I happened to be scrolling through Instagram and found this excerpt split into quite a few Insta pages. I wanted to share it because I believe it is one of the most accurate, all-encompassing descriptions about chronic mistreatment in relationships that I've ever read.
Why Does He Do That?
By Lundy Bancroft
One of the obstacles to recognizing chronic mistreatment in relationships is that most abusive men simply don’t seem like abusers. They have many good qualities, including times of kindness, warmth, and humor, especially in the early period of a relationship. An abuser’s friends may think the world of him. He may have a successful work life and have no problems with drugs or alcohol. He may simply not fit anyone’s image of a cruel or intimidating person. So when a woman feels her relationship spinning out of control, it is unlikely to occur to her that her partner is an abuser.
The symptoms of abuse are there, and the woman usually sees them: the escalating frequency of put-downs. Early generosity turning more and more to selfishness. Verbal explosions when he is irritated or when he doesn’t get his way. Her grievances constantly turned around on her, so that everything is her own fault. His growing attitude that he knows what is good for her better than she does. And, in many relationships, a mounting sense of fear or intimidation. But the woman also sees that her partner is a human being who can be caring and affectionate at times, and she loves him. She wants to figure out why he gets so upset, so that she can help him break his pattern of ups and downs. She gets drawn into the complexities of his inner world, trying to uncover clues, moving pieces around in an attempt to solve an elaborate puzzle.
The abuser’s mood changes are especially perplexing. He can be a different person from day to day, or even from hour to hour. At times he is aggressive and intimidating, his tone harsh, insults spewing from his mouth, ridicule dripping from him like oil from a drum. When he’s in this mode, nothing she says seems to have any impact on him, except to make him even angrier. Her side of the argument counts for nothing in his eyes, and everything is her fault. He twists her words around so that she always ends up on the defensive. As so many partners of my clients have said to me, “I just can’t seem to do anything right.”
At other moments, he sounds wounded and lost, hungering for love and for someone to take care of him. When this side of him emerges, he appears open and ready to heal. He seems to let down his guard, his hard exterior softens, and he may take on the quality of a hurt child, difficult and frustrating but lovable. Looking at him in this deflated state, his partner has trouble imagining that the abuser inside of him will ever be back. The beast that takes him over at other times looks completely unrelated to the tender person she now sees.
Sooner or later, though, the shadow comes back over him, as if it had a life of its own. Weeks of peace may go by, but eventually she finds herself under assault once again. Then her head spins with the arduous effort of untangling the many threads of his character, until she begins to wonder whether she is the one whose head isn’t quite right.
To make matters worse, everyone she talks to has a different opinion about the nature of his problem and what she should do about it. Her clergyperson may tell her, “Love heals all difficulties. Give him your heart fully, and he will find the spirit of God.” Her therapist speaks a different language, saying, “He triggers strong reactions in you because he reminds you of your father, and you set things off in him because of his relationship with his mother. You each need to work on not pushing each other’s buttons.” A recovering alcoholic friend tells her, “He’s a rage addict. He controls you because he is terrified of his own fears. You need to get him into a twelve-step program.” Her brother may say to her, “He’s a good guy. I know he loses his temper with you sometimes—he does have a short fuse—but you’re no prize yourself with that mouth of yours. You two need to work it out, for the good of the children.” And then, to crown her increasing confusion, she may hear from her mother, or her child’s schoolteacher, or her best friend: “He’s mean and crazy, and he’ll never change. All he wants is to hurt you. Leave him now before he does something even worse.”
All of these people are trying to help, and they are all talking about the same abuser. But he looks different from each angle of view.
The woman knows from living with the abusive man that there are no simple answers. Friends say: “He’s mean.” But she knows many ways in which he has been good to her. Friends say: “He treats you that way because he can get away with it. I would never let someone treat me that way.” But she knows that the times when she puts her foot down the most firmly, he responds by becoming his angriest and most intimidating. When she stands up to him, he makes her pay for it—sooner or later. Friends say: “Leave him.” But she knows it won’t be that easy. He will promise to change. He’ll get friends and relatives to feel sorry for him and pressure her to give him another chance. He’ll get severely depressed, causing her to worry whether he’ll be all right. And, depending on what style of abuser he is, she may know that he will become dangerous when she tries to leave him. She may even be concerned that he will try to take her children away from her, as some abusers do.
How is an abused woman to make a sensible picture out of this confusion? How can she gain enough insight into the causes of his problem to know what path to choose? The questions she faces are urgent ones.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
For over twenty years Lundy Bancroft, the author of the national bestseller Why Does He Do That?, has specialized in counseling men who are unhealthy relationship partners, helping them make lasting changes. He is a former codirector at Emerge, the nation's first program for abusive men.
A dear friend called yesterday to chat about a friend of hers who was going through a lot of what I endured a year ago. She was being harrassed by her ex-husband to the point she filed for a restraining order.
What struck me was the fact that in many states—her state, as well—evidence of physical abuse is the only type of evidence admissible in court. Thankfully, even though the evidence didn't show "physical" abuse, the judge granted a restraining order.
It's widely known that many who verbally and emotionally abuse progress to some sort of physical abuse. It was something MANY loved ones in my life were very concerned about with regards to what I allowed and endured for three years. I can't say I didn't worry about it, as well. I did. I can count at least five women I know in the US right now who recently sat in front of a judge, pleading the case for protection, and worried whether or not they would get it. I was one of those women.
What I've learned through this process (and through talks with other women dealing with verbal and emotional abuse) is the burden of proof is always on the woman. I was lucky because R decided to send emails sharing my blog post about our relationship to the president of the university where I work, as well as about 50 others whom I'm guessing he thought were part of HR but were actually part of a group called IHD, Institute for Human Development. His intention, of course, was to get me fired from my job for openly sharing details of our relationship including how we met, and what transpired. He also threatened in a direct email to me to "not stop until he had justice, " because I was speaking out about the abuse like none before me had done. This evidence was essential to outcome of my case. Had I not had this in writing, it would have made things much more difficult.
What surprised me most is that the police report documenting a domestic violence call where the maintenance man in our apartment complex called law enforcement after hearing him yelling at me and hearing me crying was not admissible. The reason, the judge cited, was because the event occured more than a year before I showed up in court. My mind was blown. So let's say you have a DV report for physical abuse, in AZ, it would not be accepted as proof if it happened over a year ago.
It's really difficult for many survivors (me, included) to get to the point of entering the court system for a number of reasons, so to punish them for a lapse in time makes no sense to me and is contributing to the number of women suffering MORE abuse because they can't legally protect themselves. According to a recent study by the CDC, nearly half of all murdered women are killed by romantic partners. This is unacceptable.
One thing is clear: reform is needed. Lives are being destroyed on so many levels and the only way to know for sure you can protect yourself is to have written proof that is NOT a year old.
If you are in this position right now, make sure you document everything. Everything. Screenshots. Save emails. Save texts.
While protective orders don't ensure safety, they do put more power back in the hands of the abused. I carry my restraining order with me at all times. If needed, I can immediately call law enforcement and no questions will be asked—actions will be taken if the order is violated.
While we've come a long way—the #MeTOO movement helping shine a light on the epidemic of abuse—we still have a long way to go. I, for one, am ready to help make court system change that is needed to help protect abuse survivors.
Have you gone through this or are going through it? Or did you ultimately decide not to go down the legal path; however, you're still fearing for your safety? Please share your experience— anonymously, if you'd like.
Have you seen the movie, Girl on the Train with Emily Blunt? Scott and I watched it last night because a friend of mine encouraged me to check it out when I was at the last Las Vegas Market furniture show. She thought it would resonate with me. She was right.
Funny thing is, although I was intrigued by the movie when it came out in October 2016 (huge Emily Blunt fan), I never felt pushed to watch it back then. Maybe it was my intuition telling me to hold off, and I'm glad I did. If I had been sitting there next to him watching the movie in 2016, I'm sure I would have been experiencing physical chills and not know what to do with them because I wouldn't have wanted to admit there were similarities. Back in 2016, I was still trying to make things work in the abusive relationship I dove into in 2014. In fact, I believe he had just moved back and I was helping connect him to a job based out of Seattle.
I had no idea there were muiltiple women on the hook during that time. I had no idea he was juggling five at one time when he met me, and was hitting on women as young as 15, 19, and 21 as a man in his late 40s. I didn't know the half of it because most of what I know now came out after we split in June of 2017.
Here's what I did know back then:
SPOILER ALERT: Like the movie, I endured a lot of gas lighting. I didn't know the term at the time but I remember being told by him I was coming across in less than a favorable light, or as a flirt with other men. I argued that I was being friendly and professional—the way I've always been when it came to interacting with men in business. He had whole elaborate stories to back up his accusations and viewpoints.
For instance, a mutual friend came to visit the furniture showroom where we had launched Mod Life Collection, R's line of furniture. I was helping with PR, funding, sales, marketing, showroom set up, and generally, anything that was needed. Anyhow, our friend came by several times in a day to hang out. He didn't have his own showroom that Market so it made sense to me if I put myself in his shoes—you want a place to hang your hat and chill with people you like. We were those people to him back then. Before I continue, know that sometimes R would be out smoking pot (his favorite anti-anxiety remedy) while I was manning the showroom when clients or friends would come in. I'd cover for him and tell them he was out smoking his cigarettes and we'd chat until he came back in to join us. This happened with our mutual friend, J. J and I had a lovely conversation about what was happening in his life and how Market was going for us. He's a great guy and I have a lot of respect for him and I knew he respected what I had done in the industry and like me as a person, and R and I as a couple. After R came back from smoking, we all chatted and I volunteered to go down to the lobby and grab some happy hour food and wine for us.
Nothing unusual happened during our visit but afterwards, R told me that J had made the comment that R was a lucky man, and that I was "hot" or something like that. R didn't tell me that right away—he waited until later that night when J was gone. It didn't really sound like J but maybe he had said that. I took R for his word, because why would he lie about something like that?!? I was flattered he thought R was lucky but wanted to move quickly to another subject. From past experience, I seemed to be in the wrong a lot when it came to how I interacted with men while I was with R and became a huge source of conflict. (Funny enough, my husband—while we were separated—was the one to say, "Kiers. You're not a flirt. You've never been a flirt. You're just open and kind. Period." He told me that 2 years earlier, right after we had separated because I asked him if he ever thought I had too much eye contact with other men. A "hey, I noticed this about you, Kiersten" comment that R made to me. Scott rolled his eyes and told me what I shared above about not being a flirt. He also added, "He's an ass, Kiers. That's him, not you." I was still too blind to see.
But let's get back to Market. That evening, R asked me why I thought J was coming to visit our showroom so much. I said because he didn't have a place to call home that Market. That wasn't good enough for him. He couldn't believe I hadn't said to R, "I think J's coming to visit because he's crushing on me." A statement that came out of R's mouth frequently about women who would come to check out Mod Life.
We ended up fighitng about the fact that I wouldn't call a spade a spade. Now, here's the thing. My intution never alerted me to anything off-base about J. I knew he was happily married and I knew he respected me and liked R and I as a couple. R was so angry that he would be disrespected by J saying what he said he said about me. If you think this is confusing to read, you can only imagine how confused I was to be living it.
Long after he and I were over, I asked J if what R said was true about what he had said when I went to grab happy hour nosh for all three of us. He said, no way, Kiersten. That is not someting that would come out of my mouth. First of all, it would be disrepectful to my wife and to you. This was the J I knew. This resonated to the core of my soul but funny enough, I hadn't even thought that R had actually made up a lie to make me feel bad and confuse the hell out of me. It kept me on edge. The blame game was his favorite game—it was all my fault because my eyes weren't open to J's "crush" and I wasn't truthful and forthcoming about why J was coming to visit. He said I tried to smooth it over.J's name was put in my face for a good year after that Market. Little did I know at the time of incident, it was all just a big, fat lie.
Watching Emily Blunt's character come to grips with the fact that her husband was telling her that she was making a fool of herself in situations where she wasn't at all was hard to stomach. There were so many similarities, minus murder. The multiple women at one time. The abuse. The tactics. SPOILER ALERT: In the end, you find out he was terribly abusive and had multiple women all over the place. He made her think her tipsy behavior got him fired so he hung that over her head for a long time but the movie reality was that he was fired for sleeping around constantly. Emily's character, Rachel, is told by his old boss that she always felt so sorry for her because he was such a dog.
I've heard this before, too. Multiple times. There are many who knew him in the industry and still feel bad they didn't warn me. I have told them warning me wouldn't have helped. No one else was talking publicly—I had nothing to go on and I was under his spell. (And now I know I was meant to go through this for reasons bigger than myself.) It's one thing to hear a warning from folks about Mr. Playboy, but it's another to read first hand accounts from women he was with of what I now know is gas lighting and abuse. I'm the only one writing, right now.
Part of the reason why I continue to write these blog posts is because I want there to be a trail for the current and next targets in his life. This could be years down the road, I know, but at least it will be there alongside accounts from other business partners. Maybe by sharing what I endured, they will see themselves in me. I may never hear from them but I will know I did what I could to help. I will know I did what I had hoped had been out there already when I started to question things. I don't blame the women from his past for not sharing publicly. It's not easy and it landed me in the position of having to secure a restraining order because of his retaliation tactics so please know, if you're an ex and you're reading this, I don't blame you one bit.
Girl on the Train brought up memories and emotions I apparently needed to feel and share, and I hope for those of you out there healing from abuse or in a relationship like this, it will bring comfort that you're not alone. You're not at fault. You're not stupid. It's called gas lighting and emotional abuse and you don't have to live that way.
I've written so much about the journey from 2014-2017—a life changing time in my life that ultimately led to healing I didn't see coming but was desperately needed.
This morning, I want to share a bit about what it was like to suddenly start channeling spirit and reach out to law enforcement and parents of children who had been publicly deemed "missing" for many years.
I've said before that I didn't expect any of this. In fact, I was just living my life with my husband and children in Burbank, California. When I started to realize that the messages I was receiving were not only real—they were meant to be shared—I felt paralyzed. I wanted to be totally sure that I was ready to do what I knew in my heart I had to do. But I was terrified, to say the least.
One particular set of messages was meant for the mother of a child who had been missing for thirty years. Much to my surprise at the time, I ended up discovering a connection to the mother I never thought possible. (I've learned over the years that the Universe will help line things up, which is exactly what happened.) The connection was my in. I reached out first by letter laying out what I had been told by her daughter in spirit. My main objective was to make sure she knew I was not an opportunist, but rather a mom whose heart broke for her and her daughter. I teared up multiple times when I wrote the letter to her. Thankfully, she received it well. Better than I thought I might if I were in her position. She was approached by many "psychic mediums" so I made sure she knew I wasn't one by trade, but for some reason, I was given this information to pass on.
We spoke on the phone after she read the letter. It was a heartbreaking conversation. I told her many other children were starting to come in with messages—many who experienced some level of sexual abuse in their lifetimes—and her daugther said she was helping them find me. She was leading the way. Her mom said that she believed what I shared because it differed from public information that was published back when her daughter went missing. And because she knew her daugther would be the light that led the others to someone who would push past fear and share what needed to be shared. I never thought I would be that person. After seven years of channeling information like this, I still feel fear when I share information with cops or families. I'm guessing I always will.
As a parent and a human being, my heart literally hurts for all involved. I can't help but put myself in their position, which is part of the reason I didn't just shelve the messages in some desk drawer. Believe me, I thought about doing that.
While a slew of stranger things have happened in my life, looking back at 2010 reminds me that the road I've traveled has purpose on so many levels. I've gotten quite used to strange happenings and hope that the end result of sharing messages from spirit is always helpful for those who are struggling with broken hearts and unanswered questions. I've learned to hear and see unimaginable things—tear-inducing realities of life—while at the same time, filtering it all through more of a detective lens. For a person who cries at Kleenex commercials, this has been one of the hardest parts of doing what I do.
While I don't completely understand how or why it is the way it is for me, I'm forever grateful. My perspective on life is much different than it was back in my twenties. Life truly is short, and there is meaning and purpose in every interaction we have as human beings. My "earth school" has been filled with strange happenings and hard topics, but because of that, I am a more compassionate person who has learned to live each day with a sense of gratitude and perspective I never thought possible.
Thank you, stranger things.
(For the record, I LOVE the TV show, Stranger Things, too. If you haven't seen it, check it out!)
Photo credit: Homespun Engineer.
I kid you not, almost weekly I’m introduced to a woman (and sometimes a man) who has just survived a relationship riddled with narcissistic abuse.
It brings up different memories and reminds me of the subtleties that can be dismissed when you're living in it, like isolation techniques I wrote about in this recent blog post. It’s those subtleties that all add up to one big fat directive: Run.
Let’s talk about blocking/diversion and repetition. It sounds like child's play and it certainly feels that way as the receiver.
For example, with blocking/diversion, it’s as if the partner dolling out abuse is incapable of going to a place of introspection.
Travel back in time with me. About one year ago, I learned about one of the dating site relationships he engaged in (from the woman who bravely reached out to me with screenshots of said communication) while he still making me believe he was only focusing on his kids and was forever loving me. After seeing with my own eyes the reality of the situation, I pressed him about it. I didn’t press him about the relationship, per se, but more about his tactics in the dialogue I read between he and the woman from the dating site. It was clear he was using what I now refer to as “The Script,” i.e., he immediately started wooing her with promises of tantric massage as a way to help her take care of herself and “give back to her.” Within a 24-hour time span of meeting her on social media, he was utilizing his “I’m a good guy who cares about you; therefore, I will take care of you and perform tantric massage and then make love for hours ” technique. Ya know, same old pick up lines most guys use. Ha! As you can tell (read: sarcasm), it's very simlar to "Hi, it's nice to meet you. Maybe you'd like to get coffee sometime?"
Here’s where the diversion comes in. When I confronted him about all of the women who were writing to me saying he was using the same lines and tactics (like what I laid about above), I said, “Look, your daughter is young now but a few years down the road she is going to be dating. Would you want your daughter to meet YOU—with your predatory tactics and grandiose promises of sexual healing massage on the very first day of communication? Only to get what you want and then move on to the next woman?”
You know what I got? Dead silence. No answer. I can only figure he read it and then completely blocked it from his mind, and then blocked me from getting an answer. He skipped past it and moved on to throwing more mud at me—a diversion tactic.
The second tactic I want to share today—repetition—used to drive me up a wall. In the middle of an argument, instead of dialoguing back and forth like people do who are emotionally mature, he would repeat the same phrase over and over again. For example, in a text argument where he didn’t agree with a choice I made, I would get “Ask Scott and Cindy, they know best” over and over again no matter what I said. No matter what I asked. He would repeat the same phrase more than a dozen times, in most cases. It now reminds me of the childhood comeback, “I know you are but what am i?” It felt like I was trying to reason with a toddler.
If this happens or has happened in your life, it’s a tell-tale sign you’re involved with someone who lacks emotional maturity. Outwardly, they can project the image of being wise and mature, but the minute this type of behavior starts, know you’re in a losing battle. You can’t reason with someone who isn't a rational thinker.
Blocking/diversion and repetition are road signs telling you to get off the road, now. Exit immediately. I wish someone had explained this to me when I was knee-deep in it—I just kept trying to understand it from his perspective. No matter what the argument is or the context around it, if the person you’re with just stonewalls you with the same phrase over and over again or completely ignores something you say, you’re not with a person who will grow with you. He or she will likely remain stuck emotionally at an age far younger than you can imagine or want. Save yourself from a lifetime of child's play.