Here is a fun fact for you from your favorite psychology professor.
When a woman loses her virginity to a man, her vagina is flooded with cytokines. She experiences a vaginal cytokine storm. Cytokines are molecules sent by the immune system to signal the invasion of a foreign body.
Yes, that's how women react to first intercourse. They get inflamed, they attack the foreign body, that's the men.
And things go downhill from there, trust me, from personal experience.
My name, for those of you who don't know, is Sam Vaknin, and I am the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited, and a professor of psychology, yes, with a medical degree as well.
So today we are going to discuss the loaded question. No, no, no, not virginity, not vaginas.
Yes, I know I'm letting you down. I know your mind is in the gutter. Lift it up, lift it up.
Today we are going to discuss a much more cheerful subject, abusive relationships.
And so every relationship has ups and downs. Every relationship goes through cycles of approach and avoidance. Your partner disappoints you, you have an argument, you disagree, you fight, there is conflict.
Many relationships become adversarial for a while and then settle back. Love trumps all. Sorry for the word Trump. Love trumps all ultimately.
If there's a foundation of mutual caring, mutual appreciation, mutual respect, definitely love, a relationship survives.
Today's generations are far less patient. They are the tinder generations. They simply swipe left on you or right or whatever. They get rid of you. They dump you.
The first sign of any difficulty. We are not groomed. We are not trained. We are not conditioned and we are not educated to survive the hardships embedded in every relationship.
We regard relationships as entertainment. We regard our partners as commodities and we don't want to invest. Not really. If the relationship requires any resources, we just bail out.
But relationships are not forms of entertainment. There's Netflix for that. And of course, your cats.
Relationships are hard work. The hardest work of all, by the way.
Any successful businessman will tell you business is nothing when compared to a marriage. Marriage is much more onerous, much more demanding. You have to put your mind where your heart is. You have to realize the separateness of your partner. You have to cope with insecurities. You have to reconcile, irreconcilable sometimes, values and beliefs. You have to reach a consensus. You have to compromise and negotiate.
And sometimes the topics are very hard and very difficult to compromise on.
For example, your children.
So relationships, ipso facto. Look it up.
Relationships are tough.
But how do we tell when a relationship transitions from difficult to abusive? What are the signs that you had found yourself with an abuser in an abusive relationship experiencing abuse day in and day out?
The problem with abuse is that there are many forms of it. There is, of course, the overt forms, physical abuse, sexual abuse, etc. Verbal abuse, psychological abuse.
But with psychological abuse, we are transitioning to a Netherlands, a place where the definitions begin to blur and become fuzzy.
What is psychological abuse?
Everyone's definition varies. And so what to you is nothing to me is psychological abuse.
What about financial abuse? What about legal abuse? What about elder abuse? What about child abuse? What about wrong communication or bad communication? Are all these forms of abuse?
So today, I'm going to give you the question here. Seven questions you have to ask yourself. And if the answers if the answer to any of these seven questions is in the affirmative, if it's a yes, you are in an abusive relationship.
You see, I'm making it easy for you.
Children and children and students and students. Yes, I'm making it piece of cake. All you have to do is write down these seven questions. And then daily, that's my recommendation.
Ask yourself, is the answer to any of them, any one of them? Yes.
Well, if this is the case, you should try you should attempt to communicate with your partner and reverse the situation or ameliorate it or mitigate it somehow.
If the answer is no to all seven questions, never mind how difficult the relationship is. It's not abusive.
And if your attempt to communicate with your partner fails, that's not the right partner for you.
Communication, honest, direct, above board is the number one and number two and number three key to a healthy relationship.
Because without honest communication, there can be no trust without trust. There's no respect. And without these three, there's no real relationship.
Let's delve right in and have a look at the seven questions.
Question number one, do I treat myself with dignity? Do I demand respect from my partner? Do I allow my partner to disrespect me?
In other words, the question is, do I allow my partner to disrespect me?
But before you answer this question, you need to ask yourself, do you respect yourself? Do you have dignity? Do you have boundaries? Can you control your behavior? Do you do things which are, do you engage in conduct which is often self-defeating instead of destructive and reckless and unwise?
These are questions between you and yourself. And the question to your partner is, do I allow him to disrespect me? Does he disrespect me?
The second question you need to ask, am I setting clear boundaries?
This is a question between you and yourself. You need to ask yourself, how often do I experience behavior, relationships and interactions which are egodystonic, which I don't like, which I find uncomfortable and upsetting or even threatening? How often does this happen to me?
The more often this happens to you, the more likely you are having problem setting boundaries. So am I setting clear boundaries? Do I make these boundaries known to other people? Do I inform other people? Do I tell other people what is permissible and what is acceptable behavior and what is out of bounds?
And now the question is, does my partner respect my boundaries?
Having informed my partner as to what I do not wish to be done to me, as to which behaviors I find impermissible and unacceptable, does he still engage in these behaviors repeatedly? Does he ignore your boundaries?
The third question is, do you tolerate abuse and aggression in any form or guise? Aggression has many, many ways of manifesting. Aggression is camouflage. For example, biting humor could be actually a form of aggression. Brutal honesty is usually a form of aggression.
So there are many ways to express aggression, passive aggressively, for example, by undermining you, sabotaging you, procrastinating, ignoring you, pretending that you haven't spoken and haven't demanded anything. Do you tolerate these kinds of behaviors? Do you tolerate aggression? Do you tolerate abuse? Do you seek to terminate such misconduct instantly and unequivocally?
These are questions you have to ask yourself. And the question you have to ask regarding your partner is, does my partner engage in aggression repeatedly despite my protestations, despite my request to cease and desist? Does he continue to behave this way and do I tolerate it?
The critical point is not whether your partner displays aggression, even violence, but whether you are actually tolerating it, whether you deny it, whether you reframe it, whether you displace it, whether you pretend that it doesn't exist and so on and so forth.
If the answer to this is yes, you're in an abusive relationship, this is a form of gaslighting and it relies on what we call intermittent reinforcement, hot and cold, right and wrong, bad and good.
Question number four that you have to ask yourself, am I assertive? Assertive is not aggressive.
These are two totally different things. Assertive is not, assertiveness is not about anger. It's not in your face.
Assertiveness is not defined. Assertiveness is the quiet reassurance, the quiet certitude as to who you are, as to what you want and as to how to obtain it, your agency or self-efficacy.
So are you assertive? Are you unambiguous about your needs, your wishes and expectations? Are you being arrogant or are you being confident? Are you being selfish and narcissistic or do you simply love and care for yourself?
These are the questions you have to ask yourself and the question regarding your partner, does he accept my assertiveness? Does he cater to my needs? Does he seek to fulfill my wishes and to meet my expectations? Does he tolerate my confidence and self-confidence or does he try to put me down, drag me down, destroy my, undermine my self-confidence? Does he allow me to love and care for myself or does he try to monopolize my time, micromanage my behavior?
So these are questions you have to ask and again if the answer is yes, that's an abusive partner.
Question number five, how well do I know myself?
There is a video on this show that I've made, it's quite popular, about the four pillars, four pillars of self-love. Please watch it.
Ask yourself the four questions in that video. Do you know yourself? Do you accept yourself? Are you your best friend? Do you have your back? Etc, etc.
These are questions you have to ask yourself but similarly you have to ask these questions about your partner.
Does your partner really know you? Does he have your back? Is he your best friend? Does he accept you? Not necessarily as you are but does he accept your essence? Does he add to your stress? Does he relish your discomfort and pain?
What kind of partner do you have? Is it a friend or is it an enemy from within?
Question number six, do you treat other people the way you want to be treated? Do you try to lead by self-example? That's a question you should address to yourself.
And the question which pertains to your partner is does he treat me the way he wants to be treated? And does he lead by way of example? These are very critical questions.
If your partner has a double standard, he has rules for himself and different rules for you. He criticizes you harshly and castigates you and chastises you when you behave in a certain way and then does exactly the same thing. He tells you do as I say not as I do. He talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk.
This kind of partner is actually abusive. He's abusive because he doesn't see you. You exist only as an instrument, a tool of gratification, a function, a service provider.
And the last question you have to ask is am I habitually disrespected? Are my boundaries constantly ignored and breached?
These two questions we've asked before but now they lead to a third question. Did I ever try to terminate the relationship with my partner? And how did he react?
A partner who is not abusive is going to communicate with you about each and every topic under the sun and his communication will be honest and boundaried and grounded and centered and healthy and helpful and useful and will bring on change. An abusive partner will not listen. He doesn't want to hear about it. He trusts you. He pushes you away. He refuses to communicate.
So one of the major tests is if you tell your partner I need some time off. I need to separate. I want to break up with you. What's his reaction? Does he respect you? Does he abuse you? Does he ignore what you've just said? Does he set aside your boundaries and breach them gleefully, forcefully? Does he rape you not only sexually but verbally? Is there zero tolerance for your needs and idiosyncrasies and peculiarities and eccentricities? In short, is there zero tolerance for who you are? Is there no second chance for you? And are you not allowed to engage in self-preservation and self-maintenance and ultimately self-love?
A partner who is all over you, a partner who is invasive, ubiquitous or pervasive, partner who never lets you go, who micromanages you, partner who is extremely romantically jealous, even retroactively jealous, this kind of partner is an abuser in the making.
This is not love. This is control.
This is the question you have to ask yourself. Does he love me or does he control me?
And of course, I'm using the male pronoun, but just reverse the sexes or reverse the genders or reverse the pronouns and it applies equally to women as partners.
Women partners, men partners, female partners, male partners.
These questions should always be asked and don't ask these questions once a year. Ask them every morning. Ask them every morning and then at the end of the day, make a recap. Go through, survey what had happened and ask yourself these questions again.
And then the first hint of trouble, the first affirmative answer, stop everything, drop everything.
This is top priority. Speak to your partner, tell him what bothers you, inform him of your boundaries, demand respect, see how he reacts. If he reacts the wrong way, try to pack your things.