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Have I gone mental?

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I go to couple's counseling this weekend with my husband. I'm a little scared. He says I've done so many horrible things to him in the past and he doesn't throw them in my face, so why can't I forgive him for what he did that night? I feel like he wants me to be patient with him but he has trouble doing so with me. I need space. I tried to convince myself it wasn't as a big a deal he choked me so badly I bruised for a week. It was this first and only time it's happened. Maybe he will stop yelling and cursing at us. I'm not perfect...I need to stay in chores more and take better care of myself. I feel sad because I wants things to be better, but I'm so fearful we aren't good together. He says he can't make me happy, it's makes me feel bad, but I don't make him happy either. Maybe if I could let this go I could see the good again, but it's hard. He says he knows he needs help with his anger and he's trying, I should be happy with that shouldn't I? I mean I am, but be able to forgive him? Move on?

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EEEK. Don't go to couple's counseling with him. 

There's nothing good that can come of it. It will only serve as a tool he will use to learn and turn things against you. You will end up more confused, he will end up feeling like he has another person "on his side." Abusers are VERY good at getting the counselor to take their sides!!!! This will backfire very badly against you. There's nothing good, I repeat nothing good that can come out of it for you. NOTHING. It will, however, make things worse for you. 

You can't forgive him because it was unforgivable and you have no requirement or mandate to forgive him, fer cryin' out loud. He's a manipulative abuser. Everything coming out of him is just manipulative spew. 

Sorry, I can't mince words on this - it's too important.

You need to stay in chores more? What are you, a slave? A maid? A what? Huh? You're a person.  And he's right that "he can't make you happy" - but you can never be happy being in a relationship with an abusive violent manipulator who is unsafe to be with on every level.

No, don't let it go. No - don't go to the couple's counseling. I beseech you - don't go. He'll use it to be even more manipulative - you won't win, you'll end up being worse off. This is not a good scenario. It will suck you back into worse abuse.

His problem isn't "anger." "Anger management" won't help him. No, you don't need to be "happy" that he's "trying."  A normal, non-abusive person doesn't need to "TRY" in order to not harm the people he supposedly cares about. 

His entire operating system is miswired. No amount of "trying' is going to fix it. It'd only put a fake nonsticky bandaid over it, that's all. 

I'm sorry, but with someone like this, there just is no safety at all. There's no fixing it, imo. This isn't some little spat. He choked you. This is very serious! 

Why are you overriding your own health and sanity to try to convince yourself it "wasn't as big a deal" that he choked you? It WAS that big a deal! It warrants instant removal of that person from your life. There's no "forgiveness" necessary - imo, it's not even sane to forgive someone for that.  So it's like you're trying to override your own healthy mindset and instincts and gaslight yourself into thinking something wasn't a big problem - when it really and truly was.

HONOR yourself and your instincts! It doesn't matter what he says. He's a manipulator. He's a controlling abuser. He's not god and he's not the ruler of your life.

YOU get to decide what to do, how to spend your time and where you go. YOU have no obligation to go to this couple's counseling. You get to decide! You know it's not a good idea - that's why you don't want to do it. It's YOUR life. Choose your own spirit.


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BTDT with couples counseling...............my XH and the male counselor hit it off and basically said we had no problems other than communication!!!!  I was NEVER able to just blurt out my anger and fear and how he violated me in couples sessions!!!!!!  You are not the "problem"..........he is...............and BTW...........you won't recognize him in therapy..........he'll be on his best behavior and somehow make it look like you're the one with the issues...............

As others have pleaded....................DON'T GO TO COUPLES COUNSELING, PLEASE!!!!


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There is a lot of wisdom in the previous 2 posts! I can't think of much to add except that I agree with them. The things Quaddie are saying are not just her opinion but advice you will hear and read from any source that deals with abusive relationships. You have a week before this session. I beg you to go to YouTube and listen to: Thrive After Abuse, We Need to Talk with Kris Godinez, Sam Vaknin, Inner Integration, or Richard Grannon. Also the book Why Does He Do That is online as a free download if you dig for it. You can read the same advice there. 

My experience with couples counseling was similar to Lizzie's except that I had 2 counselors. I think men (male counselors) identify with the man and see US as the problem maybe because of frustrations they have in their own marriage, therefore they project that onto us. The woman counselor, his covert "poor poor me" act won her over too and she started telling ME I needed to TRY HARDER to do what he wants me to do. I am a hamster in a wheel running at 100%. THERE IS NO MORE TO GIVE! Ahhhh!!!! When I went no contact he used her as a flying monkey to deliver a message to me. That is wrong on many levels and just goes to show you HOW MANIPULATIVE they are and how you will come out looking like the bad guy. Even if the counselor says 10 things bad about him and 1 bad thing about you, when you get home, he will latch onto that one bad thing about you and that will be the ONLY thing he remembers. The 10 bad things about him will be forgotten. 

The last couples counseling we tried (I wasn't on this board yet or wise to abuse, so I didn't know better) they interviewed us on the phone first and later rejected us and I realize now the reason is because they asked me if he was verbally abusive and I said "oh YES!" So even THEY knew better than to bring us in and try counseling. I was actually MAD at them for rejecting us...at the time. But now that I'm better educated about abuse and look back at it, I see it more clearly. They were wise and I was foolish.

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From the perspective of a counselor-in-training:

When a couple comes in for marriage counseling, whether the counselor feels the marriage is salvageable or not, essentially the couple is saying that they WANT to stay together and work things out. So, most counselors are going to try and do whatever they can to help the couple stay together. This means working with each spouse to try and help them communicate more effectively and trying to help them heal through past hurts. The goal of couples therapy is to help the partnership evolve and heal so the couple can stay together. 

HOWEVER, as a counselor, if I had a client tell me she was choked by her spouse, I could not go through with couples therapy. At all. In cases of physical violence, it is MUCH BETTER for the victim to separate and heal on her own rather than to subject her to couples therapy, where her spouse will most likely diminish the gravity of his actions to make them look justifiable. I think the same can be said for other kinds of abuse that don't involve physical violence. The main goal is to bring the victim of abuse to SAFETY, not to place her in a room with the perpetrator where the narrative of the story is rewritten in the context of the abuse being okay enough that the marriage is still worth saving. In my opinion, marriages are DONE when physical violence comes in. That's the ultimate dealbreaker. 

Even if there had been no physical violence involved, if a spouse is traumatized by emotional or psychological abuse, I would never retraumatize a victim by placing her in couples therapy with her spouse. Ever. Unless she had healed from that trauma and was 100% confident and desirous for her marriage to work out (even then, I'd have my qualms). So in ALL cases of abuse, the best route to take is for the victim to separate so that she can begin to heal from the abuse on her own, establish safety and wellbeing in her own space, and begin to recognize the mechanisms within the abusive relationship that are nearly IMPOSSIBLE to see while we are still be retriggered and retraumatized within an abusive situation.

Just my thoughts. 

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My experience kept me "in" for many extra years and resulted in hurting people that I can't even explain the magnitude.

My ex (I call him echthros) was so special. The counselor bought his extreme passivity and lack of ability to communicate or even engage with me on a human level as being "my fault." She totally took his side, even though she'd been my personal counselor prior to the couples'. She told me she could see he was "trying." 

I remember one thing, for example: At the time, we'd been house-hunting. I really loved this one house. I'd seen it by myself and then described it to him and then we both walked through it. When I'd told him about it, I'd described it like, "And it has all this really beautiful woodwork everywhere, like in your parents house, and..." (I don't remember what else.) 

He didn't like the house. I wanted to know why. (That's reasonable, right? At least to get a feel for what he likes, or doesn't like?) He refused to tell me why. Just kept saying, "I just don't like it." 

I relayed this to the counselor as an example of him not communicating with me. And she took his side. She told me it was my fault. The way I'd described the house "was like a salesperson trying to sell it to him." (That wasn't what I'd done - I'm a descriptive person, I use my hands when I talk, I'd just really loved it.) I'd described it too strongly. I was too enthusiastic about it. It was somehow my fault he couldn't tell me what he didn't like about it. Because I hadn't just "described" it, I'd been more like a salesperson, trying to talk him into it. When I'd only really loved it and described what I'd liked - and had actually WANTED to know why he didn't like it, but he just refused to tell me or discuss it at all.

Now, TO THIS DAY, I still remember and wonder and think about that. I watch all sorts of House Hunters shows (I still really like real estate) and STILL notice when other people seem to be OKAY with their partners "liking" a particular house, or talking about the things they like, and that they seem to be able to discuss what they like, or don't like, and it's normal.

In fact, I did a TON of house-hunting with my current bf over the years. Even well before I bought a house, we went looking at models for fun for years and years. And neither of us had any qualms about saying what we did or didn't like about any particular house.

And in fact, the house I ended up buying - I hadn't liked. And my bf had asked me why I didn't like it. And I tried to pinpoint it -and told him what I thought it was. And he had ideas that would make some of what I didn't like, better. Not to "sell" me on it but so that I could weigh it as an option better. And I ended up putting an offer in - I'd offered on five total and had been unsuccessful, beaten out by cash investors. But this was the one I got - and as it happened, it had an extra bedroom which we really needed. Anyhoo. I wouldn't have been able to get one at all, as it turned out, if it hadn't been this one. 

I wandered away a sec, but the point is the contrast between the two.

But that's normal, right? It's normal to be enthusiastic about something you really like. And it's normal to want to know the reasons why your partner doesn't like something. Not just to "overcome objections" (I'm not a salesperson but I've worked in sales organizations and I know the parlance) but because if they're your partner you want to know what they like and don't like, and why. Right? It was just wanting to know. So that I'd know what he didn't like, and why. 

To THIS DAY I still have to justify myself in my own head as "normal" because I still hear her criticizing and blaming ME for echthros' lack of communication. And that was, like, 25 years ago. 

Because she was an "authority figure" and their word carries more weight to really f*ck with the inside of your head. 

I know I've been roundabout here... I'm not always good at being concise or whatever.  But the point is...  that the slightest thing that happens in couples' counseling can SERIOUSLY throw you for a very bad loop. And keep you "trying" when it's completely not-healthy and not even sane to do so.

Couples' counseling bases its premise on "shared responsibility" for the issues. In abuse, there is NOT shared responsibility. Not even if you had reactive abuse. Nope. It doesn't matter.

Also, it bases its premise on "communication" - and abuse is not a communication issue. And it cannot be fixed or helped by communication. Nope. 

YOU would be the only one playing "by the rules" - and he would still be manipulating and abusing...even when it seemed he wasn't.

We did the communication classes. I was the only one who did it "right." It doesn't work when only one person does it. Then you end up feeling even more helpless and confused. Here you're trying to do things "right" and it's not working. Plus, now you know how you're "supposed to" do it, so you feel even worse if you stray off the "correct" communications path.

We did the couples counseling. And do you believe - he didn't even show up half the time. Without notice. And when he did show up, it'd be 10 or 20 minutes into the session. And the counselor STILL took "his side" on everything "against" me. Obviously I was the more articulate and feeling person, so somehow all the responsibility for the relationship ended up on my shoulders.

In fact, I'd tried to convince her that how he was in the counseling sessions was completely different from how he was at home. So we did an exercise where we sat down and had a "discussion" at home, and I recorded it for her (he knew I was recording), and she listened to it. And she still said, "It sounds to me like he's really trying."

Oh no, no no no no no.

Don't do it...    PLEASE don't do it. It cannot possibly help.  There is no good that can come from it.

You may feel like, "I have to do this so that I can feel like I tried everything."  But couples' counseling in an abusive relationship isn't even a relevant thing to try. It's like saying, "I have a cold and I won't feel better until I try everything" and then buying 200 lottery tickets to try to cure your cold. It's not even relevant to the situation. It "feels like" it's relevant, because in a normal, non-abusive relationship, couples counseling can help. But abuse is another animal entirely.

You wouldn't be able to change someone's eye color with couple's counseling. You wouldn't be able to improve a bunion on their foot, or their post-nasal drip. You wouldn't be able to "cure" them of being lactose intolerant. 

It's the same with abuse and couple's counseling. Abuse is something fixed within who and what they are. It's the way their brains work. It's their mental operating system. It's not a "behavior" that they can "realize and understand and change."   It's just who and what they are.

And because abuse is who and what they are - they will only use the counseling as another way to control and manipulate. 

They'll learn the jargon of psychology and abuse - and twist it to use against you.

They'll learn how to look more earnestly like they're trying.

They may even seem very convincing! They're very good at seeming like they are sorry and they don't want to hurt you. They are master manipulators and actors. Masterful.

Often, they'll take this strategy:

They'll ask you to tell them what to do, in order to prove they're changing.

(As if they just don't know how to treat you humanely - so if you tell them, then they'll be able to do it!)

So then, the responsibility for their abuse becomes yours.

If you haven't told him not to do something, he'll: 1. claim innocence - he didn't know that was wrong, and 2. blame you - it's your fault because you didn't tell him.

He may ask you for a LIST of behaviors to do, and/or not-do. To "prove" he's really trying. 

The list is a trap!!! 

The list will be something he will use like a grocery-store checklist to do, or not-do, like a robot. He won't truly comprehend the "whys" behind the items on your list. But he'll do it so that, on the surface, it looks like he's really changing.

If something isn't on the list - again, he will blame-shift responsibility. He didn't know! It wasn't on the list! It's your fault!

I compare the abusive mindset to a water balloon. If you squeeze the water out of one part of the balloon, it just bulges out in another. So he will still be abusive - just more covertly, and in different ways or areas. It may be so subtle that you won't be able to put your finger on it - but it'll still be there.

And you will never feel quite safe or comfortable. Because of course  he is still abusive, just temporarily trying to act as-if he isn't. To complete a checklist (your list!) to "prove" he's changed and not abusive anymore. (When he still is.) He'll do this - not necessarily consciously, and not necessarily obviously - but he will do this. Because that's how they operate.

Then - eventually, when you are still not "happy" because he is still covertly abusive - he has just shifted tactics. You can sense his true lack of empathy. You can sense he's not suddenly a different person....

He will still keep pushing, why can't you forgive him? Why can't you just "get past" it? It's still your fault.

And after all, he asked you for your LIST. And he's been doing the things on the LIST. How much more can a person do to "prove" to you that he's changed? It's your fault that you just won't accept it! 

He's now completely twisted the entire situation and used it against you. It had all seemed so caring from him! He'd really seem to want to try. It seemed so authentic. And you end up even more confused and in brain-fog.

But it never was authentic. He couldn't change. Not truly, deeply. He's not capable. He's abusive. This is what abusers do. They get "trickier." More covert. Different. But they cannot lose their abusive core, because it's part and parcel of who they are. It's not just a habit or a behavior. It's the way their minds work.


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Oh also, another analogy I use is....    I think we get caught up trying to teach the abusive partner about what they're doing and why it's not okay.  We think, "If only I could explain it better. Maybe counseling will be able to show him the error of his ways." and "If only he could see... how what he's doing is so wrong." 

If only he could see...

Like there's some magical light-bulb that could turn on over his head, and he'd have that "Ah-hah!" moment of understanding and suddenly see and understand and then everything would change...

But that never can happen. It's not even possible.

Because - of course, not only does a "normal" person understand already why you can't treat people that way, and doesn't need to be "taught"...

But most importantly...  there is no "light bulb" in there.

They are completely incapable of having that A-Ha moment of enlightenment. They can't understand.  To them - the way their brains work - this is just how people are. It's normal. They don't have the capacity to truly feel and understand what's going on.

The light bulb can't turn on - because they have no light bulb. It's just not there.

So no matter what you do, or how you explain, or how much counseling, or what interventions or examples or anything you try... it still will not make him change.


And anything that appears like change - is just a layer of "pretend" behavior - whether conscious or subconscious. Whether purposeful, or just automatic because that's how his mind operates. 


To get them to really change, would require an entire "rewiring" of the way they think and feel and navigate within the world. Their entire operating system. First they'd have to understand that their brain is miswired - which they cannot. Then they'd have to want to do the hard work of pulling all those wires and rewiring the entire build. And they'd have to want to do that - which would take years and years - on their own.  For their own self. Not "to keep you." Without you in their life.  Because it would be inhumane and unhealthy to place any part of that within your life or realm.

It's not like "abuse" is just a certain set of behaviors that can be lifted out and leave the rest of the person intact. It's part of who they are - it's completely integrated within them. So even if they did (although I don't think it ever happens) do the hard work on their own of years and years of rewiring their entire psyches...   what comes out on the other side of that, may not even be anything like the person who started. It's not like you'd get to "keep the good parts" and it'd only lose the "bad" parts. Their person-ness might change entirely. Because everything about who and what they are, is integrated and intermixed within the abusive mindset.

So couple's counseling can't help. It's not even a bandaid. And it could really, really harm you. In fact, it's most probable that it would.

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white butterfly is right. I had a gun held to my head. I just wanted to have a loving family. I was even willing to look at my part of why he would act such a horrific way. Maybe I was truly bad. It's possible my mothers five marriages made me miss something important. I found out all I did was cover over his wrongs with love. So when I found him writing his first fiance. I then knew truths I could not face. I was married to the world biggest emotional lier. He covered over all his wrongs. It took me a long time after separation and therapy to finally trust my own reality. My heart was broken and I had a very hard time. I am very glad I split now. I see it for what it was. His male family members have a history of being disrespectful to the women. Some of the men cheated and bought big showy gifts on holidays and all the other would say "OOO he must love you." He saw this as a child so somehow the behavior imprinted on him. His father even used their retirement to buy a failing business. His mother worked under him with grumpy values. Because I saw my self of value and did not want this type of love. The family did treat me different. It was like an invisible radar. The did not like my strength it made them look funky. So they just did not accept me. My husband refused to process his childhood. He expected me to have the gentleness he admired. A woman that did not have self-confidence. This was the very reason he was attracted to me? Yet it was the very thing he hated. I had to separate because his behavior was off and wanted me to wash over his wrongs. His lack of honesty to our peers and his ability to make me wear his faults did my head in. 

I did a year of therapy and hypnosis. I can say I was finally strong enough to stand in the same room with my abuser. Realized he was full of Sh*t. He could put his indifferences in the room and I still knew I did not have to emotionally or mentally connect to his behavior. I could represent my true self and it had nothing to do with how he viewed me or what he thought of me. I did this last month when watching my sons graduation from the military placed me in a position where I had two days with my now adult son. If I was going to see him we would have to share my adult son. I can tell you they tried to control everything but his (first finance now wife) ended up in my place with my planing. I held my place and let him know I loved my son and he had nothing to do with my ability to love and be a loving person. I was finally the original person he met and would not love. 

This is the thing with his new wife she is doing what I emotional refused to do. Emotionally lie to make him a better person. She was a preacher broadcasting the programming he required his having to confirm him syndrome. Some people loved it and some were very turned off. My EX has even taken on a new persona. He was born and raised in CA but now four years in Southern states now makes him allowed to act like he was raised there. It was so ridiculous. To him, it was how people viewed him that made him good. That is why when I raised concern about the horrible behavior I was experiencing. I was EVIL and WRONG and I was BAD. He did not want a wife he wanted a dismissive weak-willed person. He was never, going to love and validate me? 

Sometimes the reason our marriages are failing can be a much bigger thing and we can only see a tidbit of the problem. How can you ever fix what you can't see? This is where I learned that it was okay for me to be human. I can be responsible for not knowing myself enough to not seeing all of the things I needed to be happy. I allowed myself to embrace my humanity and learn deeper lessons. 

Couple counseling will not fix a man not willing to be emotionally honest. They will always put the best foot forward. Some men will take their secrets to their grave. They will even twist the whole caboodle to make it all your fault. 

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8 hours ago, MorningGlory said:

 she is doing what I emotional refused to do. Emotionally lie to make him a better person. She was a preacher broadcasting the programming he required 

Ooo. This is good stuff. I felt the same way but never knew how to put it into words. I think having me and a "family" helped his self image. Losing me meant losing that character he had carefully crafted. So then he had to assassinate my character (with lies of course) so that he could try to salvage his.

And narcissists have no "self" and conform to the people they love. So it's no surprise he is now a southener. It's just more proof he is abusive. 

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And narcissists have no "self" and conform to the people they love. So it's no surprise he is now a southener. It's just more proof he is abusive. 

Yes, he was never himself. You would think that no matter what area you move your core stays the same you may learn some humor and bits to associate. You would not take on a whole new persona. Your stance would not change greatly. You still came from somewhere you have a history with your friends. You grow by adding new not creating a history by force. You would still be your self in the new history and people would know you bad and good. Not just the best version of your self you portrayed. It the fake it to you make it, mentality with your wife and kids. They must pay if you do not feed into the fake it part. They see no harm they do by denying all the people around them for their own gain. If someone does not feed into the place they see themselves they must pay with pain till they give up and go along with the delusion. 

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I ended up skipping the appointment for couples counseling so I could pamper myself and do some self love. I felt a little bad doing that since my husband finally cut off his stupid Mohawk for me, but I jus couldn't shake the feeling of fear of reliving that night. I'm ashamed of it, my behavior, his. I think I'm afraid he'll never admit to anyone, even himself, that he knows he wasn't in danger that night. I have been punished for that night again and again. First jail, probation, then jail again when I accidentally missed the trial (was at work), and now I'm off probation because the prosecutor felt bad for me, and I can't get a promotion. I have to pass a background check. This doesn't fall off my record for a year. It makes me feel like I'm terrible. Why can't he admit what he did was wrong and his lies to the police landed me in jail?


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Good for you for not going! That's HUGELY self-protective. The guilt and shame comes from the conditioning of abuse. It doesn't mean you actually did anything wrong - it means you've been programmed to feel guilt and shame for doing anything that is good for you.

Sometimes a charge won't prohibit something in a job, although I can certainly understand why you wouldn't want to mention it. You can maybe check secretly to see if a misdemeanor would disqualify you or not. Otherwise, I can see why you might want to wait.

He can't admit what he did was wrong because he is abusive.  He doesn't care that his lies landed you in jail because he is abusive. Abuse is #1 about control and manipulation - not necessarily about violence. His abusive mindset won't allow him to admit the truth or even be authentic about who he is or how he sees the world. It's "not the truth" in his mind, anyway. HIS truth is "whatever will serve his purposes best."

They're not "normal," these abusers. Their brains work very differently from "normal" people's. Your fear - that he'll never admit it to anyone or even himself - is reality. That's something that, the sooner you can understand, the sooner you'll be on a healthier path. It's not like if he'd only admit it, he'd be better. His whole mind works on a different operating system. He sees the world very differently.

Also, he may very well know that he wasn't in danger that night. He probably does know. It's not like he just won't admit it to himself. He is using that stance as a manipulative tool to control you.  He may tell himself a lie so convincingly that he believes it, but deep, deep down, he really knows he's lying and just saying whatever he needs to absolve himself of responsibility. It's not like he'd magically care if he'd admit it. Nothing would change. He knows he lied - he just doesn't care. He doesn't care that he lied. He doesn't care that what he did was extraordinarily damaging to you.

We've had several members whose husbands have done this to them. In my firm opinion, once an abuser has done something this egregiously bad - and he's done several of these deal-breakers in your case - it's game over. It can't recover. Even if he magically changed into an entirely different human being with an entirely different, completely rewired brain - would you ever be able to trust him again?

It's among the most basic of assumptions we make in life that our partner - the person who is supposed to care most about us  - will not hurt us, will not choke us, will not lie and put us in jail and damage our careers. These are basic, basic, BASIC BASIC BASIC rights you have in a relationship, to be able to trust that your partner - the person who cares most about you - would not do these things.

But abuse sort of breaks us down, especially if we've never really felt or known what a healthy, respectful relationship looks like. It gets us accustomed to taking little bits of crumbs of "good" and using them to color our relationship as "when it's good, it's good" and calling that "but we love them." But that's not love. Someone who LOVES you, would never, ever EVER in a million years do these things to you!!! Never!!!

So even if you love him,  he is still a person who would purposely and unnecessarily cause you damage - physically, to your career, to your life. That is not a person who truly cares about you.  Who you are. How you are. What you want from life. Who you are as a person. No, he is a person who would damage you, to suit his own purpose.

I believe that once an abusive partner has shown they are willing to go this far, you are not safe at all in the relationship. It might not be a physical threat, but the power of what they can do to you holds sway over you (and they know it - and they use it) - and, at the drop of a hat, your life can change and be pulled out from under you, if they choose to do so.

If you haven't read "Why Does He Do That?" by Lundy Bancroft yet, you'll find it very eye-opening. But don't share anything you learn about abuse with your partner. He'd only use it against you, twist it and turn it and find ways to use it against you. That's what they do, time and time again. So when you read, do so secretly. Sharing the information will not help the relationship or change him. It would only harm you. Protect yourself at all times. 


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