Friday, May 30, 2008

He really doesn't see.

Bless his heart, I think he genuinely is trying, but he just doesn't get it. On his own initiative, he took the time to write down his understanding of what I was upset about in a recent interaction. He asked me to listen and tell him if his understanding was correct.

I appreciate his good intentions and effort, but after talking with him for an hour or so, I left feeling awful. I realize it is because even in the process of trying to work it out, he continues to define me, i.e. telling me how I was feeling and what I was doing.

When the core problem is defining the other, it cannot be worked through in a conversation where the boundary violations continue. Such a discussion doesn't solve the problem, it is the problem. As Patricia Evans writes:

The verbal abuse is the issue in the relationship. When a couple is having a real argument about a real issue, both parties may feel angry but they can say "this is what I'm feeling angry about " or "this is what I want" and eventually, if there is good will on both their parts, the issue is resolved. In a verbally abusive relationship there is no specific conflict. The issue is the abuse and this issue is not resolved.

Each person must see and hear the other in order to understand. Each must be aware of their own feelings and be able to distinguish their own feelings from the other person's feelings. I just thought everybody knew this. Evidently not.

When I told him what my motives had been, what I was feeling, and what I had said, he concluded, "It couldn't have happened that way or I wouldn't have reacted the way I did." Sigh . Rather than consider that his perceptions of me were inaccurate, he concludes that I am in error.

He seems perplexed when I tell him that how I feel is not a matter of 'opinion' where his guess is as good as mine. He truly does not realize that he does not have the ability to know for certain how another person feels without asking them.

I am glad I got to see Bob's confusion about emotional and psychic boundaries at a time when both of us were calm rather than upset. It gives me more clarity. And that helps me accept how things are.



CZBZ said...

You wrote: "if there is good will on both their parts, the issue is resolved."

Knowing whether or not our partner is 'of good will' is the crux of the problem, isn't it? We assume they are of Good Will or we’d never partner with them. But the only way to know for sure is if they change their hurtful behavior.

And I'm talking about REAL CHANGE resulting from introspection and Insight.

Though I'm no longer married, verbal abuse WAS the issue in our marriage and it increased over the years. Because I was naive about verbal abuse, I didn't see it as a warning sign things could get worse---much, much worse.

In fact, one thing I can tell you is that when we draw a line and refuse to budge, abusive partners may restrain their verbal attacks. All this did was offer me false security while his resentment increased to malignant proportions. He viewed my refusal to be verbally abused as ME Controlling HIM. (ha! and ggggrrrr...)

Everybody has arguments and sometimes we say things we regret; but the proof of Good Will is in our actions.

Do we feel remorse, apologize and change? (After having a serious conversation with ourselves)

Or do we delve into endless conversations with our partner, searching for magical answers bypassing the hard work of grief, remorse, self-discipline and respect for other people’s dignity?

I was also deeply impacted by Patricia Evans book on Verbal Abuse. It was the first time someone gave me the words to describe my experience.


jennie said...

Goodwill is a major factor. I would say that goodwill plus awareness is needed in order for an abusive person to change. In the incident I described, I think Bob had goodwill, unfortunately he still could not see me.

Many other times, of course, I don't think he was trying to understand. Assuming that he wanted to understand kept me hooked in. Patricia Evans wrote, "When the partner recognizes that her mate has no determination to understand her, she has begun to understand him.

I am no longer fooled into thinking that the absence of abuse means any fundamental change has occurred.

I can relate to what you said about your husband viewing your refusal to be abused as you controlling him. (Sounds like a Byron Katie turn around.) When I set a boundary, Bob characterizes it as "emotional blackmail" because he says I am threatening him with abandonment if he keeps abusing me.

CZBZ said...

"he says I am threatening him with abandonment if he keeps abusing me."

In other words, "Don't terrify me just because I terrify you!" (bless your heart, jennie. I know this is painful)

This is a huge problem for many people who are willing to support a partner who is trying to change. None of us expected change to happen overnight though we did EXPECT change to happen at some point.

I was fairly stooooooopid about psychology and extremely stooooooooopid about abuse. As far as I knew, abuse meant physical attacks so it never occurred to me that being told to "fluck off!" was abusive. Not until reading Patricia Evans book. When I began to Focus on Myself and how verbal abuse impacted my sense of worth and value, that's when I admitted that his behavior was abusive...because it made my heart bleed and robbed me of my dignity as a human being.

Some people do change. But only those who see their behavior as dysfunctional and seek professional therapy.

I have never, ever heard of any abuser 'changing' on his or her own. OR by reading a self-help book. Abusers need professional counseling and long-term therapy---something most of them are loath to do. WE just aren't worth the effort and that's a bitter pill to swallow.

Fact is, there's always someone else out there who is willing to put up with their attacks;i.e.: another person terrified of abandonment, perhaps.


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