If you're in an abusive relationship, you've probably heard these words before:
"I'm not abusing you. You're the one abusing me."
Many women are caught off balance by this "chicken and egg" debate and don't know how to figure out the truth. You may wonder, "Is he right? Am I the one abusing him?"
The fact that you are even asking that question is a good sign that you are not the originator of the abuse in the relationship. Abusive people with narcissistic thought patterns often do not feel that what they are doing is abusive. They are unlikely to question their behavior on their own and even less likely to be truly bothered by it.
Because they are consumed by the need for approval and control, narcissists are liable to interpret just about any behavior that doesn't meet their standards as being abusive, and can therefore justify their vengeful responses as self-protection. That self-protection often sounds like:
"You made me do it." Or maybe even "You're the abusive one."
Ring a bell?! I know it does.
Narcissists are known for using a whole range of defense tactics, which include projecting their bad behavior onto you and negating what you say by asserting false claims. Communicating in this way keeps the victim second guessing the truth and gives the abuser power in that he feels he is scripting reality for her.
However, we're not out of the woods on this question yet. It is important to note that if you respond to your husband's outbursts with similar fits of rage (which is very common), then you may end up abusing him as well. Proverbs 22:24-25 says "Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared." (NIV)
Behaving this way doesn't make you a narcissist (that kind of thinking comes from issues outside of the marriage itself). Unfortunately, we are still likely to mirror the aggressive behaviors of our abusive spouse, which of course only validates his impression that you are the one abusing him. It's also why you might find yourself being questioned by family members and friends who are very sure you are driving him to mistreat you.
(Especially because he is probably better at hiding his reactive side than you are at hiding yours.)
But it doesn't have to be that way. If you are approaching him with a Christ- centered mindset, it is possible to disengage from an abusive spouse in a way that is respectful but does not enable him to continue fighting with you. It is essential that you become emotionally free from the effects of his abuse so you can get the healing and support you deserve. See the Three Critical Steps to Stop an Abusive Conversation here.
It can be hard not to react to abuse. Have you found yourself in this kind of situation?
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