I hope you’re realizing, if you’ve been following these Friday posts for the last three weeks, that all the forms of abuse in relationships are tied together. You almost can’t have one without the others. Rarely is a physically violent abuser just as sweet as pie with his words when he’s not smacking his wife around. The verbal, emotional, mental and physical abuse are all tied up together. They are related.
So what constitutes mental or psychological abuse? This one focuses on what the abuser wants you to believe about yourself, about him, and about who’s in charge. He worries at his victim constantly, like the Chinese water torture, dripping cruel, hurtful words into the victim’s mind until she breaks.
Mental abuse is all about dominance. The abuser loves to play mind games, setting up traps that the victim doesn’t see until it’s too late. His mind seems to be like a maze, with lots and lots of blank walls that keep the mouse running back to the beginning. The mental abuser loves to make his victim feel stupid, and he takes special delight in making her think SHE is the one who has mental problems!
I remember an old movie. Grace Kelly, I think. I don’t remember the title. London, fog, dark. Her husband torments her with noises, creaks, groans, things that go bump in the night. It seems to me he uses the telephone to confuse her andfrighten her. I have no memory of what his point was, but I do remember watching the slow but steady drip, drip, drip of confusion and fear turn this confident, beautiful woman into a ghost. I don’t even remember how it ends, but maybe someone out there knows what movie I’m describing.
Power is the goal. The abuser uses money, physical intimidation (although he rarely uses his fists–he has more fun tormenting her, like a nasty little boy pulling the wings off flies) and verbal put-downs to control her and turn her into jello. Then he scorns her for being such a fraidy-cat.
I don’t know if abusers are capable of truly loving anyone else. They tend to see love in terms of ownership, possession, and control. For instance, an insecure man may marry a stunningly beautiful woman and then spend years denigrating her appearance, disallowing makeup, attractive clothing, jewely, and sometimes even new underwear. I saw a woman some years ago whose husband refused to give her the money to buy new lingerie–after nearly 30 years of marriage! The old things were good enough, because, after all, no one else ever saw them.
An abuser uses constant criticism over matters of small consequence; he excels at making false accusations and threats; and he uses malicious humor to humiliate and embarrass his victim. This behavior is meant to make you feel unworthy, fearful, ashamed and mentally unstable. He knows exactly what he is doing, and takes pleasure in doing it. He is cruel; he is heartless. He expects his victim to meet his every need, but feels no obligation to return the favor. If he’s upset, it’s your fault. If he’s depressed, it’s your fault. If he feels great, you had nothing to do with that!
He will control your friendships, your job (if he allows you to have one), your attitudes and your thoughts. He will call you at work and scream at you over the phone, knowing others can hear. He loves to belittle and embarrass you. He’s an awful man. Truly awful.
He goes to great lengths to confuse you and cause you to doubt your own sanity. He “misplaces” your cell, or your bank card, or your car keys. Then he laughs while you frantically search for them, knowing all the time where they are. If you confront him, he will tell you it never really happened, and that you need to see a shrink.
If you are reading this and thinking, “That’s me!” you absolutely need to get help. So does he. He desperately needs to seek counseling to deal with his own issues of cruelty, insecurity, and bullying. Help is out there. You can find counselors or pastors in your area by going online. There are shelters for abused women that are kept secret. You can find them by looking for a phone number in your county government phonebook section, under social services. Or call your doctor, or the police. There is help.
Please, don’t continue one more day to live in this awful environment.