The Three Stages Of A Mentally Abusive Relationship

10 Apr 2010

Nobody ever walks consciously into an abusive
relationship.  Rather they ‘sign up’ for
a relationship that, they believe, offers them most of what they want; and they
are prepared to compromise on the things that they sense are not on offer.  Or, maybe, they think that, in time,
they will educate – or train – their partner to provide the other things that
they want as well. 

“Is that such a bad foundation for a relationship?” you
might ask.  “People do that all the

Of course they do. 
You are absolutely right.  Most
people settle for a partner who falls short of their ideal – or, to put it
another way, people accept someone who does not altogether measure up to their
dream.  In some cases it works out well,
and in others it can work out very badly indeed. 

Why does it work out so badly in the case of abused women? 

Quite simply, it is because of the shortcomings that abused
women are prepared to accept.  Settling
for someone whose appearance, dress sense, social status, and education fall
short of your aspirations, may well be a perfectly reasonable thing to do.  Settling for someone who has a string of
past relationships that ended badly, a strong sense of grievance, is quick to
express fury and contempt – albeit with other people – is akin to
putting your hand in the fire; and then being terribly surprised when that hand
gets 3rd degree burns. 

The way a new partner behaves towards you in the early days
of a relationship, when he is out to win your heart, may be less indicative of
what lies ahead than the way he behaves towards other people.  Especially the ‘other people’ who ‘don’t
matter’; like people in service industries. 

But, then, there is denial. 

Having worked with hundreds and hundreds of abused women, I
am aware of the gulf between how they define the early, heady days of their
relationship and the way things truly were. 
Women talk about how wonderful and caring their partner was at the
start, before he started changing from Mr Nice Guy into Mr Nasty in front of
their very eyes.  

There is no doubt that mentally abused women believe the
story that they tell.  Equally, there is
no doubt that they view the start of their relationship through the rose-tinted
spectacles of denial.  In fact, their
partner wooed them fast, swept them off their feet, by saying the things that
they ached to hear… but – and it is a big but – he showed behaviours that were

There were times when he was inconsiderate, when he
overreacted to situations and became quite angry or punitive towards them.  His behaviour was, to put it bluntly,
selfish: the relationship was about what he wanted, first and foremost.  

In that first stage of the relationship, an abused woman’s
mental dialogue is all about making ‘it’ up to him for his past (and present)
problems, and making allowances, and excuses, for behaviours that, she senses,
are less than ideal.  He may look good,
and dress well, and there may well be “chemistry”.  So, the woman overlooks fundamental differences in their values,
and attitudes regarding relationships. 

In the second stage of the relationship, Mr Nasty has
become very much a part of the relationship, because abusive behaviours are
becoming more and more routine.   Mr
Nasty may be around rather more of the time than Mr Nice Guy.  By now, the abuser has largely stopped
making the effort to please his partner. 
Why should he?  Most of
the time he can get what he wants from her through intimidation, anger or
punishment.  Why does that work?  Why doesn’t she just walk away – as she
knows that she should
?  Because she
thinks back to all the “potential” for being a great partner that he showed in
the early days.  She tells herself that,
if she tries a little harder and shows him more love and support, sooner or
later he is bound to turn back into Mr Nice Guy.  When that happens, she will finally have the relationship she

Besides, by now, she has invested so much of her heart and
her identity in him that she can’t bear to throw away what they had. 

In the third stage of the relationship, Mr Nice Guy
is little more than a distant memory; at least where his partner is
concerned.  He may turn on the charm
when he is out in public, he may dust off his “nice” side for the benefit of
any other woman in town, but in the privacy of his own home he is cold,
unloving, faultfinding, punitive and contemptuous. 

Naturally, his treatment has taken its toll.  By this stage, his partner has been so
brainwashed by the constant mental and emotional abuse that she has lost her
confidence, her self-worth, and her sense of her own identity.  She is constantly fearful of provoking
another outburst, and she blames herself for everything.  Worse still, she has come to treat herself
as badly as her partner treats her.  She
feels completely drained, desperate and hopeless.  She simply cannot see a way out. 

She is blind to the way out for two very important
reasons.  First, she doesn’t understand
what has happened to her, and that it is not her fault.  Second, she doesn’t know how to heal and get
her life back on track.  Because she has
been so brainwashed, it is almost impossible for her to make the journey back
to health on happiness without expert help.  

Happily, the world is not as she has been conditioned to see
it.  With expert abuse recovery support,
she will be able to let go of her abusive relationship and create a meaningful
life for herself.  

A mentally abusive relationship may feel like a living
death.  Fortunately, there is life
after mental emotional abuse.  Having
survived a mentally abusive relationship, means that you have the strength to
heal, and a tremendous capacity, as well as hunger, for the happiness you

you take action to create that meaningful life for yourself?


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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