January 2016, 1:43 pm

Mine started with my mother, I was always the cause of any mishap or situation, silly things even, bumped her head or cut her finger she would scream at me. I was a horrible child, selfish and no one would like me, even my friends wouldn’t like me??? no wonder I became comfortable being solitary then I didn’t have to worry about being liked. She constantly told me, my father did not love me but never why.

My uncle lived on our property and I used to have to take his lunch to him, when I tried to tell her I didn’t want to take him lunch any more and she got angry at me, I’m in tears trying to tell her he is hurting me, just carried on that she wouldn’t do it because, he made a pass at her so she thought he was a creep, and don’t I dare tell my father, because he will kill her and everything will be my fault and I still had to take him his lunch.

Her only concern was for herself, obviously she couldn’t do it because I had just confirmed for her he was a creep. Being only 6 nearly 7, I just didn’t understand, why am I the bad one and the cause of all this and even worse if I say anything, she had just told me he was bad and creepy again. So why am I in trouble and horrible and making her upset and scared and I will be the cause of her getting in trouble from my dad, it’s all about her and her possible suffering because of me.

This was a normal routine, I’m bad she’s good why do I always try to cause trouble for her and everyone. From the time she birthed me I was causing her grief and upsetting her other children by being born, because they hated me too, when I was brought home as a new born she went to see why I was crying and my half brother was hitting me with a belt and she always emphasized that he was using the buckle end to hit me, not the strap and when she asked him why he told her I hate this baby, take it back. She used to laugh every time she told me this story about how much he and my half sister hated me. So from the very start I was born to be hated abused and blamed.

These two stories are the mild ones. I won’t go into the rest, other than my mother set me up constantly, by 12 I was running away to get away from her constant screaming and her self pitying tears and accusations. I hated her, she would keep going till I would finally snap, scream abuse at her and take off, She never cared where I might be or what could happen.

I was tiny not even 5ft and about 40kg always the smallest kid in class. She then could tell everyone, how much she has suffered because of me. How I was disrespectful and horrible child and always had been, I didn’t care about anyone but myself, I was making them all suffer, my brothers were worried where I was, I was upsetting my Dad (only when he was aware I was missing) and he had to drive around looking for me instead of sleeping and that he has to work tired and I was causing embarrassment because they would have to call the police to report me missing.

Everyone thought I was a really horrible bitch. She didn’t treat my brothers like she did me and no one knew the shit she would say to me, all they ever saw was me finally unable to take anymore screaming at her as she sat there in tears pretending to be deeply hurt and claiming I just don’t understand why Wendy hates me so much.

I look back now and see, that the setup and timing was for when the rest of the family got home so they would see only my reaction, over time it didn’t take much to react to her anymore and I would just explode, and she didn’t have to wait for the rest to get home to get rid of me, they believed what they saw, all she had to do now was tell them sadly that I was gone again and I would be the death of her after all I put her through. She started to just call me the bitch after a while, my brothers would ask where I was and she would just say “The Bitch” has ran off probably on drugs, my brothers just accepted it and believed I was such a selfish nasty bitch to their loving mother.

She must have been glad that she didn’t have to pretend for half the day that she wanted to spend mother/daughter time with me and be nice and have me helping her in the kitchen and talk to me like I was her best friend and tell me that I was good..sucking me in everytime, I loved those moments, she was a good cook and I would taste things and tell her how good it was, better than the last restaurant we went to and I meant it, she’d be smiling and accepting my praise and what a wonderful daughter I was. I was the only one who really showed appreciation for her effort and talent in the kitchen. Can you imagine what those moments felt like to me, how special I felt…then it would suddenly change, telling me how horrible my father really is, and that I should know that he doesn’t care about me or love me.

Her mothering set me up to believe I was so flawed and horrible that I was of no value or worth loving even liking, I wasn’t even good enough for people to like because once they got to know me then they wouldn’t like me….I would hang with people for a while then start to feel uncomfortable and disappear, hang with another new group of friends because I was actually frightened if I hung around too much they would see the horrible creature I believed I was and I couldn’t stand looking at myself in the mirror, it was if I looked to much I could see in my eyes what was inside me looking back and it terrified me.

My life became a nightmare, I was a drug addict, and binge drinker before I had even hit sweet sixteen, when I was 14 maybe 15 I was caught up in an ugly situation were a young man was brutally murdered everyone ran, I stayed I knew he was dying from the sounds and what was exposed from the massive head wounds I tried to save him but didn’t know what to do, so I ran to the police station to get help, I know I wasn’t making much sense because it took a bit for them to understand what I was saying as I was not just traumatised but also experiencing my first panic attack.

My life continued to be an unending nightmare of destruction and death. My mother taught me well, all around me was the proof of what she told me I was, wherever I went it seemed anyone I liked would die, I actually believed that something evil followed me that it was my fault because this thing came with me that would destroy others.

I thought my mother was bad and I hated her. The man who came into my life when I was 15 who told me I was the most beautiful girl he’d ever met and he kept telling me about all these beautiful qualities I had, How spending time with me was amazing he’d never met anyone like me, I was intelligent, beautiful funny and even if I only wanted to be friends, (which is something I had said when I first met him) he would accept that because he enjoyed my company so much but that he hoped I would change my mind blah blah…hook line and sinker I swallowed every word. The next 2 yrs and what he did to me, has affected me even still now. (Not just mentally but physically, over the years at different times I needed surgery to repair the damage that was done). I was 17 by then, nearly 18 On the day I decided enough and as he always threatened to kill me if I left him. I didn’t care any more and told him I would rather die than spend one more minute with him. I was already bruised down one side of my body and had a burn on my face from the previous day, I just didn’t care, I felt nothing I didn’t hurt any more, Death would be a relief. Long story short, he tried to kill me I ended up hospitalised, black and blue from head to toe shatter bone, but I was alive.

Then my mother came swooping in and looks at me and tells me OMG I don’t know what you did to that poor boy, (he was actually a grown man of nearly 30) he never treated me like that he was such a nice boy. She just confirmed how he found me because I actually moved states to get away from him when he was in jail again so I thought I would be safe. Top it all off, her biggest concern, don’t tell your father about this, he will kill me. Because that dumb bitch would have been telling my father what a nasty bitch I am and that poor broken hearted boy who had been crying over the phone to her is just madly in love with me, I’m just so selfish. I am damaged and flawed but not because I was born that way, Only because of her lies and hatred for her own child because she was jealous that when I was born, my father adored me.

V 23 December 2015, 4:03 am

People do this in the workplace too – the woman in my office is a total mess, blaming, minimising and denying her responsibilities and that her inadequacies are everyone else’s fault for not taking care of her and doing her work for her – she is so ugly, I haven’t spoken to her for years on purpose – it’s not even worth wasting the breath it would take to speak to her.

michael 22 December 2015, 4:46 am

Very insightful article and on point. I am a man. I was, unfortunately, married for 30 years to a woman that demonstrated all the typical “Traits”. After my years of failed attempts begging her for counseling..her response always was “I’ve done nothing wrong..if there’s a problem then, it’s YOUR problem”.
Long miserable story short.. After her father had died, and she knew of a huge inheritance she was about to receive, suddenly she demanded a Divorce.. moved in with her “Boyfriend”, before the ink had even dried on the legal separation documents .. I found that she had been having an affair the last year we were together even though, she would lie and say he was just a “good friend”. They lived together for three years and, are now married.
Of course, to anyone that would or will listen.. to her I am the reason the marriage failed and she cheated.. I’ve lost friends, family members and, according to her, I’m the “world’s worst father and then husband”…
I wished I knew way back then, what I know now….

Talya 23 November 2015, 2:26 am

This article makes me become very teary eyed. I am going through this right now with my ex who happens to be my child’s father. I called the police on him last year for attacking me so badly. That day was the first day that I had stood up for myself. Now he’s constantly blaming me for the fact that he has a felony and that he might get either probation or prison time. It is not my fault that he’s going through that. He’s put me through hell and back and I am so tired of being blamed for everything and for him not taking responsibility for his actions. He never takes responsibility. No one acknowledges my feelings about this either especially his family.

Jennifer 8 November 2015, 5:46 am

I’m going through the same thing. Mine is a drug addict and I get the blame for it.

Cent 27 October 2015, 4:21 pm

I used to be in an abusive relationship with a man almost twice my age. After dating other no good men I decided to take myself off the dating market for good. I decided to just have a male friend only without any love relationship or attachment. I share the same property that he lives on but we both live in different homes side by side. He is still too close for comfort. I took myself off the dating market years ago I just wanted a male friend. I did not want a boyfriend or a husband again after my past abusive relationships.

Well my male friend acts the same way as if he was married to me. Whenever he starts the argument he accuses me of starting the argument every time. He always says that I never let things go and that I’m throwing things up in his face. He’s the one that starts the argument, can go on and on about things. He bitches moans and complains and nit-picks about everything. I believe he’s narcissistic. He twists things around and accuses me of doing so. He complains each and every day about everything. When I bring this to his attention, then he turns the tables around and accuses me of everything that he’s guilty of.

I am NOT in an intimate relationship with this man. He is just a friend and he still acts like a typical man. A damn fool. Thank heavens I don’t live in the same household he lives in. The only reason why I put up with it for so long is because I could go next door to my place and get away from him for a while until he’s in a better mood. He has become disabled over the years and he expects me to be obligated to him. He doesn’t want me to have a boyfriend. He has threatened not to be intimate sexually nor is he my boyfriend or husband, but somehow he still manages to try and boss me around. He also accuses me of always starting the argument.

Lisa 14 October 2015, 8:01 am

The crazy thing is… I’m reading this and keep having the thought that my spouse would read this and say that he is the victim and that I am the abuser! It is unbelievable how masterful he is at turning it around on me… regardless of the facts of his addictions, lies, anger, irresponsibility. And when I do the work in counseling of looking at my own self he just grabs a hold of even that and uses it to confirm his ideas that even his own behavior/consequences are surely my fault. I am digging deep for the peace and serenity to stay healthy amidst the craziness!

Sara G 22 September 2015, 5:57 am

I have already gotten out. I am reading this now with the benefit of hindsight and I am getting increasingly furious reading this.
Imagine being blamed and all of your feelings minimized and ignored… all the time. It makes me so mad! “If you weren’t such a bitch, I wouldn’t have to lie all time!”
If any of these things in the article apply to you, get out now! I, for one, have no desire to get into another relationship, like ever….

Sara G 22 September 2015, 6:03 am

I actually believed his lying, ignoring me, meth addiction, everything as my fault!

Anytime I would call him outright on a lie that he was caught red-handed at, he would shift the blame to me, “Gosh, Sara. You’re always so angry” “You’re the one who is abusive”

What a crock of crap!

I got out the night he full on punched me in the face. I got a black eye and a bloody nose. The first one ever, mind you. I knew that very night I was done putting up with his crap. I was able to physically remove him from my life but I kept believing his homelessness was my fault! I get text messages (he violates the restraining order) from him about how terrible his life is. “Please let me come home, I’ve suffered enough” Like I’m the one who put the meth pipe in his mouth. Like I’m the one who “did” this to him. It’s always when he needed something he would give me a halfassed apology. “Sorry but… see what you did?”

I can go on for days about this.

Jenna 16 September 2015, 2:47 am

Lots of things in this post describe my situation. The hard part is, when things are good with us they’re really good. I don’t want to lose that. What your post doesn’t mention is what our options are. What steps can we take to fix this?

Rathernotsay 16 August 2015, 1:51 pm

Ive been with a man for over 4 years. He is 10 years older than me. I have a 5 year old and we have a 2 year old. I always feel like im doing sonething wrong, nothing is ever right. Everything has changed so much. Maybe it’s his true colors. I feel crazy, he won’t listen to what I have to say, for instance he’ll say, if I want to here your cocksuckers I would tell you. Go downstairs. I’ve atempted to leave twice. He cries and begs me not to go. I do have a big heart and I hate it. I just want to have a family and be appreciated. I’m only 24 and I do everything a middleage housewife (no offence) does. I cook I clean I pack lunches I take care of my boys rub his nastyass feet. Laundry dishes every day! And he doesn’t help at all any more. How do I go. I have zero family! And my friends are in messes of their own. I lost my job I think he’s on dating sites I’m suposed to start school in Sept. What do I do?

Clare Murphy PhD 20 August 2015, 7:16 pm

You are young, it is NOW that you must dig deep for the courage that IS inside you and get out of there. It WILL get worse. It always does. You will find the life you want – trust yourself. You deserve freedom to be you. Don’t allow your fears to get in your way of moving towards a life that you deserve. – Clare

Margaret Anne 31 July 2015, 9:19 pm

I understand the dynamics of the controlling behaviors described here, and the results. I am fresh out of a 28 year marriage where my former spouse was a classic denial, minimize, and blame person. And yes, I feel I am the chipped away, low self-respect version of my original self. My question is : help me understand behaviors and actions to HEAL, to affirm and restore myself as a worthy person, and secondarily, how to alleviate gravitating towards this behavior type in future relationships.

cassie 23 June 2015, 1:39 am

I thought I was going mad. Finally said I’d had enough after being blamed for being miserable and moody when I wasn’t. I get comments like why can you just be happy like me. Things are always my fault, my fault he has grey hair coming through, I stress him out. Get mad at me for asking questions eg. Why can’t the baby sit that side because he said he’s driving and that was supposed to be that. You always have to question/rival every thing… asking him questions I’ll be told I’m putting him under pressure. Can’t ask anything. Glad it is over. It’s not our fault ladies belive that inner voice. Stay strong.x

Erika 14 May 2015, 12:19 pm

I think my husband has this problem. Often when I express a problem I have with him, he tells me I am a negative person, always bringing him down, complaining, seeing things that aren’t there, misunderstanding him. He usually will try to argue that I am the one who causes problems, attacks him constantly, and love drama. I tell him often that I am not trying to attack him, I’m trying to let him know how I feel. He ignores what I say, tries to redirect the conversation by asking very trapping, beside the point questions, and tries to deflect any wrongdoing. He’ll tell me I need to learn how to communicate, though no matter how I try he doesn’t acknowledge that he had any part in hurting my feelings. He is from a foreign country and it makes me wonder if men in general and him in particular are not taught listening skills. I sometimes wonder if I should just expect men to be like this, or if this is actually abuse. Our relationship is otherwise good, but he lacks patience/empathy when I try to talk about emotions or pain, along with the blaming and minimizing behavior. I am not sure it will ever get better or if I should just get used to it, sometimes I get a little hopeful, but he is so hard headed and argumentative I have doubts.

cassie 23 June 2015, 1:44 am

Yea I get the same I’m negative and miserable, I bring him down. I do things on pourpose apparently. I am too tired for this blame game and left. I hope your situation gets better. Monitor it. I did…how often, why, and was it really your fault? If things are not different within the time you choose do something about it. Stay strong.x

Hayley 11 April 2015, 4:03 pm

What an interesting and insightful post. I am the victim of a ‘blamer’. He constantly says that everything wrong in our relationship is my fault, and that I need to admit to it so things can get better. I give in and tell him that, but things keep circling around again. He says that there is no passion and takes spiteful stabs at me, and again everything is all my fault. I hang on every word he says, and when he continually blames me every time he gets mad it’s like a thousand razors dragging across my heart. And I’m beginning to believe him. Maybe everything is my fault. Maybe…

Debbie 21 February 2015, 6:50 am

I am also told that I go on and on and on. My partner tells me I am the love of his life and he will do anything for me. After three years of him drinking heavily and smoking weed and lying about both we broke up for about the fourth time. He was unmotivated negative and nasty. I have supported him financially for four years. In the last two months he has earnt good money and today he goes and tries to buy a rolex on credit. Last night he called me a fucking whore and ‘I will beat you so badly and you will not see it coming’. This is because we rowed because he was drinking, taking drugs and then driving over an hour home. Tonight he called me a drama queen when he wondered why I don’t want to talk to him.
I realise now I am suffering abuse. He never takes responsibility for his behaviour and thinks taking drugs and then driving is ok. He drink drives too. He makes promises (to not take drugs) and breaks them time and time again. I now work for a Domestic Abuse charity and my eyes have been firmly opened to his behaviour.

Phil 31 January 2015, 3:34 pm

Why is this just about men abusing women, this type of abuse goes both ways.

Clare Murphy PhD 1 February 2015, 9:43 am

Hello Phil, I have written elsewhere throughout my website that I am writing about, and from, the perspectives of my Masters research, my PhD research, and related experiences in my consulting work. My research is in-depth and this website does not write about generalisations nor sweeping stereotypes.

I know that men living with female partners experience physical, sexual and psychological abuse, as do men and women living with same-sex partners. In due course I will write from these other perspectives.

That means I am currently discussing two main issues:
1. Heterosexual men who perpetrate emotional abuse and control against their female partners, and
2. Heterosexual women who have survived these same behaviours.

It takes time to research and write about every possible angle of abuse.

Troy 31 January 2016, 2:35 pm

Clare, could you please eleborate about the types of causes/disorders for people who engage in the listed dysfunctional behaviour. My father has NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) and Bi-Polar and he behaves exactly as described in your article, however my Mother is not a narcissist but she is even more controlling, abusive, blame shifting, minimizing, lying and denying and deceptive than my father. Everything about my mother fits the exact behaviour you’ve listed. And she is continuing to get even more destructive and worse.

Everytime she lashes out and hurts me and causes my property damage she claims to have no memory of the incidence. It appears her momentary amnesia during her highly emotional state is genuine as opposed to lying about it. She regulary supresses memory of every time my father abuses me and her. It seems like a coping mechanism for her to continue living with such an abusive, controlling husband (my dad). Both my parents take all their frustrations out on me. They blame me for everything even for their own mistakes. They make me the scapegoat. My mum always bears false witness to my dad’s lies and if she doesn’t, my dad goes off on a verbal assault at her. But lately my Mom has become the enabler. She triggers his rage and dysfunctional behaviour against me by blaming, yelling and instigating arguments in his presence and then he jumps right in. They both fuel each other’s lies. What type of condition/disorder would cause my Mom to develop such deranged, crazy, irrational behaviour and lapses in memory?

Clare Murphy PhD 31 January 2016, 3:50 pm

Hi Troy, Your conclusion that your mother’s behaviours may be a result of your father’s abuse is very plausible. Even though some situations like yours might appear to be mutual abuse, it is often the case that the man is the primary perpetrator and the woman’s abusive behaviours are often a form of coping with the abuse or defending themselves. Women victims of domestic violence try on various ways to manage their partner’s controlling and abusive behaviours. There does not have to be a diagnosed “disorder” of the perpetrator or victim. Instead, men’s use of violence and control is often a result of gender socialisation. You are asking a question that leads to a complex answer. I can really only give a generic response here because I would need to ask you several questions to clarify the exact situation. If you want to talk your situation through I would be glad to help you make sense of this and develop some strategies to handle it. https://speakoutloud.net/counselling

linda 16 January 2015, 9:14 am

I left a person who acted like this. I can’t call him a man as real men don’t mistreat, act controlling, self-centered, blaming, excuses, abusive, lies, in denial as he did. Couldn’t see his part, was the victim according to him if I brought up issues. He’d get angry, verbally abusive. I’d ask him to go to another room or outside to think, be better … He refused, then he’d leave, drive drunk sometimes then blamed me later!!! Lies from the start, very narcissistic yet codependent. Revenge, punishment, verbal abuse was constant. I finally had enough, moved on, yet he still calls, texts, tries to use me as his negative emotional dump. Claims he still loves me. I set boundaries, don’t see him. Hope he gets it! He is so in narcissistic denial. I can only pray he will discover his issues as I work through mine and leaves me alone!

constance 7 May 2015, 2:17 am

Your person sounds similiar to my ex person. He lied constantly, blamed me for everything. Always had good intentions but never followed through. I could not take a shower without him. Stayed with him for two months and boy did his true colors shine through. He hit me on a regular basis and then apologized and claimed it was because of my mouth that I got it. It’s been a month and a half since I left him after he broke my wrist. As of two days ago he has finally stopped texting me. He would text me as if nothing has happened and he would text all day every day. Like you, I am free, but am constantly dealing with the aftermath. I have to keep my guard up but it’s time for me to get back to me. It’s time for you to get back to you. Stay strong.

Sarah 22 November 2014, 8:45 am

My partner has just walked out of our relationship and is now being incredibly nasty. He has always been controlling. Abusive. Selfish. I gave everything and he gave nothing back. After a while and after many broken promises I became resentful and arguments followed. But he always puts the blame on me. Even now he tells me I was the woman of his dreams, the love of his life etc. But when I challenge that, his actions say different. He states he would behave differently if I just did this, or didn’t do that… I told him so many times “I’m not a dog, I don’t have to earn treats”… .

Here are some texts just from today: “I was prepared to take the actions needed to get us back together, I told you that and I meant it. All I asked for was for you to stop making stupid comments and you couldn’t even keep your mouth shut for long enough to let that happen. You only have yourself to blame. I wasn’t asking for much but even that was too much for you”… “I left you because of your shitty attitude and when I threw you a life line and tried to work things out between us your attitude took over once again”.

Both those texts are centred around one question I asked recently. A question I even gave a perfectly acceptable reason for asking. It’s tiring, it’s hurtful when someone keeps trying to justify their own terrible behaviour with excuses, by blaming you. It’s tiring when people try to make you feel you don’t deserve better. It’s hard to believe love ever came into it. Control yes, but love…Really?

constance 7 May 2015, 2:22 am

All that sounds too familiar. Does he also say “Nobody will ever love you the way I do?” and “I love you to death”. My ex constantly told me it was my ATTITUDE that was the problem and my big mouth! I am done with him, and reading everyone’s experiences that are so familiar, makes me stronger. It’s time to take control of my life. I almost let him control me. Take care and don’t ever allow someone to shift blame on you. 50 percent is him and 50 percent is you. Otherwise it’s just not fair.

Jesse 19 July 2013, 4:32 pm

My husband dismissed my feelings, ideas and opinions so often that I took to backing myself up with credible info from the internet and other sources. I couldn’t even say this is what I think, feel or believe as that wasn’t good enough. So, I tried to find other people who thought, felt or believed the same thing in order to try and prove that I wasn’t crazy or stupid. Of course, having info to back me up didn’t work either. It was either too much information, given to him at the wrong time, with the wrong attitude (too condescending, too plaintive, too nonchalant [so he didn’t realize it was important], I didn’t remind him to read it, I reminded him too often to read it, I wouldn’t shut up about it [“you never let things go”, “you go ON and ON…”], he was busy, he was tired, etc.). There was NO way to approach him that worked. I was always so puzzled and didn’t understand why everything I tried to say or do was automatically rejected. Now, I do see his behavior for what it was–abuse.

Diana 29 July 2013, 6:31 am

My spouse does this exact same thing. I am told I go on and on and obsess over things and I should just shut up and live my life like him. I am told I care too much, that I think too much and I am wrong. He is always right. When I try to say to him, he is emotionally unavailable, he says I am using a “catch phrase” and I am being ridiculous. I am left alone every time I talk about how I see anything he doesn’t want to admit is happening or deal with. I am alone so much, I think I should leave and just live alone for once and for all.