Our actions reflect our belief system. As a recovering enabler, I have discovered that we enablers adhere to many common beliefs and thought processes as we attempt to cope in an abusive relationship. Maybe it’s time to compare some of our thoughts to reality.
See for yourself whether I know what you’re thinking, with the help of my own version of ESP: “Enabler-isms Stated Plainly”
Who’s Convincing Whom?
The abuser is trying to convince you that you are not worth loving, and you are trying to convince him that you are.
All You Need is Love
You believe that if you can prove to the abuser that he is loved, he will change. In truth, the abuser doesn’t care whether or not he is loved (he prefers to be feared), and he has no intention of changing.
The Abuser Hears What You Don’t Say
In an abusive relationship, when you fail to say “no,” he hears “yes.” You’ve been consenting to his abuse for so long, you’re afraid to say “no.” You have silently given your consent. “No” feels like a risky word. But not saying it is even riskier.
Stop Trying So Hard
You believe that if you try harder, the abuser will appreciate you. The more he abuses you, the harder you try. That’s what he appreciates.
I’m So Confused
After crossing the line, the abuser may offer fresh promises or gifts to confuse you. Perhaps you are learning that they are bribes and other forms of manipulation and should not be construed as repentance or regret. His objective is appeasement, not change.
There is truth, and then there’s his truth. He is so passionate about his version of truth that you feel obligated to believe it, not because it is true, but because he seems convinced that it is.
In an abusive relationship, even if you’re right, you’re still wrong. Right?
The abuser will twist reality in whatever manner he must in order to “win.” An enabler will almost inevitably give in to the abuser’s will out of utter frustration and emotional exhaustion, and he knows it.
But He Has His Good Qualities, Too
You are the abuser’s greatest critic – and his biggest fan. You cannot stand against abuse while simultaneously defending the abuser. Stop rationalizing his behavior.
He Says He Loves Me
What do his actions say? Learn not to put so much stock in what you hear, and pay closer attention to what he does.
What Was That?
When someone physically slaps you, there’s no question you’ve been smacked. When someone assaults you with words, you’re not sure. If you feel like you’ve been smacked, you have been.
You are never good enough, but you still keep striving to please. From the abuser’s perspective, whatever you do for him is the least you should do. Keep up the good work, or suffer the consequences.
The abuser is one man in public and another in private. Acquaintances may tell you how charming and personable your guy is. Ask yourself, “Who is he when no one is looking?” That’s the man he really is.
Can’t Have It Both Ways
He says you are the one who makes him “act that way.” If you have the power to make him treat you poorly, why is it you don’t have the power to make him stop treating you poorly?
Right and Wrong
You believe that you are special enough that the abuser will want to change for you. You’re right: You are special. And you’re wrong: He doesn’t want to change for anyone.
You may think, “No one else would stay with him under these circumstances, but I will.” No one else would stay with him under those circumstances because no one should.
It’s Not What You Think It Is
When you forgive the abuser, you are offering grace and investing faith in him. From his perspective, you are weak, and he was clever enough to convince you to let him off the hook.
Blah, blah, blah:
You believe that if you can find the right words, he will hear you. Words are just words. He can put up with your blather for a while, then ignore everything you said. He has weathered other verbal storms. What makes this one any different?
Quit Your Crying
Why is it that crying doesn’t affect him? Because the abuser either sees tears as a form of manipulation, or they empower him by proving that he has you under his thumb.
Holding What Together?
You are doing the best you can, believing you are holding your family together. Unfortunately, fearful, wounded, tortured souls living under the same roof are not much more than fearful, wounded, tortured souls living under the same roof.
For those who are just beginning to explore the abuse dynamic, these realizations may be shocking or even debilitating. Just know that acknowledging the truth is the first step toward empowerment and freedom.
You deserve better. In your heart, you know that. But, thinking about wanting your life to change doesn’t change anything. If you want your life to change, you will probably have to be the one to change it. And, remember: Safety first. Get support, be wise, and don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Learn more. Get help. Break the cycle.
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