More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Blatantly Bad Relationships
4 August 2003
by Hara Estroff Marano, Psychology Today

Summary: With a fragile sense of self, batterers sense slights that no healthy person notices. When he assaults you, it's time to leave.

Blatantly Bad
Why did my future husband dump me?after I catered to his every wish? But when he put his hand on me and became violent and I called the police, that's when he said it was over? Why doesn't he take responsibility for this bad act and say he's sorry and continue our relationship?

Good questions, but there's a better one you must ask yourself: Why are you so eager to continue a relationship with a guy who's putting up flashing neon signs that he's terrible mate material?

He can't apologize for his act because he doesn't really think it's bad. He thinks you did something much worse?betrayed him, by calling the cops. Of course, you acted to protect yourself, a smart move. He's supposed to love you, not assault you. Somehow, he's got some warped notions about relationships. One is that it's OK to control you by any means possible, including violence whenever his really hot buttons get pushed. Every couple faces difficult issues; you resolve them by talking them out, not duking it out.

By catering to his every wish you have not disabused him of the notion that he is entitled to demand whatever he wants from you...or else. There's nothing at all wrong with catering to a partner's whims?provided the partner caters to your needs and wishes, too. Relationships work only when they are two-way streets. You have made yours a one-way street and not put up any stop signs.

Your partner's actions suggest that, at the very least, you will be the one blamed for problems that arise in the future. You have legitimate needs for love, communication, respect and?above all?safety in a relationship. Search for a new partner who can meet those very basic needs.

Safety First
I am a 21-year-old unmarried woman with a three-year-old son who is the love of my life. I have been with his father, my "boyfriend," for five years. I wish I could say he is the love of my life as well. After our son was born, things started to go down hill. My boyfriend never shows affection, won't touch me, is always calling me names, which he never used to do. At times, can be physically abusive. He teaches our son swear words, laughs when he hits me, and tells our son its OK. I am so scared to leave this man. I tell my family, that once I get a decent job and am financially capable, I will leave him. I have done that before, but I have always gone back and nothing has ever changed. I don't know what to do, or where to go for help. Even my family sees what is going on and asks me why I don't leave. The thing is, I do see. But I feel so hopeless. And unwanted. I have many things in my life that I feel I have yet to accomplish but feel as though I am being held back or stuck in a distressing situation possibly forever. Worst of all, I fear for my son.

You are right to fear for your son. Having to witness the abuse of his mother will likely have longer-lasting effects on him than on you. It directly transmits and perpetuates violence into the next generation.

Get over the idea that abuse means you are unwanted. Domestic violence is not about lack of love; you are living with a bully who like all abusers has a very fragile sense of self and some really warped and dangerous ideas about family life. Aggression is his attempt to eliminate self-doubt, and batterers resort to it whenever their sense of self feels threatened. Batterers' sense of self is so fragile they are hyperattuned to slights that no one else notices.

Focus first on safety. Your son will not be safe until you are safe and able to live without fear of abuse. Safety can't wait until you are financially independent. If you can leave with your son and stay with your family for a while, then do so. Make it clear to your boyfriend exactly what behaviors you want him to stop before you will allow him to see you or your son again. Find out what resources and help are available to you locally. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE); it's toll free anywhere in the U.S. and accessible 24 hours a day. Or visit their website (National Domestic Violence Hotline).

I am an attractive 42 year old, a single parent married twice before. All broke up because of my uncontrollable jealousy. My problem at the moment is I have a boyfriend that I am not happy with and do not like and offers me nothing. He hits me when he drinks but recently promised not to as I told him that I have had enough. He says that he has never hit a woman before. My first husband was aggressive too and my last boyfriend. My best friend says I want to be a savior and look for men like this. Could it be me? Could I bring out this feelings in a man? I keep going back. No doubt there could be other kind, loving men around that want a relationship with me. Why do I keep going back? Am I a sucker for pain?

The short answers are no, no, yes, I don't know, probably not.

No one "makes" one person ball up his fingers into a fist and strike another. So no, it isn't you who is "making" these men strike out. But you do choose men with a certain reactivity. Yes, there are other loving men around, but you won't find them appealing until you recognize that you hold beliefs about yourself that make reactive men more attractive to you. It's not about being a savior but about why you feel jealous?you likely have a very fragile sense of self. That makes you overly dependent on your partner's attention as a sign of your basic value. Perhaps you have never learned how to assert your own needs or do not believe you are entitled to, or both. So you put up few barriers to the bad behavior of others. Why, for example, are you even writing about a relationship with a man you do not like and who offers you nothing? Just tell him it's over. Don't tell him in an argument or when he's drunk. And do assure your own safety first by consulting the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.


Is this from a magazine or something? Are these actual questions people sent in? Just wondering. I'm always interested to read what people send in about things like this b/c sometimes it gives us a bit more insight as to WHY they stay and put themselves and children in harm's way. I amazes me how women (and men) can even consider staying in an abusive relationship such as this. I suppose when no children are involved, maybe one can infer the cause to be themselves (though I'm not sure how), but when a child becomes involved, and one KNOWS the situation is dangerous or escalating, I just am completely dumbfounded as to how or why these people stay! Even after reading and studying the psychological issues involved and family dynamics in certain situations, it still just amazes me. I suppose, some people may be "hard-wired" to be more persistent or to put up with much more. Maybe they are more patient, or less demanding. Years ago, my husband and I got into a HUGE argument (and I have NO clue what it was about now...), and things seemed to get more physical than I was comfortable with, though he didn't hit me. The children were frightened, I was... it was horrible, to say the least. I told him right after that incident, that if it EVER happened again, or I ever felt that the kids (or I ) were unsafe, I would leave him in a skinny minute. Money or no money. Car or no car. Color me gone. I believe we, as humans, take enough abuse from one another, day to day, minute to minute... in our lives, our workplaces, our gossiping and back-stabbing. We certainly don't need (or deserve) to be abused in our own homes, where all the above should be far behind us! I grew up in an abusive family. It took a lot of work on my part to become the me I am today, and I'm still working at it. We have to all be ready to take care of ourselves, and our families (children), because, really-- at the end of the day, what else do we have??

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
poohbear said:
Is this from a magazine or something?

Sorry. I forgot to add that, but I've edited the post to make it clear now: It's from Psychology Today magazine.

Are these actual questions people sent in?

I believe so.
It amazes me how women (and men) can even consider staying in an abusive relationship such as this. I suppose when no children are involved, maybe one can infer the cause to be themselves (though I'm not sure how), but when a child becomes involved, and one KNOWS the situation is dangerous or escalating, I just am completely dumbfounded as to how or why these people stay!

Abusive people are often very skilled at keeping their partners off balance with just enough sweeyness, niceness, and affection mixed with the rage and abuse to confuse the victim into believing that s/he is to blame. It's a confusing dance to be involved in.

Regarding your point about children, interestingly if or when violence is directed toward the child is often the point at which the abused individual does take action and leave, if that is perceived to be an option. It's almost as if the victim of abuse can accept it directed toward herself/himself but not toward a child.
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