What’s really going on?

04 Mar 2019

Emotionally abused women must be the most loving, generous-hearted, forgiving people on the planet…  Or maybe, there is something else going on, as well that leads them to be SO long-suffering. In this article, we need to take a look at what else might be going on.

For the record, I do believe emotionally abused women are both loving and generous-hearted.   However, I don’t believe that we are fundamentally an exceptionally forgiving bunch.  We will overlook offences, when we are trying to hold the relationship together.  We may minimize – or deny – an  emotionally abusive partner’s bad behavior for a very long time.  But, in the end, we don’t – or can’t – forget the wrongs that are done to us.

Now, I’m not suggesting you should forget about them.  But I do know how difficult it is to be at peace with yourself – let alone an emotionally abusive partner – when you have a reservoir of toxic feelings, like anger and resentment bubbling up inside you.

So, as far as I’m concerned, there must be something else going on as well.

But what?

This week, I had the pleasure of spending time with my dear friend Shoshana Garfield.  We got round to talking about the difference between love and attachment.

Love versus attachment

I’m guessing you have an idea of what love is, and how a loving person can be expected to behave.  I have yet to speak to an emotionally abused woman who does not tell me how her abusive partner should behave.   He should know X, and take Y into consideration.  (Of course, he rarely – if ever – does.)

As far as the theory goes, these women are not wrong.  But…


(You were probably expecting that “but”, weren’t you?)

We form our opinion of what Love is, and what Love should be, on the basis of our experience.

If you’ve grown up in an emotionally skewed  environment, that environment will, inevitably, shape your understanding of what Love is.

What do I mean by an emotionally skewed environment?

I mean an environment in which you were taught that you had to work to earn love and approval.  That environment, when you stop to think about it, has to be emotionally skewed if it is based on the belief that the other person has the right to confer -or withhold – love and lovableness, at will.

The emotional obstacle course

That kind of environment is an emotional obstacle course that you have to negotiate.  Only by scrambling your way to the finishing line do you earn the love you want…   The problem is, of course, that the finishing line always turns out to be out of reach,  a mirage…  While the obstacle course goes on, and on for as long as you stay in that emotionally skewed environment. After all, why would they surrender their power to you?

Both you and the person who created the emotional obstacle course are highly motivated.  Keeping you scrambling over endless obstacles serves a profound need of theirs, while you refuse to give up,believing – wrongly – that everything you could ever hope for lies at the end of it

That really isn’t how Love operates – although that’s exactly how an emotionally abusive relationship operates.  (Love encourages and supports at every step along the way.  It is totally committed to your best outcome, and helping you to reach it as constructively as possible.)

So, if it’s not about love, what’s really going on?


The powerful pull of attachment

Attachment is a very different animal, altogether.

You need to know that Attachment exerts a pull that is at least as powerful as love.  It may use the language of love.  It may be very vocal indeed.  If you were hungry for someone to love you, Attachment can look very, very seductive.

Still, there is usually something a bit “icky” about the way Attachment recites the role of  Love.  (In fact, most of the many women that I have spoken with acknowledge that there was something a tad creepy about their abusive partner’s early expressions of love and involvement.)

There’s another key difference, of course.  Attachment is incredibly self-serving.  In a nut-shell, attachment wants its chosen target for its own reasons.  Those reasons can be incredibly powerful, but that doesn’t make them love. 

The bottom line is that few women like their emotionally abusive partner’s behavior, or values – at least where the relationship is concerned.  Yet, they’re desperate to make it work with a sanitized version of that partner.

No matter that the sanitized version does not exist.

No matter that they don’t actually like their partner – although when you’re in it for the long haul, liking and respecting your partner as a human being are essential.

Attachment will drag you – shaking your head in horror and disbelief – to places you never wanted to go.  It will drag you down into parts of yourself you really don’t want to know about.

Love will walk beside you

Love won’t do that.  Love will take you by the hand and walk beside you as you blossom, and transcend, all that you thought you were capable of being.

Attachment is powerful and toxic.

By now you may be wondering:

“How do I know the difference?”

The short answer is: “if you even have to ask yourself, because intuition tells you something is not quite right, then that something is Attachment.  Stay with it only if you are a fan of never-ending obstacle courses.”


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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