The First Fissure In An Abusive Relationship

by Annie Kaszina on July 31, 2012

When did your relationship become overtly emotionally abusive, and damaging?

Where did it all start to go wrong?

“Wrong”, so to speak.  You’d got past the first hurdle.  You’d overlooked the ringing of the warning bells, and the waving of the red flags inside your own head, when first you met him.  You’d believed him when he told you he was Mr Wonderful.  Most likely, Mr Wonderful had held out the carrot of Together Forever for you to take a bite of it.  (And you’d overlooked the fact that said carrot still had great lumps of dirt attached.)

So, you’d overlooked the fact that he couldn’t even be bothered to clean up the carrot he was dangling in front of you… because everything had been as great as it was ever going to be…

For a while….

Probably not such a long while.

But it all fitted the fairy story, sort of…

And then came the first fissure, the first major upheaval in the relationship.

Now, there are a few ways that first fissure comes about in an emotionally abusive relationship.  Maybe he betrayed your trust.  Maybe he threw a hissy fit, or ‘withdrew into his cave’ [i.e. went into a massive sulk].  Maybe he forced you to choose between him, and someone – or something – that really mattered to you, secure in the knowledge that he was bound to win.  Or maybe he levelled a wildly improbable accusation against you, such as: “You’re having an affair with your homosexual friend”.

Perhaps he managed a cocktail of some – or all – of the above.  There is a fair degree of flexibility in the way that emotional abusers engineer that first fissure.  But the purpose is always the same.  They need to be sure that the chain of “Love” they’ve fashioned for you is fit for purpose.  So, they give a first good, hard yank on it, to check that it will hold you fast.

It does, of course.

And some really interesting things happen.

That first good, hard pull on the chain really troubles you.  It upsets you so deeply because it forces you to see that Mr Wonderful doesn’t measure up to his job description – and your fantasy.

So, what happens?

  • You get very upset
  • You get very frightened for the future of your relationship
  • You appeal to his Better Nature
  • He apologises… or not.
  • You go to great lengths to persuade him to see your point of view.
  • The post-mortem reveals that something you said or did – or didn’t say or do – triggered What Happened
  • Your life together resumes nothing important is learned.  His behavior doesn’t change, as a result.  Nor does yours.  Although you start to build a small mountain of unresolved emotional trauma.
  • He ‘rinses and repeats’ the whole process, at regular intervals.  Although it will be a long time before you realize that.

The hamster wheel of your emotionally abusive relationship is now working perfectly.

From this point on, your life together will be a downhill spiral – admittedly with occasional blips, and better moments, when you make it clear to him that he has to up his game… for a while.

Your emotionally abusive partner does what he has to do to keep the relationship limping along.  You do everything you possibly can, single-handedly, to make that relationship much better than it’s ever going to be.  Because you’re so busy blaming yourself you probably don’t even realize it is an emotionally abusive relationship.

Best of all, from his point of view, the fundamental misunderstanding remains intact.  You don’t understand his agenda.  An emotionally abusive man understands yours, perfectly. 

From his point of view, the first fissure has proved to be a very successful experiment.  From yours, it’s been a very important learning curve. The only problem is, you learn the wrong thing.  You learn how hard you have to work to placate Mr Wonderful.

We’ll look at what else you could have learned next week.

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