Upside-Down & Inside-Out: A Blog About Abusive Relationships

Living with an abusive person means learning to live in a topsy-turvy world where normal rules do not apply. It is like the movie the Poseidon Adventure where the ship gets turned upside down and the floor is the ceiling and the ceiling the floor. Yet, somehow I did break out of the invisible cage my first wife had built around me even though it was the hardest thing I've ever done. So this blog is about how we learn to live with abuse and then unlearn; it's based on my personal experience.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Stupidity Of Intelligence In Abusive Relationships

This is part of the Website

Some very intelligent people are quite stupid. I know I lived with one for ten years. While my first wife had almost a 4.0 grade average at a highly respected university and was asked to join Phi Beta Kappa, she was one of the dumbest people I have ever met. But it took me years to realize because I was blinded by her clever mind.

We all know very smart people who terrorize those they love and have little understanding of the impact their anger and self-centeredness has on their families. And because they are smart, they are often tolerated and treated as special by those they love. And because they are smarter, they often think of themselves as being superior.

Intelligence is like any powerful tool. It can be used for good or evil. The same knife that can save a life in surgery can kill another when used with violence. In a marriage, intelligence can be used to clarify or to conceal. It can be used to better a relationship or to gain abusive control.

I made the mistake of thinking of intelligence as having a positive and deep value in itself. Yet it can be superficial or destructive. Intelligence is often cleverness but not wisdom; it may be a dazzling parlor trick or a major insight; it can be used in the service of understanding or used to cause conflict.

As e e cummings, the poet, pointed out, feelings are first. Intelligence is at the service of our feelings. Feelings cause intelligence to be focused for either positive or negative purposes.

So understanding one's emotions and gaining insight (now called intrapersonal intelligence and considered one of eight kinds of intelligence) is crucial because it is this kind of intelligence that guides each person. Understanding one's self, (one's strengths and weaknesses, one's true goals, values and personal history) is more important than any other kind of intelligence as it controls the others.

So while my first wife tested very well on verbal SAT tests (her math was not as good), her emotional intelligence was that of a six year old child.

When I first met her, fell in love with her and married her, I realized that she had a child-like mind. It was one of the things I liked about her. It was an unspoiled innocence (I thought) that could see the world more clearly with a child's eyes. Yet this 'innocence' came with a price; her emotions, reactions and our disagreements were often childish. If I tried to be the adult, her childish nature would try to pull me down to her level. And if I remained an adult, she became angry and resentful.

When I married her, I hoped that, secure in my love, she could grow and mature in a healthy environment, that love 'was all you need'. Instead because she was safe, her problems came pouring out: she was jealous, she was demanding, she was impatient, she would not compromise, she would not negotiate and she could not or would not understand my feelings although on some days she wanted me to spend hours discussing hers. Disagreeing with her was not an option. She cried, often for hours; she became angry and she pouted. After a while I usually gave in.

When people asked me why we had not had children yet, I said, under my breath, "I don't want children, I have one already."

I kept hoping for an open, honest expression of feelings between us, but when I told her of problems I was having, she replied with, "Oh please don't feel like that." In other words, as the shrinks later pointed out, she dismissed my feelings and did not listen to me. And if you have read my other blog entries, you know that she used her intelligence to thwart my efforts to reach her and to cleverly undermine my sense of myself so that she would be in control.

After a while, I needed some time and space to myself, so while I was always available when she needed me, I found jobs that required a lot of my time and that gave me the excuse to get away from her and her childish moods. In retaliation she had an affair.

I tolerated the affair for a while hoping that perhaps another perspective might help her mature. No such luck. She had found a person who catered to her whims and made her feel like a child princess. So while she kept protesting that she wanted to be with me, she could never break free of her other.

After a couple of years, I had had enough. There followed a long series of warnings from me (I told her, "You are destroying our marriage and I will leave, if you do not end your affair."), warnings from shrinks who repeated what I told her and warnings from friends who said the same thing.

Now I knew from my years with her, that she was a child headed down a road that she would regret, but I was helpless. I wanted to save her from herself, but as I was taught in group therapy, you cannot save someone; she had to want to save herself. And I also knew that my efforts to help her were often met with resentment and seen by her as controlling.

After many months of warnings I asked her to move out and we separated although we agreed to keep seeing each other.

At this point she became desperate and begged me to take her back; she protested she finally understood that she had been foolish but now she saw the light, that she loved me more than anyone and that she would do whatever it took to rebuild our marriage. However, what she left out, I realized later, was an apology for the years of hurt she caused. Because she never admitted her responsibility or said she was sorry or offered to make amends, this final effort of hers was doomed.

When she wanted me back, I insisted that we both agree to a number of ground rules. One of these was that she would continue seeing her therapist; yet after a while, she decided she was going to stop seeing him. And after six months she had broken every rule we had agreed to, including going back to the man she was having the affair with. Finally I said, "I am going to make this very simple and straight forward. If you see him one more time, our marriage is over." She agreed and later emphasized that she understood.

Well if you have been reading my site, you know what happened. She had sex with the man she had been seeing. Why had this happened? Had she misunderstood? She said, "I don't know why, it just happened." I finally had enough. Our marriage ended.

Now you would think that was the end of the story. Far from it. She was furious that I would leave her. "Why?" she wanted to know, "How could you leave me, I love you more than anyone." Later she said, "You were the only person I feel comfortable with. You're my best friend." And then she started visiting my mother a number of times which was very odd as she did not like to visit my mother when we were married; in fact she had often become quite angry when we had to visit her.

My ex-wife's efforts did not end there. Hoping that we could get back together, she called me for the next six months but she never once asked how I felt or apologized.

At the end I realized there was no way to reach her and nothing I could do. I had to abandon this child I loved. While I still loved her, my trust in her had been shattered and could not be restored.

My love of her innocence and intelligence had lead to a loss of my own innocence although as a result I had gained a bit of wisdom. I had discovered this basic truth: love was not enough, not nearly enough.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Dysfunctional Communication

This Is Part Of The Website

If my first wife and I could have communicated simply and directly, our marriage might have survived. But that is a bit like saying, if the patient had not gotten cancer, she might have lived.

If a couple cannot communicate, the couple cannot continue. It's that simple. Over time my first wife poisoned our ability to communicate and this poison spread through our relationship and eventually killed it.

When I met my first wife, she was very depressed, withdrawn, and at times could barely speak. I learned to listen to her and to not criticize so that she would open up. After we were married, we had to negotiate about a number of things but other than simple things, she was quite difficult. It was then that I hit a brick wall and was at a complete loss about what to do.

Initially she had three ways of responding to something she did not like: she cried (often for hours), she withdrew and pouted or she became angry. Having a reasonable discussion where we hashed things out and came to an agreement was not an option. While I was too young to understand at the time, her inability to cope meant big trouble down the road.

For example during the second year of our marriage, when I told her I needed some time to myself to do my art work, she cried for two hours. I was devastated. I was working a very difficult job, doing most of the work in our marriage (she was impractical and helpless), and desperately needed some quiet time. She stopped me in my tracks and I never got the alone time I needed.

In another example, her parents stopped paying for her college after we were married (although they had insisted we get married since we were obviously having sex -- it was the mid-1960s so people did not live together then), so I asked her to apply to the college for a scholarship which I knew she would qualify for. She became very angry and said absolutely not; she was certain the college would not give her the money and it was a waste of time. After paying and struggling for two semesters with her tuition, I finally insisted she apply. She became extremely angry but at last went ahead and submitted it. And, guess what? She got the scholarship. Now you would think that getting the scholarship would show her that I did know what I was talking about, but instead she was more angry. After that she decided that I was demanding and overbearing.

And in another example, the landlord to our small cabin hidden in the woods, insisted that we lock the door when we left. My wife hated to lock doors, but he insisted. He even made a special point of coming over and talking to us about it. After that I locked the door, but she refused. She would not discuss it; she simply would not do it. So it became one more small chore that I had to do when I drove us into work (I did all the driving) to my eight hour job (that really took ten hours). I did not try to insist that she lock the door as that would have been too much effort and it was simpler just to do it myself.

Now the above examples were all from our early marriage when we were getting along and still very much in love. So you can imagine what happened over the years. At one point in our later marriage I remember being in the kitchen as she screamed at me at the top of her lungs, "Shut up, Rick. Just shut up!" Another time she climbed under a table and yelled for ten solid minutes to make a point.

When we were in marriage therapy, I asked the shrinks about her crying when I needed to discuss something. I called it 'emotional blackmail' as I could not negotiate with her when she was weeping. In the early 1970s I do not think that counselors understood this kind of behavior. They told me to simply ignore it.

I often tried to tell her how I felt honestly and openly. I said that I felt I was doing all the work and that she did not seem to understand that at times I was on overload and that I really loved her but something had to change. Her response, "Oh, please don't feel like that," or worse "What's wrong with you that you feel like that." After a while I gave up trying to tell her how I felt.

When she humiliated me in public, such as announcing loudly to a crowded room at a party we held that she, "hated photographers" (I was a well respected photographer), she became quite angry that I took exception. She accused me of being too sensitive and that I should know she didn't mean anything bad and what was wrong with me that I would even think such a thing.

About this time she started to correct my English (I was an English major) in ways that she found more pleasing. She did not like me to use certain 'common' metaphors (such as 'what's the deal here?') and she added a new phrase that I was not supposed to say about once a month. Now this seems like a small thing, but it is the height of control. Instead of arguing with her (we already argued enough at that point), I found myself censoring what I was saying so that I did not use these expressions she did not like -- which meant I had to remember her list of hated phrases. It made me increasingly self conscious and lead directly to the collapse of our marriage as it destroyed the last bit of spontaneity in my communications with her.

Toward the end of our marriage, there was a point when I was stuttering and was almost unable to speak. And her reaction? "What's wrong with you, Rick? Just spit it out," she screamed while tapping her foot.

Because of her yelling and correcting and crying and refusing, I became more withdrawn. Then she criticized me for being quiet and less demonstrative and less spontaneous. About this time, I almost lost my mind (she was after all playing with my mind). It was one the darkest, emptiest, loneliest states of being that I have experienced.

I had been a teacher for years, who prided himself on easy, direct and simple communication. And she had struck at the heart of something I valued. I believe this was no accident; she liked to target things she knew I cared about so she could damage them.

It felt like she had placed me in an invisible prison because it existed in our home and went with us when we traveled together or visited people.

Fortunately soon after this low point, I met a number of people who liked me for who I was and the way that I naturally and spontaneously communicated. And because of this, I realized that the problem was not with me, but with her. So these people gave me the courage to say that to her. (Her behavior is a good example of how an abusive person tries to isolate the abused person so that he has no point of reference other than the abuser.)

Yet the damage had been done. We were never able to establish the open honest straight forward communication that a marriage must have. And our marriage ended.

Yet there is a happy ending to this story. I did met a woman whom I communicate well with and we have been together almost thirty years. I still love her, perhaps more than when I met her. And we have fights and disagreements and arguments. But after all is said and done, we communicate with each other.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Abuse And Marriage: Living With A World of Negatives

This Is Part Of The Website

We all know people who say everything in negatives. They will never say, "That is really good," instead they will say, "Not bad." And for them that is a high compliment. Yet I think that these kinds of people do have a negative attitude; wherever they look they are disappointed, the glass is half-full and no one lives up to their expectations.

My first wife dealt in negatives. For starters she did not like herself, her name, her father, her mother, her brother, or either of her sisters (that covers the entire family). She did like a few things such as literature, music and me but that was about it. And for the first two years together when we were first in love, she was warm and often positive. Little did I know that her negativity would eventually be aimed at me full blast.

When I started writing this website and blog, thirty years after our marriage ended, I realized she had a poorly developed sense of identity and often defined herself as what she was not. Just about everything for her was expressed as a negative, even positive things.

She only knew one thing for sure; she did not want to be like her father who was a critical and judgmental person. I thought I could show her a lifestyle that was based on a positive outlook and she seemed to like that about me.

I had no trouble saying that I really liked something or that I really loved her. Yet even early on when I openly expressed a liking, she turned it into a negative. For example, when she wore a certain shirt, I told her she looked particularly gorgeous; after I said that, she stoped wearing that shirt.

It was almost as if her picture of herself was about what she did not like or would not do. I often heard her saying with passion, I do not like thus and such a poet or this particular news commentator. It was an odd kind of assertiveness where she set herself apart from many others who did like these people.

As our marriage progressed she accumulated a long list: she did not want to spend time with some of my closest friends (people she had liked a lot in the beginning, who had helped us in many ways); she did not want to spend time at a local gathering of musicians on Friday nights even though she liked them and their music; she did not want to give me time to myself even though I asked her to let me have an hour here and there (we had no children and I did most of the chores and earned 80% of our income); in the summer of 1969 when we lived close by, she did not want to go to the Woodstock festival; when we traveled to Europe she did not want to spend time with friends of my mother's in England even though they were friendly, generous, intelligent and hospitable; and she told me not to take my camera to Europe with us, something I unfortunately did just to please her (photography had become my art form and my passion which she knew quite well).

When she had serious problems with PMS, I suggested that she take Midol. Although she did not know that there was a medicine for menstrual cramps, she instead became angry and said, "How would you know?" since I was a man.

When she lost earring after earring and we spent hours looking for them, I suggested that she get her ears pierced like most women. Again, she flatly refused.

And she would not talk about sex. She even had a pat little phrase she said with a smile when I tried to talk about sex: "It's something I would rather do than talk about," she would laugh and wink. We were very compatible initially but inevitably as our marriage progressed problems for both of us cropped up but she would not discuss them. As a result important things were never dealt with.

And the above list is from the time when we were getting along.

Later she bad mouthed my practical decisions such as buying health insurance. When she ended up in the hospital, our insurance paid for everything but she never acknowledged that she had been mistaken. She even made fun of my habit of brushing my teeth in the morning and at night. She didn't say this once or twice but regularly. She made a big point of not brushing her teeth very often. After our marriage ended, she had to have dental surgery because she had taken poor care of her teeth, but she never admitted that she had been wrong about something as obvious as keeping her teeth clean.

Toward the end of our marriage, she decided there were many things she did not like about me: she hated photographers (I was a well respected photographer); she hated her last name (my name which she had chosen to keep); she refused to work with me on a freelance journalism work even though I had good paying jobs lined up (she was a journalist who would write the stories and I would take the photographs); she bad mouthed my efforts to get a Masters Degree (but I ignored her and got it anyway); when I had a very successful one-man photography show and also won prizes on the same day in another separate group exhibit, she told me not to let 'success go to my head'; when I said I wanted to start a freelance business in photography, she said I could not succeed (but I did anyway); when I said I wanted to apply for grants in photography, she said I could not get them (but I did); when I had another photography one man show that got wide publicity, she said that everyone 'felt pushed' to attend my show because the publicity was so extensive. And toward the end she often screamed that she hated me. Whew!

Of course, during all of this time, I asked her to look on the positive side and to at least trust that I was doing things that were worthwhile. I might as well have talked to a brick wall. She thought I was a goody-two-shoes and would have none of it.

After a while I was battling a tide of negative remarks. So of course I stopped sharing my ideas, thoughts, ambitions with her. Now her negative remarks became: Why don't you talk to me the way you used to? Why are you distant? Why don't you tell me things anymore? What is wrong with you?

But it got worse. She started to attack the things that I valued most, things that only she knew about me because I had shared them with her and only her. She knew that I wanted to be an artist, and, if the fates allowed, an important artist. Toward the end, she peppered her comments with derogatory remarks: she thought photography was a secondary art form at best and anyway I was not good enough or talented enough to succeed in any major way (even though this drive of mine to be an artist was one of the main reasons she had been attracted to me plus she knew that I was very good at learning new skills).

About a year before our marriage ended, she became quite ill (that is another story) and had to stay in the hospital. For ten glorious days, I had the house to myself. Her negative words were gone. At the hospital, because she was so in need of my help, her critical comments had temporarily disappeared. And it was like a breath of fresh air or being let out of prison for a while. I felt wonderful and realized that I did not have to live surrounded by a wall of negatives.

But this story has an odd twist. At the very end, just before our marriage broke up, my wife broke a promise she had made. Her action was almost certain to end our marriage, which she knew. If she had apologized and taken responsibility and asked for my forgiveness, I might have stayed with her. However, in order win me over, she suddenly became positive. She initiated love making (something she rarely did) and passionately kissed me and became very affectionate. She was warm and loving but never acknowledged that she had made a mistake. The change was so dramatic, I thought to myself with tears in my eyes, "Where did this person come from. This is the person I fell in love with but I have not seen her for years."

Yet if she thought this tactic was going to work, it backfired. Instead of being swept away, I was furious. Out of the blue, she was showed me the positive person I had fallen in love with, but who had vanished in a rising tide of negative remarks and critical attitudes. Where had this positive side of her personality been all these years? Why could she turn-on this personality all of a sudden when she found herself in a desperate situation? I felt I was being manipulated and that made me even madder. And if she could turn it on, she could turn it off just as easily. In a word this tactic made me trust her even less.

When I saw her next, I told her it was over.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Staying In An Abusive Relationship: Why Did I Stay?

This Is Part Of The Website

After reading this blog and my related site, you might ask, why did this guy stay with his first wife for so long? Why didn't he just leave?

When battered women finally go to a shelter or seek help from police, people ask them the same question and it is hard to answer.

So here is an attempt to explain my behavior both as an aid to others and as a help to myself to understand why I could not break away from a person who was so destructive.

To begin with I loved her passionately. I had never felt that intensity before. At one point we were inseparable both physically and mentally. During our first year together I was as happy as a person can ever be. Plus when I met her she was in dire need of someone to help her. She was severely depressed and could barely function. I saw myself as her white knight who could rescue her, which I did. Just a year after being with me she was smiling, happy and sure of herself.

Yet she let me know from the beginning that she was moody, fragile and in need of help. Part of our unspoken agreement was that I would always be there to help her, that I would not criticize her moods, and that I would respect her fragility and not demand too much of her. But this was a bad deal and held the seeds of her later abusive behavior.

Abuse happens slowly, slower than paint drying. It is a glance here and wink there or an impatient remark. In the beginning these little things seemed like nothing, but they began to build and after seven years, I found myself married to a woman who corrected my way of speaking (I was an English major), who became angry and resentful when I was successful, who discouraged my efforts to get a Master's Degree even though I was the bread winner and who often made fun of me at social gatherings.

While I had helped this painfully shy person break out of her shell, the woman who emerged was not grateful or loving or supportive or sympathetic instead she was the wife from hell.

When I confronted her, she often reverted back to being the weak, frail helpless girl I first met and became angry that I would even question her. Also since I knew she was moody, she insisted that I accept her abusive behavior (she, of course, did not call it that) as part of her moodiness and as something that I agreed to accept from the beginning.

Finally when I was fed up and did think about really leaving, she knew how (like all abusive people) to thwart my efforts. She told me that my perceptions of her were incorrect, and that she really was a loving and caring wife. And to seal the deal, she often became affectionate and we would make love like we had in the beginning. But these moments of peace and communication were rare. Her best skill was to convince me that these moments were the fundamental truth of our relationship, and to forget about the disagreements and arguments we had the rest of the time. In other words, the 10% of the time we got along was worth much more than the 90% of the time we did not get along.

Part of our unspoken agreement was that I would be loyal no matter what, and that if I did not I was betraying her. Since she counted on my loyalty and still presented herself as basically weak and fragile underneath, I felt that I had to stay because I had made this promise to her.

As our marriage progressed I found that my body was sending me all kinds of signals. My stomach was constantly upset. I found that I could not sleep but would wake up agitated early in the morning with anxiety attacks. At one point I fainted for the only time in my life. I had dreams that I was drowning in the middle of a river while she stood on the banks and could not/would not help me.

And while all this seems clear now, none of it was clear at the time. All the issues I have described seemed like separate unrelated things.

I realized later that I was stuck in a permanent 'fight or flight' mode which is very stressful, perhaps one of the most stressful states a person can be in. I was constantly wanting to flee but could not because she needed me. So I was stuck dealing with her abuse and wanting to confront her but I could not say critical things because she was 'too fragile'. As a result I withdrew, became quiet and hardly expressed myself because I did not want to set her off. But then she became angry that I was not more demonstrative. I was damned no matter what I did. This made me feel helpless and helpless people are not good at freeing themselves from capture.

So how did I leave her? At the time I never saw her for what she was; I never understood the nature and depth of her cruelty. But at the end she did a number of things that were simply unacceptable no matter what the reason: she almost burned down our house by putting up Chinese lanterns with lit candles that caught fire (and then refused to take responsibility); we had a clear agreement during our last six months (when we were separated) about what we would and would not do, and she broke everything we had agreed to more than once.

In a sense I had finally revealed who she was; by getting her to agree to clear conditions, I could see that she clearly broke them.

Leaving her was still the hardest thing I have ever done, but at that point my own survival was more important. It was only twenty-five years later that I realized there was so much more going on, that she was cunning and ruthless and did not care how much damage she did to me.

Friday, April 06, 2007


This Is Part Of The Website

Notes About The Art Of Lying (A Follow-Up To The Previous Blog Entry)
Abusers/Liars: Their Method Of Communication
Abusers/Liars: Their Lifestyle
Abusers/Liars: Their Disrespect For Those Around Them

Here is how a typical dialogue might go between the abused person (say the husband) and the abuser/liar (say the wife):
HUSBAND: Why should I trust you?
WIFE: How can you ask that? If you loved me, you would not say such a thing. I can't believe you've become so horrible.

Notice how she answers a question with question, immediately puts the husband on the defensive, makes him defend his love for her and the implied lack of loyalty, and finally finishes him off by telling him that he is 'horrible' as though this insult was due to his actions. *AND* notice, most of all, how she never answers the question and turns it around so that he will be thrown off balance. In a conversation like this, it is unlikely that the question of 'trust', which is crucial to a marriage, will ever get discussed; in particular, the reasons, that the husband does not trust the wife, will never be examined. And, of course, this conversation will get nowhere, so that there will be no communication or increased understanding. In fact the point of the wife's reply is to stop communication and keep things just as they are, with her in control and nothing resolved or revealed.

I believe that liars think they are superior to others. They have an elitist attitude like many abusive and self-centered people. Their point-of-view might be like this: I am not constrained by the mundane 'real world'; people who do are overly practical and boring. I live on a higher plane where others believe what I create. If they chose to believe it, that demonstrates the truth of the picture I have painted.

Respect or a lack of respect is also important. While liars work hard at convincing spouses, friends, etc. of their lies, they do not respect those whom they fool. Their sense of superiority grows at the expense of those they trick. They can even become patronizing to people close to them, treating them like children or simpletons.

Liars use other verbal tactics as well (see the previous blog entry) such as going off on tangents or changing the subject or pressing a person's buttons to make sure that liars keep control of the conversation. These are diversionary tactics and work well to get away from a touchy subject they do not want to discuss.

My first wife and I communicated very well when it came to art, such as movies, plays, music and painting. This was one area that we continued to share throughout our marriage. The reason, I think, is that these were usually works of fiction or invention. These, therefore, were safe areas that we could explore without the danger of getting into personal areas that she was afraid of.

Even though liars think they are superior, they can never relax. Because they lie, they know that others lie as well. Therefore they are constantly vigilant, looking for lies that others are telling. In addition, they must always be on guard and defend their own lies. It is a strange existence where the control they think they gained through lies, becomes their prison.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Abuse And Lies: The Art Of Lying

This Is Part Of The Website

Like any good artist she learned to lie at an early age. And like any good artist she lived her lies.

My first wife was a master at deception. She was able to weave a reality so effortlessly, so seamlessly that people were drawn into her web and soon saw the world as she wanted them to.

After much thought, I believe now that she was hiding a basic truth from her childhood, probably some trauma. She was brought up by parents who never dealt with reality directly. While their house was rife with unspoken tensions and conflicts, disagreement was not allowed. During the only time I politely argued with her father, everyone else in her family was horrified and quite upset that such feelings were being openly discussed.

So she learned the art of saying a lot by saying very little. And since truth was never defined or required, honesty or reality became a grey area where she could shade things to her liking. At an early age she learned how to get people to believe what she wanted them to believe.

She even boasted to me, in a rare moment of honesty, that she had mastered the art of appearing to listen. When someone talked, she would smile and seem to pay close attention while her mind was miles away. The key was that she listened just enough to be able to laugh in the right places. Here and there she would repeat a phrase the person had just said, so that she created the illusion of listening. People often left her with the impression that she was attentive and receptive while she instead felt superior that they were so gullible.

After writing about abuse at this website, I realize that I could have written virtually the same material (how abusive people operate) from the perspective of lying. Abusive people lie, period. They lie to others, to the society at large and to themselves. They misrepresent who they are for a variety of reasons: it gives them power, it gives them the ability to manipulate perceptions and it can hide things they want hidden. It gives them a sense of control because while the rest of the world is bound by mundane concepts such as the truth, they are not. They are freer to create the world as they want. And it also gives them a sense of superiority because they are pulling strings from up above while the rest of us are dumbly following the restrictions of the real world.

My wife had many techniques which took me a long time to understand, because I naively thought she was struggling with the truth rather than avoiding it or shaping it. Perhaps her best ploy was to say, "Oh, you know..." and then let me finish the thought. She had usually set up the context to the final, "Oh, you know..." so that I filled in the blanks and connected the dots the way she wanted me to. In a sense she had not lied (I'm sure this is what she told herself), she had just let me fool myself with her help. Other techniques were to tell just enough of the truth that I would not feel she was hiding anything; yet she would leave out crucial details that she did not want me to know. And she often spoke in generalities while hiding specifics. Her mastery of half-truths was remarkable. It was like living on a Hollywood set with fake building facades and cardboard people which, when seen from the right angle, looked real.

When I started to get close to the truth (for example, she had been having an affair for years while being extremely jealous of any woman I was friends with), she even told deliberate lies so that she could admit to an obvious lie that would hide others that were more important to conceal.

At other times when I did by chance get close to the truth and asked her pointed questions, she became quite angry and told me not to be so domineering, so demanding, so overbearing. When that did not work, she would begin to cry. Most men are helpless when a woman cries, so it was a good last resort. And while she saved it for the most dire moments, she had an ability to cry for hours if needed (not an exaggeration). At the end of such a confrontation with her, I was exhausted. She had successfully prevented me from probing any further.

Another of her accomplished techniques was to come up with a clever response to remarks she saw as critical. These quick replies were especially notable because she was often 'spaced out' and moved slowly. I believe she felt that the best defense was an offense and that if she could deflect an initial comment, it would prevent further probing.

The problem with her lies was that it made her life quite complicated. I realize now that she lived in fear that I would discover her web of lies and leave her, which in fact I did. So from day to day, she had to keep track of what she had and had not said to me, how much of a half-truth she had told me, how much she felt that I understood and therefore what she should guard against. And at times I believe she suffered from terrible doubt and guilt and childhood terror that the world of illusions she had created would collapse.

And while she might have become comfortable, in a sense, with her web of lies, this approach to life was tragic. Living a fabric of deception, meant that she had cut herself off from her own feelings. In that grey area of reality she disdained were the core emotions that controlled her life and defined who she was. She thought she was gaining mastery, but in fact, the emotions she did not understand or avoided or would not admit to or that she refused to probe, had set her on a path over which she had no control.

Deep inside her was a well of anger, guilt, betrayal, and doubt. I was aware that she struggled with these feelings when I married her and naively thought my love could heal her.

At one point late in our marriage I said to her, just talking about how I wanted to live, that I was working toward a lifestyle that was simple and direct. Perhaps I caught her off guard, but she responded honestly with, "That's not what I want at all."

After we had broken up and it was clear that we could never get back together, she told me over the phone a truth that she never said when we were married, "You were my best friend and the only person I felt comfortable with." After she told me this and I hung up, I cried for a long time. It was now clear that I was a refuge from her life of lies and that, had circumstances been different, she might have built an honest life with me.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

EMOTIONAL VAMPIRES - How Abusive People Drain And Control Those They Love

This Is Part Of The Website

A lack of empathy is a major sign that the one you love is abusive or has a personality disorder according to the current thinking in psychology.

But I think this view only scratches the surface and that the truth is much more sinister.

It is not that abusive people don't understand others' feelings; I think that, in their own way, they understand these emotions very well. It's that an abusive person chooses not to acknowledge those feelings because to do so would take attention away from him or her.

I believe abusive people understand intimately how those they love feel but use that understanding to control them. If the abusive person can pretend to not understand, then he or she has more power to manipulate the other. Also abusive people hide this understanding because it creates another layer that the loved one must pass through to establish communication. Thus this deception makes it even harder for the loved one to assert himself or herself.

Whew! It sure does get complicated for those of us who don't think this way or even imagine that living like this is real. Yet I believe it is, and unfortunately many of us must deal this twisted point of view.

My ex-wife, for example, knew that I liked to help people and that I got a lot of joy from this. Yet after years of helping her and listening to her and sympathizing with her but not getting much in return, I needed more. But instead of responding and giving back as I asked, she criticized me saying that I was changing from a giving person to a selfish person and what was wrong? Knowing me as she did, she was certain this would stop me dead in my tracks. And for many years it did.

I do not remember a time that she simply offered her understanding when I was sad or exhausted or overworked, although she required this from me on a daily basis. The only moments she voluntarily expressed sympathy was when (I realized later) she was trying to hide something.

But it gets even worse. Early on in a relationship abusive people sink their teeth into their victims and connect with them in a deep and profound way. While it feels like love and is initially quite joyful, it is more like an infection or an addiction. And it is something that only the abusive person can supply. How this works is still a mystery to me, but these vampires understand our feelings better than we do when it comes to digging their hooks far into our souls. Later when the victim tries to leave, he or she will be pulled back to that initial joyful feeling by the abused person and the victim will find it very difficult, if not impossible to get away.

This means that abusive people are more calculating, more cold blooded, more masterful and have less morality than we ever imagined. Sympathy is doled out in small doses when it will do the most good; empathy is seen as a tool the abusive person can use to keep a loved one in line.

It is very sad that these people do not comprehend the true nature of love and therefore are deprived of it. They have no understanding of a partnership, for example, in which emotions and vulnerabilities are freely expressed and shared. They are always, in a sense, alone.

Abusive people instead see everything in terms of control. So God forbid if you, the abused person, decide to assert yourself and insist that your feelings be taken into account. The abusive one will see it as an attempt on your part to take over and therefore he or she will become quite angry.

But why do we get involved with these people to begin with? Much has been made of the concept of enablers, that is people who willingly go along with abusive partners. I believe this notion is often wrong. The abusive are attracted to fun loving, lively, joyful people because the abusive ones are dead inside and hope they can somehow tap into a life energy. If we are giving people, we may believe that we can help them. But like vampires they will suck us dry and eventually try to control our every move.

For example, a woman told me about her abusive husband who, after several years of marriage, asked her to explain the smallest things. When she got up from the couch and went to put a glass in the sink, he wanted to know why she was doing that.

In another simple everyday example, my ex-wife, after ten years of marriage, began to correct my way of speaking. Being an English major, I knew how to talk, yet she decided she did not like certain phrases I used and told me not to say them. Every couple of months she would add another expression to her list. Her constant vigilance and corrections made me self-conscious and shut down my normally expressive nature. And when I became quiet she chided me for not being more demonstrative the way I used to be. I started to sense I was in a cage. And when I finally did manage to end our marriage, I felt that I had been set free.

So while we might sympathize with those who unfortunately are vampires, their actions are poison to healthy people. No matter how charming they may appear, how unfair their lot in life, we must learn to keep away from them or we too will join the undead.