“There is a voice that doesn’t use words. Listen.” – Rumi
As I mentioned in the video from Day 16, all forms of emotional abuse are predicated on the need to gain power and control over the other person. The person who is on the receiving end of these manipulative behaviors, over time, feels restless, off-balance, undermined, insecure, “crazy,” and scared.
I’ve combined two forms of emotional abuse for this post: wanting the other person to mind read and ‘moving the goal posts.’
Vast differences exist between realistic/healthy and unrealistic/destructive expectations one can have of their intimate partner. In a healthy relationship, each partner expresses their needs in a mature, calm, and appropriate way most of the time. Each partner is also very aware of the other’s needs and can articulate them, even if they can’t meet them all of the time.
Also, as one expresses their needs, they trust and believes, on a deeper level, that their partner hears them and will do everything they can to meet those needs.
Both partners give each other the chance and opportunity to meet each other’s needs and realize that sometimes their partner will falter. Instead of expecting their partner to read their mind, each partner expresses freely, in a loving and vulnerable way with the intention of strengthening the relationship and connection with the partner.
An emotionally abusive behavior occurs when needs are frequently expressed in hostile, aggressive, blaming ways, or during frequent lashing-out episodes when the other partner hears about the need for the first time. Even when the intent isn’t necessarily to demean or undermine the other partner’s abilities or capacities, lashing-out or verbally-raging episodes do just that. This is because the person has lost all rationality and is flooded with emotions and tapping into a place of resentment, instead of love.
Frequently, this emotionally manipulative tactic involves the destructive concept of “moving the goal posts.” This means that the emotionally abusive partner always finds a different variation of how their needs are to be met; so even if their partner meets a need or needs, the emotionally abusive partner will find something else that their partner isn’t doing or not doing “well enough.” This creates impossible standards to live up to and leaves the other person feeling unworthy, stressed, and insecure in the relationship.
Over time, these behaviors also leave the person on the receiving end feeling off-balance and constantly questioning themselves. It’s quite difficult to function or flourish in an environment where one is constantly criticized.
The inability or refusal to communicate one’s needs to their partner is psychologically destructive for the other partner. This happens when the emotionally abusive partner does not communicate, but rather expects their partner to “read their mind” and infer what they want. When their partner falls short of the mark, and they usually do unless they have telepathic capabilities, the emotionally abusive person punishes their partner by scolding and belittling them, questioning their love and their intentions, becoming verbally abusive, comparing them to others or to other relationships, evoking the silent treatment, etc.
So, what is a healthy mindset towards conflict and expression of needs? Take a look below and see if this is how you approach your current relationship.
The following is an example of realistic expectations for your partner, yourself, and the relationship (this is the opposite of emotional abuse):
“I need to express this need to my partner. I trust that my partner will hear me and that my needs are important to them. I know they will do everything they can to meet my needs. I also realize that they will probably falter at times and not be able to do this one hundred percent perfectly forever. I expect that they will acknowledge this and/or I will express myself when I feel hurt or slighted and I expect that they will acknowledge my feelings and apologize if necessary. I will then accept their apology and let go of any negative feelings, knowing that harbored feelings turn into resentment, and resentment slowly eats away at my soul. I will accept my partner’s apology and reconnect with them after I have felt my emotions and connected with myself. I will not keep score or keep a tally or store resentment towards my partner that may lead to a future lashing-out episode. I will calmly and maturely express all my feelings when we talk and then self-soothe the remaining negative feelings by tuning into the trust, love, compassion, and understanding that I have for my partner and for myself. My priority is our relationship.”
Let me know how this resonated with you!
See you tomorrow for Day 18.0