Here are some typical responses from victims of narcissists and other abusers when asked to describe why they “ignored” red flags:

  • I was trying to figure out what I had done to contribute to his outburst.
  • I gave him the benefit of the doubt.
  • I discounted it because he was a victim (I saw him as a victim.)
  • I felt safe as long as…(he wasn’t acting out in this other way or this other part of his life)
  • It didn’t register.
  • I convinced myself that he had changed.

Mark my words, your abuser takes these reactions from you to the bank.  Not only do these reliable responses keep your abuser from being held accountable, they also, embolden him to continue with his abusive ways, believing (1) that he can get away with it; (2) that he is entitled to his beliefs about how to treat you; (3) and, that you will put up with anything from him, which means you won’t leave him no matter what.

He is also encouraged to believe that relationships don’t need to be nurtured or reciprocal, and that he can hurt you in any way he wants, with no consequences. And the more abuse you are around, the more desensitized you become to it. You start letting it role off your back like a duck.  You start dissociating from the disturbing experiences and “move on” with your day as if nothing unusual had occurred.

How can you change this dynamic?

Here’s how. Stop doing any of the above six things. Instead, do the opposite.

  • Do not take responsibility for his unfortunate behaviors. Remember, everyone has choices about how to respond to something that irritates them. Your abuser chooses to be mean and abusive because that is the choice he makes, regardless of what you did to “provoke” him.
  • Do not give the benefit of the doubt to a narcissist or abuser. In “normal,” loving, safe, non-toxic relationships it is good to overlook an offense; but when dealing with an abuser, he will only capitalize on it and his poor behavior, having been reinforced, will increase in frequency. In addition to this, he would never return the favor and give you the benefit of the doubt. You are always guilty as charged in his eyes.
  • Understand that abusers always view themselves as victims. They are so convincing and adamant about it that it’s very persuasive. But, just because he was abused as a child or was treated poorly by his boss at work, this does not give him license to hurt you.
  • If you see your abuser do something questionable and inappropriate in one arena, understand that this is a character trait that will exist elsewhere, if not everywhere. Do not accept poor character. People who demonstrate characterological disturbances are to be avoided. They will hurt you.
  • Pay attention to what your abuser says and does. Pay attention to his attitudes. Live in truth. If you find yourself dissociating (spacing out,) take a deep breath and call yourself back to the situation at hand. Notice what is happening. Let your thoughts and feelings happen as you look at reality.
  • The reason you want to believe your abuser has changed is because it’s far easier to have hope and live in denial than it is to realize your relationship is in the “cycle of abuse.” Once you go through an abusive episode, everyone in the relationship dynamic feels relieved. The victim realizes she has a time or reprieve for a while. It is easier to rest in this place of hope than it is to see the truth for what it is. Apologies and professions of change are just part of the manipulation strategies an abuser uses to keep his victim hooked into the traumatic bond. Real change takes years; it is not an event.

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