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:

Privileges

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.

Written on November 3rd, 2015 , Conscious Uncoupling, domestic violence, relationship

I used to work primarily with women who were trying to decide if they should leave their relationship. They’d read my book, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” come to my women’s weekend retreats, and somewhere in there, for a minute or two, each woman would really, really want me to tell her whether she should get a divorce or not. I would strive to be open and fair, but always respect that the final decision belonged to her. “You might not be finished and that’s okay. I’m not the Divorce Lady!” I’d say. And then a couple of ago, The Omega Institute asked me to help put on divorce conferences.

Now I’m the Divorce Lady.

The Relationship Just Didn’t Work Out or It Was Destructive

If you are seriously contemplating getting a divorce, you need to know what is coming. For your own sanity, safety and your future planning, you need to know who you are divorcing. The options for repairing a relationship and for divorcing from one are very different depending upon who your partner is.

There are two main categories of relationship demise: 1) Didn’t Work Out and 2) Destructive. Where does your relationship fall?

In the Didn’t Work Out category, you have relationships where skills and values become your primary concern. Were you skilled communicators? Were you self aware? Did you have compatible values? Do you wound one another repeatedly? Is the relationship painful most of the time or loving most of the time? When it doesn’t work out, you will experience pain and grief. You will also have significant options for the divorce process. You can explore a range of mediation options and custody options if you have kids. It’s not easy, but you will have less to navigate than your divorce comrades working through the aftermath Destructive Relationship.

In the Destructive Relationship,

ü  Your partner might be addicted to a substance or to a behavior, like gambling. This isn’t necessarily abusive behavior, but, unchecked, it can destroy a relationship no matter how hard the not- addicted partner tries.

ü  Your partner might be Chronically Immature. This also is not necessarily abusive, but being the “parent” to your partner who can never quite care for him or herself will erode the relationship.

ü  Your partner might be a bully who uses fear, intimidation, sexual coercion and other violence to get what he or she wants.

ü  Your partner might have unresolved mental health needs, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, one of the Personality Disorders or Major Depression.

And, most challenging, your partner might have a toxic mix of the Destructive options outlined above. This makes for a Perfect Storm of a relationship and it means you have to proceed with caution while navigating a divorce!

Learn more about Destructive Relationships before you weigh out your divorce options. Your wisest options are planned knowing exactly who you are divorcing.

JAC Patrissi

 

 

 

Given that I specialize in working with women whose partners are struggling with addiction, chronic immaturity, unresolved mental health issues and abusive attitudes, to me, “Conscious Uncoupling” as it is articulated by Katherine Woodward Thomas can miss its intended mark entirely. There are universally helpful aspects to it and there are trapdoors through which many people could fall.

 

When Freud discovered women were being sexually abused at high rates, his immediate culture pressured him to take that discovery back and reframe it as a new insight: women were imagining this victimization as a result of repression. Later psychodynamic re-enactment theory told us that women seek out abusive partners to resolve unconscious wounds from previous relationships. Our organized spiritual quests have long struggled with blaming the victim–once victimization was seen as a sign of a retributive god acting upon a sullied soul, then as a sign of the victim’s failures of spiritual awareness. It is the prison of goodness.

 

When spiritual awareness calls us to take responsibility for the relationships we create, it is a high calling. Yet by doing this, we can accidentally collude with partners who act abusively in the process when we confuse the levels at which we are speaking.

For we must always keep in mind that partners who are destructive also tell you to take responsibility for the inaccurate perceptions you have projected upon them, thus causing the problem in the relationship. It is a common manipulation tactic.

 

Responsibility for destructiveness is not shared in the common relationship dynamics I work with. There are abusive partners who have caught on to the conscious uncoupling bandwagon. They seek to hide their responsibility in calls for systems theory derivatives like Conscious Uncoupling that tell you everyone plays an equal part. I know of a man, a meditation teacher, who tried to throw his partner out of a moving car while yelling that he was ‘just a projection of her own sick mind.’

 

And so, I am aware of the levels of meaning at play here. Can I tell a woman who has tried so hard to work with her girlfriend who has become addicted to heroine, a girlfriend who also has some abusive values –shall I tell her that really she “baited her partner into acting out her own unconscious patterns so that she could take a victim stance and deny her responsibility for ‘seeking’ someone who had these hidden values or who lapsed into addiction?”

Do we ask Nelson Mandela what unconscious pattern he is working out to have goaded his jailers into imprisoning him?  Do we tell the marital rape survivor that she really was, metaphysically, “asking for it?”

 

No, it is unkind and ineffective to do so. Even if on a metaphysical plane we all “wrote our stories,” or that “we all scripted exactly what we need and we all are recalling how we awakened,” even if we accept these points of view to be profoundly and paradoxically true,  I am still acting unwisely to respond to women in this way. It is the wrong medicine.

 

What helps is still very much a consciousness raising process. We can help that woman with the addicted partner (or abusive or traumatized or mentally ill or chronically immature partner) to see her partner as responsible for their own behavior. We can help that woman appreciate her efforts to strive and help and support and love her partner. We can help her to acknowledge the limitations of that good-hearted, hopeful striving. We can help her to grieve loss–to come back to her center. To see how she has changed in that destructive context–how it may have exacerbated old wounds.

 

We never want to examine her old wounds or place them equally side by side with the wounds of her partner who is actively being destructive. If we do this, equalizing our understanding into a stance that says, “You see, we are all hurting or acting out our patterns,” then people end up staying longer in situations that are causing them more pain.

We want instead to make sure her own anger and grief are understood in her own context of surviving her partner’s destructive patterns.

In situations such as I describe (which are so common), understanding and compassion for the partner who is destructive or abusive is rarely lacking. Taking responsibility is rarely lacking–it can be the very problem.

 

I have long embraced the concept of “completed” relationships—that we can fully mine all of them for the insights that they bring. We must do this without taking on any responsibility for destructive or oppressive behavior. This will make our relationships the deep fountain of our wisdom. And will stop our deep cultural, psychological and spiritual history of blaming a survivor.

 

 

Written on May 7th, 2014 , Conscious Uncoupling

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JAC Patrissi is a Communications Specialist who uses writing, performance art, training and collaborative facilitation in order to support healing for women who are questioning the health of their relationships or who are healing from destructive relationships. This is her blog.