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Some questions about abusers

(44 Posts)
MrsAnonymousYummyMummy Sun 23-Feb-14 20:35:24

Hello
I have recently got out of an unhealthy relationship on the whole am feeling much happier smile. I have been doing some reflecting / thinking as I really want to ensure I avoid putting myself in this situation in the future.

I have completed the freedom programme and was surprised just how many abusive traits my stbxh has, ranging from bully, jailer, king of the castle, liar, persuader and head worker!

Anyway, although the course was useful, I do have some confusion which I'm hoping you can help with. I know there's no definitive answers, and posters can only offer opinion and not fact, but I think hearing others views may help clarify things for me.

So my questions follow:
1. Do abusers know what they are doing? Is it calculated? Do they know the impact it has?

2. Do abusers ever change? Do they ever want to?

3. Is it abuse if both parties are happy with the dynamic? For example, a couple may adopt 'traditional' roles where the woman does housework and childcare and the man is the breadwinner. Whereas some women would find this dynamic domineering/controlling, others may be happy with it? Also, for example if the woman later changed her mind and says that she wants to work and share housework and childcare and the man reacts negatively and refuses is he being abusive? Or are they just not compatible?

4. Are all men potentially abusers? It's been noted that many men do not show abusive nature unless the woman becomes a) more dependent (e.g. Financially or pregnant) or b) more independent (e.g financially or socially). It's been implied on these boards that abusive men may not abuse until the woman is in situation a) as the man then feels safer to get away with it? Is it really that premeditated ?? Or does the situation put pressure on the man and we all behave less well when under pressure? Similarly in situation b) would a man be reacting badly as they are scared to lose relationship but are unable to communicate feelings? Just some of my thoughts, be interested to know other views.

5. Can any medical reason explain abusive behaviour? For example depression? Or other mental health issues?

6. How many relationships out there are completely free from any abuse from either party 24/7 for their duration? When I say abuse, I mean everything on the scale, not just extreme such as physicall aggression but shouting, sulking, name calling, silent treatment, lying, criticisms etc. no-one is perfect and I'm not sure how realistic it is to expect someone in a relationship to always act in a 100% appropriate?

Thank you for reading and look for war to your responses...

tygertygerburningbright Sun 23-Feb-14 20:46:23

I just broke up witj my fiancé who has abusive traits.

I also just signed up for the freedom programme smile

Whilst I don't have the answers to any of your questions I'm really interested to hear what people say.

I've never been in a relationship where my partner hasn't had any abusive traits so its either my shitty judgement or the majority of men I've met!

wyrdyBird Sun 23-Feb-14 21:26:57

With the disclaimer that I can only give an opinion, and a very personal one at that:

1) I don't think abuse is calculated, but arises out of a disorder related to impaired empathy and impaired conscience. It produces highly consistent behaviour patterns.

Having said that it's not calculated - abusers choose who they abuse, and how. They are also able, even when seemingly beside themselves, to target one person or their belongings. They can calm down immediately when police arrive. So there is a powerful awareness of what they're doing.

2) abusers rarely change. Their behaviour is deeply ingrained, part of their personality. They rarely want to change because:
1. they benefit from bullying others
2. they think they are normal, and everyone is like them 'really' - even believing that men who aren't like them are faking it, and
3. Their worldview is so skewed they honestly believe their partners deserve to be abused.

3) abuse is nothing to do with traditional roles, or being happy with a dynamic. Abuse is abuse. It can happen in any context.

4) definite no. All men are NOT potential abusers.
Abusers like to create dependency and then exploit it, because they are selfish and desperate for control.

Thus they are often in a tearing hurry to get married or have children, because this immediately creates dependency and a sense of ownership for them (and control).

But they actually detest pregnancy because it takes attention from them. They cannot stand a partner having needs, or not serving them in some way. Hence aggression often surfaces at this time.

This is not a normal attitude. It is an abusive one. The pregnancy doesn't cause it, it brings it out.

5) no, mental health issues and abuse can co exist, or not. One does not cause the other.

6) most relationships really are free from any type of abuse. BUT, arguments and differences are all part of human relationships at some point. You have to deal with them in an adult way.

I think the key is you can disagree, you might get upset with each other, you might not speak to each other for a while; but you shouldn't feel cowed, intimidated or belittled by your partner, ever.

Wow, that was an essay!

sus14 Sun 23-Feb-14 21:39:36

I find the pregnancy thing fascinating, this is when it first emerged with me. Even though I was being hit all the time I just thought he had a loss of control. I don't think that now.
But I find it hard to get my head around the idea of hitting a pregnant woman. The first photos of me holding my dd show a massive bruise.

Good thread op

wyrdyBird Mon 24-Feb-14 00:01:30

That's awful, sus14 sad

Breakingout Mon 24-Feb-14 00:12:59

Good post wyrdy

Meerka Mon 24-Feb-14 09:09:57

1) Some of them yes, they do. Some of them are very calculating.

Some of them no, I think they really are rather unaware. They just know that some behaviour gets them what they want. Discussion and compromise can be hard work. Abuse - whether manipulation or overtly violent - can get the woman / kids to do what they want them to much easier.

Also I think some of them are letting anger overspill and so are sort of half-aware, half-oblivious.

2) a few do yes. Many, perhaps most, don't. But they have to -want- to change, and many don't. They'd rather move on, or get moved on, and find another victim.

But yes, I have seen a few abusive people change. I suppose to be accurate, they were people who were sliding into abusive behaviour and who were challenged hard enough and strongly enough that they stopped before it became too deeply ingrained. I do think it's very important to catch abusive behaviour at a very early stage and stand strong against it.

3) if both partners are genuinely happy with role division and if they have the option to say "I'd rather we did something different" and be listened to then no it's not abuse. I guess if one party decides they want different, the other party doesn't want the status quo to change and they discuss it and end up going separate ways without verbal, emotional or other abuse, that's not abusive either. I suppose its when one person tries to coerce the other in some form or another that it becomes abusive.

4) No, I don't believe all men are potentially abusers, same as I don't believe that all women are potentially abusers. There's probably a large group who have the potential if somehow culturally there was a massive shift, but that's only potential and depends on cultural expectations. I really don't think that it's accurate to tar all men with the same brush.

Like others, I personally think that if someone is in a position of vulnerability eg preg or else ill and dependent, then some people slide into abusive behaviour. I do think you have the right of it though. When you're under a lot of pressure, it's harder to always act well. But that's when you need to watch yourself and curb yourself. That's when decent behaviour counts. It's easy to be decent when all is going well.

5) I ... have mixed views on this. There are some people who have experience of mental illness who are absolutely decent people and always will be. There are quite a few (i reckon) who have a mental illness and are shits as well, but its unconnected.

I do think there are some people who begin to experience mental or emotional distress to the degree it becomes an illness and at the same time they start to act badly, partly under the pressure of that distress. As in point 4, it's hard to always act well if you're really under pressure. If the people around them stand strong and make it clear that this behaviour is not ok, then I belive that many increasingly ill people tend to drop the bad behaviour unless they are basically abusive anyway. If bad behaviour is not checked, then it continues and can become entrenched. It's a subtle thing. A bit of an overlap. I hope that what I'm saying won't be misunderstood.

6) Not a clue how many are free of abuse for their duration =)

From one couple's experience, mine, I know that when my husband and I were having an appallingly rocky patch, both of us exhibitted abusive behaviour. He stonewalled, talking to him failed so in the end I sulked or shouted. No reasonable talking got through the stonewalling. In the end, he realised that I was really, really wanting to leave and didnt love him any more and he fundamentally didn't want that so he began to change. over time, as he became more willing to listen, to talk to me and to compromise, I too began to listen more, to talk and to compromise. We're in a good place now. But yes, we both acted in ways that were abusive then, even though neither of us actually wanted to. I'm so glad we managed to turn around and put it more or less behind us. Both of us are a bit sensitive to relapses in behaviour, perceived or real, but we try to stop and talk it out at the time or afterwards now.

puds11isNAUGHTYnotNAICE Mon 24-Feb-14 09:12:54

Whats the freedom programme?

Also can I ask a question? Is it normal for an abuser to just single out one person? As far as I know, I am he only person my Ex has ever treated this way. I get sick of listening to comments about how nice/quite/shy he is angry

Meerka Mon 24-Feb-14 09:22:18

The Freedom Programme

It seems to generally be very well thought of. Better if you can attend a course personally ofc, but even the online version is well worth doing apparently.

It's very common for abusers to present one face to the world and a very, very different face to their immediate family. It's also common for some abusers to be very subtle about it so for a long time, it's really hard for the victim to realise and identify whats going on even though the abuse is having a real and serious effect. Subtle put downs, unpredictable outbursts of anger, gaslighting, all are effective tactics but hard to necessarily put your finger on.

puds11isNAUGHTYnotNAICE Mon 24-Feb-14 09:25:10

Thanks Meerka He isn't like this with his family either sad Just me it would seem. I think he does it so people would think I was crazy if I told them what he was really like.

puds11isNAUGHTYnotNAICE Mon 24-Feb-14 09:27:21

How much does it cost?

Meerka Mon 24-Feb-14 09:38:50

Not sure sorry, Im sure someone will be along who can answer better smile

BeCool Mon 24-Feb-14 09:57:00

I think abusers have a very messed up idea of equality.

My XP looks to all the world like Mr Nice Guy etc.

But essentially he felt -
- he had some ownership over me (for example you're not going to wear that are you?);
- he felt more entitled than me (his work was more interesting and far more important than mine - I was the higher earner with a professional job/qualification and he spent months on the sofa when unemployed and never finished any qualification he set out to get);
- he could not talk things through like an adult but had to scream and shout at me. Ironically his fav thing to do was to scream beady eyed in my face "how dare I fucking talk to him in that way" - after I'd tried to discuss something with him (calmly) he didn't like;
- if we did manage to discuss things he would usually nod and agree with me, and then go ahead and do things exactly how he wanted to anyway;
- he felt family finances were my responsibility, and any money he contributed was money he was "giving to me" - and he did so resentfully.
- he lurched from one extreme to the other completely failing to see there was a middle ground anywhere.
- blames all his problems on "white people". I am white and our DC are half white. Takes no responsibility for his issues - it's all about other people not treating him with the respect he "deserves".

So he lived in a cloud of secrets, felt more entitled than other people especially me, in many ways, was highly defensive (his entire family are) and then lurched into aggression and verbal abuse to try and get his way. And then feel deeply sorry for himself for being such a fucking shit - which is dealt with by throwing himself a pity party, rarely apologizing, and usually asking ME to DO something for HIM!!! WTAF?

I gave up trying to figure it all out. I'd rather leave him to it, and spend my mental and emotional energy on myself and my DC.

puds11isNAUGHTYnotNAICE Mon 24-Feb-14 10:01:06

No bother Meerka

BeCool I genuinely believe my Ex thinks of me as being 'his'. He doesn't want me, but he doesn't want anyone else to have me. I think it pisses him off that I'm still successful after all the time he has dedicated to telling me I'm shit, whilst he is not successful.

I do think of my success as a big fuck you to him and my mother (both were abusive)

puds11isNAUGHTYnotNAICE Mon 24-Feb-14 10:01:21

Should really say both are sad

Fairy1303 Mon 24-Feb-14 10:18:18

The freedom programme online is free as far as I know.

I think I'm going to do it too.

Have you read Lundy 'why does he do that'? I've just started it, it's very useful.

puds11isNAUGHTYnotNAICE Mon 24-Feb-14 10:33:21

Fab thanks Fairy

No I haven't. What is it like?

bibliomania Mon 24-Feb-14 11:04:49

Yes, I highly recommend Lundy Bancroft - he tackles the question of how intentional is the abuse.

I think it's a sort of semi-conscious strategy. It flows from the underlying attitude of "how can I get what I want out of this situation". You need to get the other person into a weak negotiating position, so you wrong-foot and undermine her and make everything her fault. And you believe that it's her fault as well, because if only she did everything right - and how hard can that be? - you wouldn't have to angry and everything would be perfect, and damnit, why is she determined to stand in the way of perfection. And sometimes you're so good to her, because of course you're a good person really, except when she makes you angry, and that way she knows that there's a prize to keep chasing, the prize of your charm and loving attention. Stick and carrot, that's what it is.

I think once you grasp the underlying mindset and what the abuser is trying to achieve, the actions aren't surprising at all.

As for your last question, it comes down to underlying attitudes as well. People can treat each other badly, but the question is - does one partner really want to see the other person flourishing in their own right and for their own sake? An abuser won't (despite occasionally liking to bask in reflected glory), because he will feel diminished by comparison. You can't flourish, because he can only feel better by knowing that you are feeling worse.

t3rr3gl35 Mon 24-Feb-14 14:17:46

This is an interesting discussion, OP. You have raised questions that have been rolling around in my head for the past few years, and the contributions from others are certainly thought provoking.

As with other posters, I can only speak from my own experience and I have always stated that I believe that my XH didn't intend to be abusive but that he was initially attracted to me because I was very young, naive and mouldable. His "moulding" of me, of course, was undeniably abusive and became more so as the years rolled on.

bibliomania spoke of the attitude of making everything her fault and the convoluted way that it is rationalised by the abuser. I can give an anecdote about the totally bizarre rationalisation that my XH used a couple of years ago - 7 Years after we divorced to make something my fault -

He was stopped by the police who seized his vehicle because his driving licence had been revoked 2 years previously due to him not returning it to DVLA to have penalty points added after he was caught speeding the previous year. He hadn't received the notification to send his licence back to DVLA because he had not changed the address on his licence - it was registered at a house we had lived in 13 years before. We had moved home during that time and then after our divorce, he had moved again.

He was unable to work for 3 days because his vehicle was in a secure compound, this cost him 3 days takings. It cost him a further £300 or so to get his vehicle released once he had sorted his licence with DVLA.

He called me and DD1 &DD2 to blame me for it, and wanted me to reimburse him for his losses because :

1. It was my responsibility to ensure that the address was changed on his driving licence every time he moved house.

2. I should have known that DVLA would want to add penalty points after he was caught speeding and chased them up when he hadn't heard anything from them.

3. He was caught speeding in a town where I own a property so it stood to reason that I must have been involved somehow - despite the fact that I live more than 100 miles away, and that he works in the town on a weekly basis on the same day that of the week that he was speeding.

Even though he eventually concurred that it may actually have been his entire responsibility, he ended the conversation by telling me that it must have been my fault somehow and he just had to work out how.

Hope that wasn't too much of an essay and that it maybe gives a little insight into the workings of at least one abusive person's mind.

t3rr3gl35 Mon 24-Feb-14 14:21:48

Oh - should have said that he called both DD's to blame me with the reasoning I outlined. They immediately took his word for it that it was entirely my fault. sad

GarlicLeGrenouille Mon 24-Feb-14 16:21:02

I'm agreeing with everyone else - and [rolleyes] at your ex, t3! I guess it can be useful have things put in different ways by different posters, so here goes smile It will be long!

Do abusers know what they are doing? - It varies by individual.

~ Some (many of the abusers on here) have a mental dysfunction that renders them incapable of seeing other people as independent humans like themselves. They view us more like props or tools, which infuriatingly fail to perform as desired.
~ Others, probably the majority, grew up with abuse. It's their expected means of managing a relationship: every interaction, to them, is a contest or battle they must win. They simply don't know any better - and un-learning the basics of one's upbringing is not at all straightforward; most choose not to bother.
~ With some men, it's unconscious male privilege. They fundamentally believe women are inferior and must be kept in their place.
~ Some people genuinely do have anger management problems. They'd rather not explode all the time, and can learn sensible ways of handling frustration if they make the right commitment.

I would think most abusers have some combination of the above issues.

Is it calculated? - Yes, it's intended to achieve a certain outcome.

~ With the majority, the calculation will be an almost instinctive, split-second choice, but it's a calculation all the same (I used to do this.)
~ Sometimes it will be a strategic decision. It may be based on the same kind of "How can I get him/her to do more cleaning?" relationship problem we all discuss at times, but taking for granted that control of the other is a desired objective.
~ Some sociopaths calculate their abuse as a kind of game. It's entirely deliberate, like a cat tormenting its prey.
~ Most sociopaths don't calculate to abuse, as such; they expect people to behave precisely as 'scripted'. Any means of bringing you back on track will be acceptable, pretty much as you might try everything to get your washing machine to work properly.
~ Anger issues are also calculated, though quite illogically. The rager demands to be heard, at any cost to his audience.

Do they know the impact it has? - Yes! To boil it right down, they put their desires in the moment above anyone and anything else. Abuse is intended to have an impact, it's meant to give the abuser a win.

Do abusers ever change? Do they ever want to? - Rarely.

~ Sociopaths can't change completely. They can learn acceptable modes of behaviour, but their conditions render them incapable of relating to other people 'normally'.
~ People who've never learned anger management can learn it.
~ Those of us who grew up with abuse need very difficult, long-term therapy to change.

Most would not be sufficiently motivated to undertake the self-examination involved. Straightforward anger management would be the exception, however it's usually coupled with the need to win: that's a harder principle to change.

Is it abuse if both parties are happy with the dynamic? - Yes, because a healthy relationship dynamic is founded on mutual respect & concern.

~ In your 'traditional' example, there is no abuse until one partner decides to try and control the other's function, by 'making' them clean more, or earn more money, etc.
~ If they cannot negotiate their relationship with genuine respect and concern, but try to force the other's role, they have an abuse problem.
~ If they relate to one another healthily, they will try to work round their issues together and considerately. If there's no workaround, they're incompatible.

People who were brought up in an abusive environment may not realise their relationships are abusive, so blame other factors for their unhappiness (this happened to me.)

Are all men potentially abusers? - No!

~ Sociopathic abusers often try to get their partner locked down as quickly as possible, with the whirlwind passion followed by swift wedding and babies. This is quite intentional.
~ Many abusers have very specific expectations of their relationship, which they haven't fully explained. They get angry when their partner doesn't meet these unspoken requirements.

All abusers have an intense need to dictate the terms of the relationship. This isn't respectful or considerate.

Does the situation put pressure on the man and we all behave less well when under pressure? - We don't all become bullies under pressure. Most people deal with it through considerate negotiation.

~ The pressure that prompts abuse is actually internal, not a response to external factors. Abusers fear losing control of their dominant position.

Would a man be reacting badly as they are scared to lose relationship but are unable to communicate feelings? - No. Even an emotionally illiterate adult can communicate their feelings in a considerate way.

~ Abuse is about retaining control & dominance.

Can any medical reason explain abusive behaviour? - Yes, loads of them! Mental illnesses, brain tumours, diabetes, alzheimer's, loads of other neurological and hormonal disorders, genetic disorders, and chronic pain are all known for causing abusive behaviour.

~ If the condition doesn't respond promptly to treatment, no partner is obliged to put up with abuse because it's not their abuser's 'fault'.

How many relationships out there are completely free from any abuse from either party 24/7 for their duration? - Lots! Though nowhere near enough.

~ This was a lynchpin of my recovery. I had to learn that good relationships are free from abuse, and what healthy relationships look like.

I mean everything on the scale ... no-one is perfect and I'm not sure how realistic it is ... ? - Yes, everything on the scale.

~ Emotionally balanced people get tired, frustrated, reach the end of their tether, and so on. But they don't take it out on others.
~ Emotionally balanced people can say "I'm angry about ..." and they can say it in an angry voice. They do this without frightening anyone, attacking anyone, or breaking anything.
~ Emotionally balanced people can do this with any emotion, negative and positive smile

Wishing you good speed with your recovery, and good support. Be kind & respectful to yourself, first and foremost.

Meerka Mon 24-Feb-14 16:55:04

what a really well explained post garlic! <bookmarks for future reference>

GarlicLeGrenouille Mon 24-Feb-14 17:05:11

Thanks, Meerka! High praise from you smile

Garlic, what a fantastic post. In fact I think you've said everything I was thinking when I read the OP, and more, and better written! smile

GarlicLeGrenouille Mon 24-Feb-14 17:24:52

Cheers, Bertie smile Sorry we had to learn all this, but glad we did!

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