You wouldn’t be normal – that is, as normal as you possibly can be, in an abnormal situation – if you hadn’t done just that. The trouble is, thinking about it doesn’t get you very far. It’s actually the emotionally abused woman’s version of chasing your own tail.
You keep looking for an answer where there is no answer. You tell yourself that if you can just whiz through your thinking cycle that bit smarter, or faster, you’ll find it.
Actually, you won’t.
This week I was asked to write an article for a directory about helping men to understand women. Given my own past experience of a highly manipulative man, I had reservations. I was concerned that I could just be providing unpleasant creatures who have a high level of native cunning – whether you label them abusers, Narcissists, or psychopaths/sociopaths is up to you – with weapons they could use against trusting, empathetic , vulnerable women.
Then I thought a little further.
What women really want
As I see it, we women want to feel understood – for some of us understanding was in decidedly short supply when we were growing up.
But more than that, way more than that, we want to be valued and appreciated.
Think about it: if someone is going to take the time to value and appreciate us, chances are they will be well on the way to understanding us.
Besides, even if by some chance they are not, their value and appreciation will open channels to effective communication. When you know that you are valued and appreciated, how can you NOT feel precious, and safe?
Feeling precious and safe around someone is a crucial part of being loved – in a healthy way.
You probably won’t feel unconditionally precious in a co-dependent relationship. You certainly won’t feel safe. Walking on eggshells is an unmistakable indicator of the toxicity of a relationship.
In an emotionally abusive relationship you are forever tiptoeing through an endless landscape of eggshells.
Why an emotionally abusive husband listens
Emotional abusers will make an initial effort to understand how you function – because that is useful ammunition they can later use against you. In order to get as much information as possible they may make a fairly credible stab at empathy. They make the effort to relate to how you feel.
On the other hand, in order to gain that precious information they tend to overstep boundaries: they encourage you to share too much, too soon. They don’t need to know about past heartbreaks and painful childhood experiences until they have had plenty of time to get to know – and appreciate -you for the strong, beautiful woman you are today. Before you expose your jugular, metaphorically speaking, you need to be absolutely sure that they are not the kind of predator who will go for it.
Thinking back, my emotionally abusive husband rarely said: “I don’t understand you!” Most of the time he understood me perfectly. He knew very well how I would react to his various ploys. (On the rare occasions when he exclaimed: “I just don’t understand you!” it was because I acted out of character. He didn’t understand when I acted in accordance with my own needs and wishes rather than deferring to his.)
An emotionally abusive husband has a very good working knowledge of your psyche. On the other hand you, as the emotionally abused partner, have very little insight into his.
Hence the misguided desire to understand. What that really means is: “How can I fit his behaviour into my frame of reference? How can I locate the seeds of love that have to be there, so I can hothouse them into luxuriant growth?”
You try to understand in order to love him into being the man he should be, in the relationship you should have. You try your hardest to value and appreciate him for his potential – that is all the things he habitually is NOT – with a view to transforming him into who you think he should be.
You already know, at a very deep level, that you do not feel safe or precious around him. Being around an emotionally abusive partner – inevitably – leaves you feeling worthless, and under siege.
You already know everything you need to know about your emotionally abusive husband. You know that he does not value or appreciate you; as a human being, as his wife, or as the mother of his children.
You already have all the understanding of him that you need.
An emotionally abusive husband behaves as he behaves because he is who he is. Like you, he probably didn’t have the best childhood in the world. But, as my emotionally abusive ex-husband would say, he’s a big boy now. He makes choices about how he behaves every day, the same as you do.
Only he has a taste for toxic emotions and toxic relationships.
You don’t. Otherwise you’d be perfectly happy with the emotionally abusive relationship you have with him.
What goes on inside an emotionally abusive husband’s head, just like what comes out of his mouth, is unloving.
That’s really all you need to know.
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.
The 5 Simple Steps to Healing from Narcissistic Abuse
Over the next 5 days, I'll send you some lessons and tips that I've found have really helped women to heal from narcissistic abuse. Starting with the basics.