Many, many emotionally abused women tell me that their emotionally abusive partner “had them at Hello”. It was, they say, love at first sight. Other emotionally abused women say of their emotionally abusive partner, “I didn’t like him at first. But he was so keen on me that I… kind of let myself be frog-marched into the relationship.”
Okay, so they don’t actually use the word “frog-march”. Still, that it the sense of it. They interpret his extraordinary keenness as their best guarantee of The Happily Ever After. So, they allow themselves to be rushed into a more intense, exclusive relationship faster than they might wish.
That keenness was enough to make him irresistible.
By allowing themselves to swept off their feet by the irresistibility of his (alleged) passion, they set a pattern – a seriously BAD pattern of caving in to pressure – for the life of the relationship.
Interestingly, even the women in the “Love at First Sight” category usually acknowledge that their very, very first- intuitive – response was not so much a “Wow!” as a “Yuk!”
However, after that initial “Yuk”, their conscious mind got busy, over rewriting the story and engaging in an internal dialogue that would cost them dear. Their conscious mind started… well, bullying, actually, their poor Unconscious. That conscious mind demanded to know,
- “What do you mean, “Yuk”? He looks good/ he smells good/ he’s got a good job/ he has decent table manners/ he doesn’t have a freak sign hanging over his head.”
- “What is wrong with you, girlfriend? Who are you to be so picky? When was the last time you had a queue of men waiting outside the door for a glimpse of you?”
- “Listen, you’ve already got your place booked in The Last Chance Saloon. You’re in serious danger of ending up a Sad, Lonely, Old Single. Is that what you want?”
- “Have you lost your mind? Compared with the previous guy, this one looks like Prince Charming? He earns a living. He’s got all his own teeth. He doesn’t have a drink/drug problem. He’s bright enough to spell his own name…”
Your emotionally abusive partner didn’t appear in your life wearing a Government Health Warning t-shirt. So, you measured him against your internal, mental bar – which was set reassuringly low, so as not to exclude anyone remotely possible – and you said: “Why not?”
Why not? It was only your life, and your happiness, we’re talking about, after all.
Emotional investments can go down as well as up
Whoever tells you that “emotional investments can go down as well as up”?
In the case of both Mr Love at First Sight and Mr Superkeen, your emotional investment just kept going down. The result, as you already know, was that you ended up with Some Kind of Ghastly. Or, if you prefer, you ended up with one – or more – of an abusive partner’s 50+ Shades of Revolting. (We could talk all day about that – but let’s not.)
An emotionally abusive partner rapidly becomes an emotionally abused woman’s ‘specialist subject’. She can – and often does – talk about him till the cows come home.
The sad thing is this, talking about an emotional abuser doesn’t necessarily help an emotionally abused woman to learn anything about… herself.
So, let’s take a look at you – since you are the most useful person to look at.
What made you do it?
Why did you settle for a Nasty clone?
The short answer is that you did not feel good about yourself. Your self-esteem was low.
Now, I’ve heard so many emotionally abused women say that they were flying high when they met their emotionally abusive partners. I both believe them – I felt the same way – and I dispute the accuracy of their perception.
Why I settled for an emotionally abusive partner
Let me use my own story as an illustration of how this works.
When I met my emotionally abusive partner, I was flying the highest I ever had. What this meant in practice was that I was just about airborne. I could see a sort of future ahead of me. It was a moment in my life where my feet were not chained to the ground. I had a sense of my own potential. I had friends, and a sense of achievement. Other people had made it clear to me that they believed in me.
All good stuff as far as it went…
But did it go as far as having a strong sense of my own worth? Did it go as far as having a positive mind-set? Did it go as far as knowing how to bounce back from difficulties, and keep myself happy and upbeat? Did it go so far as knowing how to have a healthy relationship? Did resilience and self-compassion feature, at all?
Did it go as far as saying; “You know, I’m not prepared to take responsibility for somebody else’s messed-up feelings. So, unless you commit to addressing your,
- Irrational anger,
- Ridiculous jealousy,
- Preoccupation with your own superiority,
- Love of dissing people,
- Narcissistic outbursts,
- Infantile behavior,
- Absurd demands, and
- Jaw-dropping immaturity,
You are history. Two strikes, max, and you are OUT.”
I’ll admit that I thought about it (at least twice) but that was about as far as it went. Having overridden my initial “Yuk” reaction.
Having overridden my initial “Yuk” reaction, my Idiot Brain (whose importance scientists have yet to acknowledge) overlooked all these un-endearing aspects of his character that I had already seen.
Plus, my Idiot Brain told me that well-loved idiotic story about his hard life and how “he just needed the love of a good woman…” (Or the naivete of a well-meaning Idiot Brain.) Doh!!!
My concern for his well-being was touching – and misplaced. My lack of concern for my own well-being, on the other hand, was tragic. But kind of inevitable. Here’s why.
The mind-set I learned at my parents’ knee, so to speak, had preconditioned me to accept all manner of unacceptable ideas, including,
- Men are allowed to behave as badly as they want, and women have to appease.
- There is a natural hierarchy, and my place is at the bottom of it, because of my gender, and general inferiority.
- I have no power to change the status quo.
- The World is an unsafe place – especially for a girl.
- The World is fully of nasty people.
- I live on shifting sands. Things could look one way, one day, but if the Opinion-Makers-in-Chief change their minds, things could look totally different the next day – or even the next moment. I’m not smart enough to make sense out of all of this for myself.
- Being on the receiving end of anger, negativity, and criticism is a normal part of my life. In fact, it all exists – allegedly – to save me from myself.
- Bad things happen – rather a lot –especially if I start getting above myself. The best thing I can do is just bow my head and accept the bad stuff as my lot.
- My vision and opinions are worthless.
- Love and Approval have to be earned. Earning them is always going to be hard work. Every day, pretty much, I have to start over from scratch.
- I will always be judged – and most likely always found wanting.
- I don’t matter, and my feelings don’t matter. It is okay for me to be hurt and disregarded – my job is just to get on and deal with it, without making any fuss.
- Nothing good will ever last very long – if at all.
- Loyalty is a one-way street. I am meant to be loyal, but shouldn’t expect loyalty.
Doubtless, there was more as well.
When emotional abuse feels like a natural habitat
My parents didn’t consciously set out to make sure I had an unhappy life. However, they were determined to make sure that I lived their kind of life and be no happier than they were. Unfortunately, their definition of happiness meant living an embattled life in a fortress of their own making. It also meant seeing the rest of the world as a danger if not an outright enemy.
They had grown up in a world where all the beliefs just mentioned held sway. They were teaching me to live their way. They wanted their best for me. They also wanted to be sure that I would never outgrow them.
If they had tried – intentionally – to ‘groom’ me for an emotionally abusive relationship, they couldn’t have done much better.
Not that they were trying to groom me for an emotionally abusive relationship. They didn’t have a clue what an emotionally abusive relationship was. They had no idea that their natural habitat was an emotionally abusive relationship.
Nor did I.
I thought I was free, wise, and self-determining, poor benighted child that I was…
Naivete like pride, comes before a fall
I know now that naivete, as much as pride, comes before a fall.
Along came my emotionally abusive partner. He quickly saw that I ticked all the necessary boxes. So, he knocked me off my feet. (Why ‘sweep’, after all, and risk pulling a muscle, when a good, hard knock will do the trick?)
In the event, everything unfolded exactly as it was intended to by everyone… except me.
That was my story. I’m guessing it’s very much yours, too.
Your emotionally abusive partner became irresistible to you because, like me, you were already programmed to resonate with abusive treatment.
Not consciously of course.
Consciously, you wanted something very different.
But we can’t know how powerful old patterns are until we finally discover that we have been sucked into them – not uncommonly by waking up one day and realising that we have unintentionally married our father or our mother.
That was then. What needs to happen now is for you to clear the old beliefs, fears, and patterns from your head, so you can STOP being susceptible to emotionally abusive men. You owe it to yourself never to let another emotional abusive become irresistible to you again.
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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