“Loving husbands don’t treat their wives that way,” stated my counselor after I described some of the abuses I was experiencing in my marriage.
That session took place many years ago, but I still remember it as a moment of awakening. It was in that moment, I allowed myself to accept the reality of intimate partner violence (IPV) in my life. I had to accept that no matter how things appeared on the outside, things were not going well for me. If things were not well for me, I could not be my best self for my children
After trying joint marriage counseling without success, the marriage ended in divorce. I had finally learned one of the great lessons. You can’t change other people. You can only change yourself.
Over the years, the word foundation kept popping up in my head. I always knew the root cause of my tolerance for abuse went deep. One day, I was working with my life coach. She is an extraordinary coach, designer, and resource person on many levels. More information about her is available at www.lauramadrigano.com .
My coach suggested I tell my mother I could not do something that my mother was expecting me to do. I said, “I can’t tell her no. My mother is a very strong and powerful person.”
I was then asked to name some strong, powerful women and describe their characteristics. I began to differentiate manipulative and controlling from strong and powerful. That was a defining moment in my healing!
I did some research and learned that my mother’s behaviors were consistent with the behavioral characteristics on the Narcissistic Personality Disorder spectrum. The book, Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers, by Karyl McBride, Ph.D. is an excellent start for learning about this phenomenon.
A couple of years later, I attended a training session to become a volunteer for a sexual assault and intimate partner violence support organization. We discussed different types of intimate partner violence. The kinds of emotional abuse particularly stood out for me. The list included the following behaviors:
- You are told your own thoughts and perceptions are not true.
- You are embarrassed in public.
- You are repeatedly humiliated.
- You are only allowed to spend limited time with friends.
- Decisions are made for you regardless of your feelings.
- Your opinions are not important.
- You are made to feel guilty.
- You experience hurtful sarcasm.
I was stunned. I experienced these behaviors growing up in my childhood home. As we discussed in the training, these behaviors are also risk factors which set a person up to be abused by an intimate partner. The abusive behaviors were already familiar to me.
Very Important! In no way is an intimate partner free of responsibility for committing acts of violence. Regardless of his wife’s experiences in childhood, violence against women is totally and completely unacceptable and must be brought to an end! The perpetrator cannot use her abusive childhood as an excuse to further violate.
Although I found knowing the root cause of my tolerance for violence to be excruciatingly painful, it was the truth. It is only by knowing and accepting the whole truth that we can begin to truly heal.
Remember, never give up. You were meant to thrive!