A lot of abusive men use relentlessness as one of their most powerful tactics.
Consider this question: Does your partner sometimes (or often) keep after you with a never-ending stream of badgering, criticism, pressure, and guilt-tripping? And is the result that you end up giving in when you really don’t want to, because you can’t stand the pressure anymore?
Part of what makes relentlessness so toxic is that you come out blaming yourself. The messages in your head say, “Well, I let him get away with it,” or, “I was stupid to put up with it.” Your controlling partner has succeeded in making you feel like you made a voluntary choice, so then you feel like you’re responsible for having caused harm to yourself.
But these decisions aren’t voluntary. You’re not making a free choice if it follows an unending barrage of pressure and verbal abuse. When you can’t get any peace (because he won’t stop berating you), and you’re getting slammed by his claims that you’re such a bad person for not doing what he wants, you are naturally going to crack eventually.
To top it all off there’s usually a threat behind his words, because when you don’t give in to an abusive man he get you back for it before long. The punishment may be that he’s cold or mean to you for days to come because he didn’t get his way, or he may ruin plans that were important to you, or he may break things or get violent. He doesn’t have to say what it is he’s threatening to do; the past has already taught you what kinds of punishments he’s likely to use against you when he’s really mad. That’s the way life with an abusive partner is.
I find that this kind of vise-grip approach, where the man just keeps tightening up the pressure until the woman cracks, is especially common regarding sex. When a man bullies you into sexual contact that you didn’t want, or into a specific sexual act that you didn’t want, that’s sexual assault, not lovemaking. And you didn’t “let him do it”; he coerced you.
Ultimately, you can’t change your abusive partner, but you can stop blaming yourself for the effects of his actions. You can’t make him stop, but do your best to at least silence that critic that has taken up residence in your own head. You don’t deserve to be blamed.
thank you so much for this insight. i am having a lot of trouble working out if i am being overly dramatic and blaming him for all problems or if he really could be controlling. he is very mild mannered and gentle in public. has never ever been physically violent. but the word relentless – i complained to him a few times that he’s just relentless in his criticism of me, always after me, never lets me put one toe out of line. reading you use that word shocked me
OMG! Yes! In our DV support group, and even when I work with victims one-on-one, I hear women repeatedly blame themselves, especially post-separation. Not only do they blame themselves for their situation, they are bombarded by courts and child protective professionals for not acting sooner, not reporting all along, not leaving, etc. The amount of victim blaming that advocates see everyday is overwhelming. Even some advocates participate in victim blaming. Victims blaming themselves doesn’t stop just because we tell them not to blame themselves. Helping them to stop blaming themselves is a long process because they have done it for so long it has become their normal reaction to everything.
I wish I read the book a longtime ago. My husband is also mild mannered, gentle and acts kind in public. He is very polite to women and opens the door for me when we are in public but not when no one is around. He has been controlling since the day we got married. I was not allowed to have any bank accounts despite the fact that I work full time. He has verbally abused me because of a store credit card that I have. He was kind when I did things the way he wanted. I wanted to avoid conflict, and this gradually turned me in to a slave. I knew something was wrong but could not figure exactly what it was.
As I have gotten older, it became apparent that I could not do it anymore. His real character surfaced when I disagreed or refused to do things exactly the way he wanted.
I have found out that he has been cheating on me with multiple women. Almost all of them were younger women, 10-15 years younger than he was. He was their mentor or superior at work.
The worst of him came out when I confronted him regarding his affairs. He has been cruel, rude , almost violent. He denied all of them and was very aggressive when I showed him solid proofs. It was as if I was the one at fault.
We have started marriage counseling. He has not been honest with the counselor and claimed that I was the one to blame for everything because I have not visited his parents as often as he wants him.
His claims, excuses and justifications did not make any sense and consumed my time and energy every day. It has been hard to focus and work efficiently.
Your book made me realize and understand what is going on. It opened my eyes to a new world. I am moving out with my children and will have my life back.
Finding your book changed my life and my mother’s life. It opened our eyes and completely changed our outlook on the situation. It is changing our lives and relationships with the abuser and his allies. I can’t thank you enough for the important work you’re doing. My only wish is that we had found your book earlier.
Keep it up, you are helping many people!
Thank you so much for all that you do and write. I feel like I can breathe when I read what you write. It is what I know inside, and also what the world is always trying convince me not to believe.
I am currently in Al-Anon, and while I have found helpful things there, I have also found immense excusing of abusive men and victim blaming. It is devastating and infuriating to watch.
It is powerful to read truths that I know and have them validated. It is just so hard to keep moving into the world knowing this side of humanity, and knowing how much deep hatred there is against women.
All we can do is support and love women, which is what I choose to dedicate my life too! And hopefully more men will deal with the toxic, abusive patterns of other men. That is the only way that I can see.