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The Recovery Expert
with Sharie Stines, Psy.D.

Statements That May be Helpful for “Normal” Couples, But are Destructive in Abusive/Narcissistic Relationships

It’s important to give him/her the benefit of the doubt

Abusers love it when you give them the benefit of the doubt. In fact, they bank on it. The more you overlook their mean behaviors, the better positioned they are to manipulate you and exploit your good nature in the future.

It takes two to tango

This message suggests that the reason you’re having problems is because both of you are equally responsible. Loved ones and bystanders buy in to this belief as well, suggesting that the two of you are just a ‘bad fit’ bringing the worst out of each other. The truth is narcissists bring out the worst in anyone they get emotionally entangled with.

Quit bringing up the past; move on

In a narcissist’s world, the past was five minutes ago when he/she called you an idiot. When in an abusive relationship, it is important to identify patterns, rather than isolated events. Everyone has problems, “melt downs,” and irrational behaviors which may be injurious to those closest to them; but in abusive relationships, the infractions are patterns, not anomalies, as in the case of healthy relationships.

Forgive and forget

As mentioned above, abusers exploit conscientious people’s good qualities, such as the ability to forgive.  I’m not saying don’t forgive, but as you do the forgiving don’t expect the other party to be (a) repentant; (b) remorseful; (c) willing to change.  Rather, expect the opposite: (1) continual hurtful behavior; (2) lack of insight; (3) no empathy for the harm caused.

Don’t feel bad for having a memory and not forgetting the bad things that happened. In fact, remembering is probably a healthy trait for someone in an abusive relationship, because so often, victims of abuse experience “abuse amnesia.”

Pay attention to the words he/she is saying; don’t read in to it

Abusers love it when you just listen to their words, ignoring their implications and non-verbal messages, because this causes you to doubt your intuition and ultimately yourself. This way, abusers can gaslight you all day long while you take everything at face value, ignoring their covert agenda.

Wives, submit to your husbands

If your husband is the abuser and you are of the Judeo-Christian faith, then you have probably heard that the Bible instructs you to submit to your husband. In an abusive situation the husband will use that statement to the best of his abusive nature’s advantage. Your husband will adhere only to this one piece of scripture, ignoring all others (such as, “submit one to another,” and “treat your wife in an understanding way,” and so on.

Learn to communicate better; or, “You can catch more flies with honey”

In other words, many counselors believe the problem in the relationship is a communication problem. While this may be true, the solution does not reside in the couple, but rather in the perpetrator. This advice implies that the partner of an abuser must learn to communicate in a manner that prevents him or herself from being abused, because, after all, the abuser was only reacting to your poor initial statements.

You may think, “I was a little rough,” or, “Maybe I should have waited until later to bring this up.” Believing this falsehood causes victims to continue to feel responsible for the healthiness of the relationship, completely removing responsibility from the abuser.

Remember this one truth: Each one of us is responsible for our own behavior.  We ALL have choices.

“Maybe he/she needs ‘anger management’ classes”

This is a myth. Abusers don’t need to take anger management classes. Abuse may look like an anger management problem, but it is far more sinister than just an inability to manage one’s anger. Abusers have no desire to change. In fact, when abusers go to therapy or anger management classes, they simply learn more covert ways of displaying their hurtful behaviors, while their partners naively believe that all they really need to do is learn to manage their anger.

If you are the victim of an abuser, do you honestly think that the person can’t control him/herself? Think about it – abusers are very good at “managing.” The prerequisite for anger management or counseling to work is that the individuals seeking treatment want to change.  Abusers don’t want to change, they enjoy hurting others. It makes them feel superior and powerful.

Understanding that everyone does that which brings them a certain payoff, and for abusers, making others feel badly brings them a morbid sense of satisfaction.

If you can convince an abuser to go to anger management classes and the problems still exist, the abuser will most likely use this to his/her advantage making comments such as, “I took anger management classes and you’re still not happy!  Nothing is ever enough for you!”

You need to learn conflict resolution

What people fail to realize in abusive relationships is that the abuser/narcissist caused the conflict in the first place and has no desire to resolve anything.  Yes, conflict resolution is a valuable skill to acquire, but in relationships with abusers, there will be no resolve, and it’s not your fault. Remember this reality.

There’s a concept known as “rupture and repair,” which describes how intimate relationships are borne from a multiplicity of experiences, including the experiences of “rupture and repair.” This occurs when the relationship is put to the test via some conflict. In healthy relationships it’s not the fact that a rupture has occurred, but rather that it is resolved.

Let it go

It is always good advice to not hang on to things forever, beating a dead horse; but, in an abusive relationship, if you just let it go every time something bad happens you train the abuser that he or she will never be held accountable for poor behavior.  The relationship will continue forever in this pattern. This is really not a healthy way to live.

Instead of just letting things go, learn to demand accountability and set firm boundaries for what you will or will not accept.

Everyone Has Problems

This statement, said in an abusive relationship, encourages the victim to put up with abuse.


The takeaway from this article is to remind the victims of abuse, including narcissistic abuse, is that IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT! Therefore, stop taking the blame and move on with your own life. In other words, don’t try to fix the relationship anymore. Focus on your own emotional well-being, not the well-being of the relationship.


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Statements That May be Helpful for “Normal” Couples, But are Destructive in Abusive/Narcissistic Relationships

APA Reference
Stines, S. (2018). Statements That May be Helpful for “Normal” Couples, But are Destructive in Abusive/Narcissistic Relationships. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 21, 2019, from