How Did Your Partner Choose You?

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by Annie Kaszina on October 3, 2016

How did your partner choose you?

How did your partner identify you as a push-over on Day 1?  How could he know, right from the get-go, that you were worth the trouble of pursuing – inasmuch as he ever did pursue you?  What was it that attracted him to you? Did you reveal too much, too soon, to your ex?

We might like to think that our emotionally abusive partner was attracted by our sparkling personality, our sweet nature, our looks, and what an all-round lovely person we were.  But the reality is different. That’s not how it works.  There may be every reason to suppose that we were, and are, all of these things – after all, why the hell should we not be?

Stil,l an abuser sees something very different.  He sees a target, someone who might like to believe in herself but she does not.  Instead, she needs someone to validate this view of herself so that she can believe it.

An emotional abuser flags up a lack of self-belief as a clear Pushover message. Even an abuser in Temporary-Prince-Charming mode will pick up on the message and start to turn it to his advantage.

Not everyone believes in the power of love

Most of us like to think that the World works the way that we do. We believe in The Power of Love, and we expect our partners to do the same.

Unfortunately, partners from Planet Zog simply do not work the same way that we do. Nor will they go out of their way to tell you that they are aliens. It’s one of those caveat emptor situations – let the buyer beware.

Anyone who has half a brain and is over the age of 17, probably would not buy a second hand car blind. Chances are, you are “buying” a second hand man, who already has some relationship mileage on the clock. The same principle applies to both scenarios.

Is that calculating? Hardly. It is actually called “protecting your own best interest”. (Admittedly, that is not something emotionally abused women show any talent for.)

Mr Second Hand Man, on the other hand, has carefully evaluated the messages you send out, so as to calculate exactly what you are worth to him. Let’s look at how he does it.

He starts the ball rolling, as it were, by setting out a number of small hoops for a prospective “partner” to jump through. The first sign she gives is when she – dutifully – prepares to start jumping – when a “Say WHAT!!!” would be a better response.

The “hoops” an emotional abuser gets you to jump through

Hoop #1 The early small act of compliance.

He pressures you  into doing something you don’t really want to do, to please, or appease him. That pressure may be subtle, but it is still pressure.  He may persuade you to order something you don’t like in a restaurant, do something that doesn’t sit well with you, or else change a plan purely to suit him.  The actual incident may appear insignificant.  But don’t be fooled. For an abuser it provides an important learning: he pushed you, and you caved in. That’s a big box ticked for them.

Hoop #2 Overstepping boundaries.

He swiftly establishes himself as the Ultimate Authority in your world.  It took my future wasband precisely no time to start pontificating.  He had barely told me his surname before he began pointing out what was wrong with various people and scenarios in my life.

My responsibility lay in my compliance.  Despite disagreeing with a lot of what he said, I sat there, and listened – instead of saying: “Thank you for talking at me.  But no thanks.”

From an emotional abuser’s point of view, no reply is a GOOD message.

Hoop #3 The Trial Intimidation Technique (T.I.T)

Most abusers run the T.I.T reasonably subtly (first time round, at least). They may give you a small shopping list of Things That Meet With Their Displeasure. They may give you a little foretaste of an angry outburst and see what you do with it.  They may run a practice sulk.  They may take you through a threat, or jealousy, scenario.  The T.I.T is all about testing your reaction.  Do you frighten easily enough to make you worth their time and trouble?

Hoop #4 Unsolicited (and inappropriate) intimacy.

They will come out with one of those conversational lines that should have you heading for the hills, like: “This is the music I want for the first dance, at my wedding.” (A dubious, and moronic, statement if ever there was one, on several counts.) As a general principle, the more men appear to offer on Day 1 or 2, the less they really intend to put on the table.

And how about this to a woman of middle years: “I’m not sure sex is important in a relationship as you get older.  What do you think?”

Hoop #5 Intrusive questions

He asks intrusive questions that presume more confidentiality than your fledgling connection merits.  The truth is this is probably the ONLY time in the relationship when he will bother to listen carefully to you, but he’s on a mission to gather compromising information. That information will be used against you – most likely, one day soon.  Beware the invitation to overshare.

Hoop #6 His “War Wounds”.

He will tell you his Hard Life Story to gauge your response.  He has been hurt before.  He expects you to understand, and feel sorry for him.  Above all, he expects you to enter into a little pact – whether spoken or unspoken – whereby you would

  1. NEVER Do That To Him.
  2. Never be so selfish as to remind him that you have been hurt, too, and your feelings also matter.

If you need to prove what a nice, caring, empathetic person you are, you give him a clear indication of how needy of his good opinion you are – and how much power he can expect to have over you.
Is that the full catalog of the messages that work like catnip to attract emotionally abusive partners to you?

Not at all.  But it is enough to be going on with for one week. If this article resonates with you, or you think it might resonate with someone you know, please share on social media.

(Note: This article has been revised and updated since its original publication.)


{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

Cindy Eagan June 19, 2012 at 7:09 am

Wow- that is exactly the way it works- you are SO helpful! I have been played so many times, and so well, that it’s just stunning…. the player has become an addiction. I’m trying SO hard to break free, and you are a great comfort. You give me hope… thank you so much, Annie.


Chana Driver June 19, 2012 at 7:37 am

Reading this info gave me chills. I am continuing to educate myself on this! Thank you for your info!


ashley June 19, 2012 at 8:31 am

i sit here absolutely pissed, angry, and embarrassed that this is what exactly happened to me. this article is a harsh and needed to know reality for a lot of us who are/did deal with this. Im mad at myself that i let this happen to me but staying with him. everyday i think of divorce.


Annie June 21, 2012 at 10:47 am

Ashley, don’t be mad at yourself. You did the best you could do, at the time. And you’ve already suffered enough. Don’t make yourself feel worse than you already do. What matters now is healing the hurt and moving on. That’s where you need to focus your attention.

Warm wishes,



Leona June 19, 2012 at 8:56 am

Hi Annie,
This was so insightful and strangely chilling but in a good way. Knowledge is power and the work you do to teach us to be mindful is invaluable!
Thank you!


Mary June 19, 2012 at 10:06 am

Spot on!


Yvonne June 19, 2012 at 10:34 am

I like how Leona said it…this article is insightful and strangely chilling. I needed to take a minute to think back on that first date. I did all the talking, he asked alot of questions about me, and even asked if I would consider marrying, I forgot about that.
Oh, and one more thing I would like to add…I recall how he complimented me (one time before we got married) on how quickly I seemed to “bounce back” after a disagreement….I didnt hang on to things for days like his previous girlfriend.


Claire Garrard June 19, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Thank you.


carolyn June 19, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Hi Annie,
I also agree with Leona.
I am learning so very much from you and what you have unfortunately gone through.I the same as Yvonne, have thought back to the very first date, I should of made it the last date. Foolishly I didnt. I take full responsibility that i knew when i should of left, but i didnt. I tried leaving many times, (he would not give me my car, which had been broken in his mechanical business for 16 months) i ended up staying for 19 months.Talking to my chiropractor the other day, who said that my body was riddled with stress, he said that my ex (of 5 weeks) was narcissistic, reading about narcissism, he is so right, my ex is exactly that.
My life is so much better with him not in it. I am starting to feel and remember the beautiful, loving me!
You are helping so many Annie. Thankyou!


Lisa June 19, 2012 at 2:46 pm

OMG! That’s the entire story of our courtship. It’s as if you stood by and recorded everything. But Leona said it right…’Knowledge is power’. Thanks, Annie.


Sheryl June 20, 2012 at 12:57 am

I love reading all your comments because it is helping me get my life back. I left my abusive partner 3 months ago…..planned for 3 years, then told him to get out, whereupon he decided he had made the choice to leave so that he didn’t have to deal with his problem. I had 20 years of this Jeckyl and Hyde personality. One minute he would understand then the next minute he’d found a way to relinquish responsibility, and blame me. He’d have a melt down.
Today when I come home, despite worrying about how to keep the house, which I want to do, I look forward to it! I don’t miss him. I miss the idea of a partner, but I know I will find someone who has a positive connection with me now and mutual respect. I’ve done the hard times, and now that I’m out of them, times are tough but I am sooooo much happier!


Heather June 20, 2012 at 2:09 am

Sadly I see so much of myself there but on the validating side, I can see so much of how he sucked his current ‘victim’ in to their relationship as well…. It helps to be educated about the strategies that are likely to be used and be able to see them for what they are, not what they are (falsely) presented to be at the time.


Annie June 21, 2012 at 10:56 am

Yes, Heather, it does help to see them clearly for what they are. It helps to be able to exercise your judgement effectively, rather than trust what they tell you. It helps to remember than anyone could be potentially abusive, and to bear that belief in mind until you can say to yourself, with confidence that everything you know about them points to them being a very different kind of person. But, above all, it helps to know yourself, and change yourself in such a way that an abuser will give you a wide berth in future.


Paula June 20, 2012 at 8:39 am

Hi, Annie, I am writing on the day I have to hand the divorce papers to my husband, while being in the same house, having found the strength to get this far, it has felt like climbing a mountain with no rope and wrong shoes, strange as it is I do not fear him physically , mentally it is a whole different thing, going through every emotion with the realisation of how controlled I was, subtle as it was but this last year has been a full assault of total control, because I have fought back, the top is so close and I have told myself I am strong and it is reachable, reading all messages of what you and others are or have faced has helped me through thank you and will continue to help me grow , thank you


Annie June 21, 2012 at 10:52 am

Yes, Paula, every one of us who has been through a similar experience is supporting you, and wishing you well. This is a very hard time for you, now. Chances are, your husband will really up his game – but that’s just more confirmation that handing him divorce papers is the right thing to do. Be strong. Enlist all the sincere, constructive support you possibly can. And know that you will get there.

Warm wishes,



JR June 20, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Very timely piece of writing for me all of the above refers to my ex “partner”, except that he didnt really bother to gather info about myself as he was just tooooo self centred.. when I asked him what was my best quality it was – that I listened, was “caring and sharing” and had been through difficult times like him! ( really I was not a real human partner, more like a blow up doll).
So sad really that I threw my life away to him for 8 years..still wondering why??!!


S June 24, 2012 at 9:12 am

What an eye opener!! Those of us who are good, compassionate and nice girls are sitting ducks! TOTALLY had 29 years of my life screwed up..and he continues to try these tactics..but now I know exactly what he is doing..and the pouts, anger, manipulation of the kids..does NOT deter me from seeing his particular brand of crap. See trying to figure out how to leave as he manipulates the kids..How on earth do I get out of here??? Thoughts?? $$ will also be a problem and that scares me..not for me but for the kids who wil lose sports and music activities they truly love.


Sandhya June 26, 2012 at 3:40 am

Married for the lat 33years .teach me how to survive in this marriage ,deal with him instead of leaving him . In India t 58 years without money n no job how to survive so how to stay with hin n be strong tell me


Annette Sweetwater July 1, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Secretly start putting money away. Made a plan. Then run. It is terrifying but worth it… 30 years for me. The peace on the other side is wonderful. I left everything except my children and I am so thankful that I am free. There is nothing worth staying for – NOTHING. Make a good plan and run Sandhya. Be strong.


Annette Sweetwater July 1, 2012 at 7:58 pm

I can relate to all of this and it makes me feel far too sad. I don’t know how healthy this is for me to read these things. I want to heal and feel whole again. I want to be loved by a non-abusive loving man. Yet, the healing process is going to take far too long I’m afraid. This is too sad for me as it is too close to home and I feel I wasted so many years and years of my life. This is excellent stuff Annie but it is scary also. Scary to be confronted with the reality. I have a restraining order against my ex as he cannot understand how I could dare “do this to him and shame him by divorcing him.” I know your advice is “spot on” but it is tough.


Gabby September 3, 2012 at 12:41 pm

I come from a very dysfunctional home.  I hoot married at the age of 16 to a 32 year-old man in order to escape my circumstances.  My husband ended up being a sex addict. I hated him and was repulsed by him, but I stayed 7 years with him. I ended up with a child from him.  I divorced him, but he never paid child support.  During that time, I “dated” another man who did not want to marry me, but I needed his financial help, so I stayed 7 years.  I felt like a prostitute.  Then, my new husband came along.  I thought I would live happily ever after.  Three years later, I found out he was cheating on me.  My world collapsed.  For 7 years I was a shell of a woman:  angry, depressed, hopeless, and bitter.   I have two children with him and one from marriage #1.  I’m still with this beast because I don’t have enough education to earn a living.  I also don’t want to disrupt my children’s lives.  I know it’s not the best situation for my children because they know that their parents don’t like each other much, but I think it’s better than going through a divorce, struggle making ends meet, and wonder what they are doing during visitations with their father.  I’d rather stay here and keep a close eye on my kids.  I’m trying to teach them to be good people the best way I can.  It’s a very difficult situation to be in.  My recommendation for any woman starting life:  Finish your education and be solid in your career before even thinking about marriage.  Then, be very selective in choosing a man to marry and have kids with. Do not let him fool you.  Do a careful research on your potential husband. Who you marry is the most important decision of your life because what he does will affect you and he will have rights over YOUR children.   Do not allow yourself to be led by emotions, but rather, by your intellect. 


Kalinda February 18, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Thank you for the blog. How I wish you had been around 20 years ago.


Laurie October 4, 2016 at 7:02 am

I’m glad this post came in my mail today. It made me remember how my X did these things to me in the very beginning. I never saw it coming at the time. Too bad good hearted, innocently loving women were never taught that there are these kinds of people in the world whose motives are NOT love or integrity, but instead lies and manipulations.

Spot on article!


Annie Kaszina October 11, 2016 at 4:24 am

Thank you, Laurie.

It’s sad, isn’t it, that we need to watch out for abusers – as well as all the other possible hazards around. But it certainly would save a lot of time and trouble if we saw them coming. Who knows, they might even take something helpful from the experience.

Very best to you,



Gracie October 21, 2016 at 7:17 pm

Thank you Annie, and to everyone who shared their stories here. This is a lot of help to me & to everyone who is experiencing &/or has experienced being in an abusive relationship. It is a marvel how similar all our experiences are. My ex- abuser told me how he hated his ex-wife for not making him the beneficiary on her life insurance. NEVER do that to him. Say what?!? Big red flag. It’s been 10 months of no contact, was not easy but best decision I have ever made by far. Thanks to online blogs like this. I have my own personal journal, too. Keep the faith.


Jenni October 22, 2016 at 7:17 am

This is my vision for my future to all of my past abusers !!! It is time for me to face up to the simple, ugly truth: it was never going to turn
out better !!! You chose me because you sensed, right from the
start, that you could feed your self-esteem and hunger for power, by
belittling me.My heart is urging me to flag up the importance of all those abusive
signals you gave me – so I will never, ever
overlook them in the future.
My heart wants to protect me from ever being attracted to another
abusive person in the future !!!
Thank you,Jenni Paul


Annie Kaszina October 26, 2016 at 9:24 am

Your heart can and will help you, Jenni.

But it will help you best when you learn to love yourself.

Warm wishes for your healing and happiness,



Deb December 15, 2016 at 5:21 pm

My husband did not choose me. Two people be both knew put us two together and even when one of them saw I was in debate about him, that person kept making comments as to my staying engaged to him and marrying him, which I did. Right after we got married, I was miserable and ready to leave, that same person talked me out of leaving.
If I had gone with my gut, I would not have been in a relationship with him for very long.


Annie Kaszina December 16, 2016 at 2:12 pm

Well, it sounds like you let someone talk you out of doing what you knew was the right thing. Obviously, your husband, too, was introduced. But I’m guessing he made his own choice about whether to not to pursue the relationship with you.

Either way, it is a terrible shame that you had to learn the lesson the hard way.

Warm wishes for your healing and happiness,



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