In Part I, we looked at the initial progression of the verbally or emotionally abusive relationship. Although the enabler-victim tries to overlook consistently hurtful actions at the hands of her abuser, the abuse not only continues; it increases.
In the final few sentences of my first article I wrote, “…this person whom you have loved and tried to please is hurting you and doesn’t care.”
In a relationship with an abuser, what I have written is, for all intents and purposes, true. Understand that an abuser wants the victim in his life, but on his terms. An abuser will do anything to keep you, but nothing to take care of you.
Nevertheless, the enabler-victim would probably be tempted to say that the abuser “doesn’t seem to care.” The difference in perception is crucial. We enablers use mind-bending logic to attempt to rationalize both our abuser’s actions and our reasons for waiting for him to change. To the enabler’s way of thinking, the abuser really does care, it’s just that he is having a hard time acknowledging or showing it. Okay, brace yourself: that’s not true. If he cared, he would show it, and you would know it.
Here denial rears its ugly head. Of course, it was birthed many months or years before. Early on, when the abuser says or does something hurtful, the victim’s heart is so stunned by something malicious that he says or does that she must quickly rationalize in her mind that he certainly couldn’t have meant it. Maybe he was having a bad day, or other issues in his life were making him uncharacteristically impatient. The verbal slap was an accident, a slip of the tongue, or misdirected anger. It must be temporary – a phase – and surely it will pass.
When the occurrences become more common, she questions him or informs him that he is hurting her feelings, but he is unwavering and unapologetic. You are the one who is failing him, he contends. Although his reasoning seems strange, his insistence on being right makes her question whether she is, as he would say, overreacting. In the end, her efforts to get him to hear her are unsuccessful.
From there it is a downhill slide. The victim begins to become accustomed to overlooking his callous remarks and actions. She must rationalize them away as a matter of self-preservation. She believes that, with time and the right collection of influences (particularly her kind attention and positive example), these hurtful incidents will cease, and he will come to appreciate not only who she is, but he will suddenly see with new eyes the patience and care his partner has exerted to help him see the error of his ways. At that point (she has convinced herself), he will be doubly smitten and finally begin to treat her with the care and affection she has longed for for so long. He wants to love her; he just doesn’t know how.
The abuser continues to dismiss his spouse’s concerns, shuns her or rages at her when she fails to meet his impossible expectations, and the enabler is still convinced that she is simply missing something. There must be a key to his love eludes her, and she is determined to find it in spite of her ongoing misery. This is where, looking back, an enabler-victim wonders why she held on, why she continued to subject herself to his unending treachery – in her own home.
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