What I loved about my emotionally abusive partner

by Annie Kaszina on June 24, 2014

Like emotional abusers the world over my emotionally abusive ex was NOT a nice man. As time has moved on, I’ve put more distance between him and me, and healed progressively. As I’ve healed, there has been a constant effort on my part to make as much sense as I possibly could out of the whole experience, and how you recover from emotional abuse. The last few months have given me another few – long forgotten – pieces of the puzzle.

doghousesmallWhen I first met my emotionally abusive partner I was already in the dog-house as regards my family. It was that kind of family: someone always had to be in the dog-house. I’d landed up there, good and proper, for the first time ever just when I met my Mr Nasty. That happened purely by chance – I hadn’t been consigned to the dog-house because of him – but the conjunction of those two events soon came to define my life.

Being parked in the doghouse and ostracized left me feeling hurt, alone, horribly unimportant, and pretty desperate. The family dog-house was no pleasant place. I was young, hungry for love, and very vulnerable. I was, also, bright, attractive enough, and quite a trusting, idealistic person.

You can probably see why someone like I was – and you likely were, too – could be attractive to an emotional abuser.

Until recently, when the door to the family dog-house opened once more for me, I’d quite forgotten what attracted me to him.

You see, it wasn’t enough that he had a pulse and he was interested in me.  It was a good time in my life, inasmuch as there were a few other guys around who were also interested in me. But Mr N. held a particular appeal for me that the others did not.

Sadly, that appeal had more to do with how he projected himself in the world than how he was with me.

It’s a long time ago now, so I’m not entirely sure of the order in which different aspects of his ‘charm’ hit me, but here they are:

  • He appeared to be his own person. On the surface, at least, he had done his own separating off from his family – and survived.
  • He wasn’t troubled at all by my situation. (Why would he have been? His ideal scenario was to marry an orphan: I came close to fitting the bill.)
  • He was very assertive. He wouldn’t take any cr*p from anyone. He had no difficulty in… shall we say, putting an alternative point of view frankly and robustly to my entire family.  (I’d been trained, from birth, to take c*p from everybody.)
  • He knew his own mind. (As a classic emotional abuse trainee, the only thing I knew about my own mind was that I didn’t know it at all.)
  • He wasn’t easily intimidated. In fact, he wasn’t ever intimidated. I, on the other hand, was pitifully easily intimidated. He could quite easily out-bully my father. (That was something I’d never seen before, and have not seen since. Daddy really could bully for Britain.)
  • He was splendidly judgemental: they told him I was mad, bad, and the worst daughter on the planet. He told me, with complete conviction, that they had lost contact with reality and were living some kind of collective folly! I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful it felt to be with someone who endorsed my sanity and my decency. (At the start, anyway.)

To put it another way, it felt like I was besieged by hostile forces out to destroy me, and he was the cavalry who came along and saved me.

manonwhitehorse

That made for a powerful attraction. I had fantasies of galloping along, perched side-saddle on his white horse, as he cut swathes through the hostile hordes…

Do you get the picture?

For a few weeks, he really was my Knight in Shining Armour – I was an impressionable kid, remember? I was studying hard for my Miss Terminally Naïve Badge. I thought that when he finally swept me back into his castle, and drew up the drawbridge he’d settle cheerfully for a life of cosy domesticity.

What actually happened was that he spent his life prowling the castle and the ramparts looking for a fight. He thrived on fights. He LOATHED serenity.

What I’d seen – and fondly imagined – to be the best of him was actually the worst of him. When he didn’t have a crusade to gallop off on, he’d create one at home… and then punish his own personal Infidel – as he saw me…

All emotional abusers thrive on conflict and drama. That’s where they get their pay-offs. We find it in our hearts to love their dubious ‘strengths’ when we feel too vulnerable to protect our own emotional well-being, when we don’t really know how to love wisely or be loved well.

The message from my family of origin was this: “Don’t ever imagine that you could ever do enough, be enough or have enough all by yourself. You can’t. You’re not good enough. Without us, you never will be.” Mr Nasty, an accomplished cage-rattler who got a fair bit of what he wanted by going round with all guns blazing looked like the best possible alternative… to me – at the time.

Well, I sure got that wrong.  Clearly, my family hadn’t had that conversation with me about the frying pan and the fire.

And life moves on.

I’m here to tell you that no matter who you’ve loved, or what you’ve been through you can still have a life worth living.  All it takes is for you to honor your own loving heart, acknowledge your own strengths, and truly believe in your own goodness.

You can do it.

I know you can.

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