Mental Health Blogs

How Did You Brainwash Me?

When people ask, “Why do women stay in abusive relationships?” the answers are often too simple. There could be financial reasons, but if the abusive spouse died, would the victim wonder if they could support themselves to the point of doing nothing to advance their employability? (No.) There are the children to consider, but if the abusive spouse died, would the victim insist on finding a replacement right away? (No.)

Although finances and children are reasons victims cite for staying, the true reason they stay is a deeply implanted fear that they cannot make it in the world alone. My abuser implanted this fear so deeply in my mind that instead of recognizing the abuse in my relationship, I instead prayed that he would die.

I consciously acknowledged the fact that he made my life hell, but the thought that I could divorce him remained outside my realm of consciousness. Abuse causes sickness of the mind and body, and brainwashing sets in motion both sicknesses.

What is Brainwashing?

Merriam-Webster’s concise encyclopedia states that brainwashing is a

“Systematic effort to destroy an individual’s former loyalties and beliefs and to substitute loyalty to a new ideology or power… The techniques of brainwashing usually involve isolation from former associates and sources of information; an exacting regimen calling for absolute obedience and humility; strong social pressures and rewards for cooperation; physical and psychological punishments for noncooperation, including social ostracism and criticism, deprivation of food, sleep, and social contacts, bondage, and torture; and constant reinforcement….”

I could have asked, “What is Domestic Abuse” and posted the same definition.

Brainwashing Works Best On A Special Type of Victim

Sandra L. Brown, M.A. says in her book “Women Who Love Psychopaths” that the best victims for brainwashing are women who are:

  • perfectionists, and/or
  • hold themselves to high standards, and/or
  • persistent, and/or
  • resourceful, and/or
  • goal-directed, and/or
  • self-sacrificing, and/or
  • previous victims of abuse or neglect, and/or
  • experience dependence, vulnerability, or incompetency issues.

If you are in an abusive relationship and do not recognize yourself in the first five or six bullet points, think back to the beginning of your relationship. Do you recognize aspects of who you were?

How Abusers Use Brainwashing Techniques Naturally

According to Ms. Brown’s book, abusers do not “feel” the way we normally think of what it means to feel. Due to childhood abuse or perhaps mental disorder, many if not most abusers detach from their feelings at an early age. Instead of feeling, they observe how other people behave, and then mimic those behaviors appropriately.

In this way, abusers become expert behaviorists without taking a step inside a class room. They know what works and what doesn’t work to get you to do what they want, and because they’ve detached from their feelings, abusers do not feel guilt for their manipulative actions.

brainwashing abuseThis is probably why abusers cannot take responsibility for what they’ve done to you or admit they abuse you (with lasting regret). They do not comprehend that any wrong took place and may think that your fear and tears are merely a “show” designed to manipulate them, and baby, they ain’t fallin’ for it.

In short, abuser’s use brainwashing techniques naturally because “the set-up” is all they know.

Lifton’s Brainwashing Technique

Robert J. Lifton was an early psychologist who studied mind-control and brainwashing. He broke the brainwashing technique down into the following categories. I’m going to change the descriptions to align with domestic abuse. (See the original list at Changing Minds.)

Assault on identity

The abuser attacks the victim’s self-identity by making statements that define the victim, eventually causing the victim to break down and doubt their own perceptions of “who they are.” ( i.e. “You’re not good with money” “You are a slut!”)


Arguments in which the abuser expresses hurt or discontent leads the victim to feel guilty (these complaints may be completely fabricated or loosely based on fact). Eventually, these arguments cause the victim to break down and feel guilt and shame for almost everything they do and come to feel they deserve punishment.


“When the person is forced to denounce friends and family, it both destroys their sense of identity and reinforces feelings of guilt. This helps to separates them from their past, building the ground for a new personality to be built” (quoted straight from Changing Minds because I couldn’t say it any better – a.k.a. isolation)

Breaking point

The breaking point is best defined by it’s symptoms: Depression, crying jags, a nervous breakdown or panic attacks, vague overwhelming fear or explicit fears of dying or loved ones dying. Unconsciously, victims begin losing their sense of “who they are” and experience the fear of “total annihilation of the self”.


Just when the victim can’t take it anymore, the abuser offers a small kindness. The victim feels a deep sense of gratitude (more gratitude than is justified by the abuser’s act). Does it feel like a honeymoon? Yep.

The compulsion to confess

The victim may feel a compulsion to offer up an act of kindness to the abuser, as if the pain the victim caused the abuser is anywhere near the pain the abuser caused the victim. The victim, knowing that nothing would make the abuser happier than to agree with the negative statements made early on, may “confess” to being exactly as the abuser said they were (“You’re right, I did act like a slut by wearing that dress” “Please take over all the bank accounts – I don’t understand money”)

The channeling of guilt

The victim’s overwhelming sense of guilt and shame combined with the assaults on their identity and unsubstantiated accusations cause major confusion. In time, the victim feels that everything they do is “wrong” and “I can’t do anything right!”

After the victim enters this state of confusion, the abuser can redirect the victim’s guilt toward anything the victim thinks, feels, or does. This causes the victim to wonder if everything they were taught or learned previously was “bad” and that maybe the abuser’s take on life in general is “good”.

Reeducation: logical dishonoring

The victim thinks, “Hey – if I am such a mess because of what I was taught, then it’s not my fault that I’m so messed up!” The victim finds relief for their guilt by thinking such thoughts, so they “confess” to their abuser more of the “stupid” beliefs they hold but now want to rid themselves of.

In this way, the victim begins to deny their own identity and willingly take on portions of the identity the abuser wants them to have.

Progress and harmony

As the victim empties herself of previous beliefs, the hole left inside of her acts like a vacuum, sucking in the abuser’s ideas of good/bad and right/wrong. The abuse eases because the abuser sees less of “her” in her and more of “him” in her. The victim receives a pleasurable response in his lack of abuse. There’s not more love, just less abuse.

Final confession and rebirth

Typically, the above steps will recur repetitively in the abusive relationship. “Final confession and rebirth” cannot be reached until the victim is completely and totally brainwashed to be exactly who the abuser wished. This is the point of no return.

This entry was posted in Abuse in Marriage, Abuse in Relationships, Abusive Behaviors, Accusing, Codependency, Confusion, Fear, Gaslighting, Guilt, Insinuating, Isolation, Lying, Name Calling, Recognizing Abuse, Stopping Verbal Abuse, Symptoms of Abuse, Teen Dating, Uncategorized, Verbal Abuse Signs and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

42 Responses to How Did You Brainwash Me?

  1. C. Morgan says:

    I never really knew until recently that I was “brainwashed”. I married in 1965 and am now 71. I just read the article and feel very, very sad. My husband did EVERYTHING mentioned in this article, but I always thought I was the MORON. I developed severe panic disorder and severe depression about six months after the marriage. I was forced to quit my job to care for a step-daughter I did not know existed. It was after quitting that I had my first panic attack. About six months later, I was deep in the throes of unipolar clinical depression. Yes, my husband did take me to a doctor and finally a psychiatrist who put me on high doses of Valium immediately…which DID help with the panic and also Elavil, an anti-depressant. About 8 years later, I was in a horrible accident involving a horse and lost most of my face and my right eye. My left eye was damaged, but I can still see but not drive. Now I’m old and have very severe Rheumatoid Arthritis and am on Humira and Methotrexate just to be able to do my housework and work in the garden. We moved a number of times due to my husband’s job. He has been retired for years, and we live in a very remote and isolated area. He DOES take me to the doctor, and I have wonderful cats and dogs who are my BEST friends. My parents died long, long ago, and I had no siblings or childhood friendships. I am on the Internet and talk with others…and work with people…mainly girls and women who are experiencing panic disorder and depression. This article will be VERY helpful to others. It’s too late to help me, but I AM happy so MUCH is finally being brought out in the OPEN due to the Internet and knowledge!! My hubby is older than me, but in excellent health! LOL I often believed his abuse of me (only emotional abuse…never physical) has helped him thrive! LOL He has NO other friends as I am the only friend. It’s hard for me to look back at what I was before this marriage as my parents used the same tactics and also effectively brainwashed me as a child. I’ve often felt like a poor fox caught in one trap…being released for a VERY short period and then caught in other trap…for life. I’m sure there are many, many women out there just like me, but a lot of them are not even allowed use of the Internet. My blessings go out to all, and I do hope a girl or woman gets OUT of an abusive marriage as SOON as she sees those FIRST signs.

  2. Mareeya says:

    Very well said! Interesting and spot on! Fantastic post Kelly Holly!

  3. Pingback: Recommended: How Did You Brainwash Me? Kellie Jo Holly « Thoroughly Christian Divorce

  4. Ann says:

    Yeah in a five year wonderful relationship with an attorney my frat guy I called him. He wooed me charmed me very nice supportive. Always together on weekends we lived on separate parts of town. I would visit his place tell me you like it here don’t you? I’m going to break you you need to be broken more didn’t know at the time what it meant really. We were inseparable everything seemed perfect but some weekends he would go away on business no text no calls took the phone off so he said for mental health. Near the end I found out about the other woman who had been living in his home weekdays he told me never come over uninvited love is blind. He walked away without feeling as if five years never existed. She had PHd after her name maybe that’s it I soon realized I believe he is truly narcissistic I met her she told me as well they set me up I’m having a hard time couldn’t get my stuff out of home my diamond ring an heirloom left behind he said it never existed. Accusing me if drinking to take my meds feel like I’m crazy but I know their game. I’m getting better. Beware of the Narcissist!

  5. sweetheart35 says:

    My soon to be ex brainwashes me. He also gets my 17yr old to play along.If he causes an argument with me, he becomes emotionally abusive then I shout.He then makes me think its all my fault and gets my son to play along. He was a rmn and knows all the tricks of the trade to make someone with a mental health problem feel vulnerable.He told ‘Social Care will give me the kids if we divorce’ but I now know this is not the case.I found out today he recieved a list of contact for both of us which he never passed on to me.My children had a bad time at home, because he would hurt me then himself and convince them that I made them ill.Ive read so much here, I’m now going to take a risk and leave my ex altogether, knowing in my heart that the children are being used to brainwash me into feeling helpless.

  6. What awesome work, Kellie! I am so proud of you!

  7. Kellie Holly says:

    Thank you, Martha! That means a lot because I know what you do at Martha Trowbridge Radio!

  8. I’m the grateful one! Your dedication and service is inspiring. When I resume programming in the fall I’d be honored to feature you. Blessings and best wishes.

  9. Terri says:

    I found this blog by accident. I wish it existed 28 years ago. Lucky for me, when my husband bought a house behind my back I left him and bought my own house 30 miles away. He’s not a sociopath or narcissist, just passive-agressive. Some examples of his awful behavior: He would ask me where I’d like to eat; and every restarant I would mention(sometimes 5 different restaurants) he would say no. Then we would go to another restaurant. One he chose…I fell for this over and over. He (not me even though we were married) owned a number of boats. I would want to go boating and he would say yes, but we never went. He’d go out on one of the boats alone. One of the worst things he did was go out and by that house with his parents, behind my back. He was getting alot of calls from a woman who turned out to be the real estate agent. I left and bought my own house 30 miles away…His lips actually turned blue. He was shocked that I would do that. After I left I started feeling better. After a few years I started to feel like me. I am happy and have nice friends and 2 great sisters. He was always rude to them so I didn’t see them much then.

  10. I appreciate this article. I had a 3 year friendship with woman friend. She brain washed me.She had done the same thing to many other people before I found out. I am letting go of my secrets and I want to tell the story of this relationship.
    You have helped me to understand how AI fell in her abusive trap. Thank you It will help give me closure.

  11. Kimberly Klaus says:

    I wish I could find C. Morgan (June 25, 2012) and give her a hug. And I think it is never too late!

  12. Cheryl says:

    Shortly after my daughter turned 21, her fiance’ and his family moved her out of our house. She said it was only for a couple months, but within 2 weeks, she had practically severed all ties with us. (We use to talk several times a day, spent many hours together, and had a great relationship.) She just got married, but within the last 3 months, I have been accused of being a bad mom, threatening her, not teaching her things she should know, etc. She would not be alone with me when I visited her 5 days before the wedding. Her fiance or his mother was in the room the whole time we talked. She would not go to my car with me alone or go anywhere with me. Her father-in-law walked her down the aisle instead of her father, who was planning on doing it. There is much more I could say, but she had a total personality change in the last 3 months and we are concerned that she has been brainwashed and may be in danger. She is living with her husband, his parents and his 5 siblings. The father is a registered sex offender. Reading this blog gives me concern for her safety, but I don’t know what to do or who to contact.

  13. Sarah says:

    Looking back on the verbal abuse, it never dawned on me until now how easily he said such demeaning things to me. “If your good, maybe we’ll do…” or call me things like “little girl” or “damn hippy” all the time. These were his “charming” put downs. And when I would tell him to stop saying them because they offended me, he never would.

  14. rachael says:

    my soon to be ex,tried starting a fight last night over MY RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE,our 7 year old daughter has never celebrated xmas due to his muslim beliefs,he brought her a stage laser light,she said it’s xmas lights,he asked her which animal taught her about xmas,when i asked him why he insisted she stay back from school on eid but did nothing but abuse me til i left for the day,he flipped & schized out,my daughter is enjoying looking for a seperate place which we’ve found,now we’re furnishing it & she chose a xmas tree it was so worth money i couldn’t afford to see her so happy,i’m happy that i can stop apologising if a man looks at me,i didn’t do anything wrong & that is true freedom

  15. aulpn says:

    WOW! My friend is slow and her husband missing a few marbles. She has perscribed medication for Anxiety to which he discontinued, it made her sick, lies saying he talked to the doctor. She is clueless without her meds and parrots whatever he says,does whatever he says. She has me and another friend who is slow. Should I tell her parents. He has swindled 27K and drained her 401K.
    I am frantic to help her. She trusts no one but me! I can’t let her down! Her friend!

  16. Dee Neely says:

    How do I help a teen boy who has been being brainwashed by his narcissitic mother for the past 40 days. He was isolated from his job, school everything that he knows is normal. He has even stopped communicating with my daughter who is his best friend. He’s now back at school and sees her at a distance and looks so lost – almost deer in the headlight look, he silently asks her friends about us. I know he has been brainwashed and believe it was used via sleep deprivation. Are there things or signs we can give him to know we are still here for him. He has only lived with his mother the past 5 years, and mom is on a vengeance to save her husband from abuse charges – which by the way came to light by the boy calling social services. Any advice would be helpful

  17. Kellie Holly says:

    Have you talked to the school counselor about your suspicion? Or called child protective services? Your daughter can pass notes to him at school via friends or communicate on facebook and all those other ways teens get up with one another. Reach out to him.

  18. To read more posts:
    I really could use some advice… I’m Stuck…

    Well… Here I am again. I have written in other posts that my current relationship is the best one I have been in yet and that he “loves” me but I don’t trust him. He is always telling me that our relationship would be perfect if I didn’t analyze his every move. I of course do that because my whole world is made up of red flags….

    The last couple of days before the “boo boo” I had been putting a ridiculous amount of effort into trying to stay happy, not freak out when he ran off to get on the phone or said something I didn’t like or understand. I was just trying to be a happy, good girl. I was seeing if our relationship would actually be better if I did what he said was missing, or effing it up to begin with. It was about 3 days into my experiment, and he and I had been in the house all day. I had done a couple of his assignments for class to help him get caught up, so he could study for his tests he needed to take. Nothing major just responses to other people’s posts, then I would go back to work on my computer reading responses and visiting different groups here in my blog.

    He had a bad attitude for the last 2 days of my “experiment” and I could tell something was getting to him. We went to leave to house to go to the grocery store and I noticed his attitude was way worse. One of my pet cats was running up the driveway. She is a huge ball of fluff and he said something about her being fat, I laughed at it and was jokingly telling him not to talk crap about my lil fluff dragon of a cat. Somehow that escalated to him calling me a fat head. I tried to blow it off… we went and got in the car. Before we could even leave the street he asked me what was wrong I told him and it further escalated to him screaming in my face and acting like he was going to choke me because I wouldn’t shut up mid-sentence. I wanted to get out the fact that the last time he had said that we were in a big fight and he was saying it out of anger, so even though “he meant it in a joking way” it wasn’t funny but it hurt. So he exploded and got out of the car, I turned the car around and went to the house…

    I followed him up the stairs and kept talking to him he kept yelling and telling me to leave him alone. I said, “No, I’m not gonna just let this ride out because how I fell is important too,” I was trying to explain that I wasn’t doing anything to deserve him being such a butthead to me. He got up and left the living room and went to the bedroom. He was still talking over me. I just wanted to get my point across that it wasn’t my fault and that I had really been putting effort into being better, not “bugging” him or getting into his business, or being depressed all of the time. He kept yelling, “no,no,no your wrong!” and “get the fuck away from me…,” But I kept trying to get my point across. He pushed me a few times finally into the wall. I wouldn’t stop talking so he grabbed me and wrapped his arms around my neck and tried to strangle me. My back was facing him at this point and he had me in almost a head lock. I told him to let go, and to stop. My eyes were full of tears I couldn’t breathe, I was scared. I thought, “hit him back, grab his balls! Anything you can’t breathe idiot!!” But then I thought what if I hurt him? I didn’t want to hurt him. He let go… I stood there for a minute and then kept talking… I wanted him to know that I wasn’t going to stop. He took a large framed picture off of the all in the hallway and said, “you don’t want to shut up bitch I am gonna break this over your head and I bet you do then…” something to that effect I can’t remember verbatim. I cringed and kept going. I looked him straight in the eyes got maybe a inch from his face and screamed, spit flying and all… “IAM NOT GOING TO STOP TALKING!!THE TRUTH IS A BITCH ISN’T IT!! I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING TO DESERVE THIS SHIT!!! I HATE YOU FOR THIS! WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO ME!!, “ I said. i took a couple of seconds to gather myself and then took my keys and the rented movies that we had and started to leave. He followed me out of the house. I kept walking. He said, “Mary, where are you going?” I said, “Don’t worry I’m not gonna tell anyone! fuck you, just leave me alone,” and I left.

    The whole way to the Movie Rental store I was crying like a baby. I had called my best friend a couple of time, but there was no answer, so I left a message. After I dropped off the movies I drove to the boat dock that is in my neighborhood and I sat there for a while. I cried and I prayed. My throat was swollen, my chest hurt and I just wanted to talk to someone and get this out. He had text me a couple of times asking where I was going and told me that I had forgotten something. I text him back saying I didn’t and that I was hurt. I told him that everything I basically told you guys. That he had almost choked me out in the hallway, that I wanted to get away from him but couldn’t hurt him, that he doesn’t love me… that the bible says love is slow to anger and that he doesn’t love me and then asked him how he could do these things to me when he knows what I had been through in my past. I told him I hated him for knowing my past and still getting with me knowing he couldn’t control his anger. I told him he should have moved to the next girl in line. Then I asked for a divorce… lol (we aren’t married that’s what the lol is for…) As usual he said that he wasn’t listening, “I’m not even gonna read this, I should be packing, I won’t be bothering you anymore, you win” I said ok, as usual… I told him to get gone…and that he never listens to me.
    As usual we are still together. Different relationship, best one yet… but still abusive. I guess my love for him is what overlooks all the dumb shit. Maybe it is that I am afraid of being alone… things go waaay deeper than this shallow story I’m telling you now. This happened Sunday, today is Tuesday. I spent all day yesterday trying to sleep because Sunday night I didn’t get any rest and to be honest I didn’t rest all day Monday either. Last night I took two muscle relaxers and had lied on a hot pad and finally fell asleep. Sooooo… here I am again…

  19. Kellie Holly says:

    I remember trying to get my ex to “hear” me, too. I notice your boyfriend’s words don’t “say” anything. He tells you that you’re wrong, but he is saying it to talk over your valid points. This is a clue that he will not listen to you no matter what you say. He acts like a 10-year-old who puts his fingers in his ears and sings so he can’t hear what you say. My ex didn’t hear me and your boyfriend won’t either. Although it probably felt kind of good to follow him around try to talk over him (stand up for yourself), you did a very dangerous thing. Anger can embolden a person and make them less aware of the threat in their environment. Your anger made it difficult for you to stay safe. You were so angry that when he yelled for you to leave him alone, you did not do so.

    Your reaction to his abuse illustrates the cycle of violence perfectly. He lashed out verbally. You lashed out verbally. He didn’t like what you said and told you to leave him alone. You didn’t leave him alone because you wanted to be heard. He lashed out physically. You “apologize” through your promise to not tell anyone. He calms down. You tell him you don’t want to be with him, he says okay but ignores you, and you accept being ignored. Isn’t that how your experiment started? Didn’t you want to be “a happy, good girl” so he would stop ignoring the real you (by abusing it out of you) and love you again?

    Trying to be “a happy, good girl” when you are not is a manipulative action. Yes, I know you did it in response to past abuse, but anytime you pretend to be someone you are not in order to elicit a certain reaction, then you are manipulating him. You aren’t alone – I did it too. However, it NEVER works the way you want it to work. You wanted to make him happy, so your intentions are “good” – but manipulating is bad for everyone. In your case, after play-acting happiness, all of your pent-in anger erupted and clouded your mind. He could have killed you, and you know it. He wants you to know it. You can try to minimize the assault by calling it a “boo boo” but it is far from a mistake. Physical assault is a direct warning that the abuser will do whatever it takes to get what he wants from you. It is serious, and I wish you would acknowledge it as such.

  20. sauce says:

    Wow this made me feel a little (a little) more clear about certain things. Lately, I feel like I have pushed to the brink of insanity. Partly because I think I deserve the abuse because in a way I guess I was the initial ‘abuser’ (unknowingly) but now my parner holds that over my head a lot.

    It’s the kind of thing I can’t take back, and I don’t act in any other abusive ways at all. However, he has done all sorts – isolated me, threatened me physically, played intense mind games, ignored me for weeks on end, physically assaulted me a few times, calls me names (ugly, sl*t, stupid dog…and more that I shouldn’t repeat), I have no friends left, I don’t talk to anyone at work, I don’t look up in the street for fear of being accused of flirting/ looking at men, I have been threatened with gang rape, him getting drunk (he is out of control crazy when drunk), told I’m lazy, fat (I have gained 30lbs…possibly more), no good in bed, he will go and find some other wh*re to bed, I have been kept up being accused for nights on end with no sleep and still having to work…the list goes on.

    I feel I deserve this now though. I really think I do.

    Anyway, lately I have had this overwhelming feeling of sadness. Like I just want to end it all because my future is so dim, and I can’t see myself leaving him because I am worried about my families safety, and his safety. However, I feel trapped because I know I can’t kill myself because I would hurt my mum and dad too much. I also feel like I have nothing to live for anymore, but at the same time I am stuck.

    I know I am missing out on life though…I am constantly walking on eggshells and I don’t do anything anymore. I am so worried about my family dying for some reason though. I feel like everything in the future is bleak and my parents might die, and I am missing out on them!

  21. Kellie Holly says:

    Sauce, you reminded me that I went through an intense period where I feared my children would die. I had nightmares (the kind you never forget) about their graphic, horrendous deaths. The memories of the dreams caused as much distress as the dreams themselves. Plus, with those dreams in my head, I’d find myself thinking about them dying during my waking hours too. Daydreaming, I suppose.

    Anyway, I don’t know where the idea came from, but this worked for me: As soon as the thought of death came, I stopped it and mentally “rewinded” the thought to the first safe point. THEN, I forwarded the thought to a SAFE conclusion (instead of the death).

    For example, if I “saw” my son falling off of a cliff, I would rewind the vision to a point where he was safe. Then, I could put myself in the picture beside him, see myself picking him up and walking calmly to safety.

    Doing that really helped me.

    When I think back to that time period, I remember “heavy” abuse taking place. He was always angry, always bordering on physically assault. I was afraid for MY life, but because I couldn’t see that I SHOULD be more afraid of him, my mind changed reality to warn me that my CHILDREN were in danger instead. That’s what I think anyway.

  22. charlene says:

    Thank you so much kellie holly and C. Morgan, as things you’ve said, specifically relate to my situation and have helped me. Thank you to everyone else also, and I wish you all the very best. I feel lonely, but I am nearly out of the house I’m living in, and I know once this happens, things will improve more. Strength and love to you all xxxxx

  23. amy says:

    Thanks you all for sharing.
    The comfort in this shared pain is knowing I am not alone.
    i thank you all.

  24. lisa says:

    I need help my 21 slow daughter to get away from her boyfriend and aunt who she live with they brainwash my daughter to have nothing to do with her family this is not my daughter no one in bartow county ga wount help me I scary for my daughter life

  25. Adriana says:

    I have experience to be abused by friends. The thing is,if there is not only one, there must be something in my behaviour to let them think that they can cross the line.. And, sure there is. It is the overlooking bad treatments, that comes very slowly and gradually, with you never saying or acting to stop at the beginning. The pleaser, the submissive behaviour, the fear that makes this happen. Yet another insult I got from my friend who insulted me with being bad friend for missing her call when she had very hard times. Despite offering help straight away after seing message, I was texted to be lier who ignored her call, always excusing myself..bla bla, then I stopped, started to think, wait I have heard this before, and not always it was true, I most of the times had reasons for things going the way they went, but that was not point-who should accuse and name person this way-Now that is the main point! so. I texted politely to this friend that I am sorry, and sensing that there is no trust, so is no point in this friendship, if she really needed help, she would call later when I was offering my time, after I found out she was in need. period. had no response from then, but if there will be any, I would have to tell her that I will carry on but on equal terms, aka treating her exactly kindly as she does myself-lets see how she will take anger tantrums… :D (not that I have no shame to act any, but she treat texts, I might try…:D-I probably will give up after one such and call it quits anyway :D all the best and self belief w no manipulation to all :x

  26. Shalene says:

    I HAD NO IDEA! I was wondering why I now feel lost and dumb! I felt this way by the end of the marriage and now I feel that again after 7 years in a relationship. I have only been living with him for one year. It took me that long to take the risk!
    Such simple comments…

    The lovely female waitress wipes the table down. I dry the table with the napkin. My partner comments that the waitress has just wiped the table in a tone that indicates I have OCD or some ‘failing’.

    We’re walking back to the apartment while on holiday. I start to go down one path and he another. In that tone that indicates I’m wrong, he asks me why I’m going that way.

    If any of his four children (aged 16 – 26) asked him to do something, he would happily interrupt any prior plans we had made together (or were in the middle of doing!) and then say I’m being difficult if I didn’t want to change plans!

    I value health and fitness. I do not keep stockpiles of candy in the house because I cannot stop at just one. He does keep a stockpile.He does not listen to my request to not offer me any candy and my request to keep the candy in a spot I don’t know about. He interrupts me when I’ve asked to not be interrupted while grading papers or something similar, and offers it to me then. On one hand I feel an absolute dog complaining about this but on the other hand I am being ignored and my wishes not valued.

    I must be doing something that invites this type of behaviour. I want to stop. I now feel stuck because I feel horrible about leaving, feeling sorry for him. His wife left him seven years before he and I met. I once had direction and strength, but now feel lost, stupid and mean. I didn’t even expect the relationship get this far. And this is after ‘low-level’ abuse compared to other readers’ experiences.

    This blog is now in my bookmarks.

    All the best to everyone.

    Thank you for listening.

  27. Thalia says:

    Thank God I no longer have to live in such an abusive situation. I hope what you’ve provided here can help someone before they waste 11 years of their life like I did. Just a few examples I recall…

    The isolation is one of the first things I remember. I wasn’t allowed to have friends because he couldn’t trust other people especially guys- I was such a slut. My co-workers were not allowed to come over because they might knark on him. My family lived too far away so if I wanted to see them they had to visit us. My dad still jokes about the Christmas I snuck out saying I was headed to the store, instead made the 45 minute drive on my own just to get to see my family on Christmas for maybe a 15 minutes visit. Couldn’t even take the kids because I didn’t want them to have to lie.

    I cried so much that I learned to cry in complete silence just so he wouldn’t make fun of me. But when he had a point to make, and this is no exaggeration, the minimum was 3 hours of drilling argument. Many times I had work the next day (I was the only one with a regular job in over 8 of those 11 years) but he didn’t care if I got to sleep or not. He had a point to make. It was also during this period I experienced my first panic attacks.

    The abuse was physical a few times but when I fought back, that ended pretty quick. When I was pregnant, he did push me down but what hurt worse than the physical shove was that he saw I’d landed on his guitar and he moved me off it so he could make sure the guitar was okay! CPS was called once when he hurt my son. We also went to counseling but he’d only go if I agreed not to tell the counselor that he drank beer and smoked pot every night.

    One time he asked if he could bring another woman into our home and I was so screwed up by his brain-washing I actually wondered for a minute if by agreeing I might FINALLY get some help around the house. lol But then I came to my senses. He was extremely possessive and controlling. His step mom asked me once why I didn’t wear makeup and I’d forgotten it was because he asked me not to.

    He constantly belittled me and called me names. Mostly a lazy fat ass. Towards the end he told me I was replaceable on a daily basis. When we broke up, he actually asked me to stay an additional 3 months through the holidays and I thought he wanted to try to redeem himself to me, but after the holidays he abruptly kicked me out for not going back to work so he could drive a better car. Said he didn’t believe in marriage and monogamy anymore.

    I’m still ashamed that my kids witnessed the example he set. He really wasn’t part of their lives at all until we split up. In fact, I actually put the kids in daycare while I worked even though he was home all day!! He said he needed the time alone. I often wonder if I will ever heal from this trauma. It’s been over 12 years. I lost my identity. I became someone I did not like. And I still have to deal with him sometimes. Most of the time, I try to believe that he’s changed, but every once in a while his true colors show again. My relationship with God has been the biggest blessing, but I guess I still have a ways to go yet because the lies still bother me.

  28. person a girl says:

    I had a person tell me I didn’t deserve to be happy and that I was ugly but then he turned it around and said he loved me. I had very low self-esteem and was very depressed because he brainwashed me into leaving my ex boyfriend. He yelled at me for being sad and crying. This is crazy but wow.

  29. saram says:

    Do abusive men ever change?
    Im looking for some reassurance I guess, I just left a very abusive relationship of almost 5 years. I finally called the police the last time he attacked me physically, punching me in the head and calling me a bitch and a cunt. That was the final straw, he got arrested and went to jail for 2 days but the judge decided there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute him. He now thinks he “won” his case, and its me that is the crazy one! He managed to convince the judge that I am bipolar and a crzy person (without him having any evidence of this). Since this day I decided to separate from him and we are in a civil process to decide what will happen with our 3 year old son. In the time of leaving jail, he quickly was out partying and seen with other women. He shows no remorse, no guilt and keeps maintaining that I am the crazy one who he left …
    what is wrong with these kinds of people? I went through an absolute hell with him, horrific verbal and psychological abuse then physical (which got worse and worse over time) and he seems to have just moved on meeting other women and focusing on himself and not his son.
    Will he ever change?

  30. mike says:

    I don’t get it I seem to be the only guy in this whole posting I finally realized last night I was being brain washed for the last four years I don’t know what to Do now we have three kids that were recently taken away because of her inability to stop using drugs I honestly don’t know witch ones are mine my mom is taking care of my grandma so I have no support now that our insurance got shut off and I can’t even get my medication I had over 100-200 friends before I got with her that would literally come over to my huge house I had at the time we met now no one will even answer my call I really feel like I really can’t take it anymore please if someone gets this please help me this is not a joke please help me

  31. jouncyg says:

    Hah! This is so great. My husband is a people watcher and this certainly explains why.

    I’ve been married over 27 years!

  32. Dave E says:

    Well, this may not be a place for a man to be welcomed but I’m here. I too have been the victim of a controlling spouse. I’ve been made to have no friends, distance myself from family and constantly live in fear Of the next argument or round of questions. She questionsy daughter on out texts and conversations. I’ve been told I was lazy and only think of myself. I’ve worked 2 jobs for the past 14 years while she has worked maybe a total of 3 years of our 24 year marriage. She has put me In bankruptcy twice with credit card debt and I still never k ow how much money I have at anytime. She always tells me to look at the books if I want to k ow but when I question anything g I’m being a bastard. All of my acquaintances at work know not to call me or ask me to do anything. Anytime I start a hobby I’m told I think more about it than her. It’s an endless cycle.

    About a year ago, I decided to seek counseling. This was advise from friends she doesn’t k ow about. Reluctantly, I went and it all spilled out. The counselor told me that I was a victim of a narcissist. I had been made to believe I was inadequate. After a could of visits, she told me I wasn’t allowed to go back. She made me find another counselor and insists on going with me.

    I now have panic attacks for about 8 years now. We have no social life and my daughter and couple of others are my only friends I this. My own stepdaughter (HER daughter) tells me that I should have left years ago. All of her friends she grew up with are grown now but still remember coming to our house and how she treated me.

    I’ve often felt like I wasn’t a man. That I was different. But slowly realizing its not me. I’ve met people that telle I’m a good person and need to break free of the 24 year prison I’ve been in. I’m ready to live.

    What keeps me there is the guilt. For some reason I believe she can’t function on her own. Her parents are dead and she has no family except for her daughter. I’m slowly realizing that I can’t be responsible for that. She controls her own destiny. I have found that not all women are that way as I thought. And I’ve also figured out that I have much to give AND receive. It’s not a one way street.

  33. Kellie Holly says:

    Mike, I do not think you’re joking. Women abuse men, too – more often than is reported. I recommend you call DAHMV ) DAHMV is the Domestic Abuse Hotline for Men and Women – keyword is “for Men”. The fact that they single out help for men is important to me. The reason you think we’d think you were spoofing us is because you believe (as do many others) that a woman cannot abuse or assault a man, or that women are just too weak to do any damage to a man (emotionally OR physically). This simply is not true. Please call the DAHMV.

  34. Pingback: Letting Go Of Limiting Beliefs | Anxiety-Schmanxiety Blog

  35. Scared says:

    Dave E. & Mike: Thank you both for posting. I scrolled quickly down the comments to see if any men had posted. I’m a woman with great concern for a guy who has been PHYSICALLY, mentally & emotionally abused by a woman for over 20 years. Over a year ago, he finally got out, divorced 9 months later. He has been & is being alienated from family & friends by her, you have to sneak around to see him, then most likely he is drunk & starts verbal abuse on you. It is like he can’t live without her abuse. They have children, only one now under age, which was so sick of the mess that child moved with him. Now,it appears he uses this child & a family pet to keep constant contact with this woman. He is at her command, whatever she wants, whenever she wants. It is believed he is in a financial bind trying to satisfy her. She comes to see him, leaves to go crawl in bed with her long time boyfriend. When she isn’t around he is drunk out of his mind most of the time. He is to the point of verbal abuse on anyone who tries to help him. When trying to speak with him, you feel as though you are speaking to his abuser, your cut down just the way the abuser has cut him, his friends (not many left) & family for years. Over these years he has become, an alcoholic from what appears to be an attempt to drown the FACT he is in an abusive relationship. Plus, she & her boyfriend has flaunted an open affair for many years causing great humiliation for the guy. He has set many hours drinking, knowing she was out with this guy, most likely gone all night, at least until wee hours of the morning. IF he confronted her, she would go into a rage, beating the living hell out of him. I could go on and on over the horrible crap, but I can’t see why he can’t let go.

    To summary it up, since the divorce this guy appears to be totally BRAINWASHED by this woman, to the point he acts and speaks just as she has for many years. IF anyone has any suggestions as to why or how he can be helped, please comment.

    The world definitely needs to know that Men suffers from Domestic Violence from Women!!!!!

  36. Christine says:

    Dear Kelly,

    This is a very informative site and I think the comments are wonderful because they help us see we are not alone. I am concerned about your calling the woman’s pretending to be a “happy good girl” manipulative. I don’t see it as healthy but I wonder why it doesn’t fall more under a label of “codependent” than “manipulative”. When the abuse victim tries to please the other it seems to me not a deliberate calculated manipulation but rather an avoidance of unpleasant consequences: just giving the abuser what he/she wants to get through the victim’s own day. Anyway, I am happy you are doing what you do!

  37. Kellie Holly says:

    “Trying to be “a happy, good girl” when you are not is a manipulative action. Yes, I know you did it in response to past abuse, but anytime you pretend to be someone you are not in order to elicit a certain reaction, then you are manipulating him. You aren’t alone – I did it too. However, it NEVER works the way you want it to work. You wanted to make him happy, so your intentions are “good” – but manipulating is bad for everyone. “

    Christine, I believe this is the comment you’re referring to? I stand behind the statement because, as I said, “anytime you pretend to be someone you are not in order to elicit a certain reaction, then you are manipulating”. This type of manipulation is typical of codependency. The motive behind the manipulation (make peace, stay calm, avoid pain) is QUITE different from the motive behind the abuser’s manipulations (to control, destroy, crush). I do not intend to say that the abuse victim is as “bad” as the abuser (typically this is not the case as abuse victims tend to be more empathetic, sympathetic and forgiving than abusers).

    HOWEVER, if we want to JUMP OFF the abusive cycle, then we victims/survivors must recognize these unhealthy/manipulative qualities in ourselves. For example, instead of being the “happy good girl”, we could clearly state to our abuser, “I am very angry right now and do not feel like pretending to be otherwise. I am going to (place or to do something else) until I feel better.”

    Recognizing our tendency to manipulate “for the greater good” allows us to stop doing it. When you stop doing habitual, unhealthy things, you jump off the abusive cycle – you refuse to play. Could you agree with this or do you still concerned with my viewpoint?

  38. Pat says:

    Is it possible for both parties involved to be both victims and abusers? Both me and my significant other look at this article and feel we fit the description of the victim and the other fits the description of the abuser.

    I also understand why my significant other identifies with the victim, which was never my intention. I hope to alter my behavior as never make them feel that way again. But they fail to accept that I may be partially or equally the victim as well.

  39. The key phrase in your comment is “they fail to accept that I may be partially or equally the victim”. This is a sure sign that you ARE the victim. I understand where you’re coming from in that you abuse your SO, too. We sometimes attempt to fight fire with fire – we pick up bad habits from our abuser and think “Well, if this is what s/he says, then maybe s/he will hear me when I say it.” I also wondered if I was an abuser.

    The sure way to decide whether you are abused or the abuser is to STOP abusing. Just like that. Stop it.

    Set some personal boundaries and enforce them peacefully. (

    When you hear yourself saying things that you don’t like, shut your mouth. When you feel like doing something that does not align with who you want to be, do not do that thing.

    The abuser is likely to attack viciously when you put your boundaries in place. It is difficult to keep your mouth shut or walk away when someone says hateful things to you, but with practice it will get easier. Also, in time, you will begin to see the truth of who your SO is and realize that changing, for them, is probably not going to happen.

  40. Dee Neely says:

    This breaks my heart because I have just witnessed this happen to a dear teen friend of mine. Isolated for 8 weeks from school and friends after calling CPS on his step father. Now he is a different child – god how do I help him? Knowone is going to listen to me…. He graduates in 6 months and is suppose to join the military this summer. What is going to be his process will he come out of this soon or have we lost him completely

  41. Josie says:

    What a great article.
    I have been out of my abusive relationship for 6 months and its an every day struggle. Feels like its been a blur. This article has given me some clarity and peace of mind. Thank you to the author and thank you God for bringing me to this website this Christmas eve.
    I really needed this.

  42. maria says:

    hello im so happy to read this article,i myself are into verbal relation in this present time.i been married for 6 yrs now and every now and then when me and my husband fight,he always said that i have nothing,i live in his house for free i pay nothing.i am so lucky that he take me out from my home country.each time i have contact to member of my family he thinks i send them i decide not to speak any of avoid argue,he always complain about how i use my money he want to see every details what i spent and where i put my money.i work in hotel as room servive,for this 6 yrs of married i never ask him money i work my own.he said that i should pay all the things he spend for me,recntly we had fight and that force me to travel back home,he took all the gifts he gave me including my wedding ring,he said that he use his money to buy this.i really wanna get out but im so afraid to start all over again since this is not my homeland.i need advice thank you

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