Recognizing and Changing an Abusive Relationship

Worth reading from off the web!

womanInDespairPXfreeThere are three essential elements to an abusive relationship:

1.  Consistent occurrences of power and control over another

2.  Chronic feelings and displays of disrespect

3.  Unhealthy attachment mistaken for love

Abusers are highly deceptive and the victim, as well as others, have no idea that he is being abusive at all.  He purposefully undermines his victim’s individuality and confidence by dominating conversations and suppressing her identity, making her into a mere object for his purposes. He minimizes anything about her, including her opinions, accomplishments, concerns, feelings, or desires.  This causes her to do the same and she learns to minimize herself as well.

Abuse and respect are polar opposites

He has a chronic attitude of disrespect towards his partner.  A respectful relationship is not abusive and an abusive relationship does not contain respect. An abuser views his partner as his property, which allows him to feel powerful and in charge.

It is essential for an abuser to feel this way because he has a fragile ego and delicate sense of self. Without feeling more powerful than his partner he feels weak and vulnerable. Feeling any sense of vulnerability taps into his sense of powerlessness which he is unwilling to experience for any reason. As long as he sees himself in the “one up” position his fragile ego is kept at bay.

Abuse is caused by the belief system of the abuser. The abuser has developed a deeply ingrained sense of superiority and entitlement which does not go away by learning how to manage anger or resolve conflicts. Abusers use anger to control. They engage in conflicts to abuse their partner; show their superiority; and keep intimacy away. Since intimacy requires vulnerability, a feeling abusers avoid at all costs, they have no interest in developing such closeness.

Abuse is not the same as conflict. A conflict involves a difference of opinion. Abuse involves the need for the abuser to stifle the feelings, thoughts, opinions, and values of the abused. An abuser refuses to accept any accountability or responsibility for any of the problems in the relationship. His hallmark attitude is one of superiority and blame. It is not the conflict that is the problem. The abuser caused the conflict in the first place. There can be no resolution.

There is no way to “approach their partner appropriately,” or “pick the right time to address something.”

Abusers can choose any reason to blame his victim for an abusive incident. Abusers abuse because they choose to. It is the abusive mindset that allows them to abuse for a number of reasons:

(1) They are unhappy and they don’t know what to do with their emotions.

(2) They dump their rage and shame on others.

(3) They may have a narcissistic or anti-social personality disorders.

(4) They feel in control, powerful, strong, and superior, which helps them keep all weak, needy, and vulnerable emotions hidden.

(5) Some people abuse because they were taught this as children and operate out of this inner working relationship dynamic.

Whether abuse is physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, financial, spiritual, or some rendition of all of these, there are some basic components of abuse; these are: blame, criticism, neglect, oppression, minimization, rigidity, ridicule, lies, invalidation, lack of accountability, no remorse, no apologies, repeated name calling, double standards, violence, and a consistent lack of empathy.

Realize that abuse, like addiction, is a chronic “disease” that progresses with time, meaning it only gets worse.

Can an abuser be cured?

Of course anything is possible.

Here are the signs that an abuser is changing:

  • he is willing to be accountable to his spouse and others;
  •  he is willing to never have a sense of entitlement in any relationship, for any reason,
  •  he shows self-reflection and insight;
  • he stops blaming others or minimizing, justifying, or rationalizing his own attitudes and behaviors;
  • he listens to and validates others, including his spouse;
  • while he is never going to be perfect, when he messes up, he apologizes, shows insight into what he did wrong, shows remorse, and changes.


Abusers in recovery are just like alcoholics in recovery

Alcoholics can never even have one drink ever again in order to maintain sobriety. Abusers can’t be like “normal” people who may be rude or disrespectful at times. Recovery for an abuser needs to be different from what comes natural for the partner. Coddling an abuser and showing him empathy only exacerbates his entitlement. Recovery for an abuser requires that he does not allow himself to ever be rude, disrespectful, entitled, or invalidating ever again. Instead, he is humble and compassionate at all times. No excuses.

About Sharie Stines, Psy.D

Sharie Stines, Psy.D. is a recovery expert specializing in personality disorders, complex trauma and helping people overcome damage caused to their lives by addictions, abuse, trauma and dysfunctional relationships. Sharie is a counselor at LIfeline Counseling & Education Inc., in Whittier, California (

Edited for readability   Source: Recognizing and Changing an Abusive Relationship | The Recovery Expert

Relationship Success

… boils down to 2 qualities –

Kindness & Generosity

couple-1190902_1920A team of researchers hooked couples up to electrodes and asked the couples to speak about their relationship: how they met, a major conflict they were facing together, and a positive memory they had. As they spoke, electrodes measured the subject’s blood flow, heart rates, and how much they sweat. Then the researchers sent the couples home and followed up with them 6 years later to see if they were still together.

From the data they gathered,  John Gottman (and team) separated the couples into two major groups: the Masters and the Disasters. The masters were still happily together after 6 years. The disasters had either broken up or were unhappy in their marriages.

One fact they found interesting: The more physiologically active the couples were in the experimental lab, the quicker their relationships deteriorated over time. Now we’re not talking “aroused”  as in “sexually attracted”. We’re talking about being in fight-or-flight mode. Having a conversation, sitting next to their partner was, to their bodies, like facing off with a saber-toothed tiger! They didn’t feel safe with each other. Conversely, the masters had created a climate of trust and intimacy. They were more emotionally comfortable.

How did the masters create a culture of love and intimacy?

All people make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” The Other could respond by either turning toward” or “turning away.

Though the connection-bid might seem minor and silly to One partner, the Other partner apparently thought it was important enough to share, and the question is whether the partner recognizes and respects that.

Couples who had divorced after a six-year follow-up had “turn-toward bids”  of only 33% – Only 3 of 10  bids for emotional connection were met with intimacy. The couples who were still together after six years had “turn-toward bids” 87% of the time. That means 9 out of 10. They were meeting their partner’s emotional needs.
By observing these types of interactions, Gottman can predict with up to 94 percent certainty whether couples — straight or gay, rich or poor, childless or not — will be broken up, together and unhappy, or together and happy several years later.
Much of it comes down to the ‘spirit’ couples bring to the relationship – personality characteristics. Do they bring kindness and generosity; or contempt, criticism, and hostility?
Gottman concludes, “there’s a habit of mind that the Masters have. They are scanning the social environment for things about their partner they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building a culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully.  On the other hand, the Disasters are scanning the social environment for their partners’ mistakes.”

Contempt, they have found, is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who are focused on criticizing their partners miss a whopping 50 percent of positive things their partners are doing and they see negativity when it’s not there.

People who give their partner the cold shoulder — deliberately ignoring the partner or responding minimally — damage the relationship by making their partner feel worthless and invisible, as if they are not there, and certainly, not valued. Being mean is the death bell of relationships.

Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together. Research independent from Gottman has shown that kindness, along with emotional stability, are the most important predictors of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated.

There’s a great deal of evidence showing the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves, which leads to love and generosity in a relationship. Please note: this means that one partner can bring out goodness in the other – by way of example.

Gottman gives an example: “Disasters will say things differently in a fight. Disasters will say ‘You’re late. What’s wrong with you? You’re just like your mom.’ Masters will say ‘I feel bad for picking on you about being late, and I know it’s not your fault, but it’s really annoying that you’re late again.’”

Masters appear to take the time to choose their words. They don’t ignore their feelings like some Disasters do (only to blow up later). They own their perceptions and approach the partner with a desire to share and solve the problem. Disasters will often approach as though they are an expert on the other and there is no invitation for a discussion.

Couples can learn to communicate with respect. They can learn about connection-bids. But they have to be motivated.

Excerpts from:

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Finding the Right Therapist for You

Couples therapy

If you’ve decided you’re ready to go to therapy, the next step is finding a reputable therapist. If you have a referral from a friend, family member, or a trusted Doctor, start there. If not, you can check with your insurance carrier, or go on-line and research therapists yourself. Once you find a few names, give them a call or send an email. Some questions to keep in mind are:

  • Experience – The longer a therapist has been practicing, the more competent they are likely to be. Also ask what percentage of their clients are in your age group and have had similar issues. If the therapist is something other than a psychologist, ask what their bachelors degree was in. Social workers, for example, can apply to graduate school with any bachelor’s degree. If their first 4 years was NOT in psychology, then they’ve essentially only had 2 years training!


  • Basic therapy style – Believe it or not, this is important to clarify. Some therapists guide their clients from a  “Brief Solution Focused” model (behaviors), “Cognitive-Behavioral” (thinking patterns), “Psychodynamic” (childhood experiences), etc. This may be too much information, but you might ask how they would approach your particular issue. This gives you a “feel” for the person you might be spending time with.
  • Life Experience – Therapists are supposed to be objective, well-trained professionals, but let’s face it – they are still people. If you think someone will understand you better if they’ve been through a few things like you, go ahead and ask! In Salt Lake City, for instance, most people have strong views about church affiliation. It’s OK to want a counselor that understands you in that area. Also, if you are struggling with children or a divorce, it makes sense to want to work with someone who has “been there”.
  • Personality Fit – Once you’ve made an appointment, a good rule to keep in mind is this – do not waste your time if you do not click with the therapist. (One to three sessions should give you enough information on the “click” factor!) Feeling confident that he or she can help you is the most important aspect of successful therapy. If you are not comfortable with the therapist’s style, you need to find someone else.
  • Location – It may be important that your therapist isn’t more than ____ minutes drive from you. This may be close to home or close to where you work. (If location is not a big deal for you, you can use your commute time to listen to a podcast or relaxation music!)
  • Availability – What are the times that would be ideal for you? Some like going during a lunch hour, before kids are home from school, or on the way home from work.

REMEMBER –  Therapy is for youYou will be their employer. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or to talk about what you expect from therapy. We are people people – we can handle it!

Happy Hunting!

The Best of You – MBTI


 “What’s right for one person may not be right for someone else.  And there are things that are important to me that others don’t care about at all.

And sometimes others’ behavior doesn’t make any sense to me.

I have my own Thoughts and my own Ideas that may or may not fit into your vision of who I should be.” ~PleaseUnderstandMe by DavidKeirsey

 The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

The Theory of Psychological Types was described by C. G. Jung in the 1920’s. He theorized that much of the seemingly random variations in peoples’ behaviors are actually rather systematic and reliable. Their basic differences can be viewed as the ways an individual prefers to perceive reality – all the ways of becoming aware of things, people, happenings, or ideas, and then evaluate those perceptions – all the ways of coming to conclusions about what has been perceived. Jung also talks of attitudes of consciousness, or the basic direction in which a person’s conscious interests and energies may flow – either inward to subjective, psychological experience, or outward to the environment of objects, other people and collective norms.

Isabel Briggs Myers studied Jung’s ideas and added her own insights. After 30 years of research and over 5,000 participants, she created a survey that would eventually become the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI ). It is the most widely used personality test.. Learning about our Personality Type helps us to understand why certain areas in life come easily to us and others are more of a struggle. Learning about other people’s Personality Types helps us to understand the most effective way to communicate with them.

This self-report questionnaire assesses the following::

  1. The flow of energy defines how you receive the essential part of your experience. Do you receive it from within yourself (Introverted) or from external sources (Extraverted)?
  2. How you take in information shows your preference for focusing on the basic information taken in through the five senses (Sensing), or by interpreting and adding meaning based on prior experiences (iNuition).
  3. How you prefer to make judgment calls— objectively, using logic and consistency (Thinking), or subjectively, considering other people and special circumstances (Feeling).
  4. The basic day-to-day decision-style that you prefer –  how you interact with the outer world — with a preference towards getting things decided (Judging), or for staying open to new information and options (Perception/Prospecting).

The test is amazingly accurate and informative. Why not give it a whirl?

I’ve searched high and low and found these great online tools.

  • The first link is to a very good adaptation of the original test (Copyright infringements prohibit the availability of the real one):

16Personalities- Get to know yourself – the BEST questionnaire on the web.  

 The Best of YOU!!!

Share your results if you’d like! ;)

The Inner Child Who Won’t Be Ignored

There is a cause and effect relationship between what happened to the child that we were and the adult we became.  

Our relationship with others reflects how we see and treat ourselves. Eastern philosophy teaches that the world is as you believe it, and in the West, psychotherapists say our view of the world is revealed in the phenomenon of projection. To an unconscious mind, if we see it- we are it.

When we get into a new intimate relationship, all those earlier years of emotional conditioning come to the surface. These unconscious responses, developed when we were merely innocent children, are the result of our experiences with our “First Loves” – our mothers, fathers, or any other caregivers who were close to us. If, for example, your caregivers were affectionate, you are probably comfortable with affection as an adult.

If all your needs were adequately met as a child, the adult-you has a healthy, robust, curious, and spontaneous response to life. We call this a healthy Inner Child, and everyone deserves one.

If all of those needs were met properly, you won’t be interested in this article.

But if you had unmet needs, or were abused or neglected by one of those “First Loves” in a significant or recurring way, it left a wound. You may never notice this hurt but it is certainly there. It determines your actions and shapes your life. Or you may not think those things bother you anymore because, after all, you had to survive. But all you probably accomplished was to learn to mask those wounds, kind of like a Band-Aid, to get on with the task of growing up.

Without any conscious awareness, you created a core issue, and the underlying motivation of your life would be to avoid this hurt by building a good defense strategy. You tried to be perfect, or maybe you tried not needing anything. Whatever the defense, it’s not the real you.


You can try to ignore this wounded part of yourself and most of us do try. After all, we are grown up, shouldn’t we act grown up? Who would want a sniveling little whiny brat hanging around the office, or in our grown up relationships?

But try as we might, the kid shows up anyway. It’s usually seen as an overreaction, or you may feel it as a freeze-moment: everything turns fuzzy and muddled and you can’t think straight. The next time this happens, ask yourself how old you feel. You’ll see. It’s the kid.

 The good news is we can heal this wounded part of ourselves by building a new relationship with our own Inner Child. If the messages we got as little kids were negative, then there was a misunderstanding. With supportive compassion, we can correct those mistakes.

How this happened is simple. Children feel responsible for the things that happen to them. Our caregivers were our God/Goddess. Since the all-powerful can’t make a mistake, we concluded that, when something was wrong, “it must be me”. This feeling of fault marked our earliest relationship with our selves. At the core of our being is the Inner Child who believes that he or she is unworthy, unlovable, defective, or not good enough

Take Betty for an example. She plays the ex-wife of Don Draper in “Mad Men”. In the latest episode, her partner couldn’t understand why she seemed to get so upset suddenly and for no apparent reason.

Of course Betty didn’t see it that way. She thought it was reasonable to be angry with her son, Bobby, because he “wrecked a perfectly wonderful day”.

Was it really so Angry Bettyhorrible that Bobby thought the lunch with two sandwiches was for him? Anyone watching the scene would know it was an innocent misunderstanding. He had no intention to cause harm. But for Betty, Bobby’s decision to share the lunch with another girl was a malicious affront! In a single instant she went from a Functional Adult to a sulking, fuming, and shaming Child. And like a little girl believing her own sad fantasy (“I’m not good enough”) she later says, to her partner “Why don’t they love me?”

I’d venture to guess that as a child, Betty’s parents believed “children are to be seen but not heard”. She probably learned that her needs were of no significance and were a nuisance. As Betty grew up, still believing this of herself, she learned not to trust the other loves in her life. I think Betty’s defense-strategy was to pretend not to care. And so, without awareness, she punishes her children when these wounds from her Inner Child arise. And she is passing on the wounds.

Like the character Betty, when we are automatically  triggered,  “out of the blue“, we  re-enact the traumas  laid down in childhood.

Here’s the kicker: We cannot be present in an authentic, genuine way in our adult love relationships if we are not aware of our childhood wounds.

Remember, little kids have a very limited amount of experiences to draw conclusions from. When we were 3 or 4 we couldn’t look around us and say, “Well, Mom’s certainly having a bad day. Since I just woke up, it can’t have anything to do with me!” We just felt awful, and we mistakenly concluded, “It must be my fault. I must have done something wrong.” If there are a significant number of these early misconceptions, we become wounded. We grow up wired to believe we are unworthy of love.

Repair can happen when we start to understand on an emotional level, on a gut level, that “It wasn’t your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong, you were just a little kid.

But how can we tell if it’s an Inner Child issue? The 1st step is to become aware. One way is to notice if we feel an emotion that is out of proportion with what’s going on around us, or when we get feedback that we are “overreacting“.

Next, we need to learn to become the Loving Parent to ourselves, who can hear the child’s voice within us and validate its pain and anger.

We can do this by focusing on a current hurtful situation while asking ourselves, “What could have happened in my childhood that would draw me to the same conclusion?” You might find a memory or it may just be a feeling.

Another method is done by journaling non-dominant-hand dialogues (asking your Inner Child what he or she needs). This may require asking for help. We all need some help at times to see ourselves more clearly. Look for a psychotherapist who is comfortable with Lucia Capacchione’s method, illustrated in her book, RECOVERY OF YOUR INNER CHILD – How to talk to your Inner Child and find what it needs. 

Once you have rescued the wounded Inner Child, there are other approaches to keeping yourself in tune with your authentic self that aren’t quite as intense. I write about them as well in other articles. Stay tuned!


“Carry the spirit of the Child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.” ~Aldous Huxley