This blog is written by Lee Gale Gruen to help Baby Boomers, seniors, and those soon to retire find joy, excitement, and satisfaction in life after retirement. Her public lecture on this subject is titled, “Reinventing Yourself in Your Retirement.” Her memoir, available by clicking here Amazon.com, is: Adventures with Dad: A Father and Daughter’s Journey Through a Senior Acting Class. Click here for her website: http://AdventuresWithDadTheBook.com
Now, on to my blog:
Have you always been confused as to why your spouse or significant other turns into a snarling dog and treats you with such disdain? Although in this discussion I’ll talk about partner connections, this type of interaction can occur in other close relationships such as with a parent, child, sibling, boss, mentor, etc. I’ll use the generic masculine tone when referring to your partner, but it can equally apply to both sexes.
You do everything you can to get along, have a peaceful relationship, keep him happy. You try to shape yourself to his demands and requirements. It may work for awhile when he’s in a good place psychologically, or externally driven factors such as a job, school, finances, etc. are going right for him. However, the fall always comes. Nothing you do satisfies him. You are cast as the bad guy, especially when he needs someone to blame when his life sucks once again.
This scenario may involve your being emotionally abused including being insulted, dismissed, ostracized, etc. You might be given the silent treatment (for hours or even days), a particularly cunning form of cruelty. Or, you might even be physically abused. It’s like living on a roller coaster. He can be loving and caring or hateful and rejecting, and you never know which version of him is going to show up.
You soon learn to watch for it, always a bit tense even in the best of times. You wait for him to sock-it-to-ya, because you know instinctively that it’s coming sooner or later.
This is typical of the “Battered Woman Syndrome (BWS),” so named because of its frequency in incidents of domestic violence. As I said earlier, men can be the victims of it, too.
Examples of BWS fall on a continuum because each situation is different, some more extreme and some less. You can still be a victim even if no physical violence is involved. Emotional battering can be just as painful; it can be so subtle you can’t even verbalize it, but you feel bad, strange, off-kilter—something doesn’t sit right. It might be a small remark said in public or private that is demeaning but disguised so that the perpetrator can claim, “What are you talking about; you’re crazy?” if you try to call him on it. Behavior such as this is wily, conniving, deliberate, or passive/aggressive: amiability which conceals antagonism.
You start to feel worthless, baffled why everything you do seems to be wrong. You may doubt your own sanity. It doesn’t dawn on you that your abuser might not be correct in his assessment of the situation. You buy into whatever he sells, never questioning.
So, why does your loved one behave like that? One contributing reason might be poor self-image—not yours, his. If your partner doesn’t think much of himself, then he probably feels that anyone who cares for him, loves him or respects him must not be much either.
How can anyone love me, I’m such a loser. They must be horrible, undesirable, a loser themselves. So, not only am I despicable, but I’m with this loser.
Thoughts such as these on the part of the victimizer are usually subconscious–ingrained from childhood. This scenario is often played out with partner after partner.
Even if you understand why your mate behaves as he does, that doesn’t alter your interaction. He’s honed this personality for decades, and he doesn’t plan on changing. Not only that, but he has no problem with how he is; only you have a problem.
So, what do you do? As I’ve encouraged many times in past blogs, you must survive. Whether his technique is the subtle type or the go-for-the-jugular, take-no-prisoners model, you must negate his power to control you.
When you get the feeling that you’ve been put down by him, trust your gut! Keep in mind that you are not on this earth so he can play out these types of conscious or subconscious feelings. Refuse to accept that role! Don’t engage. Leave the staging area. Pursue activities apart from him. In extreme cases, you may have to extricate yourself from the relationship entirely to get healthy.
Take charge of your life and your happiness. Don’t be willing to put it into the hands of another, even someone as close as a spouse or significant other.
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