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How To Deal With An Abuser W/O Getting Defensive

How To Deal With An Abuser Without Getting Defensive

by Dr. Irene

"All forms of fear produce fatigue." - Bertrand Russell

March 7, 2000; Updated May 7, 2000

Rachael was preparing a special dinner tonight for Larry. Forever trying to please him, she had spent an hour at the market selecting the very freshest produce. She found a wonderful bottle of cabernet! Rachael was looking forward to dinner - when she heard a loud thud inside...

Larry smacked his magazine on the floor and bellowed, "Look at this house! It's disgusting! What do you do all day Ra? Sleep? He pulled a small plastic child's toy from under the seat of His chair. It had been pinching him. "I work all day and I don't need this. You are home all day. You can't keep the house clean, you can't keep the kids quiet! You can't you do anything right! Do you do this to me on purpose?"

Rachael's mood broke. "Please don't do this now," she pleaded under her breath as Larry continued ranting. When he got in this mood, he accused her of all sorts of things she would never dream of doing. "How could he misunderstand me so?" she sadly thought as she began to defend herself - so he would understand

Larry and Rachael's

STOP! When you defend yourself, you put yourself in the position of justifying your actions to others. You seek understanding, agreement, empathy, recognition of what's really going on, etc. This is OK in an ordinary relationship. It's not OK in an abusive one:

bulletsince everything you say can and will be held against you
bulletsince defending yourself puts you in a one-down, where you are asking for approval, congruence, permission, etc.
bulletyour abuser is looking for a fight; not for understanding
bulletsince you are taking the "bait" and engaging in a "no-win"

Below find some non-defensive, disengaging responses to typical abusive comments. The abuser's objective is not to impart understanding. Your partner wants to provoke you. Your objective is to remain calm, disengage and avert provocation!  Engaging is a no-win!

 

"There's nothing to talk about."  OK. (Think: My partner is withholding; nothing I can do about it. So be it.)

"I've had it; I'm leaving!"  OK. (Think: Here is the door. I don't want you here if you don't want to be here.)

"Why should I tell you? You won't listen anyway." OK. (Think: Let him/her think whatever they want; they will anyway.) 

"You're wrong!" OK. "What do you mean OK?" I mean OK. (Think: Who cares who is right or wrong!)

"I never said that." OK (Think: No point engaging. We both know the truth.)

"You're too sensitive." Yes. Respect my sensitivity. (Think: It's OK to be sensitive!)

"You're jumping to conclusions." Perhaps. (Think: It's OK to jump to conclusions.)

"You're not wearing that!"  OK.

"I've had it with your bitching and complaining." OK. (Think: So leave.)

"You can't take a joke." Yes. Please respect my lack of humor. (Think: OK to have no humor!)

"You always have to complain." Yes. (You have the right to.)

"You have excuses for everything." Sorry you feel that way.

These are simplistic answers intended to get you started. If you are having trouble with a particular interaction, jot it down here. Also, jot down what your abuser might say if you were to disengage and need help with that part. 

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