People, generally, underestimate the loneliness of the emotionally abusive relationship. Most commonly, the very people who suffer most from the loneliness of an emotionally abusive relationship – that is to say abuse victims – fear the loneliness of life without their abusive partner.
A misleading question
If things are so awful with that partner, how much worse must they be without him? they ask themselves.
I can remember asking myself the question, over and over myself. Just like every other woman in that situation, I told myself that Life without my Mr Nasty could only be worse. Much worse. But then, just like every other woman in that situation, I was asking myself a wrong question.
A much better question to ask would have been,
“Why do I feel so achingly lonely in this relationship?”
Of course, at the time, there were a lot of questions that I didn’t ask myself – mostly because I reckoned that I already knew the answer. As I saw it, the answer to any and every question that had any bearing on the relationship was,
“It must be my fault.”
The loneliest place on earth
Actually, it wasn’t my fault. But there can be no place lonelier (or more deluded) than an emotionally abusive relationship.
What makes it so lonely?
Where do I even begin?
- The lack of safety – you can and will be attacked and undermined at any point.
- The constant destruction of your trust.
- The lack of love an abusive partner shows.
- The lack of true intimacy. The two of you are never in the relationship
- The lack of respect that underpins the “Why does he treat me that way?”
- The lack of companionship.
- The lack of shared experience – as a matter of principle, he will trash anything, or anyone, that you enjoyed.
- The lack of validation.
- The lack of appreciation.
- The endless blame and fault-finding.
Isolation, isolation, isolation
What took you into the relationship? Chances are, you had a desire for love, togetherness, connection, intimacy, validation, building a future and a family, finding a home for your heart, belonging, emotional safety, and so on.
Your – not yet fully actualized – emotionally abusive partner doubtless told you that he was your best bet at finding all of the above. He was, after all, by his own assessment a “wonderful man” . So wonderful, in fact, that he wasn’t ashamed to let you know that.
He made himself sound like one helluva of a good deal. Especially to somebody who never, ever talked herself up.
What an emotionally abusive partner actually delivers is one HELL of a bad deal, characterised by constant attack and isolation.
The loneliness of the emotionally abusive relationship
An emotionally abusive partner sets out to isolate you from anyone and anything that might prove inconvenient – to him. Hence his likely hostility towards everything that helps to define you, such as your friends, family, work, skills, achievements, independence, interests and hobbies.
It is in an abusive partner’s interest to create a void around him. Then, he can turn to you and say,
“How could you possibly manage without me?”
This, after he has done everything in his power to become the interface between you and the rest of the world.
Never underestimate the effort – and art – he has put into creating the loneliness of the emotionally abusive relationship. Although, sadly, even this is not the end of the story.
When I listen to clients and when I look back to my own childhood, I am always struck by how much isolation had already been woven into the warp and weft of our experience of ourselves. We learned to become as self-reliant as we could because various family members could not be relied on – for positive feedback, at least.
Learnings from an unsupportive home
When you cannot rely on relatives for positive feedback, you learn to shut down. You learn not to ask for, or expect, help when you need it. You learn that you are on your own. You learn that you can expect things to be hard. And, of course, you learn that you don’t matter in the way that you would like to matter, to the people that you would like to matter to.
That sets you up perfectly for the loneliness of an emotionally abusive relationship. Plus, it inclines you to tolerate that loneliness far longer than someone else with different childhood experience might. It, also, teaches you to stagger on, under a lonely burden of shame and blame – for what was never your fault in the first place.
Don’t mistake condition for identity
If the description of an unsupportive childhood resonates with you, please take on board that all these ghastly feelings that feel “like you” are NOT you. They are merely conditioning. Don’t mistake their condition for your identity.
Conditioning is, undoubtedly, powerful. However, you can rid yourself of it. Loneliness is not who you are. It is how you feel when you are caught up in living the role that –unloving – others ascribed to you. They will likely carry on acting out their role for the rest of their lives. However, you are free to change yours.
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.