“An abuser needs to see you as his dream woman, an extension of himself—so the real, spontaneous, separate you becomes the enemy.” ~ Patricia Evans, from her book, “Controlling People: How to Recognize, Understand, and Deal with People Who Try to Control You”
Initially, my abuser put me on a pedestal, insisting that he thought I was “perfect”. Because I had very low self-esteem, it sounded like music to my ears. I had finally found a man who didn’t see my flaws. He praised me to high heaven. He told me everything I wanted to hear. He told me he loved me and called me adorable pet names. He listened to me for hours, making himself totally indispensable. Whatever need I had, he made it a point to show me that he was the one to fulfill it.
Further into the relationship, when he had me where he wanted me, he changed. That pedestal he had me on disappeared over time and I often felt like I couldn’t do anything right, regardless of what it was. He criticized everything I did until, eventually, I feared making mistakes because I knew he would file them away in his eternal memory to use against me later. The more I tried to not make mistakes, the more I failed, proving him “right”. When I didn’t agree with him on certain issues, we would have serious arguments. I never knew why and was often left wondering why arguments left me feeling unheard, inarticulate, unintelligent and completely at fault because I was either “too sensitive” or I “liked arguing” enough to “create drama” when possible.
What I learned, through counseling and reading books about abuse was very enlightening and liberating.
When he and I first got together, he saw me as his “ideal” woman and expected me to be totally compliant with everything, in other words…perfect. I had to agree with his every thought, do whatever he wanted me to do, be the person he thought I should be, without question. The first time I ever disagreed with him was the “turning point” in our relationship. As soon as I didn’t comply, I became “the enemy”. From then on, I was no longer “perfect” in his eyes and, therefore, punished for not being so. The ultimate “crime”, as far as he was concerned, was deciding to end the marriage. After that, he declared and all-out war on me, being awkward at every turn, thinking that I would just give up and stay.
If you recognize yourself in what I have written, you must understand that your abuser will never allow you to be your authentic self. There is no room in your relationship for you because, in his mind, his relationship is with an ideal version of you by which he compares the real you. When you don’t measure up, he will make you feel like you’re the worst person in the history of the universe. If he has ever told you that he thinks you’re perfect, he will expect you to be just that and hold you to an impossible standard. Nothing you ever do, say, think, feel, believe will ever be good enough and you will find yourself in a no-win situation of nightmarish proportions.
I remember asking him that question. You know, the one we all wonder about abusers: “If you truly believe everything you say about me, why are YOU with me?” And we all know the ridiculous response, right? “Because I love you.”
What you must understand, is that what he feels is not love. Not even close. Love is not about the words, but the actions. If his treatment of you betrays his declarations of love for you, believe his actions.
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