7 Ways To Fight Your Way To Deeper Intimacy
You’re too sensitive.
You’re jumping to conclusions.
You can’t take a joke.
You blow everything out of proportion.
You’re making a big deal out of nothing.
You don’t have a sense of humor.
You see everything in the worst possible light.
You take things too seriously.
You feel too much.
Your imagination is working overtime.
You don’t know what you’re talking about.
You think you know it all.
You always have to have something to complain about.
You’re trying to start something.
You’re not happy unless you’re complaining.
You take everything wrong.
You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.
You read things into my words.
You twist everything around.
You’re looking for a fight.
By saying any of these things to you, your partner is telling you that your feelings and perceptions are wrong. In order to have a healthy relationship, you must have intimacy. Intimacy requires empathy. To hear and understand another’s feelings and experiences is empathetic comprehension. The intimacy of a relationship cannot be achieved if one person is unwilling to share himself and is unable to support his partner in an empathetic way. Not only does it create distance in the relationship, it is utterly destructive to the self-esteem and well-being of the victim.
So, what do you do when you have come to the realization that your partner is emotionally and/or verbally abusive? Be prepared that this epiphany will be extremely painful. It will leave you second-guessing everything you thought you knew about yourself, the world, and your SO. Once you have processed the initial shock, here are the steps that you need to take:
- Get professional counseling support. Find a counselor who is experienced with verbal and emotional abuse. It’s important for you to identify in yourself the false beliefs you have that made it easy for you to fall victim to this type of abuse. You may be a people-pleaser. You may have low self-esteem. You may have past childhood trauma. A therapist will help you address these issues.
- Ask your mate to go to this counselor with you. Firmly and clearly tell him you want to create a healthier relationship and invite them to go with you. If he is unwilling, then go yourself. You cannot control what anyone else does. He will have to choose to recognize that there is a problem and be willing to fix it.
- Start setting limits. State clearly what you will and will not tolerate. Bringing his attention to the abuse may help him begin to see when he is being abusive. However, it is possible he will continue to refuse to hear anything you have to say. To help you set limits, use this sentence stem: If you ___________ . I’ll ____________. The important part of setting limits is that you enforce them. If your SO learns that you won’t follow your own rules, then he won’t either.
- Stay in the present. Let the past go. The goal is to call your SO on every abuse moving forward to help them identify and correct the pattern. Enforce your limits.
- You can leave an abusive situation at any time. In some cases, verbal abuse is followed by physical abuse. If you are fearful that you are in danger, leave.
- Ask for changes you want in your relationship. Now is the time to be assertive. Be explicit in your requests for change in your relationship. Your partner cannot read your mind. Invite them to help you build a new pattern that will take you into the future in a healthy, fulfilled way.
If you would like more information about this topic, I highly recommend Patricia Evan’s The Verbally Abusive Relationship. It is easy to read, informative and motivational book that can help you take control of your relationship. In it, she shares this list of Relationship Rights. These are great concepts to judge any relationship by.
Basic Rights in a Relationship:
The right to goodwill from others.
The right to emotional support.
The right to be heard by the other and to be responded to with courtesy.
The right to have your own view, even if your SO has a different view.
The right to have your feelings and experience acknowledged as real.
The right to receive a sincere apology for any jokes you find offensive.
The right to clear and informative answers to questions that concern what is legitimately your business.
The right to live free from accusation and blame.
The right to live free from criticism and judgment.
The right to have your work and your interests spoken of with respect.
The right to encouragement.
The right to live free from emotional and physical threat.
The right to live free from angry outbursts and rage.
The right to be called by no name that devalues you.
The right to be respectfully asked rather than ordered.
If you are in a healthy, fulfilling relationship then continue to nurture the intimacy between you. Cherish your partner. Nurture them. Love them. Never leave the boyfriend/girlfriend stage. If you have discovered that abuse is an issue, promise yourself to take action. No one deserves to be ignored, belittled, or taken for granted.
If you or someone you know is being verbally or emotionally abused or in a domestic violence suitation please reach out to someone you trust. Violence never is ok under any circumstance! It should not be taken lightly. Please seek help from a trusted trained professional or contact the proper authorities.
15 Types Of Verbal and Emotional Abuse
Have you ever heard any of the following from your SO?
- “You’re trying to start a fight.”
- “You just want to be right.”
- You don’t feel that way.”
- You’re too sensitive.”
- You’re making it a bigger deal than it is.”
Someone who is verbally or emotionally abusive will often use statements like these in a conscious or subconscious attempt to control their partner. They make these statements definitively as if they lived within their partner’s body/mind/soul and actually knew these things to be true!
Verbal and emotional abuse is a kind of battering which doesn’t leave evidence comparable to physical abuse, and so many do not see it as abuse at all. In fact, many see it as just a difference of opinions or personalities. Nothing could be further from the truth. This subtle abuse can be just as painful and the recovery from it can be longer than for victims of physical abuse. The victim of abuse lives in a gradually more confusing realm. In public, she/he is with one person, but in private it’s a different story. Diminishing or angry outbursts, cool indifference or one-upmanship, witty sarcasm or silent withholding, manipulative coercion or unreasonable demands are common occurrences. They all have one thing in common: the “what’s wrong with you?” attitude. Victims of this abuse often start to feel crazy. No one usually sees the abuse, and so the victim is left doubting it is even real.
If you have been verbally abused, you have been told in subtle and explicit ways that your perception of reality is wrong and that your feelings are wrong. As a result, you may doubt your own experiences and very gradually start to lose your voice and yourself. The most shocking part about verbal and emotional abuse is so few people realize it when it’s happening to them. Most people just have a feeling that something is wrong in their relationship. They figure it is something they are doing or not doing, but they truly don’t know how to fix it. They may read books, blogs, or seek out counseling, but until they recognize the signs for what they are, nothing constructive can happen.
The following evaluation comes from the book
Take a few moments to reflect on your relationship and see if any of these ring true for you.
He seems to be irritated or angry with you several times a week or more although you hadn’t meant to upset him. You are surprised each time. (He says he’s not mad when you ask him what he’s mad about, or he tells you in some way that it’s your fault.)
When you feel hurt and try to discuss your upset feelings with her, you don’t feel as if the issue has been fully resolved, so you don’t feel happy and relieved, nor do you have a feeling that you’ve “kissed and made up.”
You frequently feel perplexed and frustrated by his responses because you can’t get him to understand your intentions.
You are upset not so much about concrete issues—how much time to spend with each other, where to go on vacation, etc.—as about the communication in the relationship: what she thinks you said and what you heard her say.
You sometimes wonder, “What’s wrong with me? I shouldn’t feel so bad.”
He rarely, if ever, seems to want to share his thoughts or plans with you.
She seems to take the opposite view from you on almost everything you mention, and her view is not qualified by “I think” or “I believe” or “I feel”—as if your view were wrong and hers was right.
You sometimes wonder if he perceives you as a separate person.
You can’t recall saying to her, “Cut it out!” or, “Stop it!”
He is either angry or “has no idea what you’re talking about” when you try to discuss an issue with him.
She often denies certain conversations even happened. When you attempt to summarize the conversation in an attempt to remind her, she becomes even more enraged.
He often threatens you when he’s angry. (“Pack your crap and leave.” Or, “I’ll file divorce papers tomorrow.”)
She gives you the silent treatment when she is angry and refuses to work through an issue. While it is often healthy to take a break and let emotions settle during an argument, a prolonged silent treatment is an emotional abuse.
He withholds affection from you as a form of punishment (intentionally or unintentionally.)
You feel like if you could only find the “right” way to speak, act, or be then things would get better.
If you have agreed with two or more of these statements, there is a very good chance that your SO is verbally and emotionally abusive. It’s important to remember, that the vast majority of individuals who abuse their loved one verbally or emotionally are completely unaware they are doing it. They may have learned these destructive patterns in their childhood. The good news is that a person can learn to recognize these destructive behaviors within themselves and change them.
Victims of verbal and emotional abuse live in different realities than their partners. In healthy relationships, when a person expresses their feelings, their partner listens carefully and then validates them. In an abusive relationship, the person dismisses or diminishes their partner’s feelings. The general guideline is if the words or attitude displayed by your partner disempower, disrespect, or devalue you, then they are abusive.
So, what should you do if you identify yourself in any of this? First, if you have discovered that you are the abuser—congratulations! Now you can seek out professional help and learn healthy ways to foster a relationship. You CAN overcome this. Second, if you are the victim you need to be proactive about stopping the abuse. Seeking out a trained professional would be helpful for you as well. In part two of this article, I will share with you some ideas of what you can begin to do today to start taking control of your life back. But know this—you must do something to change the pattern! Hoping that if you are nice enough and given enough they will change is not the right strategy. They won’t! You need to use this information to empower yourself to demand the respect you deserve from your relationship.
8 Tips For Surviving Divorce
The ‘D’ Word – Divorce
Twenty-five years is a long time. In my life, it encapsulated three college degrees, three houses, two beautiful daughters, dozens of camping trips, 20 years of teaching, and 20 years of living the Thin Blue Line life, which meant carrying the responsibilities of a single mom most of the time. There were years of happiness but also many years of loneliness. When my marriage of almost 25 years ended, my world ended. I was out in the ocean of anger and sadness hit by wave after wave of loss. At night, my mind would dwell on the list of things I was losing:
My sense of stability.
My belief in love’s power to conquer.
Half my friends.
My dreams and visions for the future.
My belief in happily-ever-after.
My time with my daughters.
My belief in miracles.
My faith in forgiveness.
As the depths of depression crept into the nethermost regions of my heart and soul, my mind wandered to death. At times, I would pray that I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. That God would take me in my sleep. I had always been a happy and optimistic person, but when the divorce came knocking at my door wielding its sword of destruction, I was completely and unequivocally unprepared to duel with it.
I had no other choice but to surrender. I had to swallow my pride and reach out for help. I could barely force myself out of my bed, and that wasn’t sufficient. I had daughters who needed me. I had a job that expected me to show up and teach energetic teenagers. I had bills to pay and a new future to wrap my head around. And, although I knew some of what I had to do, I felt powerless to do it.
So, where do you start? What can help you when you find yourself face-to-face with divorce? I can only share what has begun to help me. I am still very early on in the process, but here are a few suggestions and tips:
- Get counseling. Specifically, find someone trained in EMDR. It is a psychotherapy treatment designed to treat PTSD and anyone who has experienced trauma. Divorce is traumatic. At one of my darkest moments, when suicide felt like the best option, my therapist helped me regain control and peace through EMDR. It doesn’t solve the problem, but it helps you get on top of the waves of emotion that hit you relentlessly.
- Be kind to yourself. If you need to, take sick days off from work. It’s ok if the laundry isn’t folded. Have your kids cook dinner. Allow your family or friends to clean your home. Accept any and all help offered. You may feel like you should still be able to handle it all, but trust me—you can’t! The more you try to push yourself, the more damage you will do. Your body will physically begin to revolt. You may have already noticed your hair falling out, zits popping up on your face, weight gain/loss, insomnia, anxiety, constipation or diarrhea. Your body is under extreme stress, and you need to allow people to help you.
- Do one thing every day that makes you happy. For me, this took many forms. Some days I painted my nails. Sometimes it was grabbing my favorite donut. Occasionally, it was a drive up the canyon or a walk in the park. Binge-watching your favorite show on Netflix or buying that shirt you’ve been wanting is perfectly fine. Even on the days when the tears flow heavy down your cheeks, find one thing that can make you smile. Snuggle your kids. Plant some flowers. Nurture yourself.
- Make a plan. There are many things that have to happen during a divorce, so write things down in your planner. Make a checklist of what needs to be done legally. There are many online sources that can help. Here is just one: https://divorceandyourmoney.com/blogs/divorce-checklist/. Also, as key days become apparent such as the day your divorce will be final, plan activities that will help you emotionally on those days or immediately after. The grief from your divorce will come in waves. It can last for months or years to come depending on how tumultuous the process was for you. Some people feel tremendous relief while others grieve deeply. Look at the calendar and be proactive about those dates in the future that will be triggering for you.
- Assemble your tribe carefully. Surround yourself with good family, friends, and support groups. Let them carry you when you’re too weak to stand. There are FB groups or local groups that you can join to find others who are struggling with the same issues you are.
- Make a plan to heal. It doesn’t just take time; it also takes work. You do not need to endlessly dissect the relationship, but you should examine it so that you can learn from it. Everyone makes mistakes. Do not beat yourself up over all of yours. When a relationship ends, its demise belongs to two people, not just one. Own your part and then move on.
- Live in the present. There is a surge of anxiety that comes with divorce. The future you thought you were going to have is now gone. In its place are a lot of unknowns. You will literally drive yourself crazy agonizing over those. Take one day at a time. One decision at a time.
- It will get better . . . or at least that’s what they tell me. I have chosen a few key people who have walked this same path to be my mentors. They are several years down the road and many of them have new relationships. They assure me that the pain will not last forever. That the nights will stop being so dark, the days will become brighter, and eventually, I will stop praying for death to find me. Even more so, they promise me that there is life after divorce. And for now, their word is all I can go on.
In the weeks and months to come, I hope to continue to process this tremendous loss. I will grieve it like death because it is. But, I refuse to let it rob me of life. I may be down, but I am not out. I will re-emerge like the mythical phoenix. I will reinvent myself, find my joy, and live again. If you are confronting divorce, I invite you to join me.
Crash! My head jerked around at the sound of breaking glass. In horror, I saw my son pull the table cloth off the table, and with it my cherished heirloom candy dish from my great-grandmother. A gasp escaped my lips and my son looked, wide-eyed into my face. A look of terror twisted his beautiful features and tears sprang to his eyes. “Mommy, oh no! Mommy! I’m so sorry. You can fix it, right?” he stammered as I knelt beside him, gently picking the broken fragments off the floor and piling them into the garbage can. I did my best to keep my anger at bay as he climbed into my lap and smothered my face with kisses. He knew what he had just done was wrong, but there was no way his four-year-old brain could possibly fathom the depth of sadness and loss I felt at that moment as I scooped the pieces of this treasure off the floor. After I was done, I held him in my arms as he continued to frantically apologize. I must admit, it was hard for me to forgive my son for what he had done. What he did was something that could not be fixed or replaced. But, he was quick to identify that he had done something wrong and offer a heart-felt apology. For the sake of our relationship, I knew I needed to work through my feelings of loss and learn to forgive him.
Whether it is a child, a best friend, or your sweetheart, there will come a time when you will do something that will hurt them. It might be something small like eating the last piece of chocolate cake that they had been eyeing all day in the fridge or something really big that cut them to their core. We will all have cause to apologize. However, not all apologies are the same. The only thing worse than no apology at all is an apology that is a non-apology; one that places the blame for the action back on the person who was hurt. Have you ever found yourself saying, “I’m sorry that I yelled, but you make me so crazy!” That is a non-apology. It excuses your poor behavior and puts the blame on the person you hurt. It takes courage to admit you were wrong and that you hurt someone you care about. It takes even more courage to stand in front of them and express your apology to their face and wait patiently for their reaction. If you find yourself expressing too many non-apologies, trying using the Why-Because formula. Explain what went wrong and then acknowledge your fault. Then follow it up with AND . . . This is the part where you propose a solution. That is the real sweet spot of an apology. This is where you show the other person you how you plan to stop that same mistake from ever happening again.
This is what it looks like. Jessica got so busy talking with her best friend Mary at lunch that she missed her boyfriend’s backyard party he threw for his new boss. Jessica knew this hurt him deeply. Instead of excusing her poor choice, she owned it outright. After the party, she sat next to Mark and said, “Mark, I am so very sorry that I missed your party. I know that you were very anxious about putting on a fun get together for your boss and coworkers and you needed me here to help you. It was selfish of me not to pay closer attention to the time. In the future, I will set alarms on my phone to make sure I’m home one time. In fact, I will make sure to schedule my lunches with Mary at a different time so there is no conflict with your important plans.” After Jessica apologizes, she needs to give Mark time to process the apology. She cannot expect him to forgive her immediately. He may need some time to let the sting of disappointment and hurt die down. What matters most is that Jessica takes full responsibility for her mistake and that she pays close attention to her words and tone while she expresses that to Mark. If she had said, “Mark, I’m sorry I missed your party, but you know how I am around Mary. Besides, I really wasn’t that interested in meeting your boss anyway. Just get over it.” That would hurt the relationship more than if she hadn’t apologized at all.
The last rule of an effective apology is to stop repeating the behavior. If you apologize to someone and then continue the behavior that hurt them, you cannot expect them to keep forgiving you. One of the best apologies is changed behavior.
Apologizing will never be easy. It requires humility, vulnerability, integrity. But it is absolutely vital for the health of all relationships. If you find that you are not apologizing on a somewhat routine basis, you may want to check and see how in-tune you are with your relationships. We are all human and as such we will be routinely stepping on someone’s toes. Apologizing isn’t something you do only when you feel you did something wrong. It is also something you do when someone feels wounded by your words or actions. Apologies are excellent tools for showing someone that you value them and the relationship more than you value your ego or being right.
How To Spot Red Flags…
20 Signs To Look For
Recovering from a devastating break up is similar to a community recovering from a natural disaster. You do a lot of looking back and analyzing—trying to understand how you missed the signs and how you allowed yourself to be so unprepared for the imminent destruction that was headed your way. You are paralyzed with guilt for being so stupid and gullible. If only I had seen the red flags you yell at yourself! But upon further reflection, you are forced to acknowledge that you did see them. You saw ALL of them, but in the bliss and excitement, the lust and yearning for love your radar detector dims and you dismiss the signs. You are eager to forgive “little” mistakes because you want your partner to forgive you your foibles as well. However, over time the little mistakes begin to form a pattern of behavior and if you aren’t purposeful in how you approach a relationship, one of two things will happen: a catastrophic break up after you have lost your sense of self and any self-esteem you had OR you marry your partner and have a nightmare of a marriage that leads to a toxic divorce that leaves you breathless and quivering without a shred of dignity or self-respect.
Sounds fun, doesn’t it? So, how can you avoid this disaster? You have to be purposeful. You have to make a commitment to step out of the fantasy, momentarily, and record your thoughts and impressions and identify red flags while your relationship develops. Yes, hindsight is 20/20, but if you take some time to journal your relationship and track what is happening, you can see a pattern as it develops. Then you can use this information to create boundaries, make decisions, and end relationships if necessary.
The Gottman Institute recommends that you record each time your partner displays a red flag. You can draw them on a blank sheet of paper. Get out your red crayons and color in the boxes. Then, as you date, if your partner displays one of the red flags below, record the date and the details in one of the red flags on your sheet. Over time, you will be able to tell if there is a pattern or if they are just mistakes, which we all make. This is a powerful visual that can help you more clearly see what is happening in your relationship.
Lack of communication skills.
Irresponsible, immature, unpredictable behavior.
Lack of trust.
Your significant family and friends don’t like him/her.
You feel insecure in the relationship.
They have a dark or secretive past.
They have a history of not resolving past relationships.
Abusive behavior of any kind.
They push your physical boundaries.
They tell you you’re perfect all of the time.
The roll their eyes at you.
They call all their exes crazy.
They call you names during arguments.
They have no work ethic.
They are cruel or disrespectful to their parents.
Their attitude or moods shift swiftly.
They guilt trip you for everything.
They make you feel stupid.
The relationships is built on the need to feel needed.
Obviously, some of these are more severe than others, but they are ALL red flags. They ALL lead to toxic relationships. If you have a hard time being objective while you are being swept off your feet at the beginning of a relationship, consider using this visual activity to help you track your partner’s red flags. Use the information from the visual and trust your gut! Once you are sure there is a pattern, end the relationship immediately. April Mae Monterrosa said, “The red flags are usually there, you just have to keep your eyes open wider than your heart.” This strategy is one way to help you do that. Set yourself up for success in love and you will find it!