A Test of Abusiveness

Dear Neil: I would like to see you publish all the things to look for in a male which would indicate he is a person who could be abusive emotionally/sexually/physically.

Planning Ahead in Westminster

Dear Planning Ahead: There are no hard and fast criteria that I know about to determine what another person, man or woman, will eventually become.  But I think certain questions and observations can help you determine what the future is at least more likely to offer.

  • What has gone on in your partner’s previous relationships?  If you get to know what their past has been you can avoid surprises for yourself in the future.  Unless he really understands why his previous relationship(s) soured and clearly understands what his role was, he will tend to repeat the same issues and behavior with you.
  • What kind of marriage did his parents have?  We are more likely to repeat our models and their behavior because that is what is familiar to us.  If he has a negative model, how much therapeutic work has he done to change this imprint?
  • Does he have positive self esteem and self worth?
  • Does he respect you?  Is he very judgmental of you?  Of others?  Does he tell you how you “should” feel?  Is he controlling, domineering and intimidating?  How does he treat you?  Are you treated with common decency, the benefit of the doubt, good will and the absence of malice?
  • How forgiving is he?  Has he made peace with previous intimate partners?  Is he carrying a significant grudge?  Does he have major issues with trust and trusting other people?
  • How good are his problem solving, conflict resolution and negotiating skills?  Is he able and willing to discuss and resolve conflicts and differences as they arise?  Does he accept responsibility for himself and his behaviors or does he need to finger-point and blame?  How good are his communication skills?
  • What is he addicted to?  The addiction to a substance will be stronger for most people than their interest in you.

Dear Neil: In the beginning, my boyfriend . . . would kiddingly say chauvinistic things to his married friends. . . .  Later, though, his comments became personally directed at me . . . in front of a group of people.  I told him several times that he was hurting me but he would only twist it around to say they were ‘endearments’ and it was my fault I was hurt because I didn’t have a sense of humor.  At one point he told me that I was trying to change him and said, “This is the way I am; if you don’t like it you can find someone else.”  What causes a man to make chauvinistic remarks and what would he gain by putting down his partner in front of a group of people?  What can a person do when their partner refuses to stop hurting them?

Hurt in Colorado

Dear Hurt: People don’t respond to you the way you are, but rather the way they are.  A man may make chauvinistic remarks in order to attempt to gain the upper hand in the relationship, because he is insensitive, or because he is abusive to women.  He may put you down for the same reasons, or because he fears you, doesn’t respect you, or because he is trying to push you away.  In any event, it wasn’t that he didn’t understand that you were getting hurt, but that he didn’t care.  He was saying that he will do anything he damn well pleases and if you don’t like it, too bad.  He was not as attached to you as you were to him and he wasn’t very gentle or skilled in letting you down gracefully.

But the other question I would like to pose to you is about why you got yourself emotionally involved with an abusive, insensitive and withdrawn fellow.  Perhaps you need to be more skeptical about what you are attracted to.  We tend to attract what we feel worthy of.  Look more carefully in the future before you leap.

Learn to be the rider a bit more in the relationship rather than the horse.

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