Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Other People's Anger, con't.

Those who have never been exposed to domestic abuse of any kind, can have great difficulty in understanding the dynamic involved.

Most of us don't start out with our partners shrieking ragefully at us, we start out with a small trampling of our boundaries, perhaps only an apparently offhand hurtful commet, which we excuse and minimise. This gives the abuser the information that they can "get away" with at least that much. The next time, it's a little bit worse. Again, we excuse, minimise, forgive, deny. Gradually, in this way, does the cycle progress, with the abusive behavior slowly gaining ground, and the victim slowly being backed away from an position of equality with the spouse.

Denial plays a big part in this. It's our own denial which makes us turn our faces away from the truth, and refuse to gaze fully upon the fact that we are being treated cruelly, with a complete lack of respect.

Also, in between the explosions of verbal, emotional and/or physical abuse, is the "honeymoon phase."

That's the time in which the abuser sets out to smooth away our understanding of the reality, to charm and lull us into believing that which we want so desperately to believe - he will never ever do this again, things are going to be different from now on, that was the last time, he's come to his senses, he truly understands now, he sees the light, he doesn't know what came over him, he is under stress from the business, but that is going to change, he adores us, he is yada yada yada.

We are like fish, and he is slowly, gently, lovingly, carefully, reeling us in.

When we love, we want to believe.
When we love, we want to be generous and forgiving.
We want to give another chance.
We want to offer room to move and grow.
We acquiesce in our own destruction.

At some point we reach our internal Rubicon, cross it, and there is no way back to what was. The abuser often senses this, and will redouble his entreaties to be given just one more chance, don't we love him? Don't we care about our families? How can we just throw away all these years together?

When we have made a decision, we will not stick to it, unless we accept ahead of time that we are going to be bombarded with efforts to change our mind, and decide that nothing the abuser says will make us decide otherwise.

Sometimes the only way to stop this, is to remove ourselves from the room, or our home - take the dog for a walk, take the kids out, go out ourselves.

Sometimes we need to explain to our partner that if he is willing to seek help to stop the abuse, we will entertain the possibility of us living together again in future, but that for now, we are going to be living separately. That's what I did - I left the door slightly open. Once I was out, and living alone, the relief and feeling of safety from those verbal attacks was so great that I knew I would never be willing to live with him again, regardless of how he changed, and I sought a permanent end to the marriage.

The "honeymoon phase" is a classic sign of abuse, and I've heard counsellors speak of how some women couldn't classify their marriages as abusive by what was said during the explosion, but recognised the honeymoon phase immediately when it was explained to them. They'd heard the promises, seen the demonstrations of loving sincerity, dismantled their boundaries in that phase, and found themselves quickly back in the cycle again.

With no lasting consquences, the abuser will not change.

The victim of the abuse can affect change in an abusive relationship, and we do that, when we decide that we have had enough.

Until that time, we will go around endlessly on that downward spiral of tension, explosion, honeymoon/tension, explosion, honeymoon.

I had to reach a place where I could remember the abusive phase with utter clarity, and superimpose his raging face, upon the soft loving face turned towards me during the honeymoon phase. I had to choose to remember, rather than choose to forget.

My choice.


  1. I get it. I don't know if you're supporting me intentionally, but I appreciate it anyway.

  2. Soooooo interesting.

    I have an appointment tomorrow with a counselor and they only deal with victims of domestic or sexual abuse. I guess I am still having issues in dealing with all that I've experienced in the relationship with my son's father. That is why I am seeking help.

    I don't think that it was a coincidence that you posted this today, of all days.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. I get it too. And was seduced by the honeymoon phase until I realized that all of that was just a way to get back in my good graces. Now that we are both in recovery, things are much different. The raging doesn't occur and any disagreements we have are ones that we work out in a civil manner. Life is much better without walking on egg shells.

  4. Cheryl I agree with you -- unless one has lived through the repeated cycles and evasions and excuses of an abusive relationship, it is so difficult to recognise what is happening and how much worse it can get.

    And we are not talking about active alcoholism here -- some of the more abiusive men I have met have not been alcoholic or addicted. They simply believed that they could get away with intimidating and emotionally battering and threatening family members.

    I wish there was more awareness of these patterns and cycles and how hard it is to break those cycles of abuse.

    Thanks again for raising this topic.

    Mary LA

  5. I get it. Boy, do I ever. Recovery has helped me deal with my denial. And things are better.
    Thank you for posting this!

  6. Cunning, baffling and powerful. I have been in that situation. I won't go back either. I learned to love (and like) myself because of the people in the rooms of Alanon, the Steps, and my HP. You wrote about this so well...it needs to be posted at every abuse shelter for women.


  7. Having been on both sides of this particular relationship, I can see where you are coming from. I can also say that the manipulation by the abuser may not be a conscious act.

    In my family, anger was the only acceptable emotion to display and it was not handled in a healthy manner. It's taken me a long time to sort through, recognize and label other emotions. Still working on handling anger in a healthy manner.

    My current relationship is a lot more calm, with a lot more communication. My wife is also very good at walking away when I'm throwing a tantrum - which works very well for me. It's my tantrum, my issue and I need to deal with it and that's easier without outside influence.

  8. Having been in this particular situation I know all too well how it feels. What took longer for me to understand was why I stayed through it all...Some days I still don't understand it fully, but I am working through it.

    Wonderful posting and very well written.

  9. Gradualism can be a very dangerous thing in all kinds of areas. We come to except things that are just a little over the line each time and the line just keeps moving and taking us along. My program has helped me to better assess what's OK and what's not and to try to set some boundaries around that. Thank you for this!