What Makes An Emotionally Abusive Partner So Attractive?

22 Sep 2015

attractivesmallIt can be hard to see what makes an emotionally abusive partner so attractive – unless we’re talking about your emotionally abusive partner; in which case none of the usual, normal criteria apply.  As a general rule, emotionally abusive partners are dogmatic to the point of arrogance, self-important, opinionated, inconsiderate, self-centred, touchy, a tad humorless, and quick to anger… They also tend to be negative about most people, especially women – although they’re not devoid of a smarmy charm and may well be accomplished leerers.

Not a lot to love there, you might say.

Still. their long-suffering women habitually express a devotion to them  – or at least their potential – that an emotionally abusive partner does not actually merit.

What’s really behind that devotion?

A client recently quoted to me that hoary old phrase: “There are no victims, only volunteers.”

I just don’t buy that.

Anyone who has ever ended up with an emotionally abusive partner signed up for the best that person allegedly had to offer; not the worst.

In my experience, it is a very rare emotionally abusive partner, indeed, who tells his mark, at the outset: “You should know that I am the kind of person who likes to belittle my partner. My anger is easily triggered and when it is I feel justified in saying whatever I like to hurt you. And by the way I do a great line in sulking. I can do passive aggressive just as well as I do straight aggressive.  So, you can look forward to a relationship of rejection, humiliation, and intense loneliness.”

Nobody I’ve ever come across has volunteered for that.

Slapping a label, or a judgement on people – especially people who are struggling, and hurting, and blaming themselves – is a pointless exercise. What makes a lot more sense is to get to grips with why women still find an emotionally abusive partner so incredibly attractive when he, manifestly, is NOT.

Given that the attraction is not down to an emotionally abusive partner’s dubious showing in your life, then it has to be down to something else: your programming.

You’re NOT stupid – you never were.

In fact, you’re not any of the negative judgments Other People subtly, or not so subtly, suggest.

But you have been programmed have to low expectations of how people will treat you.  Ingrained in you is a belief that people will treat you badly – because that is what you have seen people do, and what you have experienced at the hands of people around you.

That programming is very powerful.

You don’t have to be stupid, or weak, to be misled by it.

What happens is that it becomes a kind of blind spot.  You’re not even aware of it.

This week, I’ve been working with several pretty savvy women who have done a LOT of personal development, and are brilliant when it comes helping other people with their problems.  However, when it comes to themselves, they have a problem with that blind spot – or, if you prefer, that emotional cataract.  They are still vulnerable to an emotionally abusive partner.

Earlier this year, I underwent operations for cataracts in both eyes.  The right one was no big deal.  There were the beginnings of cataracts but my vision was largely unaffected.  The left eye was another story.  The only things I could see – just – were the things right in front of my nose.  (Anything beyond the tip of my nose was woefully hazy.) You might have thought that I would have some idea of how challenged my vision was. I didn’t. Because I was living the problem – and had got  used to it – I didn’t have the wherewithal to make sense of the problem.

It just felt normal to me.  Because it was my normal.

That’s exactly how it is with the kind of programming that exposes women to an emotionally abusive partner.

That’s why an emotionally abusive partner may be very attractive to some women, whereas others would cheerfully impale him on a bargepole.

It’s only your programming that makes an emotionally abusive partner attractive to you. Whatever his upsides may, be the downsides more than cancel them out. It’s only your programming that makes you susceptible to his tricks, and promises, his shiftiness, and the ‘carrot’ of transformation he holds out to you.

Fortunately, you can get rid of that programming.  In fact, it’s absolutely essential that you do so.

Your life as a free woman – free, that is, from the control of an emotionally abusive partner – can still be a very good one.  No matter how much hell he has put you through.  You only have to see your emotionally abusive partner for the unlovely creature he really is, to see yourself as the awesome woman you truly are.  Once you can do that, you’re admirably placed to turn your life around.


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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