The New Age Emotionally Abusive Partner is most prevalent among men who have spent a lot of time in therapy. They wear yoga clothes and often seem to care exceedingly about Mother Earth. They spend time in men’s circles, where they learn to weep and talk about feeling vulnerable. The many expansive and humbling gifts that can be found on the gentle path are not available to them because they do not truly seek these gifts. Instead, they cloak the dominance they crave in the yogic garb of spirituality. In the retreats I hold for women healing from destructive relationships, women involved with New Age Emotionally Abusive Partners are shocked and relieved to know they are not alone. Typical patterns include:
The New Age Emotionally Abusive Partner reserves special privileges for himself out of a belief in his own superiority. A mediator confided in his partner, “Those rules of mediation don’t apply to me; I was born with a gift.” The resources in the family, including time and spending money, are spent on projects, trips and items he feels represent a (his) superior set of values that can not be compromised, so they are not open to true negotiation. These men are good, even great, with apologies and self disclosing explanations. Yet when the guard is down, they will tell you that they don’t actually mean the apology, but that they were doing what was required by you, a being who they consider “lesser.” If you look at the behavior, and the power of choice in a disagreement, the power goes one way: his. These men also feel no requirement to adhere to the principles of honesty. The are liars who feel comfortable with the rationale that there is no “truth” only “perspective,” and so actual patterns of fact can be erased or altered completely. This may sound harsh, until you see it up close. Then it is chilling.
Rules That Reward Him
The New Age Emotionally Abusive Partner often ascribes to very specific preferences for communication. Instead of working to hear what you have to say, he is intent on correcting your method of articulation and detailing how it ultimately and invariably injures him. One woman described how her husband would describe the sexual responsiveness of his beautiful former partner. When she told him she did not want to hear these details, he responded with scandalized disappointment, tears in his eyes, “Is this how you listen to my feelings?!”
Another woman describes how her partner mused aloud, “You know, everyone says how beautiful you are, and I notice that from some angles, I find you repulsive. You see how sick my mind is? I have to work on my ego.” She was astute, so she replied, “You just insulted me while making it seem as though your spiritual awareness takes away the insult, but you still said it.” His answer? “Why do you always shut me out? This is about me, not you! Can’t you support my path?”
He makes up rules such as, “Therapists and friends must not judge,” so that if someone holds him accountable, he can claim an implied covenant (his) was broken, feel wounded, and distance himself from the challenge.
Back To Me
Spiritual principles are often invoked, mixing levels of meaning. For example, one abusive partner was confronted by his wife on his relentlessly controlling behavior. She used so many specifics, and followed the preferred communication practices to a “T”. “My abusiveness is just a projection of your own sick mind!” he shouted at her. In a neat, succinct twist, he both acknowledged the abuse and blamed her for its ultimate cause on a spiritual plane.
For many, there is a plane of meaning on which separation is an illusion and we write our own stories, so to speak. This level of contemplation is meant to dissolve defenses, not to reinforce them. With the New Age Emotionally Abusive Partner, all accountability is erased by these spiritual sleights of hand.
Why does he do this? Because if you follow these practices, you always get things your own way. It is ultimately destructive to all relationship, but the New Age Emotionally Abusive Partner will feel wounded by the ‘terrible women who let him down’, swear to himself that he will never allow himself to be ill-used again, finding the ultimate excuse to consolidate his power.
To you, the partner who has struggled to find the beauty and gentleness in the façade that attracted you to him in the first place: No matter how skillful you are, he will not significantly accept your influence. Small changes will cost you a great deal. You do not have to learn more about these lessons by being partnered to them any longer. Take the experience, and mine it for all the golden insight. And fly away wiser, when you can.