You cannot please a verbal abuser

As they struggle in confusion, victims often form a false set of beliefs, such as believing that they might appease the abusers if they were better at articulating what they wished to say. Abusers reinforce these false beliefs by convincing them that they are incapable of understanding, and that if they could correct this they would not provoke anger. When they see their abuser behaving kindly and courteously to others, they become convinced that they are at fault, and that something must be wrong with them. These beliefs show how victims take responsibility for the abuse, and come to doubt every aspect of themselves, as their personality is dismantled.
If you commit to a verbal abuser this, too, will be your lot. Your initially marvellous relationship will deteriorate over time, and love and trust will be stillborn. You will find yourself in a codependent relationship, where you inadvertently nourish the abuser by trying to please him. You will find yourself on a treadmill of short-lived happiness and prolonged hurt in the cycle of abuse. As your anger grows at the prospect of a life ruined, your relationship may change from codependency to mutual abuse. You will be neglected emotionally and physically. You will be subject to bouts of jealousy by your abusive partner as the noose of control tightens around your neck, and you lose contact with your friends and family.
Perhaps you are in a verbally abusive relationship and you do not realise it. Dr Irene Matiatos, an American psychologist, might enlighten you with some of the questions she proposes. Are your feelings ignored and ridiculed? Do you feel disrespected and dismissed? Perhaps you never receive appreciation and affection and you are treated coldly. Are you berated, shouted at, or subject to unpredictable mood swings? Are your beliefs, opinions, class and religion ridiculed? Are you left speechless with anger as your partner walks away without answering you? Does he use your justified anger as an excuse to blame you for the problem? He is right and you are wrong! You are too sensitive, you do not understand him, you are unfaithful, none of the abuse you complain of is happening!
Perhaps your partner humiliates you in private and in public, and makes it difficult for you to socialise with your friends and family. Perhaps he makes you socialise when you prefer to stay at home or are not feeling well. His control may extend beyond this to all the decisions affecting your home and relationship, including how you dress. If you complain, does he come across as the victim? Does he then exact revenge by hurting you when you are ill or down, or by twisting your words and turning them against you? Does he threaten to abandon you or to hurt you or your family? Does he manipulate you with lies and make you feel useless? Perhaps you are terrified as your partner drives like a maniac or is frequently subject to road rage. You will notice that as you become exhausted by trying to defend yourself, his anger energises him, as he creatively finds other ways to torture you. Are you mollified and gratified later when he promises that he will never hurt you again? Until the next time, that is!
Adapted from Jim O’Shea’s book Abuse. Domestic Violence, Workplace and School Bullying published by Cork University Press

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