When Spouses/Romantic Partners Are Mean

Emotional abuse is a fancy, clincial term for simply being mean. According to healthcentral.com [1/8/13], there are numerous indications you might be in an emotionally abusive relationship.

Examples include: “Emotionally abusive spouses want you all to themselves. They do not understand that you have a life outside of the relationship — one that includes family and friends.”

Another: Shifting responsibility, as in calling you deliberately hurtful names and then accusing you of being “too sensitive.”

Another example: “If you do go somewhere or do something without your partner, or even if he or she goes along but others are also there, an emotional abuser will punish you later.”

Another: “An emotional abuser goes through life feeling entitled to be treated like royalty, and wants you to be a willing servant.”

All of these are valid examples of emotional or psychological abuse. The common denominator in them all? A sense of entitlement — false entitlement, that is.

The basic error in thinking of the emotional abuser is that he or she is entitled to aspects of your life and self — perhaps your very life itself — to which he or she, by any rational definition, is not entitled.

Your life either belongs to you, or it doesn’t. You’re either sovereign over your own existence, or you’re not.

This is a principle with social and political implications, but it also has dramatic implications for daily life, including the daily life of a marital or personal relationship.

The emotional abuser is ultimately weak. Why? Because he’s counting on a false or irrational viewpoint in order to get his way with you. The abuser’s ability to get away with disturbing or hurting you (emotionally) is only as strong as your willingness to evade the rational and true idea that you’re sovereign over your own life.

So long as you pretend that the emotional abuser’s false beliefs are true, you maintain and even strengthen the pseudo-strength of the person who claims to love you.

So long as you refuse to challenge the idea that you’re not entitled to do things without the person’s permission, that he or she is actually entitled to your mind, your life, and your decisions about how to spend your own time, then you’re fostering the very thing that causes you hurt or pain.

Obviously, there are things to which people can rationally feel entitled to. If you’re in a monogamous relationship or marriage by mutual consent, each partner willingly agrees not to go outside the sexual relationship with other people. It’s not giving up sovereignty over your life to keep an agreement you freely choose to make, and to honor terms you’re expecting the other party to honor as well.

Most problems in relationships — even ones that don’t involve emotional abuse — arise from false beliefs that one is entitled to something that one is not entitled to.

When you forget that your partner is an autonomous individual, and when you stop loving the person for the individuality that he or she possesses, and start wanting him or her to kind of be an extension of yourself … this is when love turns sour.

When you start to want to possess the person rather than simply to love your partner, that’s the beginning of the end of rational love, and in extreme cases it turns into emotional abuse.

People who feel false entitlement are ultimately driven by anxiety. The insecure (though not abusive) partner is ultimately driven by anxiety  that you’ll abandon him or her. As a result, irrational anxiety develops when you do anything which suggests having an autonomous self. The non-abuser won’t be deliberately hurtful, but will express hurt and worry that “you’re going to leave me,” perhaps hoping to control your behavior that way.

The emotional abuser is driven by the same anxiety. The abuser, however, takes it all the way, and dares you — in a way — to defy the idea that you’re not sovereign over your own life. We hear the psychiatric labels “narcissistic personality” or “borderline personality,” and these terms refer, in large part, to the false sense of entitlement such people feel.

Irrational anxiety destroys everything it touches. The only cure for the emotional abuser is to challenge and correct these false assumptions of entitlement. It’s up to those around him to not buy into that false thinking. When you do, you participate in your own destruction.

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