Why Is My Partner Emotionally Abusive Like That?

02 Aug 2016

Why is my partner emotionally abusive like that? is one of the key questions that emotional abuse survivors ask themselves.  The question presupposes that there are only two possible explanations as regards the reason why a partner is emotionally abusive like that. 

Why is my partner  emotionally abusive like that? Explanation #1. Because he is a complete jerk, an out-and-out badass.

Why is my partner emotionally abusive like that? Explanation #2 Somehow it must all be my fault.

Let’s look, now, at these two explanations in a bit more detail.

Why is my partner emotionally abusive like that? Explanation #1.

Explanation #1 proves problematic for the emotional abuse survivor.  Most emotional abusers come a-courting wearing their best Prince Charming persona.  Most are astute enough to know that if they present themselves to you as the Jerk of Ages you might not take the bait. They are, after all, looking for a Sweet, Vulnerable Soul to rescue (although it might help to understand “rescue” as “tempt with promises of the Happily Forever After”).

Plus, they are actually looking for someone to rescue them right back. Chances are, they regale you with their Hard Life Story. This practice serves a dual purpose. It encourages you to earn your rescue by rescuing  them .  It also allows you to do what they already know you do best – which is try to earn the right to be loved by giving far more to others than they ever give to you.  But this is where it gets even more interesting.  By selecting someone who will do her darnedest to rescue them right back, they are setting up their own win-win scenario.

Win  #1.  If pigs can fly, you can enlist the best offices of your fairy godmother, and the world can be turned on its head, then you really can rescue Jerks from their own Nastiness. In this case, without them having to do any work whatsoever, you will provide them with their Perfect Happily Ever After.

Win  #2. You fail to save their immortal soul and transform them into the Prince Among Men that you both know they really should be. That is not a problem for the Jerk in Charming’s clothing.  Your “failure” gives him the right to punish you forever after. That makes him pretty happy, too. Even better, he feels justified in punishing you because – from his own skewed perspective – you have failed him.

Is that crazy, or what?

And that is before we even look at Explanation #2!

Why is my partner emotionally abusive like that? Explanation #2

Let’s start by looking at the most likely scenarios that brought you and your emotionally abusive partner together.

His background.  Chances are he came from a dysfunctional background of some kind. Ultimately, what he took from that background – besides a compelling Hard Life story – is a strong sense of entitlement. The way he sees it, because he has been through some painful experiences, he is entitled to make you -his partner- pay for what he has been through.  (Maybe you find that thinking touching and worthy of compassion. Having fallen into that trap myself, I definitely do NOT.)

Your background. Your background was not exactly a bed of roses. You were likely made to feel less than good enough.  You were probably led to believe that you were conditionally lovable –but only if you could meet all the many conditions imposed on you.

How were you to know that meeting all those conditions was just plain impossible?

Can you see, now, how it worked when you, the Habitual Blame-Taker, and Mr Faux-Prince came together?

You were grateful to have finally found someone who appreciated you (allegedly), while he had found the outlet to his problems.

Which brings us back to the question; why is my partner emotionally abusive like that?

He is abusive because he has the right temperament and training, and because emotional abuse works for him.

There is one other vital piece to the puzzle: compliance.


Notice, please, I am NOT talking about “blame”, or “responsibility”, merely compliance.

Prince Faux-Charming (aka Mr Nasty) had a fair idea of the kind of partner, and relationship, he was looking for.  Perhaps he was already a veteran of emotionally abusive relationships.  Or he could have been just starting out on his career as an abuser. Either way, the point is this: he already had a  good sense of the balance of power he was prepared to tolerate in his relationship.

Since he had no wish to waste his time on unnecessary wooing, Prince Faux-Charming made sure to run The Compliance Test early on in your relationship.

What is The Compliance Test?

This is when your loving suitor lets the mask slip long enough to hurt and confuse you.  He may do this by leering (or worse) at other women, or else by humiliating or rejecting you in some way. From your point of view, this affront came out of a clear blue sky.

For Mr Nasty, the compliance test serves a really useful purpose: he needs to know how you will respond. He has just (quite consciously) pulled the emotional rug from under your feet, so to speak.

What will you do about it?

He needs to know not what you will say, but whether or not you will take it.  If you do NOT walk away and never go back, he knows all that he needs to know. He knows that you will take it.  He has compliance.

Compliance is a SNAKE.  Compliance always leaves you with the feeling that you are free to act differently next time. Only the truth is that compliance shackles you to a certain way of being and behaving.

Every time you comply with something you don’t like, it becomes much harder to stand up for yourself and behave differently in the future.  Sadly, that is one truth that your emotionally abusive relationship has already taught you. Even if you were not consciously aware that that is how compliance works.

In conclusion, the answer to the question, Why is my partner emotionally abusive like this? has to be: “Your partner is emotionally abusive because of who he is and how he operates. But also because you were trained to earn love and be compliant.” He has no desire to change. You, fortunately, can. What’s more, if you believe that you deserve a better life than you have had so far, than changing your belief about having to earn love needs to become your top priority. If you have found this article helpful – or know that it might help someone else – please share on social media.



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.

Leave a comment

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.

Connect with me on Instagram

Want daily reassurance and inspiration? Sign up to my Instagram account. @dr_anniephd