How did your partner choose you?
How did your partner identify you as a push-over on Day 1? How could he know, right from the get-go, that you were worth the trouble of pursuing – inasmuch as he ever did pursue you? What was it that attracted him to you? Did you reveal too much, too soon, to your ex?
We might like to think that our emotionally abusive partner was attracted by our sparkling personality, our sweet nature, our looks, and what an all-round lovely person we were. But the reality is different. That’s not how it works. There may be every reason to suppose that we were, and are, all of these things – after all, why the hell should we not be?
Stil,l an abuser sees something very different. He sees a target, someone who might like to believe in herself but she does not. Instead, she needs someone to validate this view of herself so that she can believe it.
An emotional abuser flags up a lack of self-belief as a clear Pushover message. Even an abuser in Temporary-Prince-Charming mode will pick up on the message and start to turn it to his advantage.
Not everyone believes in the power of love
Most of us like to think that the World works the way that we do. We believe in The Power of Love, and we expect our partners to do the same.
Unfortunately, partners from Planet Zog simply do not work the same way that we do. Nor will they go out of their way to tell you that they are aliens. It’s one of those caveat emptor situations – let the buyer beware.
Anyone who has half a brain and is over the age of 17, probably would not buy a second hand car blind. Chances are, you are “buying” a second hand man, who already has some relationship mileage on the clock. The same principle applies to both scenarios.
Is that calculating? Hardly. It is actually called “protecting your own best interest”. (Admittedly, that is not something emotionally abused women show any talent for.)
Mr Second Hand Man, on the other hand, has carefully evaluated the messages you send out, so as to calculate exactly what you are worth to him. Let’s look at how he does it.
He starts the ball rolling, as it were, by setting out a number of small hoops for a prospective “partner” to jump through. The first sign she gives is when she – dutifully – prepares to start jumping – when a “Say WHAT!!!” would be a better response.
The “hoops” an emotional abuser gets you to jump through
Hoop #1 The early small act of compliance.
He pressures you into doing something you don’t really want to do, to please, or appease him. That pressure may be subtle, but it is still pressure. He may persuade you to order something you don’t like in a restaurant, do something that doesn’t sit well with you, or else change a plan purely to suit him. The actual incident may appear insignificant. But don’t be fooled. For an abuser it provides an important learning: he pushed you, and you caved in. That’s a big box ticked for them.
Hoop #2 Overstepping boundaries.
He swiftly establishes himself as the Ultimate Authority in your world. It took my future wasband precisely no time to start pontificating. He had barely told me his surname before he began pointing out what was wrong with various people and scenarios in my life.
My responsibility lay in my compliance. Despite disagreeing with a lot of what he said, I sat there, and listened – instead of saying: “Thank you for talking at me. But no thanks.”
From an emotional abuser’s point of view, no reply is a GOOD message.
Hoop #3 The Trial Intimidation Technique (T.I.T)
Most abusers run the T.I.T reasonably subtly (first time round, at least). They may give you a small shopping list of Things That Meet With Their Displeasure. They may give you a little foretaste of an angry outburst and see what you do with it. They may run a practice sulk. They may take you through a threat, or jealousy, scenario. The T.I.T is all about testing your reaction. Do you frighten easily enough to make you worth their time and trouble?
Hoop #4 Unsolicited (and inappropriate) intimacy.
They will come out with one of those conversational lines that should have you heading for the hills, like: “This is the music I want for the first dance, at my wedding.” (A dubious, and moronic, statement if ever there was one, on several counts.) As a general principle, the more men appear to offer on Day 1 or 2, the less they really intend to put on the table.
And how about this to a woman of middle years: “I’m not sure sex is important in a relationship as you get older. What do you think?”
Hoop #5 Intrusive questions
He asks intrusive questions that presume more confidentiality than your fledgling connection merits. The truth is this is probably the ONLY time in the relationship when he will bother to listen carefully to you, but he’s on a mission to gather compromising information. That information will be used against you – most likely, one day soon. Beware the invitation to overshare.
Hoop #6 His “War Wounds”.
He will tell you his Hard Life Story to gauge your response. He has been hurt before. He expects you to understand, and feel sorry for him. Above all, he expects you to enter into a little pact – whether spoken or unspoken – whereby you would
- NEVER Do That To Him.
- Never be so selfish as to remind him that you have been hurt, too, and your feelings also matter.
If you need to prove what a nice, caring, empathetic person you are, you give him a clear indication of how needy of his good opinion you are – and how much power he can expect to have over you.
Is that the full catalog of the messages that work like catnip to attract emotionally abusive partners to you?
Not at all. But it is enough to be going on with for one week. If this article resonates with you, or you think it might resonate with someone you know, please share on social media.
(Note: This article has been revised and updated since its original publication.)
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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