Red Flag

If a man intentionally harms a woman that he has claimed to love for no other reason than to punish her, hurt her, or make her suffer for something that he did to compromise their relationship or being together, and he is the father of a daughter and he has granddaughters, then you must know that something has probably gone drastically wrong in his life.

© 2020 annalise fonza, Ph.D.

Emotional Abuse: Some Characteristics

What is emotional abuse? Over the years, I have witnessed abuse first-hand, and I have listened carefully to the accounts of others who have been victimized by abusive partners or family members. Here is a working list of some the characteristics that I have experienced or heard about in conversation:

Is emotionally withdrawn, as in makes the frequent use of “the silent treatment” to willfully negate and hurt your feelings; does not ask about your day or your thoughts at all; uses unnecessary scowling and pouting to scare or shame you; displays grandiose or exaggerated anger over minor subjects, conversations, or disagreements; blows things constantly out of proportion; intentionally fails to be present when help or concern is needed; questions your every move, but freaks out if you question them about dang near anything; has an unreasonable and perhaps hateful disposition towards your feelings or thoughts; distorts or negates reality; falsely blames you for the awful things they do to you; consistently hides behind material possessions and uses those things to give them a sense of self-worth; uses material possessions to gain attention, praise, or companionship; intentionally ignores your calls to the extent that it produces anxiety and worry (they use the phone as a weapon); gloats easily; is overly selfish, narcissistic, or has to always be right or the center of attention; dominates conversations (especially with uninformed opinions or facts); shows excessive criticism or rages when you’ve made a genuine, unintentional mistake; refuses to grow up emotionally; expects life to be mostly fun and games, e.g., does not handle normal stress or life’s challenges very well; maintains rigid allegiance to social norms or personal beliefs that reinforce inequality or power imbalances; demands unrealistic expectations of you or your role without previous agreement or arrangement (maybe “in return” for something that they allegedly “gave” you without requesting repayment); has the expectation that you will do for them what they could or should be able to do for themselves; refuses to forgive you when they expect forgiveness or understanding from you always; contacts you by text when they know they have done something to hurt you, but primarily to see if they still have access to you; creates an environment for physical or sexual encounters, but rarely makes the time or space for the development of emotional intelligence or intimacy; dismisses or discourages your innermost thoughts and feelings (and they may actually mock the way you feel); habitually and blatantly denies reality; maliciously or intentionally refuses to be there for you when you are genuinely in need (not just when it is convenient); hurls hateful and hurtful putdowns on you for no apparent reason; bashes your hopes and dreams; accuses you of doing the abusive and awful things that they do; breaks promises and expectations regularly, and as a means to control or punish you; tells many and unnecessary lies; throws temper tantrums when things don’t go their way (i.e., walking out on you or literally throwing you out); makes it seem like you are not worthy of their love, when really it is the other way around; they yell, a lot; they often wake up or come home from work noticeably pissed off making you feel as if whatever is wrong is your fault; blames you for everything that is going wrong; repeatedly makes you fearful or walk on eggshells just to be around them. In conclusion, people who are emotionally abusive are unfortunately very terrifying to be with.

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Shoulda Been Gone: When Is Enough Enough?

Certainly, there are times when I have asked myself: why did I stay in that place, that job or that relationship as long as I did? Weren’t there signs or events that happened that should have made it easy for me to move on or move out? I suppose that out of a genuine need to feel that I did all that I could do in a certain place or in a relationship that I have struggled with timing an exit or an ending. Like many, I have struggled with drawing a line in the sand and letting it be. Leaving that line there or saying enough is enough in a place (such as a city) or even in an employment situation is especially difficult when others don’t want you to go or when they expect you to stay (perhaps stuck and unhappy in a city, a job or a relationship like ~ ahem ~ they are). Detaching, particularly where human relationships are concerned, is not always an easy or pleasant thing to do.

I don’t think my struggle with detachment is all that unusual. Compassionate, healthy, loving human beings want to make good decisions, and they worry about others’ feelings, not just their own. On the other hand, selfish, unhealthy, or worse yet, narcissistic, dishonest and delusional human beings could care less about how their decisions affect others; they want and justify what they want no matter what and no matter who suffers in the process, and they frequently inflict a lot of emotional pain and confusion upon themselves and others. How I appreciate displays of compassion and mindfulness. When it is a personal decision (and not the result of emotional or physical intimidation or violence), I respect that sometimes we as human beings keep trying or hoping for better situations or better behavior in people (all the while as we too are doing our best to improve or address our behaviors). Committing one’s self to gaining the best possible outcome is a very respectful, humane effort.

Nevertheless, back to my question: exactly when does one pack it all up and move on down the road? When is it time to let go of a place, a job, a person or even an idea (like a god or a religion) that is no longer fulfilling or that has run its course? There are times when people, places or things are only temporary; when they no longer provide us with a sense of meaning or safety. When that happens, it is time for me to let go, and I have learned that saying “enough is enough” is, at the end of the day, my decision. On the one hand, in making decisions of whether to stay or go, I often talk it out with others ahead of time, but it is not up to the situation or the person or the idea who is no longer enough for me to determine whether I should stay. A conscious movement away from a place, person or idea (especially one that is causing me unhappiness, stress, confusion or misery) is never easy, and to be sure, the act of severing ties with anyone or any thing can be accompanied by unbelievable grief, anxiety and loneliness. But, moving on, no matter what others might say or do to keep you from leaving, or pressuring you in to not doing what you want because they are afraid to end or bring closure to undesirable or outdated relationships with people, places or ideas for themselves (which is something I have personally experienced when exes and/or children are in the picture…and when it comes to gods or religion), is a very powerful act of self-love and self-affirmation. In a world that is constantly abandoning us and encouraging us to abandon ourselves and our agency and to conform to the status quo, it is important that we learn how to 1) take ultimate control of our own lives and choices, and 2) exhibit that power when necessary.

When should you be gone from people, jobs, places or ideas that no longer work for you? Be gone when you have had enough, and only you can be the one to say when that is. The others, the ones who are left behind and not happy with you for moving on and taking charge of your own life and destiny will just have to get over it. Or not.

© 2015 annalise fonza, Ph.D.