Abuse and love | What kind of relationship is this?
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Abuse and love are two states one would never associate with a healthy relationship. Most would not expect to spend any time struggling to figure out how the person they fell in love with could say they love them, yet continuously hurt them, (“You know I love you, right?“)
However, abusers tend to morph within their relationships and display patterns of control, disrespect, and danger toward their mates. Even if there is no physical harm toward their spouse, girlfriend, or boyfriend, these relationships can cause tremendous damage.
Psychological trauma is often more difficult
to overcome than physical trauma.
Because psychological trauma has the potential to leave scars that can significantly change the way a person approaches life. It impacts how an individual interacts in the world and filters all future relationships.
Psychological trauma can shake your confidence to the core, causing one to feel ‘less than’ or inferior. It can change a person’s perception of their self worth and lead to symptoms of depression and anxiety. In its most extreme forms, depression can potentially be an imminent risk to a person’s life (i.e., suicide).
Psychological trauma should be taken very seriously and should never be minimized. Therefore, it’s important to understand that if one is attempting to look at the bright side with statements such as, “Well, at least he doesn’t hit me,” please be aware that it does not make the harm of a narcissist or psychopath less damaging. Of course the absence of physical abuse takes the risk of broken bones and visible bruises off the table. However, emotional trauma through demonstrations of callousness, manipulation, planned aggression, gas-lighting, coldness, deceit, betrayal, lack of caring, and low empathy has a significant impact on the brain that can be felt life long.
Abuse, regardless of the form, can lead to a trauma response (e.g., anxiety, depression, PTSD), even for adults. Given that psychological changes are often neurologically based, there are usually parallel changes taking place within the body that can lead to a tremendous decline in health. Such changes to the abused partner can include health problems such as chronic pain disorders, joint disorders, cardiac problems, and autoimmune disease (Humphreys, Cooper, Miaskowski, 2010).
Falling in love with an individual with predominantly controlling, callous and aggressive character traits nearly always results in pain to the healthy partner. The severe shifts in emotional states and behavior from the abusive individual can be confusing and cause psychological harm to their unsuspecting victim.
Abuse and romantic love are common mixtures for individuals with certain personality disorders. Manipulative, charming, callous partners do both very well. They can appear as hopeless romantics in the present, with vile abuse awaiting the future of their unsuspecting, charmed, and buttered up mates.
When the switch in behavior from the abuser occurs, it would not be uncommon for the non-disordered partner or victim to question,
What kind of relationship is this?
Who is this woman (or man)?
What happened to the person I fell in love with?
What did I do wrong?
Abuse and Love
One is rarely, if ever, on a level field with an abusive mate and there tends to be a strong component of ‘game playing’ to the relationship. Individuals with severe personality disturbances (e.g., psychopathy, narcissistic personality, antisocial personality) interact in this manner regardless of whether the non-disordered partner is completely open with them or not.
The non-disordered partner is at a disadvantage, as they are rarely aware of everything about their partner. They only know what they are told or allowed to see. This is one of many distinctions between ‘normal’ relationships and abusive relationships. There tends to be hidden information that their partner should know and/or a pattern of lies by omission. Many will have secret lives.
Of course there are many other distinctions that will be discussed elsewhere (e.g., abuse, lack of accountability, demonstrations of hate toward their partner, lack of caring).
With ‘normal’ relationships there can be a breakdown and partners decide to move on and go their separate ways. Naturally, this can happen with personality disordered partners as well. However, within these relationships there tends to be deception, disloyalty, manipulation, psychological abuse, secrecy, blindsiding, and betrayal that accompanies the breakup.
The abusive partner often presents himself in a favorable light in the beginning of the relationship, which facilitates bonding and fondness from the ‘normal’ partner – perhaps even love. Then later these individuals seem to ‘change’ completely revealing an intimidating or sneaky individual who should have never been trusted.
Individuals with psychopathy and narcissistic personality disorder tend to be immoral individuals (although they know morals) and deception is a part of feeling powerful to them. It is a method to control another individual, which tends to be important to someone with violating and antagonistic personality traits.
To control the reality of another individual is significantly stimulating. To tell her that he is faithful and that her instincts are merely paranoia and insecurity, when in fact her intuition is accurate, can be exhilarating to an abusive, controlling partner.
These individuals tend to refer to their former love object in vile terms that make it clear his intense disrespect and lack of acknowledgement of her as a human being. Common favored names tend to be wh***, sl**, c**, b****.
Through such vile language they demonstrate their objectification of their mate and hate. However, it is not uncommon that almost immediately (without supplying an apology or any demonstration of contrition) everything for many of them moves forward as usual. They behave as though they have done nothing wrong at all.
They tend to be shocked and confused as to why their mate (who they referred to as a derogatory term or was on the receiving end of a frightening rage episode) continues to have hurt feelings regarding the mistreatment. The abusive individual might respond with annoyance or anger at her emotional state. They might recommend that she, “let it go! Stop holding on to the past!” | “Get over it already!” | “This is why we have problems – you want to make me out to be the bad guy!”
These relationships are usually extremely difficult and damaging.
For most, they are hard to adjust to, even for the individual who makes attempts to make it work. Unfortunately, if the partner has a personality prone to abuse (e.g., psychopathy, narcissism, antisocial personality) then boredom, lack of sustained interest in their partner, immorality, control and callousness will be common factors within the relationship. This can make life a roller coaster of pain for any devoted partner.
Even if she tried to be the devoted mate and attempt to minimize his behaviors in order to survive the abuse, it is not uncommon that the impact of the mistreatments will manifest itself physically. For example, poor health, accelerated aging, headaches, body aches, fatigue, sleep problems, and weight gain.
Of course, not all abusive relationships are the same. The individual with psychopathy or narcissistic personality disorder will naturally have their own style and unique traits they bring to the table in addition to their disorder. However, it is common to find the following within their relationships:
• A vile level of name calling that most non-disordered individuals would never use in reference to someone they care about.
• Unreasonable control of their partner
• Attempts to isolate and foster dependency
• Emotional manipulation geared to shred self esteem and self worth
• Frequently changing and often contradictory view points and opinions.
No one signs up for deception, psychological abuse, lack of care, and betrayal from someone they loved and trusted. However, a significant number of abusive relationships include these components.
• Want the basics of psychopathy? You might find this article helpful, Psychopath Basics Q and A Psychopath Basics
© 2013 NeuroInstincts | All Rights Reserved
Humphreys, J., Cooper, B., Miaskowski C. (2010). Differences in depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and lifetime trauma exposure in formerly abused women with mild versus moderate to severe chronic pain. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. 2010 Dec;25(12):2316-38.
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