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does emotional abuse need to be delibarate to be abuse?

(59 Posts)
livingonthedge Tue 27-Sep-11 00:37:07

I've looked at various books and websites on emotional abuse but most describe it as behaviour designed to be controling, manipulative etc. (my italics). So does there have to be intent? oh will shout at me, call me a f*cking b*tch, stupid etc if I do something "wrong" (say lose a whel hub) but I do not htink that there is really any thought-out intent. He just "loses it" and gets really angry. So is lack of anger management different? I've tried to talk to him about his behaviour (have tried to get him to see that it is not usual to shout so/be so agressive) but his argument is that I am unreasonable (eg not taking care of the car) and so he gets angry.

I'm not trying to say that I am unreasonable (am confident that most of the time I am not) or that he is justyified in losing his temper - just asking whether there is a differnece between emotional abuse and lack of anger management.

Ie I get (now) that most relationships do not seem to invlve one party swearing directly at the other but with abuse partners are they actually thinking, in a calculated fashion "right I'll do this so that ..." ? or do they just lose it?

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Arion Tue 27-Sep-11 00:44:02

Does he shout the same way in other situations? At work, at his parents, at his friends? If this behaviour is just aimed at you it shows a lack of respect for you as hs equal.

FWIW, I'm not sure abuse is a conscious decision, it stems from their attitude to their partner, women in general or life.

akaemmafrost Tue 27-Sep-11 00:49:47

I have thought a lot about this actually as I had one of these ie nice to everyone else but a twat to me. I think it is more an assumption of rights and sense of entitlement than deliberate abuse, certainly in my case with ex. I felt he didn't see me as human once I entered into a relationship with him, more like an object or servant that he could justify abusing if it wasn't performing right. I believe that in the majority of cases they have witnessed this behaviour in their own families and it is normal to them. I don't believe they even see it as abuse. It's just normal to them.

ToxicMoxie Tue 27-Sep-11 01:59:59

Livingonthedge, no, it doesn't have to be intentional to be abuse. if he doesn't see you as an equal, he is treating you with disregard of your feelings, that is a kind of abuse. Also, you are never responsible for another person's feelings or emotions. You can certainly do things that you know will cause a reaction if they have no control, but ultimately we can only control ourselves. No one has the power to make us do anything (without threats).

I don't know if it's a personality thing, of if he's just a twat, but if he can't treat you with respect then it is abuse in my book.

WishIwereAtTheWiesnProst Tue 27-Sep-11 02:09:14

If a parent beats their kid because they "just snap" would you consider that abuse?

babyhammock Tue 27-Sep-11 07:35:59

He does it knowing it really upsets you, then he blames you.

Does he shout at other people? If questioned about that does he say something like 'other people don't make him angry, or other people aren't as supid (re car) as you'.

I think the fact that you don't really get an apology means that it isn't really about him not being able to control his temper and more about how he feels entitled to treat you x

Anniegetyourgun Tue 27-Sep-11 08:15:31

Behaviour is abusive. People behave abusively. Whether they mean to or not is a separate issue, I would argue. I tied myself in knots wondering how much XH was doing on purpose, but concluded in the end that it didn't matter why he was doing it; he either wouldn't or couldn't stop, and I couldn't live with it.

AnyFucker Tue 27-Sep-11 08:20:45

Unless he emotionally abuses everybody around him, then it is deliberate.

It doesn't matter though

You are either happy to tolerate it, and try and find excuses for it, or you ae not

I know that sounds very black and white, but that really is the bottom line

If you think this is how a loving partner should be allowed to treat you, then this is how an abuser will target you

Whether he consciously targets you or not, the fact remains you are being abused and there should be zero tolerance for it

wicketkeeper Tue 27-Sep-11 08:52:52

My name is Wicket, and I have only recently realised that I was emotionally abused. I left a long time ago, simply because I couldn't stand him any longer, but now it's all becoming much clearer.

What's confused me a bit is that I don't think for one minute that he would see himself as being abusive (OP asks if it has to be deliberate). I don't mean that he would be in denial about it, simply that he would be shocked to have that label applied to him. He's middle-class, intelligent, well thought of in his work, even thought of himself as a feminist. And he was supportive (while we were married I completed my degree and then made a complete career change that involved a year in college full time). BUT the petty arguments, the walking on eggshells, the major arguments about minor things, the interrogation about what I'd spent, the continuous implication that the things I thought were important were in some way trivial compared to his concerns.

Strangely, he coped with major problems much better than minor ones - I crashed the car (totally my fault, hit a wall) it was no big deal, insurance dealt with it and he was concerned that I wasn't hurt. No blame, 'these things happen'. But if he found a pair of shoes in the living room, or (shock) a packet of biscuits next to the sofa, he would go ballistic.

Did he abuse people around him? No, but also he pretty much avoided people as much as possible, to the point of being rude (wouldn't get out of bed if we stayed at my parents, so I would end up spending the whole of breakfast making excuses for him)

To return to the OP's question, I'm pretty sure he wasn't doing it deliberately, but I'm also pretty sure he couldn't help himself. It was like he had an idea of what things should be like and if they weren't like that it made him angry - and I happened to be in the firing line.

thisishowifeel Tue 27-Sep-11 09:18:20

This question is answered in the books by Patricia Evans, who for me at least, are way more informative than Lundy Bancroft, who merely describes abusive conversations. Although he does it very well, his only answer is "entitlement", and it's clearly MUCH deeper than that. IMHO(!)

My h was horrified at the label, "abusive" too, and found it very hard to accept for a long time. I have been abusive, and completely accept that now. I also understand why.

Yes it's to do with upbringing, with often having "not good enough" parents. coming from an abusive background where it is seen as normal, and particularly where there is a lot of splitting and projection going on.

I personally think that the splitting/ projection/acting out thing goes a long way to explaining the dynamics of abuse.

Google is your friend if you want to find out more. smile

livingonthedge Tue 27-Sep-11 10:48:58

Wicket this >>>middle-class, intelligent, well thought of in his work...feminist...supportive...BUT the petty arguments, the walking on eggshells, the major arguments about minor things...<<<

sounds so familiar - he does not interegate me over money but time (which is more of an issue for us) - sometimes I feel like I did when I worked as an accoutant with a timesheet with 7.5 minute slots sad

>>>the continuous implication that the things I thought were important were in some way trivial compared to his concerns.<<<

Ditto again

>>>Did he abuse people around him? No, but also he pretty much avoided people as much as possible, to the point of being rude<<<

again the same - also when driving he goes mad but in the car - I keep trying to get him to at least beep at the oteh car but he just loses inthe car and thumps the wheel etc etc.

livingonthedge Tue 27-Sep-11 10:55:48

I think that the entitlement idea is pretty accurate in my case.

I've tried to talk to him - from what I can gather it seems that he feels that he entered into an agreement when we got together and that I am breaking it. For example he told me that night that a "normal" wife would always get up with her oh and make breakfast (he hates cooking), he quotes men at work whose wives "all do this". He has deduced this fro mcomments made - not asked them. To me the deductions are not sensible but he seems to see the world as he wants to see it. This makes it hard for him to accept that there is any problem though as he sees me as being an unreasonable wife who does not pull her weight.

I often think that he would have beenfar happier with someone who devoted her life to oh adn family rather than someone like me who wants to work outside the home but in a profession which is notoriously badly paid (vocational work) and so he feels that he is effectively "paying extra taxes" by earning enough to keep our family whilst I work for practically nothing in a "caring profession". I know that this is rot as we have had all the downsizing conversations - he likes the status which he gets from his work - but he then "forgets" and goes back to blamin gme.

Now off to google the "splitting/projectioin/acting out" thing and look up Evans on Anazon grin

solidgoldbrass Tue 27-Sep-11 11:38:35

A lot of the time abusive men don't consider themselves abusive because they simply don't think women are human. These are the men who claim to love their partners but who criticize the partner's behaviour, feel they can 'set rules' for the partner, allow themselves privileges that they do not extend to the partner, etc etc. Someone posted something about this a while ago, can't remember exact quote but it's along the lines of these men see women as somewhere between servant and domestic animal. You might love your pet, but it's up to you what it eats, where it goes, it's not allowed on the sofa or whatever, because it's only a pet.

ItsMeAndMyPuppyNow Tue 27-Sep-11 11:47:58

Reading your last posts, OP, I was also going to recommend Patricia Evans, but I see that thisis got there before me!

ItsMeAndMyPuppyNow Tue 27-Sep-11 11:50:34

I've seen that analogy elsewhere on MN as being "these men see women as somewhere between servant and domestic appliance ", in that the woman's concerns will be paid attention to, briefly, only when she "malfunctions".

electra Tue 27-Sep-11 11:58:07

My counselor and I discussed emotional abuse a lot. She said that in her experience most abusers are not aware of what they are doing. But that does not mean it isn't abuse or that the effects are not the same.

She said that most abusers get stuck in the cycle of behaviour they exhibit towards others because it has somehow become hard wired in them and they do it unconsciously. My parents have been extremely emotionally abusive towards me and it has been very damaging to my sense of identity. My conselor suggested it sounded like they are not aware but act unconsciously and without thought processes connected with what they're doing.

So my view would be that if it's abusive it's abuse, whether consciously intentional on the part of the abuser or not.

bellsring Tue 27-Sep-11 11:59:21

But the women's concerns are just 'inconveniences' for their partner, an 'irritation', they don't matter-other than getting in the way of what their partner wants.Everything is 'functional'.

babyhammock Tue 27-Sep-11 12:04:58

I've seen that analogy elsewhere on MN as being "these men see women as somewhere between servant and domestic appliance ", in that the woman's concerns will be paid attention to, briefly, only when she "malfunctions".

and what SGB said: You might love your pet, but it's up to you what it eats, where it goes, it's not allowed on the sofa or whatever, because it's only a pet.

This is so true and was exactly what ex was like before I started malfunctioning.

ItsMeAndMyPuppyNow Tue 27-Sep-11 12:04:58

I think the "deliberateness" of abuse is not so much in a conscious intent to control and harm someone else at that precise moment, but in a generalised world view by the abuser in which empathy is lacking, and in which it is therefore "OK" to belittle and control others.

solidgoldbrass Tue 27-Sep-11 12:20:53

In the case of a lot of domestic abuse (not all, some abusers are indiscriminately violent, for instance and some, obviously, are women who abuse their male partners/men who abuse their male partners/women who abuse their femaile partners) what it does boil down to is an absolutely hard-wired conviction that men are superior to women, that women exist entirely for men's benefit, and that men are entitled to control women's behaviour and punish them when they are disobedient.

ItsMeAndMyPuppyNow Tue 27-Sep-11 12:32:41

Undoubtedly, sgb. Sadly the view of that type of man as "the" archetypal abuser makes it all the more difficult for people like me, wicket and the OP and so many others to come to see our "middle-class, intelligent, well thought of in his work...feminist...supportive..." partners as abusive towards us too.

I know I had a hell of a time reconciling the abusive men of my imagination with the man I shared my life with. And what really got through to me in the end was Lundy Bancroft's message that his abusive behaviour was chosen behaviour. He did not think, "Oh, I will abuse Puppy now in order to get my way", but he did think (and act on) the belief that "I am angry so I am perfectly right to call her a stupid fucking bitch/slam her against a wall/threaten to kill her" etc.

And I do see that as intent, which is what OP is debating in her opening post. Abusers abuse because they want to.

babyhammock Tue 27-Sep-11 12:54:12

And in my case I'm so angry that BH doesn't know how to attend to my every whim whatever that might be how to look after a man properly that of course threatening to kill her ok as it is the only way to get through to her thick head.. and she needs to know.

All that 'I'm really a feminist' bollocks is just a cover. SGBs spot on with what she said about them having a hard-wired conviction that men are superior to women

LesserOfTwoWeevils Tue 27-Sep-11 13:02:55

Echoing the "middle-class, intelligent, well thought of in his work...feminist...supportive..." experience.
My XP was also good in a crisis, unless he happened to be going through one of the sulking/stonewalling phases, which could go on for weeks.
I was also bewildered because he was so easygoing and laid back about things he didn't care about. Then he was happy for me to have my way/take responsibility.
But if it was something he did care about and I dared to want something different, he would go ballistic immediately—not physically. I was once given a small table and said it could go in DS1's room, as he needed one. XP said it would go on the porch, and if it didn't he would pack his things and move out.
That was my lightbulb moment.

AnyFucker Tue 27-Sep-11 15:43:26

OP what are you going to do ?

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