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Emotional abuse- how can i immunise myself?

(35 Posts)
popgoestheweezel Sun 26-Aug-12 09:10:27

Four months ago it dawned on me that dh has been emotionally abusing me for a very long time. I confronted him about it and he has accepted the truth.
He is now on a 26 wk Respect course and our relationship is far healthier.
Reading Beverly Engels book and looking at my previous relationships and friendships I have seen a pattern of emotional abuse and wondered why.
Engels discusses identifying your 'original abuser' but try as I might I couldn't see where my parents had abused me. However, over the last few days i have identified my older sister who has always been and continues to abuse me.
What I need now is advice on how to immunise myself against this kind of relationship for the future. I want to permenantly adjust my relationships with both sis and dh so they are healthy and equitable. The problem is, I am so well trained in being manipulated it can easily happen without my realising it (especially with my sister) how do I avoid this?

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 27-Aug-12 14:02:24

"How do I tackle that?"

First, pick your battles. Many people are selfish or thoughtless but sometimes it's not appropriate to tackle it e.g. at a family gathering. smile Personally, I find a brisk manner and plenty of humour goes a long way... handing out the bin-bags, rubber-gloves, sweeping brushes or whatever and a bunch of cheery instructions works. "You get started on the washing up, you collect glasses in the dining room and I'll make us all a nice cup of tea." Don't give them time to answer.

And, unless this is some peculiar female-only family gathering, no reason why the men shouldn't be pulling their weight as well, of course.

HissyByName Mon 27-Aug-12 14:14:51

"Me and one of my sis in laws have made a good contribution to the meal prepping and clearing workload the other two sis inlaws have not done a thing. How do I tackle that?"

I agree with Cogito, TELL them to get on the end of a bin bag....

I only found out that my family were dysfunctional when I'd already got rid of my abusive Ex. Getting rid of him was a great warm up for dealing with them.

It's all about boundaries. You need to start defining your boundaries at home, and your H needs to adhere to them, (or he's GONE!) then you do the same with your Sis.

You have a RIGHT to your own preferences, you have a voice and a right for it to be heard.

If people aren't willing to support you in this, they need to step aside so you can make room in your life for those that WILL. It's that black and white. Don't let ANYONE tell you any different.

I've recently told my DM that I CHOOSE who is and is not in my life, no piece of paper, birth certificate, or family tree will make a bit of difference. Access to me and my life, my love and my friendship is BY INVITATION only.

You have to be THAT ruthless. Once everyone has got the hang of your new rules, you can adjust/relax if you see fit, but it's your life, your choice, your rules.

popgoestheweezel Mon 27-Aug-12 14:16:32

Very true about the men contributing too, for some reason I find it easy enough to ask b in laws to do things but far harder with s in laws.
I have found this at work too. It's easier for me to ask men to do things than it is to ask women... Weird, I wonder why?

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 27-Aug-12 14:35:59

Men are easier to manipulate smile

motn Mon 27-Aug-12 15:42:10

Been lurking. Interesting thread.

"I also default to believeing I am at fault so advice on that would be good for me too"

Pop, and Emma, I think it might be useful remember is that
you are ALLOWED not to be perfect,
you have the right to make mistakes,
you have the right to cock something up,
you have the right to believe differently,
....WITHOUT BEING judged, blamed, criticised, insulted, abused.

So get rid of the guilt, you don't have to justify yourself to anyone. Don't get drawn into that kind of conversation.

So, you can make all the mistake humans make,
you can burn the dinner,
forget to collect the kids (hopefully not!)
drop and break something
buy a hideous dress,
lose your housekeys,
crash the car,
change your mind about something,
misunderstand a message,

etc...
- without feeling guilty and without being shouted at, or insulted.

Even if you burnt the house down, and you are all standing outside in your pj's...he still doesn't have the right to call you a f-ing bitch. Do you get it?

Read Patricia Evans "Emotional Abuse - how to recognise it and how to respond"

popgoestheweezel Mon 27-Aug-12 20:45:15

motn, we all have the right to get it wrong, don't we?
The thing is, I've been getting it really wrong by letting myself be manipulated all this time and I don't want to make that mistake ever, ever again! I know I can't fix my faulty programming overnight though and my aversion to making mistakes is actually part of the problem. Grrrr!

It's a little bit scary, realising you've been duped so, so many times before especially by people you've really trusted. I am feeling a bit paranoid so i'm not sure how to react when someone asks me a favour for instance, my old 'natural' (programmed) impulse is to say 'yes, of course!' without asking for anything in return and protesting that whatever the request 'it's absolutely no trouble, no problem at all'. Now I know that's not a 'safe' way to behave- it just sets me up to be manipulated. However, what is the assertive way to deal with this kind of thing? For myself, I never ask anyone to do anything for me, I struggle to ask my parents or our teenage babysitter to babysit- often I think I'd rather not bother going out than ask. That's something I need to get used to as well.

I love the idea of releasing my inner diva though. I think I could be pretty good at it if I let myself grin.

CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 28-Aug-12 07:43:43

"what is the assertive way to deal with this kind of thing?"

If you can't do the favour give them a straight 'sorry I can't help you', 'that's not possible for me', 'I'm unavailable'. Has to be unequivocal and direct because any hint of hedging will be spotted. There is no need to go to any lengths explaining why you can't help so resist the temptation to justify yourself. If you're asked repeatedly just repeat the reply. If you're subjected to arm-twisting have some snappy retorts up your sleeve. My friend's favourite is 'which part of the word 'no' are you struggling with?' smile

If you are able to do the favour but simply don't want to, the exact same thing applies. Say no with a clear conscience. If you want to buy yourself some time you can try stalling tactics like 'let me check my diary', 'I'll get back to you' and so on. If you're put under any pressure to supply an answer there and then you default to 'not possible'

Finally, if you are happy to do the favour still buy yourself some time. They have the problem, not you. If they automatically assume popgoestheweezel will drop everything, give them time to try other arrangements and fail. This means that when you finally say yes, others will be a little more grateful and not take you so much for granted.

IMPORTANT. If not doing the favour means people you actually care about suffer e.g. nephews and neices, you have to harden your heart and still say no. Unscrupulous types will use the 'it's not for me, it's for the kids' line quite ruthlessly. Be as ruthless back.

If this is not your normal way of working it'll feel a little fake at first... but it will gradually become second nature.

motn Tue 28-Aug-12 22:46:30

cogito is right,

if you understand that it is possible to live a fulfulling life where NOT everybody thinks you're perfect.
that's where your freedom lies.

popgoestheweezel Fri 31-Aug-12 14:22:03

I went to see the women's support counsellor as part of the respect course dh is on last night.

I talked a lot about the origins of my unassertiveness and how strange it is that most people who know me would think that I am very assertive and confident, and they are right. For instance, if a political issue crops up I contribute, respond to others and confidently voice my opinion. If the issue is 'intellectual' then no problem, however, where emotions are concerned I behave like the little girl I used to be and think to myself 'no-one wants/needs/should have to hear about my feelings so don't bother anyone with it.' Intellectually I act my age, emotionally I act about 4 yrs old.

We also talked about my mum and how although she doesn't generally act disapprovingly of me, she has always had very high standards of home-making and hospitality. There has always been an attitude that some people let themselves down by not being able to run their homes to the expected (very) high standard IYSWIM.

My mum also worked full time when we were kids. She gave 100% to her job yet still managed to keep on top of all things domestic. I guess that's why I am so driven to be the super-woman/mum, I have had it modelled and the alternative has been tacitly disapproved of.

My mum also was the model daughter and her brother was the one that demanded, and got, all the attention. Now, my mum looks after their elderly mum and sees her most days whereas her brother only visits about twice a year. Although (or because) my mum has turned the other cheek to her brother's bad behaviour many, many times they now have no relationship at all and rarely speak. On top of this and despite all the time and effort put into her care my grandma is still cantankerous and miserable with my mum. The 'be a good girl, don't make a fuss, think of others, work hard, never complain' model has been there all my life.

berksbabe Thu 03-Jan-13 15:56:35

Dont let anyone turn you into the bad person. Dont let them turn you into the person who has to say "no, we can nt do this because you have nt thought of a,b or c." Then they'll start saying you are the killjoy and stunting their lives and holding them back - when they are just urresponsible and selfish and should be well able to think of a,b and c for themselves.

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