The Verbally Abusive Relationship

“The great tragedy in a verbally abusive relationship is that the partner’s efforts to bring reconciliation, mutual understanding and intimacy are rejected out of hand by the abuser because to him they are adversarial. This is so because if he isn’t feeling power over his partner, he is feeling that she must be trying to overpower him. There is no mutuality in his reality.”

~ The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans

not letting it out:


When Relationship Abuse Is Hard To Recognize


Signs of coercive control are hard to spot; support and information will help.

Great campaign from @CitizensAdvice

By Lisa Aronson Fontes

Paybacks. Silent Treatment. Isolation. Threats. Humiliation. Sometimes even physical abuse. These are the weapons of coercive control, a strategy used by some people against their intimate partners. A relationship that should involve loving support ends up as a trap designed for domination. Although coercive control can show up in a variety of relationships, the most common is one in which a man uses coercive control against his wife or girlfriend. However, people of any gender and orientation(link is external) can be victims or victimizers.

Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive and coercive behaviors, including physical, sexual, verbal and psychological attacks used to control an intimate partner or family member. Without intervention, violence typically escalates in frequency and severity. safehaventc.org:

People subject to coercive control grow anxious and afraid. Coercive control strips away their independence, sense of self, and basic rights, such as the right to make decisions about their own time, friends, and appearance.

Many men who use coercive control also abuse partners physically or sexually, but some use coercive control without physical violence. Outsiders may not be able to see the signs of coercive control in a couple; those who use it are often quite charming.

 (Do you know someone who is being controlled in this way? Do you wonder if your relationship is too controlling? Here’s a checklist(link is external) from my book, Invisible Chains: Overcoming Coercive Control in Your Intimate Relationship(link is external).)

Victims of coercive control often feel like hostages. Over time, being grilled, criticized, stalked, and monitored may seem routine and inescapable. Victims often blame themselves as they feel despairing and disoriented. It’s easy for a person in this position to lose confidence and accept a partner’s view of reality. They may feel confused as they are told again and again that they themselves have triggered their partner’s behaviors by doing something “wrong.” At the same time, to keep the peace, victims may suppress their own desires, silence their voices, and detach from loved ones. Unfortunately, victims often do not see the connection between their partner’s control and their own isolation until time has passed. Losing self-confidence and close relationships at the same time can be paralyzing.

People who get caught in the web of a controlling person are no different from others. They just have the bad luck to become involved with an abuser at a time when they are especially vulnerable. Typically, an abuser will lavish attention on a woman at the beginning of the relationship. Over time, he becomes jealous, monitors her whereabouts, and restricts her interactions with others. His partner thinks the original “helpful man” is the “real” him, and if she does things right, he’ll go back to being wonderful again. At times he may indeed act loving, if this seems like the best way to maintain his control. Loving acts become another controlling tactic.

Once a controlling man has caught a woman in his web, he will do everything he can to prolong the relationship. Sometimes he will threaten, stalk, assault, or even murder her if she leaves or he suspects she’s trying to leave. For this reason, even if there is no physical violence it is important for a person who is being controlled to contact a domestic violence agency and devise a safety plan.

Only a couple of decades ago, society named and recognized the problems of sexual harassment, dating violence, marital rape, and stalking. Coercive control needs to be similarly named and recognized, so we can begin to address it. We all need to learn more, so we can offer the right kinds of support(link is external) and not allow victims to become isolated.

* If you don’t like the word “victim,” feel free to substitute “survivor” or another term that you prefer. 

Interested in learning more? Check out my book, Invisible Chains: Overcoming Coercive Control in Your Intimate Relationship(link is external).


Ways To Break Free from Being the Family Scapegoat


I’m the scapegoat in my family. Recently I removed my bullying family from my life (zero contact) everyone of them  (My two adult children, Mother, Father, Sisters, Brother, Nieces, Nephews, and entire extended family) .

No amount of communication could bring light to the lies and secrets of the past, no one could accept any responsibility and none of them had the courage to make healthy changes..

 In the end I’m just stuck in an unhealthy cycle that’s eating me alive…

It’s soooo good to be out of the crazy system that blamed and vilified me for speaking the truth and identifying their weak behaviour.

I’m free at last !!!

And my stress levels are reducing..

This great article by Glynis Sherwood shines a light on family scapegoating.

Love to all of you in similar positions, you deserve so much better..

Love & baby steps,

SG x

Scapegoaters are insecure people driven to try and raise their own status
by attempting to lower the status of their target

by Glynis Sherwood 

Did you grow up having doubts about your self esteem or personal worth?  When things went wrong in your family, did you tend to be the fall guy?  Do you find yourself encountering recurring disrespect from friends or colleagues?  Do you feel unsure of yourself and/or have difficulty experiencing trust in relationships? 

If you answered ‘Yes’ to any of these statements, you may have been scapegoated by your family.  The term ‘scapegoat’ refers to a family member who takes the blame for difficulties in the family. Scapegoating is a form of bullying.  Family relationships profoundly impact our identity and how we view ourselves.

How to Tell if You Have Been Scapegoated:

  1. You are held responsible for family problems, conflicts or challenges, even if they have nothing to do with you.  Other people blame you for their actions.  You may end up feeling a lot of shame for being ‘the bad guy’, and/or anger for being blamed for negative family dynamics.
  2. You are attacked and disbelieved if you tell the truth and ‘blow the whistle’ on negative and/or inappropriate family dynamics.
  3. There has been a history of one or more family members being verbally, emotionally or physically abusive towards you.  Other family members seem to accept or look the other way when you are bullied or aggressed against like this.  You may feel like the ‘black sheep’ of the family.
  4. You find yourself repeatedly being accused of behavior the scapegoater is engaged in. For example, a family member repeatedly yells at you, and then accuses you of being abusive, or being thoughtful and then told “all you care about is yourself”.
  5. You act out the negative ‘expectations’ of scapegoating such as not living up to your potential, or getting into relationships with abusive people because your self esteem is has been damaged.
  6. Being the mentally healthiest family member, but being accused of being sick, bad, etc.
  7. Occupying the role of family outcast, and being treated with disdain or disgust by family or yourself.
  8. Your achievements are belittled, minimized, criticized and rejected.

What’s Going On In Families That Scapegoat

Families that are shame or fear based are not healthy.  Often in these families you will find evidence of abuse, neglect, addiction, betrayal, mental illness and insecurity.  Dysfunctional families either lack insight or find it threatening, and actively repress it through scapegoating those who want to understand and change negative dynamics.  Scapegoating is a “projection defense” that allows scapegoaters to keep up appearances. In other words, by making the scapegoat look bad, it takes attention off the real problem. 

Many families who resort to scapegoating are headed by narcissistic parents who lack personal awareness, and empathy for their target, as in their eyes, the target is there to serve their false image.  So the purpose of scapegoating is to allow families to carry on unhealthy behavior patterns, and maintain myth of normalcy, without having to look inward or take responsibility for a toxic environment.  To the outside observer – and possibly the Scapegoat – these families seem crazy making and delusional.

Who Gets Picked to Be Scapegoat 

The Scapegoat doesn’t get picked randomly or by accident.  Usually they are either sensitive, unhappy, vulnerable, ill and/or the outspoken child or whistle blower.  In other words, the scapegoat is the child who refuses to look content or stay silent in the unbearable atmosphere created in the family home.

How Scapegoating Impacts the Target

Scapegoats almost universally experience low self esteem or lack of self worth.  The major problem is that they suffer from an Identity Disturbance, as the target confuses the myth that they are bad, with the truth.  This is usually a lie and the truth is that Scapegoats are being abused by being taught they are ‘bad’.  Scapegoats tend to struggle with chronic insecurity, as they never feel safe or believe they are loved.  They can also fall into a‘Victim’ role, and unconsciously repeat their scapegoating by gravitating towards unhealthy behavior or relationships at work, school and their private life.

Scapegoats often have trouble feeling safe in relationships – especially intimate relationships – due to the betrayal of trust in their family.  They can also have challenges managing emotions, and find they either feel overwhelmed by feelings and anxious, or shut down and not know how they are feeling.

How To Break Free From Scapegoating

  1. Understand that what you have come to believe about yourself as family Scapegoat – i.e. that you are bad, weird, inadequate or defective – is not the truth.  In fact it’s likely a lie that was created to prevent family members from acknowledging their own troubles, thereby avoiding taking responsibility for both their behavior and the need to change.
  2. Locate and trust your ‘Inner Owl’ – that wise part of you that knows you have been mistreated and will no longer willingly allow this abuse from others or yourself.
  3. Recognize that feelings of shame, guilt and self blame belong to the perpetrators, not you as target.  You are simply a dumping ground for their bad feelings.  To change this you need to start standing up to the notion that you are at fault.  You will likely have to begin with yourself, learning to question and reject seeing yourself as ‘bad’.
  4. Get to know your true self.  Identify exceptions to the negative stereotype you have been saddled with.  In other words, pinpoint what is good, likeable or at least adequate about you – your character, values, actions, etc.  Write down your good traits – you will need to be reminded of this alternate universe, which is the truth about you, especially if you start to fall back into the habit of feeling bad about yourself again. Understand that getting better – and feeling better – is a learning curve, and you may slip a few times before you gain solid footing
  5. Figure out what you might be doing – consciously or unconsciously – that gives scapegoaters the idea that it’s OK to abuse you.  Determine how to change any behavior that draws you into the Victim role.
  6. Stop trying to win the favor of abusive and uncaring family members, co-workers or ‘friends’.  Anyone who engages in this type of inappropriate behavior has personality problems, especially a parent who did not love their child.
  7. Don’t expect abusive family members to apologize or make amends.  They will likely blame you more if you attempt to hold them accountable.
  8. Start asserting your right to be treated respectfully with family and other people who try and abuse you.  E.G., “The way you just spoke to me now is not acceptable, and I never want to be talked to like that again”, or “If you want to have a relationship with me, you will stop the angry outbursts, name calling, accusations, etc.”  Know that you may not be heard or respected by aggressive people.  The point is that you hear and respect yourself!  Don’t do this until you are ready to follow through with your commitment to yourself.
  9. Accept that you may never have a healthy relationship with your scapegoater(s).  This may involve limited or no contact with those who are determined to continue to abuse you.  You may experience feelings of grief.  Work through the painful feelings, and get support if needed.  This pain is much less harmful than continuing to allow yourself to be abused by anyone.
  10. Get in the habit of treating yourself with kindness, caring, compassion, appreciation and acceptance.  Practice viewing yourself as a person of worth and lovability.  This will likely feel weird at first as it is unfamiliar.  But even though it is unfamiliar, treating yourself in a loving manner is never wrong.
  11. Understand that it will take time to learn how to love and appreciate yourself.  You have been trained to be overly self critical and may believe you are defective.  Be patient as this false image gradually crumbles.  Get counselling to help you overcome this painful legacy, and find your true self – the strong, valuable person you are meant to be.
  12. Practice what you preach with others…  Break the cycle

– See more at: http://www.glynissherwood.com


Emotional Bank Robbers

Where do you invest your love?

Is it time to change banks!!

I realize I have invested my entire life to emotionally bankrupt people. So much so that I have very little left energy wise, friendship wise, hobby wise, love wise, life wise ..

The moral – the more you invest (income, job, heart, home, time, effort, etc.) the stronger your need to justify your position. If we invest $5.00 in a raffle ticket, we justify losing with “I’ll get them next time”. If you invest everything you have, it requires an almost unreasoning belief and unusual attitude to support and justify that investment.

Studies tell us we are more loyal and committed to something that is difficult, uncomfortable, and even humiliating.

The initiation rituals of college fraternities, Marine boot camp, and graduate school all produce loyal and committed individuals.

Almost any ordeal creates a bonding experience. Every couple, no matter how mismatched, falls in love in the movies after going through a terrorist takeover, being stalked by a killer, being stranded on an island, or being involved in an alien abduction. Investment and an ordeal are ingredients for a strong bonding – even if the bonding is unhealthy. No one bonds or falls in love by being a member of the Automobile Club or a music CD club. Struggling to survive on a deserted island – you bet!

Abusive relationships produce a great amount on unhealthy investment in both parties. In many cases we tend to remain and support the abusive relationship due to our investment in the relationship.

In many cases, it’s not simply our feelings for an individual that keeps us in an unhealthy relationship – it’s often the amount of investment. Relationships are complex and we often only see the tip of the iceberg in public. For this reason, the most common phrase offered by the victim in defense of their unhealthy relationship is “You just don’t understand!”

I invested everything in my family .. I realize I actually have nothing else.. Nope it’s just them and my chronic ill health and depression (Hmmm – well there’s a link..)

They have high energy and get their returns everywhere (Yep they’re Emotional Bank Robbers). They don’t even need me – no wonder they find it so easy to give me ‘the silent treatment’ or shun me if I step out of their circle!!

So today I joined a couple of groups to meet new people and I made some decisions … First to change banks and start investing my love and time in new healthy people and projects .. somewhere where I get a return!!

I spend a lot of my time in an emotional prison and it’s torture. It’s a cycle of bullying, neglect, ostracizing, minimizing and rejection. So painful.

Two, essential!!! Avoid them with Low and for some NO Contact and gain back my power and energy.

Three – gain my returns (life, health and energy) by doing thing that bring me JOY. Joy would be a nice return instead of the heartache and depression I receive from my family..

Fourth, I am still deciding what role my family will play in my life.. ‘Low Contact’ or ‘No Contact’. My ex husband and daughter are a definite NC. My daughter nearly kills me with emotional bullying. I’m not sure what can heal it. Maybe time apart and her growing up and me getting busy!!  No amount of communication or counselling can heal a bully unwilling to take any responsibility for her cruel actions.

My son is LC – Birthdays, Christmas  etc..not sure about the rest (sisters, brother, Mother, Father..).

Just don’t feel I can play the nice understanding guy to them anymore. Maybe as I get busy with healthy people and joyful activities my huge investment with them will decrease.

At this stage I am taking space from them. I’ve got a feeling things will naturally grow apart without me saying any harsh words.

Just the act of getting stronger will either make them respect me or reject me. My children I feel will respect me, the rest of them I feel will reject me. In all reality I was never accepted from my birth as part of my family..

And sadly they like me weak.. and the unhealthy family dynamics won’t work with me strong..

So I’m keeping busy and looking forward!

It’s been hell but I’m getting.. well somewhere.

It’s fricking taking forever ?? :o)

Love & baby steps,

SG x


The Silent Treatment

The silent treatment is a well used emotional control tactic in my family.
Yep..  nothing hurts like ‘the big shut down’.
 And every time it seems to be me that re-opens the lines of communication. I also seem to be the one in the most pain from this tactic while everyone else continues to function..
No wonder I suffer from depression…
Right now my adult son and father are not speaking to me. There was no fight or argument. It’s that they wanted and expected me to do things they thought I should do and I didn’t … then I never heard from them..
My father I haven’t heard from for a few months now – my mother says he’s disappointed in me. Reason being that my business isn’t ready yet and he feels it should be, and my son only sees me on special occasions and doesn’t reply to my emails, I think he’s annoyed that I didn’t put my house on the market when he feels I should – but really who knows if he doesn’t talk?..
It’s painful and it makes me stressed and depressed. I withdraw out of the hopelessness of the situation.
Often the communication to heal things feels hopeless and difficult even when I try to be diplomatic and understanding. And then it happens again – there is always a next time..
In the past I use to apologize just to mend the rift. My family aren’t good on apologies..
I need to talk to them about how all this makes me feel, the emotional distress and dysfunction, control tactics (best not imply the word control – that will not impress them)..
They are people that if you accidentally say one word out of context you’re shut down again. I re-read my emails and think they are kind, open-hearted and beautiful but still it doesn’t work.. maybe I am too emotional for them (actually the real problem is that I’m emotional and they are not!) it ruffles their feathers and upsets their schedules and life they don’t like that – denial is their way of living – ha.. meantime I’m depressed for months..
Healthy communication and how to express your feelings without hurting people is vital … but really do I have to be the family teacher? Can they change and do they care?
Why is healthy communication and expression so hard to heal in narcissistic families.. and can I actually fix/ change/ expose things without shaming or blaming anyone .. and why should I???
 Really I just want to scream you pack of pathetic, weak losers you have tortured me for years with your control tactics and then pack my bags and leave for good. Maybe that will shake them up.. maybe the need the truth and they need to lose me.
I dream about finding people who understand the importance of healthy communication and are willing to work at it rather than shut down or run away.
 Getting angry about it just causes more problems.
I don’t think I can trust my family to ever stop or heal this dysfunctional behavior.
Expressing our feelings in a healthy manner is essential to be free of depression.
Should I keep trying  – I think not..
Ibeth in the comments section has given me the best advice… Ignore them, they won’t change and it’s not my place to heal them, it’s theirs.
Focus all your energy into something healthy… helping others, healthy living, create your life your way, mix with people that don’t cause stress and anxiety in you….’get out of the unhealthy system’.
Thank you ‘Ibeth’