Friday, December 5, 2014

“BUT I LET HIM DO IT”



            When people picture an abusive or controlling man, they imagine him yelling, threatening, or attacking with his fists. These images do capture one aspect of the experience of a woman who has a destructive partner, but at the same time they leave so much out. 
           They particularly miss one of the most insidious forms of relationship poison, which is when the man relentlessly – but not necessarily loudly -- badgers, criticizes, pressures, and guilt-trips the woman until she gives in. This kind of vise-grip approach, where he just keeps tightening up the pressure until she can’t take it, is especially common regarding sex, but it comes about other issues as well.
            Why is this pressure so toxic? One of the key reasons is that the woman comes out blaming herself. Over and over again, women say to me, “Well, I let him get away with it,” or, “I was stupid to put up with it.” Her partner has made her feel that she made a voluntary choice, so she feels responsible for causing her own harm to herself.
            But the decision wasn’t voluntary at all. You are not making a free choice if it follows an unending barrage of verbal pushing. And this is even more true when that pushing includes insults and guilt-tripping. This style of man is sending the message that you are bad and that you are inferior if you don’t give in to his demands.
            And there usually is a threat, even if he isn’t openly saying that he is going to hurt you. He is often sending the message that he is going to be cold or mean to you for days to come if he doesn’t get his way – because that’s what he’s done in the past when you haven’t given in. Or he may get it across that he is going to cheat on you if don’t do what he is telling you to do. Threats don’t have to be overt to be powerful.
            You are not a voluntary participant when you have been bullied into doing things that you didn’t believe you should have to do. And when a man bullies you into sexual contact that you didn’t want, or into a specific sexual act that you didn’t want, that’s sexual assault not lovemaking.

(This post is based on an entry from Lundy's forthcoming book "Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That?: Encouragement for Women Involved with Angry and Controlling Men", which will be released by Berkley Books (Penguin) on April 7, 2015.)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

THE ABUSER CRUSADE


            When a man has some unhealthy relationship patterns to begin with, the last thing he needs is to discover philosophies that actually back up the destructive aspects of how he thinks. Take a guy who is somewhat selfish and disrespectful to begin with, then add in a big dose of really negative influences, and you have a recipe for disaster. And the sad reality is that there are websites, books, and even organizations out there that encourage men to be at their worst rather than at their best when it comes to relating to women.

            Some of these groups come under the heading of what is known as “Men’s Rights” or “Father’s Rights” groups. Their writings spread the message that women are trying to control or humiliate men, or are mostly focused on taking men’s money. They also tend to promote the idea that women who want to keep primary custody of their children after divorce are evil. The irony is that we live in a country that has refused to pass an amendment to the constitution to guarantee equal rights for women; yet some men are still out there claiming that women have too many rights and that men don’t have enough.

            Other groups don’t use the language of “rights”, but promote abusive thinking by talking about the “natural” roles of men and women. These groups teach, for example, that men are biologically programmed to be the ones making the key decisions, and that women are just naturally the followers of men’s leadership. These philosophies sometimes teach that men and women are just too different to have really close relationships.

            Human personalities and preference are obviously not determined by biology. There are women who love to watch football and men who would much rather be dancing. There are women who hold in all their feelings and men who burst into tears freely. No one has the right to tell anyone what they “naturally” are or must be; one of the greatest joys of human life is having the freedom to decide for ourselves what our identities and styles will be.

            If you see your partner coming under the influence of a philosophy that is harming your relationship, take some steps to research it. Look underneath the surface of what he is telling you about his new belief system. If he starts to attend workshops or read books that seem to be worsening rather than improving how he treats you, try to use the Internet to make contact with other women who have been hurt by these philosophies. The clearer you can be about what he is getting into, the more you’ll be prepared to defend yourself.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

WHO IS THE CONTROLLING ONE?



            Has your partner ever said to you, “You’re the controlling one! You are always trying to control me! You’re a controlling bitch!”
            These accusations can create confusion for the woman. So let’s clarify a few points.
            It is not control when you:
  • Demand that someone treat you properly, insisting that your rights be respected (including demanding that you be spoken to with respect)
  • Challenge someone about the work they are creating for you (such as by leaving messes around the house)
  • Press someone to meet responsibilities that they aren’t meeting (and if you have to keep asking them over and over again, that doesn’t make you controlling, it makes them irresponsible)
  • Challenge someone about behaviors of theirs that have large implications for the couple (and for the family if you have children), such as abusing alcohol, gambling, ignoring the children, or being mean to the children
  • Call the police because someone is hurting you or threatening to hurt you
            It is control when you:
  • Ridicule someone, make them feel stupid, or call them demeaning names, especially when you are doing so in order to force them do something or to silence them
  • Physically or sexually intimidate someone
  • Get revenge on someone for not doing what you told them to do or for standing up for their own opinions
  • Impose double standards (make different rules for yourself than for the other person)
  • Pressure or manipulate someone into sexual contact that they don’t want
            I’m willing to bet that when he calls you controlling, he is referring to things you do from the first list, and that when you call him controlling, you’re referring to things he does from the second list. He's the one getting it all backwards.
            Another useful, though tricky, concept:  It’s control when you are trying to take someone’s rights away, and it’s self-defense when you are trying to keep someone else from taking your rights away. (The reason this gets tricky is because the controlling man will often say that you are trying to take his rights away, because he thinks he has the right to abuse you.)
            And a last concept:  The abusive man will call you “controlling” for resisting his control. Noticing when this is happening will be a huge help to you.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

HE WANTS SEX AT THE WRONG TIMES





            Verbal abuse is not sexy. Intimidation is not sexy. Public humiliation is not sexy. Ruining the day is not sexy. So why does he think that a short period of time – say a couple of hours -- after he’s been treating you terribly could somehow be a good time for sex? He really thinks that this is when you are going to be in the mood?
            Not exactly. The problem, as is so often true with abusive men, is that he isn’t thinking about you at all; he’s thinking only about himself. He wants sex to reassure himself that he hasn’t driven you away, and that he still has access to your body. He thinks that if he can get you to have sex, that also means he has erased from history the destructive acts he did earlier. And he wants to have sex because in some twisted way his ugly behavior made him feel close, even though it had the opposite effect on you.
            And because of the ways he’s been tearing you down, it gets hard for you to say no to sex that you don’t want; you can end up feeling like giving him what he wants is the only way to settle him down so that he doesn’t launch into more abuse, or even violence.
            He is the one whose reactions are unhealthy, not yours. The feelings you are going through are completely natural for a woman who has been demeaned and bullied. When he has sex with you following one of his incidents, that is a form of sexual abuse, even if you don’t – or can’t – fight him on it. Keep reminding yourself that the sickness is in him, not in you. Sex after abuse is just more abuse.