What makes a partner abusive is that they have abusive values.
Many people think that being violent is a mental health condition. Research shows that people with mental health conditions, when they are violent, are violent for the same reason people without mental health conditions are: they have attitudes and beliefs that support the use of violence.
Most simply put, if a person believes this, they are abusive:
“If I am uncomfortable, I can use intimidation, threat of violence or humiliation and retaliation to get what I want.”
Here are some abusive values to look out for:
• Believing that it is your job to accept me as I am, not matter what I do.
• Believing that I have the right to tear you down if you point out soething about you that threatens my self concept.
• Believing that it is your job to celebrate my growth and change, and not mention how little I have actually changed
• Believing that I get to express disgust if you point out significant things that I forget
• Believing that I have the right to establish reality to my liking.
• Believing that I can be contemptuous or violent if you complain, because I should NEVER be answerable to you.
• Believing that I am inherently superior, or that men are superior as a gender.
Unresolved mental health issues
Let’s say your partner has unresolved mental health issues. Perhaps she has served in Afghanistan and now her nervous system is easily hyperstimulated; she can not go to parties and feel comfortable and she also has a limited range of emotional expression. Or maybe your partner is struggling with clinical depression, or even has a set of traits known as one of the personality disorders. Without help, these conditions can be very destructive for you to live with. It can be hard for you to try to find emotional connection and social activities and routine that suit the both of you. Untreated, unaddressed, these challenges could degrade the bond between you. But is it abusive? No.
If your partner is addicted and not in recovery, you eventually discover that the substance maintains the central place in their world, usurping all, including you, the kids, and other heartfelt or longstanding commitments. That is what the chemical process of addiction does; the primary attachment overriding all others becomes the attachment to the substance.
It is devastating to realize this. Is this destructive to you, as a partner? Yes. Is this abusive? Not necessarily. Read on.
Perhaps your partner does not fully take on the day to day responsibilities for caring for him or herself, even though they should be able to. Your partner not take care of routine hygiene, household chores, does not follow up on basic responsibilities and commitments. And maybe this partner is more interested in gaming or new electronics or play time than doing the work of a committed relationship. For you, this is certainly exhausting, and destructive to you, but it is not abusive.
Yet any of these conditions: untreated addiction or mental health issues or chronic immaturity can combine with abusive values. In practice, this means an addicted abusive person says, quite threateningly, “You knew who I was when we got together. This is who I am. Are you going to turn on me now? You will pay for that.”
Someone with unresolved mental health issues who is abusive could say, “I TOLD you I don’t do parties! What the hell do you think you are doing having a party?!”
An abusive, chronically immature person acts disgusted and changes the topic to tear you down if you bring up unmet responsibilities.
See the difference? Addiction, untreated mental health issues and even immaturity are destructive, but not abusive on their own.
Combined with abusive values, these relationships become abusive.
And usually, abusive values stand on their own. People who have these values designate them for relationships overwhelmingly, but not exclusively, towards women or towards people with gender expressions most often associated with the feminine.
This means that a person with abusive values can accept criticism from their boss, but not from the partner, because one of the traits in common with all abusers is that they can not accept authority, influence or direction, no matter how gently or skillfully given, from a woman.
Does any of this ring a bell? Make you think?