Tolerating abuse should not be a part of anyone’s emotional landscape and life.
We stay in relationships for many reasons, even when things feel uneasy or frightening in our own home. As humans, we normalize behaviors of our partners, rationalizing them as “just the way he is” or “so typical of her…” Sometimes, we fail to recognize that we are excusing volatile, lethal behaviors that should not be tolerated. Akin to a pile of shoes by the front door that you’ve become so used to, you no longer even notice it….
Tools of Power and Manipulation
Toxic behaviors are a way of exerting control over you, are a sign of an imbalance of power in the relationship, and reveal the other person’s motives. Disagreements are normal, but when negativity, resentment and contempt in marriage are left unchecked, issues become magnified. Some behaviors are more obvious than others, but the key to notice is whether you’re pleasing, appeasing, rationalizing, denying, or continually making excuses for your spouse.
Marginalizes Your Thoughts and Feelings
Laughing at you, telling you that he doesn’t care what you think, or implying that your feelings are unimportant are all abusive behaviors. Suggesting that your thoughts are wrong—based on fuzzy thinking—or that you’re “too sensitive” or “too emotional”…. are all forms of emotional manipulation.
Calls You Names or Disparages You
It’s one thing to complain about someone’s action or inaction—how you failed to deliver on a promise, kept you waiting for an hour, didn’t take out the trash, etc. It’s quite another to repeatedly attack your character. These criticisms usually begin with the words “you never” or “you always,” and are followed by a litany of everything the other person finds wrong about you.
If this is a pattern in your relationship, and you often feel denigrated, do not rationalize the other person’s behavior by making excuses— “He calls me names because I upset him” or “It’s just the heat of the moment… she doesn’t mean what she says.” By not facing the abuse in your family, you normalize the behavior and allow it to continue.
Gaslighting is a power play used by people who perceive the other person as easily manipulated. The gaslighting abuser calls your perceptions or vision of reality into question by denying that something happened, suggesting that you’ve made it up, misunderstood,
Manipulates Your Insecurities
Akin to gaslighting, this harmful ploy goes further to shut you down, stop you from speaking out, and to ensure control. With this behavior, your partner will take advantage of the personal knowledge he has about you— you become nervous and emotional when faced with anger, you’re likely to give in when challenged, or be sent reeling by a comment about your weight or your family—this information is used to control you. This complexity can be hard to understand, but if this is a pattern, you’re living in a sea of toxicity.
Projects Their Feelings onto You
Rather than take responsibility for his feelings, the immature narcissist projects their insecurities and feelings onto you— trying to make his anger yours, for example. This projective abuse shifts the balance of power in a subtle way because despite his inability to regulate his emotions— suddenly you’re on the defensive, assuring him that you’re not angry, trying to calm him and soothe the situation.
Triangulation is an unhealthy strategy of manipulation when your partner involves a third person in a situation that should remain between you. By twisting a story or situation, an abuser triangulates and polarizes people who are not involved and not communicating directly with each other. This can be a chronic pattern of a manipulative person, in order to control you and get their way, or pit people against each other. Triangulation brings complication, negativity
Treats You with Contempt
Mockery, laughing at you, or physical gestures like eye-rolling communicate contempt for you, your words, and your actions— all another attempt to exert control over you. Contempt uses an undercurrent of disdain to attack a person’s very sense of self. In doing so, contempt and disdain destroy the very soul of your marriage. Contempt strips away the essential respect that defines a healthy relationship.
Healthy relationships require mutual respect. Ideally, you and your spouse would discuss issues as requests, in a way to repair the situation and move on. Contempt and shame should never be a part of your personal reality.
A refusal to listen or even discuss an issue you’ve brought up is one of the most toxic behaviors of all. Stonewalling is frustrating, confusing, and demeaning all at once. After all, it is unrealistic to expect that two people are never going to want change. Taking responsibility for someone’s refusal to communicate is unhealthy, especially by falling into the habit of blaming yourself for picking the “wrong time” to initiate a discussion. Stonewalling is highly manipulative, blaming
Effects on Children
Children learn what they live. Controlling, oppressive behaviors have no place in a healthy, stable relationship. Children raised in intense home environments grow up with anxiety, feelings of helplessness, lack of impulse control, insecurity, and a fear of the future. Lacking a healthy example, these children grow up with destructive developmental pathways and repeat abusive patterns with their own families.
Do not absorb nor tolerate toxic behaviors—do not deny your reality. These tactics are dangerous to a
Do not allow a fear of the unknown to keep you and your family locked in abuse. Be honest with yourself, face the truth, and protect your children from chaotic, explosive behaviors. Pursue freedom for you and your family.
Your Trusted Partner
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