How to Fix Your Dead or Abusive Relationships

Uploaded 1/9/2022, approx. 25 minute read

Are you in a dead relationship or are you in an abusive relationship?

It's very difficult sometimes to tell them apart.

And so today, a three-part video. Normally, the first part, a description of an abusive relationship. What are the constituents of such a relationship? What are the elements without which the relationship should not be considered abusive?

The second part deals with dead relationships. How can you tell? How do you identify them? How do you know it's over? How do you know that you must move on?

And the third part is what can you do about abusive and dead relationships?

So the first part is the solutions part.

But you have, of course, to trudge through endless minutes of Sam Vaknin's resonant voice. And who is this Sam Vaknin? He is the author of Malignant Self-Love, Narcissism Revisited. Not to mention the unfortunate fact that he is a professor of psychology torturing the next generations of psychology students.

All right, Balvaso Nim. Yes, that's a new one, not Shoshanim, not Shovavim, not Chmadmadim. Balvaso Nim. Look it up.

We are going to start by discussing abusive relationships. Believe it or not, the Council of Europe, the Council of the European Union has concerned itself with the issue of abusive relationships.

The situation had become so bad all over the world that abuse in relationships is beginning to impact economies. It's beginning to reduce GDP growth and it has an impact on a variety of institutions, disabling them and rendering them dysfunctional.

So this attracted the attention of politicians and much worse of bureaucrats. And so the Council of Europe outlines a cycle that occurs when the victims are rarely aware of it. It consists of an outburst of violence that is followed by a honeymoon period characterized by a swift change in behavior.

Let's tackle each of these elements in turn.

The honeymoon period is a phase where your significant other apologizes a lot, makes promises and commitments. And he believes his own apologies, promises and commitments. He is not future faking. He is not lying. He is not deceiving you comingly. He is not skimming. He is just immured and embedded in a fantasy and he believes his own fantasy.

It's much like the beginning of a relationship, the love bombing and the grooming phase. The process is intended to eliminate your concerns, to reduce your guards, to sort of render you again more vulnerable.

Honeymoon period is therefore a very pernicious and dangerous period. It is then followed according to the Council of Europe, the new authority on abusive relationships. It's then followed by a reassertion of powers.

Once your worries have been silenced, once you have been rendered malleable and submissive, the old power structure is reasserted. The power matrix is restored. The power plague is finished. The abuser had won. There's not always an escalation of violence, not even an escalation of verbal abuse.

But when these things do happen, they generally get closer together. So if formally you had incidents of verbal abuse or psychological abuse or other forms of abuse once a year or twice a year, now it becomes weekly.

This is the general outline of abusive relationships according to the Council of Europe.

But there's a lot missing there normally because politicians, being natural abusers, may wish to withhold some of the information.

Here I am, spawning a new conspiracy theory.

Well, here are a few additional facts.

Number one, abuse happens at any stage of the relationships, any stage. And a sizable portion of all types of abuse leads to violence. And that includes legal abuse, financial abuse, elder abuse, physical abuse, of course, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, verbal abuse, etc.

Once a relationship is over, the abuse is never over. Abuse spills over into the aftermath.

Whether the relationship is ended by you, whether the relationship is ended by him, whether the relationship ends with a mutual decision and accommodation amicably, so to speak, the abuse continues for some more time.

Actually, studies have shown that post-relationship abuse is even much worse than in-relationship abuse. One of the reasons for that is because the abuser had embedded his voice in your mind. There's an introject of the abuser.

And this inner voice collaborates with the abuser on the rare occasions or the not so rare occasions that you are physically together.

There are many types of abuse, but abuse generally is any attempt to control someone else's behavior, whether psychologically, behaviorally, emotionally, physically, financially, or in any other way.

Abuse is therefore about control. And because abuse is about control, it is essentially a masculine phenomenon.

Now, of course, women abuse as well. Women may be abusing men at a rate equal to men abusing women. But the way women abuse is much more under the radar. It's passive-aggressive. It's the weapon of the weak. Women had been subjugated and enslaved and tortured and mistreated for millennia under what is known as the patriarchy. So women had evolved the kinds of aggression that do not provoke an overt response. The same goes for minorities and same goes for slaves. All these suppressed groups had channeled their aggression in ways which render the aggression undetectable or perhaps more toxic and venomous, but less overt.

Not so men.

Men are very open with their aggression and abuse and violence. And consequently, men constitute the majority of identified abusers, including in courts of law.

In the United States, for example, 85% of victims of abuse are female with a male batterer, a male who beats them up.

The situation is a bit different with LGBTQ relationships. The people in LGBTQ relationships, LGBTQ relationships, and men who are battered by female partners, they constitute small minorities of the statistics.

Now, one of the main problems we have in scholarly studies, online material, YouTube videos, is that we tend to isolate types of abuse. We kind of create a taxonomy or a classification of types of abuse, and then we put each type in its drawer.

And so we discuss emotional abuse as if it has nothing to do with physical abuse. And we discuss psychological abuse as if it does not lead, as it normally does, to verbal abuse. So we kind of distinguish these types of abuse and we compartmentalize it.

The research in this sense is very immature and counterfactual is wrong. The fact is that many forms of abuse co-occur. They happen together. And many of them are just manifestations and translations of other types of abuse.

For example, if you are engaged in psychological abuse, you are likely to use verbal abuse as part of the psychological warfare campaign.

And so isolating or compartmentalizing abuse is counterproductive. There are very few types of abuse which happened in isolation, for example, emotional abuse, but majority happen together.

Psychological or emotional abuse, it's the use of verbal and nonverbal acts which symbolically hurt the other, or the use of threats to hurt the other, where the essential ideas, feelings, perceptions and personality characteristics of the victim are constantly belittled. That's the official definition.

Emotional abuse, it's been demonstrated in numerous studies, emotional abuse is far worse.

Psychological abuse has much longer lasting impacts and effects on a victim in an intimate relationship. It's far more harmful than any physical abuse.

Physical abuse can lend you in a hospital. Emotional and psychological abuse haunts you and haunts you for decades.

So the problem with emotional and psychological abuse is that it leaves no scars. It leaves no marks.

And many types of behaviors are actually abusive, even though they're socially acceptable and cannot be castigated or chastised or criticized.

For example, if you refuse to share in homework or childcare and dump all the obligations and chores on your partner, you're being abusive. If you order the partner around, if you treat her or him as a servant, you're being abusive. If you sulk, give the silent treatment, refuse to talk about an issue, abuse, you guessed it right.

And if you drive dangerously while your partner is inside the car begging you to stop, that happens to be abusive as well.

Some abuses are a conscious intentional act. The idea is to scare, intimidate, subjugate someone, penetrate the defenses, render him vulnerable.

But a lot of abuse is actually unconscious. I mentioned passive aggression. It's a form of unconscious abuse.

Now, there are acts which are immediately discernible as abusive, for example, revenge pornography. That's clearly an abusive act.

But there are many subterranean under the radar behaviors or misbehaviors, which are not considered widely abusive, although they are.

Take, for example, financial abuse or economic abuse over spending, shopaholism, pathological gambling. It's true that these are personal vices or personal pathologies, but they have an impact on the intimate partner. And it's a detrimental deleterious impact.

And the person who engages in these misbehaviors knows usually that his intimate partner is paying part of a price. So this is a form of abuse. Withholding money from a partner is a form of abuse. It doesn't allow the partner to be financially dependent, not allowing the partner to have a career, to take on a job, to join a workplace. All these are forms of abuse. Economically motivated isolation. Teams up together with socially motivated isolation. Isolation is the hallmark of the abuser. The abuser seeks to isolate his victim and thereby lower her defenses by denying her secure and a social support network.

And economically motivated isolation, socially motivated isolation, separating the victim from family and friends and so on. They go together.

Very often, the victim is socially isolated in order to render her an economic asset. For example, to abscond with all her earnings to live off her paycheck, to make use of her property.

Victim blaming, blame shifting, blame casting. They're all very common.

Questioning the victim, a rape victim, for example, is likely to be questioned with regards to her sexual history, promiscuity, predilections, the way she dresses, and why she had made the decisions that allegedly or ostensibly led to the rape.

We tend to question and blame the victim. Why did he return to him? Why are you staying with him?

Questioning the victim is always wrong because it's the abuser who is responsible for his behavior. Even if the victim makes the wrong decisions and the wrong choices, and victims often do, victims are often re-victimized. Even if they do, and even if they refuse to acknowledge their contribution and their responsibility for making these wrong decisions and choices, even then it does not exempt the abuser, does not exonerate the abuser. The abuser is the only one responsible for the abuse, exactly as a rapist is the only one responsible for the rape, regardless of how the victim addressed or how much she had to drink.

Escape is very difficult. One of the reasons we should never question the victim is because usually escape is very difficult. It's hard to escape an abusive situation because abusers manipulate the victim. They create an alternative reality, they guess like. They play with the victim's mind and emotions and insecurities and beliefs and value system and so on and so forth.

The victim is made to believe that it's their fault. The victims are told that they can make it stop, but they often come up with the idea that they're provoking the abuser. Whatever had happened is because I provoked him.

Some of them even convince themselves that the abuser is a sign of love.

Yes, he's very jealous. Yes, he had put me in a hospital, I don't know how many times, but that's because he loves me a lot. And yes, I did look at that other man.

So escape is very difficult because the victims trap themselves in a narrative that essentially justifies the abuser in myriad ways.

Anger should not cause abuse. Anger does not cause abuse, by the way.

Studies have shown that anger does not lead to abuse. Anger is a normal human emotion and extremely common. It's intended to modify other people's behavior or to offload aggression in a socially acceptable manner.

The same goes for stress. It's a normal thing. Everyone experiences stress.

So the excuse I became abusive because of the stress or because she made me angry, that's nonsense. That's absolute nonsense. It's exactly like, you know, some people say I had sex because I was drunk. But the very same person, when he gets drunk with other people, does not have sex with him, even if the level of drunkenness is the same. So getting drunk is not an excuse for having sex. And being angry or being stressed is never an excuse for being abusive.

Abuse is a behavioral pattern that is independent and autonomous of emotional correlates, actually. Abusers abuse because they had been abused. Hurt people hurt people. A common pathway for someone to become an abuser, they had been abused themselves in early childhood. They'd experienced another person being abused in their family. They had witnessed abuse.

Abuse is infectious. As children, these kind of people had learned that it is acceptable for them, actually indispensable to exert control. Control was perceived as a survival strategy and that they could relieve stress by using physical or emotional violence.

These people have a totally different perception of interpersonal relationships. They also equate love with pain or love with hurt or love with jealousy.

Research suggests, by the way, that intimate partner abuse occurs in same-sex couples as well. But only 25% as often as in straight couples. There's something in straight couples that quadruples the amount of abuse, and we don't know what.

Strangely, in transgender relationships, the abuse is more common than in same-sex relationships. So we have a hierarchy.

Maximum abuse in straight couples, then transgender couples, and then same-sex couples, where abuse is almost absent strangely. LGBTQ community members are more vulnerable, of course. They have additional vulnerabilities and they attract abuse.

For example, outing the victim is a form of abuse that had become recently very common. It's a subspecies of revenge pornography or revenge sexuality.

Many LGBTQ victims are reluctant to seek help because reporting abuse to legal authorities would force them to reveal their sexual orientation. They don't want to out themselves.

It's also the case that members of the LGBTQ community don't reveal their orientation because it would shed a negative light on their family or clan or tribe or community or neighborhood or you name it.

So they're in a double bind in many respects.

But as you see, the LGBTQ community, members of the LGBTQ community, they're exposed to much more stress than straight people just by being who they are.

And yet the level of abuse in their relationships is 70 percent lower. Abuse has nothing to do with stress or with aggression.

So the big question is, how can someone help themselves? How can you help a victim?

And the sad truth is that there are a lot of victims who cannot help themselves. And that's why we have whole classes of professionals who are focused on helping victims of abuse.

The most important thing is to believe. When the abuse victim reports the abuse, the common response is disbelief and dismissal of the claims. You're too sensitive. You're paranoid. This could not have happened. You're seeing it wrongly. You're reframing. You're gaslighting.

So victims are not acknowledged. They're not validated. And this perpetuates the abuse.

This is a general introduction to abusive relationships.

Now, what about dead relationships?

Relationships where the level of unhappiness is at its crest and both parties are miserable.

It's not easy to admit to yourself that you're not happy in a relationship with your partner.

There is a famous phenomenon that when you buy something, you want to justify the purchase. So you kind of idealize what you had bought. You idealized the device you had bought, the car you had bought, the smartphone you had bought. You tend to overlook the negative aspects or facets of your purchase. It's the same with a partner, only more so.

Having selected an intimate partner, you would tend to idealize and idolize the partner in order to not feel like a fool.

So growing distance, constant fights, unhappiness, it takes many forms and it's very easy to explain each and every one of these forms away, to kind of reframe it.

No, it's not happening or it's not as common and it's not really that bad and so on and so forth. That you feel unhappy in your relationship doesn't mean that you have to break up, of course.

In some cases, you can fix the issues with therapy and regular check-ins and so on and so forth.

But before we go there, why are people unhappy in relationships?

There are quite a few reasons and I would like to go through them.

Number one, nostalgia, holding on to the past, reminiscing about the times the relationship was easier, stress-free, happier, wonderful and so on. Like the time before you had kids or the time before you started seriously dating.

And this focus on the past, this past orientation, can cause enormous unhappiness in the present because the comparison is never favorable.

So instead of investing energy in the past, you should focus on being present, on fixing current issues.

You should not hold on to memories. Memories are not your friends. They constitute an integral part of your identity and you need to keep them, but you never should dwell on them because they poisoned the well, the well of the present.

The second major reason for unhappiness in couples, perhaps the most common, is that people try to change each other. They come across each other in their 20s or 30s or 40s when they are fully formed and unlikely to change. And then they try to change each other.

The other person begins to feel as if they must justify their very existence, their every decision. They begin to work on actions. They begin to try to modify their behaviors, their thinking, their emotions, their moods in order to gratify the partner.

Attempting to change your partner is a recipe for killing your relationship.

But sometimes the problem is a core problem. You simply hold or you have evolved different beliefs, values, priorities and preferences. You then become incompatible. If you don't share core values, if you don't share beliefs, even political orientation, a way of looking at the world, your decision-making process, for example about vaccines. If you don't share, if you have so little in common, then it's a problem of incompatibility. It creates tension. The more you learn about each other's worldview, internal working model, theory of mind, theory of the world, the less you like your partner.

So sometimes getting to know each other too well is a recipe for disaster. Partners inhibit each other. They put constraints, constraints on your ability to be independent, autonomous, agentic, self efficacious, and to evolve, to grow and to develop. Partners do this to each other even if they are the most benign and benevolent and loving and caring in the world simply by merely being there.

Existence, presence inhibits.

And so you find yourself held back and this makes you naturally frustrated. They feel that you have to choose. You feel that you have to choose whether you have to stay in a relationship or move on.

If you want to grow, if you want to accomplish goals, you have to move on. As a partner is your limit and you need to exceed your limit.

When the partner is beginning to be perceived this way, the relationship is dead. The impact of an unhappy relationship is very negative. It's very negative and it leads to a series of dysfunctional behaviors.

For example, conflict.

Partners don't regard the partnership, don't regard the relationship as a refuge or a sanctuary or a shelter anymore. They regard it as a war zone. They see each other through the lens of contempt, frustration, criticism. They become each other's persecretary objects.

So this causes them to shield themselves during interactions. Their emotional and physical conflict causes people to withdraw, to numb themselves, to isolate themselves behind firewalls, to talk less, to communicate less.

And so the more you attack your partner, the more you aggress, the less likely your partner is to engage. Conflict is a major outcome of unhappy relationship and a major driver.

So it's a vicious circle and it's the outcome of frustration.

Dollard in 1939 described the frustration-aggression hypothesis.

People in unhealthy relationships, they tend to fantasize about what could have been. They distort their own reality. They gaslight themselves, self-gaslighting. They daydream and they say, had it not been for my partner, I could have been this or that. I could have been there. I could have been doing this with someone, maybe.

And so not accepting each other is a critical part of not being happy. You don't accept your partner as she is because she is an engine of frustration and constant disappointment.

And so you withdraw.

In unhealthy relationships, the partners feel as if they are managing the relationships on their own. They feel very lonely in the relationship. The adversarial mindset creates a sensation that the other person is an enemy and best avoided.

So they withdraw.

People withdraw in such a dead relationship and they're no longer collaborating on anything. They're no longer helping each other or trying to mend fences or reconstruct or restore whatever they used to be, whatever they used to exist.

This creates a lot of emotional pain, frustration, exhaustion, irritability, depression, negativity. The relationship weighs you down. It channels negative energy into how you approach work and other relationships. It infects, it's kind of metastasizes.

A negative relationship, a negative intimate relationship destroys your life literally. In an unhappy relationship, you don't prioritize your partner. You focus your energy, time on other interests and very often on other relationships.

Hence the preponderance of cheating. Cheating has supernovae, absolutely supernovae in the last 40 years.

Today, equal numbers of men and women cheat in committed relationships. Infidelities is absolutely exploded. It's estimated that anywhere between 30 and 60 percent of people cheat or head cheated on each other. This is probably an underestimate.

And of course, intimacy is the first victim. There's no time to connect intimately, physically, emotionally because people are avoiding each other. They have less shared experiences. There's broken communication, broken connection. You can't work through problems or address hurt feelings and there are significant difficulties in connecting.

So this creates parallel lives. People develop whole scale lives in the absence of the partner. They travel alone. They have relationships. They do everything alone. They isolate their work from their relationship. They don't report back. They don't share.

And so gradually they drift away.

When someone is unhappy, the smallest thing can trigger them. And this is very damaging to the relationship. Judgment outweighs intimacy and nagging becomes very common.

And so ultimately, because everyone needs intimacy and support and support, everyone has needs.

So ultimately you gravitate towards other people, other places. And your intimate partner is no longer intimate and no longer your partner.

You also lose any gratitude you may have felt. You feel you don't feel appreciated. You don't feel hurt. And of course your partner doesn't feel appreciated and hurt.

And so you're not seen by each other. That's diminished.

And there's no motivation to continue doing things that your partner just wants to appreciate and be grateful for. There's nothing nice to say about your relationship.

When people in dead relationships are asked to describe the relationships, they recount the negative aspects. The bad way outweighs the good.

And one of the major signs of a dead relationship is when the partners try very hard. They put in an active effort to find the pluses, the positive aspects, and why they should stay in the relationship. That's a major sign.

When you see a couple where the partners are no longer fighting, they're not fights, it means they're lost interest in each other.

And when they try very hard to think why they're still together, it's dead. It's dead.

And it leads gradually to a lack of respect, a loss of respect. When the partners don't respect each other because they don't cater to each other's needs, they're not each other's friends.

Very often perceived as enemies. Something is not right. Abusive language, abusive acts, engaging in activities that are not appropriate, misconduct, triangulating, insulting in public, humiliating in public. Respect is crucial. If respect is missing and is replaced with content, the relationship is dead.

The partners stonewall each other. They shut down. They ignore each other. They stop responding to their partner.

It's an attempt to control the conversation, actually. One partner is blocking further discussion by disengaging.

Ironically, this happens because the individuals who are shutting down the conversation are physiologically distressed. They're trying to shut down overwhelming emotions. They're at risk of being dysregulated and overwhelmed.

So they withdraw and cut off communication. They feel alone. They feel alone.

Now, it's not healthy to merge or to fuse with your intimate partner. It's never healthy. It's not healthy to be in a symbiotic relationship.

But your partner shouldn't be everything to you, but he should be something to you.

It's important to feel that you're part of a team. Feeling alone can mean that you're not receiving the support and the emotional availability that you need.

Is there anything you can do when you're in a dead relationship?

Well, you can try.

The chances are not good.

I don't want to mislead you. But definitely there are a few things you can try.

The first thing is to identify what's wrong, to restore communication and talk openly and honestly and fearlessly to each other and identify everything that's not going well and determine which of these things are deal breakers, where your boundaries are, what is acceptable, what is not, and what's the cost of engaging in unacceptable behavior.

The second thing you should do, you should honestly discuss, you should honestly agree, you should honestly analyze and contemplate whether your relationship is worth saving. It may be beyond saving. It may not be worth saving, even if it can be saved.

You need to decide whether you want to invest your scarce energy into this relationship, dying or dead as it is. You need to be honest first and foremost with yourself because you're so emotionally invested, you've devoted so much time to your relationship. You hope so much that things maybe could return to the way they used to be before. You're scared of being alone. You're terrified of abandonment.

There are numerous reasons to lie to yourself. You need to stop lying to yourself so that you can communicate honestly with your partner.

Try being more vulnerable instead of taking a defensive stance. Stop criticizing. Stop blaming your partner. She knows already everything you have to say. Tell her what you would like her to improve and come up with practical ways of how both of you can contribute to it and show gratitude. Show gratitude for the very act of communicating because for her to communicate with you, she needs to be very brave and she needs to transcend and traverse many obstacles, emotional and psychological obstacles. It's courageous of her to again venture out and become vulnerable.

When you have these tough conversations, there are studies, research shows that if you say thank you, I'm grateful to you for this. I appreciate it. It's unbelievable the kind of transformation that these simple words can make.

So feel free and comfortable to say thank you. I know how difficult it is for you and I appreciate it and find solutions together, not alone.

Come up with ideas, come up with suggestions, negotiate them, but be solution oriented, not problem oriented.

Do not ruminate. Do not get fixated on the problem. Seek solutions.

When problems arise, consider how to go through them as a team. Don't let problems separate you. You can disagree on solutions. That's healthy. When you disagree on problems, your relationship is dead.

Sometimes you need to separate for a while. You need to take time apart. Time apart looks like the end, looks like the death knell or the verdict, the final, the funeral of the relationship, but it's wrong. It's very wrong.

Separation and time apart and time out, they're critical. They provide you with distance and perspective. They allow you to grow, to discover what you really want. They can help you to choose what you want your life to look like and whether your partner fits in.

Don't default out of convenience. Separation is a tough move, a difficult move, a risky move.

You may not find your partner there when you're back, but it's the only way sometimes to gain perspective. It's the only way to see the big picture and the only way to realize what you may be missing and to acknowledge that it's not so great out there. There are not so many palatable alternatives. The dating scene sucks, for example.

Determine the best way to move forward while you're away, reconsidering your life. Determine the best way to move forward. Do you want to save your relationship? Then get serious. Do some serious work. If you feel like you need help, you can always seek support. Talk to loved ones, talk to friends, talk to families, talk to a therapist. I don't know what. Go to a guru.

Richard Grannon, but do something. Do something about it.

Acting is crucial. We very often displace or substitute for action. We, for example, we analyze something so we think we are doing something. That's not action. That's masturbation.

You need to act. Even the worst decision is better than no decision. Even the wrong action is better than no action. You need to move forward.

Action is life. Stagination is death. Revive your relationship by moving forward wherever that may lead you.

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