1. Every abuser has been a victim
Research proves again and again that people who were victimized as children are likely to grow up to be either abusers or drawn towards abusive relationships because that is what is familiar to them. Many abuse victims manage to escape these ills and lead satisfying lives. But if you look at someone who is verbally abusive, there is no doubt that he or she was originally abused.
Being told again and again “you’re stupid” by someone who is supposed to love you is no less traumatic than having been in downtown New York City on September 11, 2001. Trauma does not have to happen all at once. In fact, the most difficult trauma to shake is the kind that lasts and lasts. It is so familiar it seems as though it’s normal. When an abuse victim is so used to it that it feels normal, that is an indication of trauma.
Yes, there definitely are some bad apples but most abusers do not mean to be mean. They don’t know how to handle their hurt and anger and have either watched their parent verbally or physically battering the other parent or they have been victims themselves. Why does this matter? Because it means they can change. They can learn to be good. They can learn kindness and compassion. For some relationships, it’s too late; too much damage was done. For others, it’s not.
This means that when you choose someone, you don’t know why consciously, but the attraction seems to be for someone who has experienced what you have in life. There’s a connection which may be based on the shared experience of abuse. It’s as if your soul knew that no one else would understand you or relate to you but someone who’s been there. The good part is that each of you really does understand the other.
The bad part is that we then have two traumatized people, very much in need of all the things they never got growing up searching for what is missing in each other. The problem is that if you need lots of TLC and your partner does too, there can be hurt feelings when one or both of you don’t get it quick and often enough.
Not only that, the hurt feelings often come from believing the other partner meant to be hurtful. This is natural. When you are used to being abused, you just expect it. So all behavior that hurts must have been meant as abuse. That belief is usually wrong, but now the abuser becomes the victim in this relationship because he/she has been falsely accused of wanting to be hurtful.
Things get real complicated when he/she gets mad over this and now wants to be hurtful for revenge.
This dynamic is the most important one for you to be aware of as you try to communicate with each other and start to mend fences.
When your own true love gets angry at you, it certainly is not endearing. You would think there’d be another way of expressing frustration or disappointment or hurt or feelings of abandonment or rejection. After all, logic dictates that if you felt rejected and don’t want to feel that way, you’d go out of your way to act nice so as not to be rejected again. But logic doesn’t rule. The emotions do. And the emotions learned anger as a protective mechanism. If one’s own parents were rejecting, you know that you can’t be nice to win them over. I mean, you can’t win if your own parents rejected you. So “nice” gets ruled out. Nice doesn’t work. What’s left? Well, anger is a good one. Its scary, so it keeps nasty people away. Very protective. Of course, you’re not supposed to keep away the person you married. Otherwise, why get married? The problem is that the person with the anger already went through a whole childhood being mistreated by those who were supposed to love him. And those people were blood. So it makes perfect sense that if your own flesh and blood treated you rotten, you can’t expect better from strangers. Right? At least that’s the way the world looks to them. And you have to admit it makes sense.
This is not to justify anger. It is only to understand where it comes from–to understand that it is not personal; it’s a behavioral choice where no other choice existed. You don’t deserve the anger and if you were to ask him/her in a moment of peace and quiet between you, your spouse would tell you that. The good part about this is that it is correctable. Correction requires willingness to learn new ways and a recognition that anger backfires.
That means being careful as you start the process of opening up the doors of communication. You are sensitive and so is your mate. Think before you speak.
Ten Things to Do to Reconciliate
1. This has to be a joint effort.
2. Never, ever use foul language to each other or in your heart.
3. Always give the benefit of the doubt as to the meaning behind your partner’s actions. Don’t assume it was meant badly or your efforts are squashed before they start. (We’re talking here about verbal abuse; we are NOT talking about sexual infidelity.)
4. Do five nice things for your spouse this week without counting how many were done back to you.
5. Stop blaming, criticizing, arguing, nagging, walking away in disgust.
6. Take 10 minutes every day to listen to each other thoughtfully and patiently.
7. Be considerate and respectful. Your mate is not your slave.
8. Do something really fun together.
9. When you start to get angry, recognize it immediately, take some slow deep breaths to slow down your autonomic nervous system, clear your head of the negative thoughts, and leave the room if you need to in order to calm down. Let your spouse know that this is the plan so he/she won’t be offended.
10. Keep the positive things about your partner in your mind at all times so as to outweigh all the negative things you used to think about.