One of the biggest questions I struggled with when I left my abuser was: How did I get into this mess? I continually berated myself for being so stupid that I ended up in an abusive relationship. I voiced this to a very wise friend. She replied, “Suppose he came to pick you up for your first date, and when you opened the door he punched you in the face. Would you have gone out with him?” My response was in the ballpark of “HELL, NO! I’d call the police and have him arrested.” The point is, If an abuser treated us at the beginning of the relationship like he did at the end there would have been no relationship.
An abuser knows if he wants to snare you, he must act and sound like a decent man. He becomes the romantic, thoughtful, caring, funny, seemingly honest, warm guy you’d hoped to find. There is no reason for you to suspect that he’s not who he appears to be, after all, you’re being honest about who you are. Yet, he’s hidden behind a facade. You think he’s interested to hear about your life. While, you feel flattered, he’s collects data that he will later use to manipulate you. He learns about your vulnerabilities, hopes and dreams. Later he will attack you in these very tender places to destroy your self-esteem. He asks questions about your opinions. You feel, Wow, this guy actually cares what I think. But, he’s planning how to bend your will to his. While you thrill at the thought that he’s finds you so attractive he can’t keep his hands off of you, he’s pushing you into a sexual relationship to hook you emotionally.
It’s no surprise, that victims come out of the relationship with huge trust issues.
We spend a lot of time beating ourselves up over something we were not responsible for. We did the right thing. We went into the relationship with an open heart, fell in love and trusted him. Isn’t that what we should do? Trust is part of the foundation of a healthy relationship (love, respect and communication are others.) The fault in the failed relationship sits squarely on the shoulders of the one who broke that trust. He misrepresented himself. He lied.
So, how do you know if you have a good man or not? Here are my thoughts. An abuser:
- Rushes the victim into a relationship. He talks marriage, kids and starts planing the future too soon in the relationship. He may have his whole life mapped out, and the victim is, to him, the missing piece, expected to fit into HIS world. In Healthy relationships, partners take the needed time to get to know one another, and move at a comfortable pace for both people. There is no fear that if you don’t commit now the relationship is over.
- Doesn’t take “no” for an answer. He pouts, coerces, cajoles, accusing you of not caring for him, guilting you into yielding to his wishes. You may hear, “If you loved me you would/wouldn’t (insert activity here).” He may threaten to leave you if he doesn’t get his way. In Healthy relationships, partners respect each other’s feelings and needs. No, means no.
- Has a sense of entitlement. He may have a definite idea of gender roles in society, with the male role being superior to the female’s. He is often passionate about issues and has definite likes and dislikes. You may find yourself thinking, It’s more important to him than to me so I’ll just go along (or give in.) In Heathy relationships, partners do not require one party to always yield to the other’s wishes. Each partner has an equal say in decisions. Differences of opinion are negotiated and respected wether an agreement is reached or not.
- Monopolizes the victim’s time. He insists on always being together and is offended if you want time alone, with your friends or family members. He criticizes your friends and family, often insisting you stop seeing them, or makes it difficult for you to see them, isolating you. In Healthy relationships, partners give each other time together, and time to pursue individual interests or spend with friends. Also, they spend time with each other’s friends and family. Each partner maintains their own life. Those lives overlap (nether is absorbed into the other) into a life together.
For more information on this topic, I recommend Lundy Bancoft’s book, Why Does He Do That? Inside the minds of angry and controlling men. It was an eye opener for me.