10 Things They Don’t Tell You About Mental Abuse

09 Jul 2006

This month one of my readers fielded the question: “How could mental abuse have happened to me?”

She went on to say that she is a successful, professional woman – as if professional achievements should be enough to ward off abusers, in the same way as garlic and crosses apparently stop Dracula in his tracks. (And, yes, as mentioned before in this ezine, there is a strong similarity between abusive men and Dracula in that both will bleed you dry, given half a chance.)

It happened to her, as it happens to so many women, for many reasons, some of which I’ve outlined below. It happens chiefly because given the lack of readily available information, you only find out the hard way. 

10 Things They Don’t Tell You About Mental Abuse#1 ‘They’ never told you, because they didn’t knowIt is the degree of widespread ignorance in our society about mental abuse that allows it to go on happening. Not only do they not know, but they don’t have an inkling that they don’t know the first thing about the reality of mental abuse and domestic violence. 

So they think that their view of the world is true and accurate and they perpetrate this view of the world in which, if these things happen at all, they happen to poor sad people who live very different
lives to their own – and who somehow bring it on themselves by belonging to that group. 

Isn’t it wonderful how they only see the things that fit with their beliefs? Sadly, we do that one too, which is why it takes us a while to recognize that our “hero”, rescuer, “love of our life” (and resident Crazy-Maker) is mentally abusive – and then get out

10 Things They Don’t Tell You About Mental Abuse#2 Mental abuse is a great leveler. Whether you live in a palace or a slum doesn’t make a lot of difference as regards your susceptibility to mental abuse. I can think of plenty of high profile, hugely talented, successful women whose personal life has been ravaged by mental abuse, and often physical violence also. 

Much as we may try to use our achievements, or our looks, or anything else we choose to compensate for a sense of worthlessness, it won’t work.  Still less will they protect us from mental abuse. Looks, achievement, intelligence, and successes alone will not even provide you with an effective radar system that will give advanced warning of potential aggressors entering your orbit.

10 Things They Don’t Tell You About Mental Abuse#3 You’re not alone. Mental abuse happens to huge numbers of women. About 1 in 4 actually, at some point in their life. But a lot either remain in denial or feel so ashamed they won’t openly admit to it.

10 Things They Don’t Tell You About Mental Abuse#4 Love may well not be enough – especially when it is either one-sided (your side) or associated with a patchy, or non-existent regard for your well being (his side). 

 You are entitled to love someone however vile their behavior towards you. I’m not sure why you would but just suppose you chose to: that doesn’t mean you should tolerate their vile behavior. If you must love them, please write out – and review – a full list of exactly what it is that you love about them.

10 Things They Don’t Tell You About Mental Abuse#5 Nasty behaviours are not blips or aberrations. They are clear indications of a nasty his temperament. Yes, maybe we have all been there trying to work out, approximately, what percentage of a partner is nasty and what percentage is nice. But does this really make sense? When you do this, you are already heavily into denial and likely to be wildly ‘out’ in your calculations. 

It puts me in mind of a client of mine who came to me years ago in tears because she had to re-home a much loved Alsatian. The dog had twice moved to attack her young son for no reason. She saw the pattern and wasn’t prepared to take any more chances. 

Women in physically violent relationships will, on average, endure 35 violent assaults by their partner before they finally leave. Sure, it is much harder for a woman to leave a violent partner than it is to re-home a dog, but let’s not overlook the other side of the coin: the astonishing degree to which women will deny or minimize the threats to their health and safety.

If in the first flush of romance he is ‘different – ie nicer – with you than he is with other people, know that with familiarity you will become ‘other people’ and be treated accordingly.

10 Things They Don’t Tell You About Mental Abuse#6 Relationships don’t have to be like a poorly organised bungee jump. If you commit to a relationship hoping it will turn out alright, but not knowing how or why it should, it most probably won’t. “Forever” is a difficult part of a relationship to get right. It needs serious consideration.

10 Things They Don’t Tell You About Mental Abuse#7 You are not Florence Nightingale. You are looking for a life partner and an equal, not a poor wounded soldier. Your life does not have to be spent being either Mother Teresa or Wendy in “Peter Pan”. Supreme self-sacrifice and trying to be a mother to someone who refuses to grow up can be very draining over the longer term. 

10 Things They Don’t Tell You About Mental Abuse#8 You need to get clear on the kind of relationship you truly want.  No woman I have ever worked with has ever said to me: “This abusive relationship is EXACTLY what I wanted for myself.”  Not being clear enough about he kind of man, and the kind of treatment are the blind spots that lead women to settle for horrible partners. The more clearly you visualize the kind of relationship and partner you truly want, the closer you are likely to get to achieving it.  

10 Things They Don’t Tell You About Mental Abuse#9 Compromise snowballs. If you are prepared to settle for less, you will surely get it. Increasingly so. Bad relationships have their own momentum. You need to factor that into how you think the relationship will be 1, 5 and 10 years down the line. 

10 Things They Don’t Tell You About Mental Abuse#10  Whatever has happened to you and whatever he has said to you, it doesn’t make you a fool, or worthless. You’re just a woman who has stayed too long – whether that is months, years or decades. 

What’s happened, has happened. What’s important NOW is that you can move forward into a fulfilling, joyful future. And you can use that learning curve to protect yourself, your family and friends in the future. While I believe that nobody should have to go through it, I believe that all of us who have been there can work to expose the blindness and ignorance that allows mental abuse to thrive. 


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

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