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Intimacy and Abuse

It is an established fact that abuse - verbal, psychological, emotional, physical, and sexual - co-occurs with intimacy. Most reported offenses are between intimate partners and between parents and children. This defies common sense. Emotionally, it should be easier to batter, molest, assault, or humiliate a total stranger. It's as if intimacy CAUSES abuse, incubates and nurtures it.

And, in a way, it does.

Many abusers believe that their abusive conduct fosters, enhances, and cements their intimate relationships. To them, pathological jealousy is proof of love, possessiveness replaces mature bonding, and battering is a form of paying attention to the partner and communicating with her.

Such habitual offenders do not know any better. They were often raised in families, societies, and cultures where abuse is condoned outright - or, at least, not frowned upon. Maltreatment of one's significant others is part of daily life, as inevitable as the weather, a force of nature.

Intimacy is often perceived to include a license to abuse. The abuser treats his nearest, dearest, and closest as mere objects, instruments of gratification, utilities, or extensions of himself. He feels that he "owns" his spouse, girlfriend, lovers, children, parents, siblings, or colleagues. As the owner, he has the right to "damage the goods" or even dispose of them altogether.

Most abusers are scared of real intimacy and deep commitment. They lead a "pretend", confabulated life. Their "love" and "relationships" are gaudy, fake imitations. The abuser seeks to put a distance between himself and those who truly love him, who cherish and value him as a human being, who enjoy his company, and who strive to establish a long-term, meaningful relationship with him.

Abuse, in other words, is a reaction to the perceived threat of looming intimacy, aimed at fending it off, intended to decimate closeness, tenderness, affection, and compassion before they thrive and consume the abuser. Abuse is a panic reaction. The batterer, the molester, are scared out of their wits - they feel entrapped, imprisoned, shackled, and insidiously altered.

Lashing out in blind and violent rage they punish the perceived perpetrators of intimacy. The more obnoxiously they behave, the less the risk of lifelong bondage. The more heinous their acts, the safer they feel. Battering, molesting, raping, berating, taunting - are all forms of reasserting lost control. In the abuser's thwarted mind, abuse equals mastery and continued, painless, emotionally numbed, survival.


 

next: The Pathological Charmer

APA Reference
Vaknin, S. (2009, November 15). Intimacy and Abuse, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 26 from https://www.healthyplace.com/personality-disorders/malignant-self-love/intimacy-and-abuse

Last Updated: July 5, 2018

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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