Clandestine abuser, you say ‘what is that?’ Well in a nutshell they are the abuser that no one knows is abusing, no one suspects in any way shape or manner. Their not the physical abuser with the wife or girlfriend that comes in with mysterious broken bones and black eyes. Their not the verbal abuser that hear berating his loved one as if she was worth no more than shit on the underside of his Jordans. No, their the emotional abuser, so clandestine that even the person being abused may not be aware of what’s going on fully. I’m taking a moment out to talk about the emotional abuser because I was a victim of emotional abuse. Now to look at me, you may not think that and probably from reading some of my blog posts here and on Single Girl in a Weird World, you may be surprised. But don’t be surprised, I could guarantee that if you don’t know how to spot the emotional abuser you may end up being a victim. It doesn’t have to do with bad self-esteem or neediness, no it’s not your fault. They are master manipulators, doing it so well you may not even realize you’re being manipulated for some time. I believe many men and women are out there emotionally abusing loved ones, I think it’s very common more common than physical or verbal abuse. Most emotional abusers I would put in the catergory of sociopath or narcisitic personality disorder. Now these two personality disorders are not exactly th same but they do overlap each other in different areas. Let’s go with the sociopath first:
- Glibness and Superficial Charm
- Manipulative and Conning
They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They appear to be charming, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an instrument to be used. They may dominate and humiliate their victims.
- Grandiose Sense of Self
Feels entitled to certain things as “their right.”
- Pathological Lying
Has no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities. Extremely convincing and even able to pass lie detector tests.
- Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt
A deep seated rage, which is split off and repressed, is at their core. Does not see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims. The end always justifies the means and they let nothing stand in their way.
- Shallow Emotions
When they show what seems to be warmth, joy, love and compassion it is more feigned than experienced and serves an ulterior motive. Outraged by insignificant matters, yet remaining unmoved and cold by what would upset a normal person. Since they are not genuine, neither are their promises.
- Incapacity for Love
- Need for Stimulation
Living on the edge. Verbal outbursts and physical punishments are normal. Promiscuity and gambling are common.
- Callousness/Lack of Empathy
Unable to empathize with the pain of their victims, having only contempt for others’ feelings of distress and readily taking advantage of them.
- Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature
Rage and abuse, alternating with small expressions of love and approval produce an addictive cycle for abuser and abused, as well as creating hopelessness in the victim. Believe they are all-powerful, all-knowing, entitled to every wish, no sense of personal boundaries, no concern for their impact on others.
- Early Behavior Problems/Juvenile Delinquency
- Usually has a history of behavioral and academic difficulties, yet “gets by” by conning others. Problems in making and keeping friends; aberrant behaviors such as cruelty to people or animals, stealing, etc.
- Not concerned about wrecking others’ lives and dreams. Oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause. Does not accept blame themselves, but blames others, even for acts they obviously committed.
- Promiscuous Sexual Behavior/Infidelity
- Promiscuity, child sexual abuse, rape and sexual acting out of all sorts.
- Lack of Realistic Life Plan/Parasitic Lifestyle
Tends to move around a lot or makes all encompassing promises for the future, poor work ethic but exploits others effectively.
- Criminal or Entrepreneurial Versatility
Changes their image as needed to avoid prosecution. Changes life story readily.
Other Related Qualities:
- Contemptuous of those who seek to understand them
- Does not perceive that anything is wrong with them
- Only rarely in difficulty with the law, but seeks out situations where their tyrannical behavior will be tolerated, condoned, or admired
- Conventional appearance
- Goal of enslavement of their victim(s)
- Exercises despotic control over every aspect of the victim’s life
- Has an emotional need to justify their crimes and therefore needs their victim’s affirmation (respect, gratitude and love)
- Ultimate goal is the creation of a willing victim
- Incapable of real human attachment to another
- Unable to feel remorse or guilt
- Extreme narcissism and grandiose
- May state readily that their goal is to rule the world
I’ve seen these folks in the lives of others. My emotional abuser was a narcissitic personality disorder (NPD) which to me is a milder form of sociopathy.
Narcissistic personality disorder is characterized by dramatic, emotional behavior, in the same category as antisocial and borderline personality disorders.
Narcissistic personality disorder symptoms may include:
- Believing that you’re better than others
- Fantasizing about power, success and attractiveness
- Exaggerating your achievements or talents
- Expecting constant praise and admiration
- Believing that you’re special and acting accordingly
- Failing to recognize other people’s emotions and feelings
- Expecting others to go along with your ideas and plans
- Taking advantage of others
- Expressing disdain for those you feel are inferior
- Being jealous of others
- Believing that others are jealous of you
- Trouble keeping healthy relationships
- Setting unrealistic goals
- Being easily hurt and rejected
- Having a fragile self-esteem
- Appearing as tough-minded or unemotional
Although some features of narcissistic personality disorder may seem like having confidence or strong self-esteem, it’s not the same. Narcissistic personality disorder crosses the border of healthy confidence and self-esteem into thinking so highly of yourself that you put yourself on a pedestal. In contrast, people who have healthy confidence and self-esteem don’t value themselves more than they value others.
When you have narcissistic personality disorder, you may come across as conceited, boastful or pretentious. You often monopolize conversations. You may belittle or look down on people you perceive as inferior. You may have a sense of entitlement. And when you don’t receive the special treatment to which you feel entitled, you may become very impatient or angry. You may insist on having “the best” of everything — the best car, athletic club, medical care or social circles, for instance.
But underneath all this behavior often lies a fragile self-esteem. You have trouble handling anything that may be perceived as criticism. You may have a sense of secret shame and humiliation. And in order to make yourself feel better, you may react with rage or contempt and efforts to belittle the other person to make yourself appear better. (Mayo Clinic)
The one thing to remember is with both of these and emotional abusers, it’s all about POWER. Power over the victim is the ultimate goal.
My emotional abuse started very innoucous, when I met my ex-husband I was in my mid-twenties. We met via a blind date and I really like him, he was nice, seemed ambitious and really seemed extremely impressed with me. Our first year of dating was pretty good, we’d have the occasional disagreement but nothing too serious. As time went on our disagreements got more heated, the ante got upped, there was more desperation on each of our parts. He’d call me names, I’d call him names back, he’d go low blow and then I’d threaten to leave. Every time and I do mean every time I threatened to leave, he’d get upset, he’d all of sudden turn nice as pie, he’d start to do all the things I had been begging for in the relationship but this only last a short amount of time and before you know it he’d be back to his old ways. He was notorious for the underhanded insult, most times I’d just ignore it and put it off as ‘that was just his way’. I really thought I was just married to a jerk but it wasn’t until I got divorced I found out I had married and lived with an abuser for almost 9 years.
We had a tumultous relationship that never really had any peace, most of the time I just tried my best to avoid making him upset because it would backfire on me. I walked on eggshells because I didn’t want to make him upset but that didn’t work, everything annoyed him and made him upset and usually if his life was not going well, which was much of the time it was somehow my fault. Now he wasn’t what I would call physically abusive, he was about my weight and a little taller than me so any hitting on me would have him in some danger. I can and will fight so we’d get into scuffles but somebody was walking away with a limp but it wasn’t me. I must warn women, if you find yourself in a physical altercation with your mate at any point, you need to pack the hell up and get out of there. Even if it’s one where you can defend yourself, no relationship should ever include violence but that’s a lesson a learned later in life.
I think like many NPDs he had really bad self-esteem, I knew that but I never used that against him although he would try to beat down my self-esteem in clandestine ways all the time. He never complimented me and if he would he would always add a ‘but’ in to bring me back down to size. The compliments never stood on their own. He was terrified of losing me, but I don’t believe he actually wanted to be with me himself. He was miserable and his goal was to make me as miserable as he was. I loved my ex-husband so much that I put up this behavior for a long time, I think at some points I may have actually encouraged it. I would reward his bad behavior, I always wanted him to feel good about himself even if that meant I had to feel bad about myself sometimes. I sacrificed for him, the more I sacrificed, the more he demanded. The more I did, the more he resented me for doing it all the while demanding it.
The end of our marriage was physically and emotionally demoralizing for me. I was in a constant state of ‘damage control’ with him and my family. They knew nothing of what was happening in our lives, I just didn’t tell them. One of the best and worst things about being a Taurus is we are self-reliant so self-reliant that at points when we really need help, we don’t ask for it. I just put on a brave front and made excuses for him every time we went to a family gathering and he wanted to leave early or not come at all. He disliked my family and thought I spent too much with them, he was also paranoid that I was telling them things that put him in a bad light which he never wanted. The fact was I wasn’t telling my family a thing, I was just pretending with everyone that my marriage was happy and okay. When I started dating Matt I made a promise to myself that I would never pretend again, I would never run interference for a bad mate. Thank God, Matt is fabulous so I never have to pretend when it comes to he and I.
Our marriage was a constant power struggle and although I struggled and fought back many times, a lot of the time I was just too tired and worn out so I just let him have his way. I don’t really want anyone to think he was berating me on a daily basis and I just took it because I didn’t. I’m a tough woman with a mouth like a sailor and I can give as good I get but this was my husband and I felt so bad for him because he had such low self-esteem that I didn’t struggle against him as much as I should have. Really our marriage was probably over about 2 to 3 years before I finally kicked him out and filed for divorce. I had been doing the back and forth manipulator thing with him and I couldn’t anymore, I didn’t believe him, I didn’t trust him. Although I loved him I knew he really didn’t love me or as Lisa Marie Presley said about Michael Jackson ‘he loved me as much as he knew how’ which wasn’t much. For my ex-husband people were there to use and if he couldn’t use you, he’d get angry and held grudges, deep grudges. He’d say bad things about people and I never thought he’d do that to me but he did. Another great lesson, what people do to others they will definitely do to you. I don’t know what happened to him as a young man or child, he had a very strained relationship with his family but whatever it was it affected him as a man and made this.
His struggle to hold power over me didn’t end when I left him and divorced him, no NPDs don’t give up what they feel they deserve to control easily. After I finally was fed up and had really in my mind and heart cut him loose, he decided we needed marriage counseling. I did it, not because I thought we’d get back together but I didn’t want to look like I didn’t try one last ditch effort for my marriage. But really I was already planning my life minus him. And once again he tried to gain control through manipulation, he was nice, sweet, wanting to acquiesce to all my request. I didn’t believe a word he said, I’m here to tell you once you no longer trust your spouse the love is gone. I couldn’t love someone who I don’t trust and I didn’t trust him, at this point I knew he was trying to manipulate me and it wasn’t going to work.
This is the point I knew it, the therapist asked him something and he asked the therapist if he could say something to me first, the therapist said certainly. Then he told me, ‘I just want to tell my wife, how beautiful she is’. I was done, I knew it was lie, we’d been together for almost 13 years and I could count on one hand how many times he’d told me I was beautiful. When the therapist separated us and asked what I thought of that comment, I told him in no uncertain terms that at that point I didn’t trust my then husband any further than I could throw him. I was done, I wanted nothing to do with him or that sham marriage counseling he was trying to push on me. After that day I never went back, a few weeks later I started to separate myself from him. I moved out of the condo we owned together into my own apartment, I started using my maiden name. I wanted out as fast as my legs could carry me. He tried once again to manipulate me into coming back, but I was done and when I finally said I was wanted a divorce he turned on me like a rabid dog. That’s usually what emotional abusers will do when you don’t do what they are trying to manipulate you into, they get angry, real angry. They start accusing of you vile things, most of which are absolute flat out lies but that doesn’t matter, you’re taking away their power and they are out to get you. You’re not being paranoid. The goal once you have rejected them and their attempt to control you is to bad mouth you to anyone who will listen and to try to gain sympathy from others. The abuser now becomes the victim, it’s called triangulation where the one party that was the rescuer, the manipulator will now turn it around so they become the victim and they make the victim out to be the abuser so the rescuers will help them or turn against the victim who has now been set up to be the abuser by the actual abuser.
It’s scary and I didn’t know what it was or what he was doing until Matt and I started our pre-marriage counseling. By the time we started our pre-marriage counseling my ex-husband and I had been apart almost 3 years, very happy years I might add. I had done a lot of soul searching to try to figure out how the hell I ended up with someone so manipulative and unloving. I had to know what had drawn me to this person, part of it was of course my love for him but another part was the co-dependence I was a caretaker as many women are and we think that person needs our love or they won’t get better. But sister let me tell you, he ain’t gonna get better anyway. He don’t need nothing from you, he needs to find those things in himself and if he can’t he’ll be co-depending all over you. By the time we’d come into our pre-marriage counselor’s office I’d figure out I’d been a victim of abuse but it was hard to understand, for awhile I didn’t want to believe it. You never want to believe that someone you loved so much that you gave your life to would do that to you but he did and he was still trying to. Before the end of our marriage he’d joined my church before he’d been a member for about a year, he’d done some things with the church but whatever my ex did was for him not for anyone else. Whatever he did was to make him look good, he was true user.
After our separation and divorce I stayed away from my church although I’d been a member there for almost 15 years, I just stayed away. He had stayed away too but when I decided to go back to church, suddenly he showed back up with a girlfriend. Now I wasn’t concerned about him dating someone else, I didn’t want him but I did wonder why after saying such horrid things about me to others and to me, would he show back up at what was essentially my church. What could I do, I couldn’t tell him to leave he’d joined the church also not for the right reasons but he was a member. When he showed back up all of sudden he was so chummy with my family. I didn’t get it, he never really liked my family and I didn’t understand all this sudden chumminess with them. Matt and I were at church sometimes but Matt was uncomfortable and at times so was I. What was he doing? We asked our counselor about it and that’s when he told me about the triangulation, it made sense. He’s a user, why not turn it around and try to use my family against me. They really knew nothing about the emotional abuse I’d suffered at that hands of him. My counselor told me, I needed to tell them about the abuse and I needed to warn them to stay away from him because he was out to use my family to get at Matt and myself, he was weedling his way into our marriage via my family and church. When he told me I wasn’t sad, I was mad, I was furious. He’d manipulated me, I’d be damned if I was going to let him manipulate my family. I told them, everyone, my mom, my brothers, my sister in law, my best friend and everyone and I do mean everyone immediately what he done to me, all the gory details and told them to cut ties with him. I’m always so thankful my family loves me. My mom was so upset because she didn’t know anything about this and she’d been a victim of physical abuse while married to her first husband, my two older brothers’ dad. She was upset, she wasn’t mad at me, she was mad him and I was sad because I should have told her. My mom has always been on my side and I should have told her. But I was so ashamed and I felt so stupid. And the feelings I had about the whole thing were of shame on my part, I didn’t want to reminded of him because I’d get these flashbacks which the counselor told me were PTSD from the emotional abuse.
I know you’re wondering was there ever any happy times in my first marriage and yes there were but the bad ones outweighed the good ones. He could be very supportive and caring when it suited his purposes. He kept me off kilter most of the marriage and when I was diagnosed with anxiety, panic and depression he became very concerned but didn’t really do anything to help me over this issue. I think my issues worked in his favor, they made me more dependent on him and withdrawn. I believe he would purposefully do things or take me places that would exacerbate my condition, yes NPDs and emotional abusers work like that. It wasn’t until I told him to leave that I realized he was the one causing my mental health issues. When he left those issues disappeared almost immediately.
The part I want women to know, you don’t have to be ashamed, you’re not dumb, you’re not stupid, you just loved somebody you shouldn’t have loved but when you learned better then you can do better. When I learned my part in this and what I needed to do to avoid picking another man like my ex-husband, I took that lesson and ran with it and didn’t look back. What I learned about me, my ex-husband, love, and marriage brought me someone good and loving into my life. I’ve forgiven my ex, I had to because if I didn’t he’d hold power over me forever. So I let him go, I don’t know what he’s doing now nor do I care. He has no power over me and I’m happily remarried. I wish him the best and maybe one day he’ll get the help he needs but it won’t be from me and he won’t be using me. This is the first time I’ve been able to tell this story fully and completely. This is the last time I will ever relay this story to anyone. A friend of mine on FB had this quote today and this is it for ladies and gentlemen because emotional abuse is something that men as well as women can be victims of, don’t be ashamed, get out that relationship or it’s going to kill you this person is not well-adjusted and your love is not going to save them.
In my work with extreme narcissist patients I have found that their emotional age and maturity corresponds to the age they experienced their major trauma. ~After Narcissistic Abuse – There is Light, Life & Love~
Here’s a good link for what emotional abuse
is and how you can help someone get away from the abuser. I hope by sharing my story I’ve helped someone who has found themselves in this kind of relationship to know you can get out and you can have a good, loving, functional relationship. I also hope I’ve helped someone avoid this kind of tragedy, if you learn from mine, you don’t have to experience it.