In a previous post we looked at what characterizes an abusive relationship and how to recognize if you are in one. If you haven't read it, click the link above and take a few minutes to read it before you continue.
The following is a story that illustrates emotional and verbal abuse.
Thomas was given a drum set as a Christmas gift from his close friend Dave, who knew Thomas had played in college and hoped to encourage him to pursue his long-lost musical talent that work pressures had displaced. Thomas also enjoyed spending time with his family when he was not working.
Dave admired how Thomas prioritized his wife and family; they were his pride and joy. Dave knew Thomas tends to put the needs of others above his own and that he was too busy with work to purchase the drums himself.
Upon receiving the drums, Thomas was hesitant and a bit anxious to tell his wife that he was going to take lessons at the local community center after seeing the class advertised in the newspaper.
Once he mustered up the courage to tell her, he left the conversation feeling afraid and guilty for pursuing something he was passionate about outside of his work and family. Thomas’s wife criticized him repeatedly: “You are a terrible father for choosing to take lessons for your silly drums over spending time with your own children.” “You are going to damage your children because you are going to make them feel abandoned each time you go to your lesson.” “You don’t really want to spend time with our children or you wouldn’t play the drums.” “You are trying to avoid the responsibility of being a parent.” “I am like a single parent in this family, and you are like another child: selfish and irresponsible.”
Rather than celebrate his opportunity to pursue a personal passion and encourage him, despite his fears, she became passive-aggressive and did not speak to Thomas. She slept in another room and avoided him for long periods.
Although Thomas pursued his drum lessons, she repeatedly told him he was neglecting his children and her when he played the drums. He began seeking counseling because he felt disoriented and recognized that this painful pattern of constant criticism of him as a father and husband had manifested in other ways for a long time in his marriage. The verbal and emotional abuse had been invisible to him.
An abusive relationship slowly erodes your sense of self and thwarts your purpose.
As a counselor, I have worked with many individuals and couples where abuse is present in the relationship. At times, abusers are unlikely to seek counseling because they may not want to believe that anything is wrong with them. If they seek counseling, following through with counseling is also difficult for these individuals because they can become defensive and question the counsel they are given by therapists who want to help.
I have found that these individuals become extremely upset and disappointed when they are not given the answers or the solutions they seek, or the special treatment they deeply believe they deserve. For this reason, it has been my experience that they tend to jump from counselor to counselor, hoping the next advice from a counselor will align with their behavior.
Based on my experience, it is more often for other symptoms such as substance abuse, infidelity, a work crisis, depression, or anxiety when they seek counseling. The problem occurs in the relationship when the person is unwilling to be accountable for their abusive behavior and do the necessary work to change their actions.
To repair such a relationship, it is essential that a person in an abusive relationship breaks the silence of their suffering and seeks help. The abusive person must be equally willing to pursue help and do the work necessary to overcome their toxic behavior patterns, so they do not continue to hurt their spouse or friend.
In the next post, I’ll help you understand people who abuse others by taking a deeper look into their heart and struggles to help you navigate the healing process.