What Creates Abusive People and How to Release Your Anger

Peaceful Man

“The biggest problem for humanity, not only on a global level, but even for individuals, is misunderstanding.” ~Rinpoche

Through the course of the relationship he was dishonest, emotionally manipulative, and unkind. It was subtle at first—do we really sign up for this on the dating application? But the acts wound their way through like a slow vine that eventually kills a tree. When it ended, he handled it atrociously.

It took me many months to process it all, facing things I had suppressed in denial. When the shock wore off, I had a desire to let him know how he traumatized me—to outline all the ways in which he made me uncomfortable and how unbelievable and disgusting his behavior was.

I wanted to punish him.

I wanted him to understand that his actions—secrecy, meanness, disregard—were simply not the way you treat someone you supposedly love, someone that cares for and supports you.

I knew I had my own issues to work out around why I chose to stay in this kind of dynamic, but I somehow thought a really good apology on his part would at least validate my experience and hike me back up onto the pedestal on which I deserved to stand.

I wanted to believe that somehow my words would enlighten him—that understanding my experience would affect and change him for the better.

And I tried! My goal honestly wasn't to get all prison gangster on him. I just wanted my pain recognized; to feel regarded and important.

I wrote a few letters that I thought diplomatically captured my hurt and positioned him perfectly to validate me and apologize. That apology would never come. In fact, when he did respond, it was in the form of anger, denial, projecting or minimizing. 

When engaging him didn't work, I turned inward. I created little pieces of art that depicted him with a huge ego and small…other parts. (I did not send those. One mature point for me there.)

In time I accepted that the recognition and apology were clearly not going to happen.

But the anger kept surfacing, and it was getting annoying. I had read volumes on the notion that “the behavior of others is about them, not you.” Logically I understood this, but I remained stuck in a purgatory. I couldn't fully connect to and let go of the hugely distracting resentment.

Then a curious thing happened. As I began to learn the deeper roots of why a person mistreats another, the anger dissipated.

This didn't require an individually detailed personal history to construe. They were facts that can be generally applicable to anyone that displays habitually abusive or destructive behaviors. They came through lots of therapy and research as I sought understanding I would never receive from him.

It is this:

When a healthy person behaves in a way that hurts others, they take responsibility for that action and make amends.

I was dealing with an unhealthy person.

There are people who, because of an abusive childhood (emotionally, physically, or otherwise), navigating their way with a narcissistic or extremely controlling parent, or suffering other emotional trauma, developed protective mechanisms early on to avoid dealing with the shame and violation they experienced.

These mechanisms can start in the form of an inflated sense of self, denial, or even a secret life. They are ways to create “emotionally safe” conditions that allow them to experience freedom, “love,” or accomplishment in a way they didn't have access to through healthy means.

Emotional stability was the most immediate, basic human need. But they had to learn to achieve it at a time when core values—such as respect, honesty, and empathy—may have not been fully developed.

When this person fails to deal with their pain and anger into adulthood, they never outgrow their early emotional survival skills. As these mechanisms take on an increasingly functional role, values that the person eventually came to understand (or claim to adhere to) become secondary to protecting their emotional safety.

These methods weld to their identity: they can live without the values but not without the relief their emotional protections provide. They develop into practices such as criticism, disconnection, projection (applying their transgressions or perceived shortcomings—whatever they don't want to own about themselves—onto their victims), lying, and addictive behaviors.

What a healthy person considers a normal relationship negotiation or expression of personal needs, or even when life demands the basics of responsibility of regard for others, the unhealthy person perceives a threat to their vulnerable sense of self and unleashes their behaviors to maintain the emotional “safe place.”

Their abusive techniques essentially produce short term (false) feelings of success, confidence, or acceptance that feel uplifting and comfortable, especially when the alternative is to face a reality that is filled with perceived failure. 

In my experience, there was often no discernable threat when my ex displayed inconsiderate, bizarre, or hurtful behaviors.

For example, if his sense of self was feeling particularly low—despite my adoration and support—that may have meant him blatantly ignoring me in a social situation to drink and flirt with other women. He often met requests to accommodate my schedule or needs with indignation. Playing with my son started to turn antagonistic to the point where I'd have to intervene.

Mere days after we ended our relationship, he claimed he had become “emotionally connected” to a new lover. A couple of weeks later he purposely paraded her in front of me and my children, yet completely ignored us. I couldn't fathom what I, much less innocent children, had done to deserve that.

Even long before this absurd “new lover parade,” trying to have open, mature dialogue about the effects of his behavior, even in the most non-threatening way, resulted in projection, disconnection, or playing the victim.

There they were: the mechanisms to cushion himself from the emotional pain associated with having to take responsibility for his behavior (that he most likely regretted or felt ashamed of already).

The crazy-making boomerangs hurled at me made me realize the relationship would never grow into the beauty I had envisioned for myself, and if I stayed in, I would have to live with only erratically and unreliably receiving the things that were important to me: honesty, respect, commitment, kindness, empathy.

And that's when a giant light bulb shone on my anger. His mechanisms for achieving emotional “stability” occurred in direct conflict with some of my deepest core values.

Anger is not a primary emotion; it is created to avoid core hurt feelings such as being disregarded, devalued, or rejected. And I felt all of those things every time my values were trampled.

Anger isn't a measurement of something negative in your life; it's a signal to reaffirm your own boundaries and values. 

With emotionally unhealthy people, we're not talking about mild immaturity or self-centeredness—we're talking full-scale inability and unwillingness to recognize responsibility for their actions. And almost anyone is subject to the pie-flinging.

The slightest thing that he could translate into a question of his principles, responsibility, or regard for others resulted in anything from stonewalling to an aggressive verbal assault. I observed it wasn't just me: it was his siblings, parents, the mother of his children—anyone he felt was “locked in” to him enough to have to swallow his behavior.

When I could finally understand that his motivation wasn't to devalue me—that his destructive decision-making processes existed long before I came along—the adage “Don't take anything personally” finally, fully came to life for me.

I was able to dissociate from the anger and focus on the more critical issue: regaining control of my life and all the wonderfulness of me. He was stuck in his own tornado, but I had a choice to live differently.

There are still moments where a tiny part of me wonders “Why won't he change?” Because the fact is, he could. We are all capable of extraordinary growth. He chooses the comfort of the known; though disappointed, I can now accept that the disregard, disrespect, and uncompassionate behavior I experienced weren’t a matter of my value or importance.

I never thought it could be possible, but the love I feel now being alone with just my kids and my friends is more fulfilling and inspiring than having a partner I couldn't trust to live by the values of basic human kindness when life gets challenging.

Understanding allows me to hold a prayer for peace for him in my heart, while I live my own life of opportunity from a place of strength and joy.

Peaceful man image via Shutterstock

About Kelly Berdine

Kelly Berdine is raising two kids as a single mom on a rogue South American island. She offers down-to-earth advice and explorations on living with humans, empowerment and being your dream self. She is developing a project called Sketchbook Rebel, to help people process life's lunacies through art. Find her at Raw Beautiful Life, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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  • JRO

    Outstanding article! I’ve had questions, thoughts, theories, and ideas about this subject thrashing about in my mind. I read this and felt a much-needed jolt of clarity. I want to tape this article on my forehead for easy access every time I doubt myself. Too bad that would be weird and possibly passive-aggressive, I’ll just store it in Evernote.

  • Tara

    THANK YOU. I often struggle with the aftermath of having a manipulative and emotionally unhealthy ex. I dislike that I still carry feelings of anger towards him and myself after years since we seperated and still question over and over again “how can someone act like this”. I am hoping that by continuing to understand and accept, that it will become easier for me to “not take it personally!”

  • Oh no, please tape it to your forehead and send a picture, haha! 😉 I
    have an alternative, less passive-aggressive idea: a t-shirt that says
    “Deal with yer sh*t”

  • You are so very welcome. Coming to this understanding truly set me free and WHAT A GIFT that I want everyone in this situation to experience! It is time to live your life with all that anger transformed into love for you. You deserve it.

  • JRO


  • Mags

    Excellent! So very well put. I’ve been struggling with the same thing – trying not to internalize the anger and humiliation of someone that seemed to care, and I was so very good to. Shades of my own abusive childhood – people that I cared about, who could turn and become truly cruel. I am also trying to meander my way out of this maze of self-doubt and hurt. Thank you Kelly.

  • Claire

    I have a very similar story to tell, except I am still married.

    The only difference in my situation is that my husband reserves this behavior for me- he does not treat others this way. Part of that is probably because he only has superficial relationships with others, and he is very protective of his public persona. So, for me, it is personal. Very personal. Yes, he had childhood traumas that I am quite sure explain his behavior, but I too wonder why he won’t change, as it would not only improve my life, but his as well.

    I was told by a psychologist that the reason people like this typically do not change is because it would force them to re-examine many years of their life and face the reality that they were wrong about many things and the choices they made because of their immature emotional status. These type of people (many of whom are narcissists as my husband has been diagnosed) cannot handle being “wrong” or any kind of criticism- although they can and do dish it out regularly. They tend to be “frozen” emotionally at whatever age they were when the childhood trauma occurred.

    For me, the reason I find this behavior so difficult to accept, is that they are capable of change, but feel no need to do so- even when told that loved ones are suffering because of their choices. And my husband is fully-functioning in other meaningful ways: he has a good job, is a good provider (financially) ,and has friends- although they are all of the superficial variety. And unfortunately, alcohol plays a big part of these “friendships”, which adds another level of complexity to the problem.

    Sometimes, I just want to shake him and tell him to snap out of it! I only wish I could find the words that would touch him and make him realize that I truly love him and that it’s okay to change- that I would never blame him for his childhood trauma issues, and that our life could be so much better if he would heal his hurts. I would never turn my back on him, and it would earn him my respect and gratitude if he could just get to that point. I haven’t completely given up (yet), but my attempts to discuss this with him fall flat, and it takes such a huge toll on my well-being, energy, and time. His effort to address this should surpass mine- at the very least, match it. And that’s just not happening.

  • Thank you thank you thank you! So angry lately and come full circle wondering how I ended up here a second time –feeling the victim. I will reread and embrace your words as I struggle to find what I need for me and to let go of the “dark spiral” of imagined conversations “that will teach you”. Spending time planning on how you can punish someone else is really only punishing yourself!

  • DB

    Thank you, thank you so much !! I needed this. I have really been struggling with an ex and I wanted him to know how much he hurt me with his behaviour, how abusive it has been and so I sent him an email . All I got back was that everything was my fault from beginning to end. Everything you have written in this wonderful article I can relate to, except where he treated other people the same . He seem to reserve it all for me .
    I am still hurting but I know in time I will heal. Thank you x

  • Missn

    This article helps me and in fact I thought I was reading my own story…did I write this? But then in thinking about it I understand better that he was so abusive because it was not me he was punishing and inflicting hurt on…it was his mother. It wasn’t about me except to the extent of why I was involved with an unhealthy person. I chose him. So this helps. Also in the same way I cannot get the love I am looking for from my parent, I understand too that she is too wounded and does not know how to do that so acceptance, maybe in all of these circumstances could be a key. I cannot get from them what I need to give to myself and further, they are not the parent I am looking for…that is something I need to give to myself with the help of the higher power. Finally…and I really hate to say this…but I have had to recognize the abusive part of my own personality…and I can be abusive which is something I am working on. Again, no one can change that but me with the help of the higher power. The abuse happens because of looking for a parent that I need to be to myself and in the same way, I cannot give them what they want. My job is to stay connected to the higher power (who I call God) but I feel that learning compassion is part of this. That helps in the process of detachment and as the author says, to quit holding out for an apology which will never come. Maybe learning to love myself will.

  • Missn

    This article helped me so much. I believe that it will help to get past the anger I have about the rejection from the parent — those dark and angry feelings have been worse than the actual event itself. Maybe by learning to be compassionate (including having a whole lot of compassion and love for myself) will rise above this…thanks so much for your help.

  • KJB

    At 45, I am just now dealing with narcissistic abuse from my mom and sister. I spent 30 years trying to figure out why they do what they do. I didn’t even know what it was until I recently sought therapy and figured it out. And reading articles like this really help me to understand their behavior and that I couldn’t do anything to stop it. I always thought, if I could just find the perfect words, they would change their ways but trying made it worse and made them throw their venom even more. I am lucky to have a wonderful husband, daughter and many, many amazing friends that are now my chosen sisters. They remind me that I didn’t and don’t deserve what I was handed before and that I don’t have to accept it. My new mantra is that I am now building a stronger bridge, so that I can soon get over it! 🙂

  • michele

    So, what if you have a situation where someone DOES take responsibility and apologizes for their actions/words but then continues to make the same mistake? I chose to break it off, but does that make him a ‘healthy’ person still?

  • katie

    …perfectly stated. It takes a very long time to get *here* and connect the why’s and how’s of someone else, who we can only assume “chooses” to live this way…& even then, when you know better, some days it is hard to keep that in perspective. Being able to separate yourself (& family) from this person is the best option.

  • Annette Cirelle

    THANK YOU @kelly_berd:disqus for this piece! I have been waiting for someone to understand what I went thru with someone and this article spoke to me and my subconscious yearning to be heard/felt/understood! So just, thank you. xxA

  • Cathy

    One of the best commentaries I have ever read on the dynamics of an abuse person. This author nailed it.

  • Cathy

    Your response to the article is as articulate and profound as the article itself. You stated your situation, with its frustration and pain and sadness, exquisitely. I have no hope to offer you…I only know your searing and honest perception will at least serve YOU in the final analysis.

  • Ally

    “Anger is not a primary emotion; it is created to avoid core hurt feelings such as being disregarded, devalued, or rejected.” Interestingly, Non-violent communication teaches the opposite – that anger is the emotion, and ‘disregarded’, ‘devalued’, and ‘rejected’ are judgements about other people.

  • Claire

    Thank you, Cathy.
    The tiny shred of hope I have left is that my husband will ‘step outside himself’ just long enough to consider another path forward. The question I have to answer for myself is how long I’m willing to wait for that possibility,

  • Kristen, you are so right (planning other’s punishment) – that’s just handing over your precious time, energy and self to an undeserving black hole. There’s so much to do for YOU! Reading, creating, caring, laughing, treating yourself well. The fact that you recognize you are “here a second time” is awesome. The universe keeps giving us the same lesson over and over until we GET IT. I think you got it. And that is something to rejoice.

  • I breathe a big sigh of happiness reading about all the pieces you are recognizing. That is an incredible tipping point towards your freedom! I have been through the same things (parent rejection, looking for that from others, etc.)–accessing it from within makes life so much less a battle and so much more full of comfort, clarity and possibility. Congratulate yourself today on how far you’ve come.

  • Actions speak louder than words. Apologizing yet continuing the same cycle shows they are committed to damage control, not growth. Trust your gut. (Sounds like you did.)

  • You are so welcome. Feel free to keep in touch. I hope you have a cool day and that you’ve got your groove on. 🙂

  • I believe there is validity in both schools of thought. Anger is a fascinating and complex subject. Ultimately it is something that shouldn’t be shamed; it is natural, part of our fight or flight. Without the capacity for anger, we wouldn’t be able to defend ourselves, our right to be as we believe and value. Abusive behavior out of anger is something that needs to managed; and to identify the cause/root of anger in order to not hold it longer than necessary is key to long-term health and growth. Thank you for that well-stated perspective.

  • Trust yourself and your values. <3

  • Thanks Diane! I will check it out. The knowledge is so, so enlightening.

  • There may have been a “safety” in you. Regardless, trust yourself. It is time to explore what of your values was violated, and to take this as your very own work to firmly establish and live them from here on out. The experience was a gift (weird but true) that will enable you to become whole now.

  • I literally got the tingles reading about your transformation and support system! Makes me smile big. You are now putting your energy in the most productive places. Compassion and wholeness are being generated in you and your life. Awesome!

  • “It takes such a huge toll on my well-being, energy, and time” – You have the answers. How much longer are you willing to allow him to take from your precious life? I believe in you. Because I *am* you. I was there–twice.

  • Claire

    There are others factors at play here that I m not at liberty to discuss.

    I understand that I have a choice- regardless of what he decides. It sounds so simple- just leave. Unfortunately, depending on the specifics of the situation, it is not always so simple.

    There is also a lot of brainwashing and low self-esteem involved. In my case, this has built over the last 32 years. It takes time to “unlearn” things and replace unhealthy thoughts and habits with new ones. I am working on it, and am getting help with my anxiety issues that have developed as a result of this relationship.

  • It is not simple AT ALL. There are many risks and unforseeable changes to face, etc. It’s huge. No getting around that. I had to process my “self-challenge” questions for years–years. I am happy to know you are getting help. Please continue to build your support system! You deserve all the love you can surround yourself with.

  • Liz

    It may take you leaving him for him to finally get it. I left my abusive husband two years ago and I have never been happier. My family and friends all comment on how happy I seem, and it’s true! Abuse is not love. You deserve better. You do not deserve to put up with even one more thing. Your health is on the line.

  • Liz

    When you finally get the courage to leave, you will be overwhelmed with the amount of love you receive outside of this relationship. You deserve so much love! You deserve to not have anxiety! I hope you can find a support system to help you transition through this. “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.”

  • Excellent. I needed your insight years ago, but I will gladly accept it today. 🙂

  • Abigail Odiet Wojahn

    Thanks Kelly! Even thought I have ex’s that i can relate this too, this one was mainly for my boss who is necessarily aggressive and blows up at me over the smallest things. I have been here 8 years and he still treats me like I am beneath him and gets upset or egotistical when i question anything or attempt to do anything which I know i am fully capable of doing. These behaviors used to be highly damaging to my sense of self and confidence but having people like you translate issues in such a way to make you realize maybe I am not the problem and maybe it isn’t about me or something I did. I hope to have more compassion for him and other in the future but am not perfect and that is one of the biggest things I Struggle with is compassion for others when it feels like it has been few and far between when compassion was shown to me. My issues to work through but I just wanted to say I apperciate your read! Take care! Peace and Love.

  • Robbyn

    Wow! What an incredible articulation of your experience. Which, interestingly enough, seems to be so very identical to mine. I have been trying to find the words to describe my new found truths, but haven’t quite figured out the why’s yet. I too, just recently, have found a new source of joy. I haven’t been able to fully articulate it though. I too am alone with my children (non of which were his) and my best friends and have never felt such incredible joy and gratitude as I do now. AND I’m just not totally sure why. What seemed to be at first, an incredibly bitter trial, has now become a blessing in disguise. No one tells you what to do or say when the rug gets pulled out from underneath you. There’s no books to read that prepare you, no steps to follow when you’re world is thrashed and you’re left feeling completely helpless and leveled. Its been 4 months now… I still do, occasionally, want to express to him how horrible his choices were… but you’re totally right. He’ll never agree, he’ll deflect as always and I’ll never get the acknowledgement or apology I know I deserve. He’s even gone as far as to make up stories of things that I did to him to uphold his ego and reputation… because the way he exited our relationship is just so cruel and frankly, not sugar-coatable for him. Its soo unfair. For lack of better words. But.. I am learning to forgive without ever receiving an apology and have found that hate in my heart is just not congruent to who I am, who I’ve always been, and who I lost for the past 4 years trying to appease an unappeasable man.

  • C

    Wow, thank you for this. You totally nailed it.

  • Catsbe

    Something you said brought me great concern, your words… “Why won’t he change?” Because the fact is, he could.
    I have done much research on personality disorders and if a person has low or no empathy / conscience, the inability to consistently sustain positive change, grow to any authentic emotional and spiritual depth and develop meaningful insight about how his (her) behavior negatively affects others falls under a personality disorder.If this is the case, the brain is wired wrong in these people, there for these people can not change. Please, if anyone thinks they are in a relationship with someone who has low or no empathy or does not seem to have a conscience and no regard for you as a human being go to My life was turned upside down ,my soul pulled inside out by someone I thought I could change or fix with love , understanding , forgiveness and patience , I was wrong. Seven years lost. Four years now rebuilding mostly my soul. The hardest part , understanding and believing what he is and then letting go.

  • Catsbe

    Please go to amazon and look for the book Woman who love Psychopaths Inside the relationships of Inevitable Harm with Psychopaths, Sociopaths, & Narcissists by Sandra L. Brown, M.A.
    Also go to this web site The book will really give you understanding into yourself as well as to you partner. The book saved my life as well as their help on their web site. My heart is with you

  • Clau

    THANK YOU SO SO MUCH! <3 Two weeks ago I read another article about how to forgive people by questioning their motives to understand them, which would lead to feel compassion for them. But I was struggling with the understanding part. I couldn't shake off the feeling of being wronged or the questions like "why does he hurt us?" and "why won't he change?" I wanted to punish him too, and exactly as you said: I wanted my pain recognized.

    I know about my father's childhood, and I know he was abused and mistreated by his parents too. But for me, that was an even bigger reason to think he shouldn't do the same. The anger is always there. Somehow I got to the point where I knew he wouldn't change and why he acts the way he does, but I can't seem to let go of the anger I felt… at least until now when I read your words "Anger is not a primary emotion; it is created to avoid core hurt feelings such as being disregarded, devalued, or rejected. And I felt all of those things every time my values were trampled."

    I guess my anger comes from that tiny but insistent voice that says "Aren't we, my sister and I, enough reason for him to change?" "If my little sister's suicide attempt, eating disorders, anxiety and self-harming aren't enough for him to change, what's left for me?" Everything he does go against what I believe a parent should do and he always avoid his responsibility by saying that no one taught him how to be a parent.

    I can't leave this house yet, but now I think I can work on letting go of this anger and to direct my energy in something more productive so in the (I hope, near) future I can leave this behind and take my sister with me.

    Thank you for sharing your story, it gives me strength to keep going forward!

    PS: Sorry for my English, it is not my first language ^^'

  • Things appear when we’re ready 😉

  • Didi Claire

    Thank you for sharing your story. To add on this however, some abusive partners can’t change because they don’t even acknowledge how emotionally damaging they are to their loved ones. They are so convinced in their behavior and how they perceive their surroundings (with fear), that when you challenge them to see things differently then you become the problem. I have experienced abusive relationships and how damaging they are. But most importantly I am grateful that I have the courage to walk away, some people would rather be with someone in pain than being alone.

  • Khrystle Rea

    such a wonderful piece. Thank you for sharing. Love your perspective and so happy you have found your happiness and had the courage to walk away from such a destructive relationship!

  • Mike Emery

    A very comforting and inspirational article, thank you.

    I see that I may be one of the only guys that is commenting because it works both ways.

    It had taken me a long time to realize that my partner, although a good, loving but troubled person (probably part of the attraction!) simply didn’t have the tools in toolbox right from childhood

  • Lisa

    I left my narcissistic husband after ten years of marriage because of these exact issues. I hate to say it, and I know that each abuse target must come to the understanding in their own time, but it is not going to get better. He is never going to wake up and realize what he is doing. In fact, as time goes on, his justifications of mistreating you will only get stronger. When you first leave your husband he will become *even worse* than he is now, but you will become stronger each day. I have to tell you that your hope is beautiful and admirable, and it is not going to come true. Narcissists can’t love the way healthy people can. They love what you can do for them, and nothing more. You are worth more than that.

  • Lisa

    This is such a good description of the perceptions of an abusive person. I’m glad you got out!! I did, too, and it has been a challenge but completely worth it.

  • Theresa

    Wow. Just…thank you.

  • fragglerock

    Musical and artistic expression as well as cleaning vigorously and push-ups also help with anger 😉

  • Mike, I hear from a lot of men on both sides of the situation.(The “I am that guy” as well as “This is the woman in my life”.) For some reason that I can’t put my finger on yet, it seems either more difficult to perceive a woman as abusive (?) or to accept that a woman is capable of these behaviors. Something I am interested to understand better.

  • I do understand the idea that “some people really can’t change.” I believe it’s that the fear is so big for them indeed they never face it down. I truly believe everyone is actually capable of change, but there are some where the probability is very, very low. For those, perhaps it is in their next life to play out and come closer to resolving; for those on the receiving end, we can consider those people gifts in their own right: as messengers for us to get straight with our values and live to our potential.

  • Your words are beautiful, language and correctness not important. Your logic–“shouldn’t we be the reason he wants to change”–*should* make sense. But it won’t. Your observations are VERY wise (that he avoids responsibility). It is simply sad and unfortunate, but you are blessed with light and wisdom from a young age; you can do great things with this.

    My mother never came through for me, and it took many years to slowly detach from taking it personally; to tell myself a new story that despite her actions, I am lovable, I am creative / intelligent / worthy / etc. Please go to my site, sign up for the email and you will get a free ebook that may be helpful. 🙂

  • I am so excited you are experiencing the gift of the trial this put you through. I believe it’s the Universe’s way or messenger sent to push you to your evolution into the best you–a wise woman, a great mom, a happy soul. “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” –Henry David Thoreau 🙂 With a little more time, that unfairness simply won’t matter. You’ll be able to just sit and smile (sounds like you already are most days).

  • You are beneath no one. You are fully capable of anything you want. When a person attempts to make you feel otherwise, they fear what you make them see in themselves. It’s just projection.

    You may never receive compassion from him. Of course you want to protect yourself and not have your energy and spirit robbed, and give to the robber. In my personal experience, I was able to better exercise compassion for the person when I formed strong boundaries–when they couldn’t rob my spirit anymore.

  • Didi Claire

    Very true Kelly thank you, however one has to acknowledge what needs to be changed for it to happen.

  • Mike

    KellyB: perhaps, like Didi Claire’s post, I can also add something to your comment? For sure, a lot of people, men and women, are quite aware – we might say in “real time” – that they are abusive.

    However, if I referred to my former partner as someone who is abusive, she’d be horrified. If I explain further, it might strike a chord and be helpful to others.

    My amateur take on this is that her abuse towards me and others (including her children) stemmed from a form of narcissism – a self-centredness that kicked-in but only at key, defining moments, which I think was the product of a false sense of identity that needed to be defended at all cost.

    And yet part of her very seductiveness as a person was the facade of poise, reasonableness, intelligence and caring – and it must take a lot of energy to keep that going – a mask to hiding true sadness and, in her case, I now suspect, never recovering from a childhood that no one should have gone through.

    Unable to tell the truth from the lie about herself, even when clearly making choices against her own best interest, the mask is protected at all times, in ways that, as a partner, you begin to doubt yourself.

    But unfortunately, I got to realize that, in a sense, the relationship was somehow performance-based, not intimacy based – and once a certain, high-level, performance-standard has been achieved, something worthwhile and tangible, then something new is now more attractive than something realized because something realized is unrecognizable, unwanted, and actually presents a threat to the mask and comfort zone of a false personna.

    In my case, if you add to this another layer of mask when I tell you that she was a mental health professional (and I most certainly am not), then you might get the picture that there’s no easy way to spot someone so mentally unhealthy, especially if they have a plethora of seemingly reasonable answers to their behaviours. And not for nothing did she choose her profession! It’s the perfect defence mechanism.

    They don’t get it about themselves and they are never going to.

    And it’s taken a lifetime for them to get there and may take a long time for you to find that out, as it did me.

    Compassion, yes. Sadness, yes, Understanding, yes. Forgiveness, yes. They can’t help it. But also distance.

    And, let’s face it, perhaps some of us have fallen in love with a personality that was invented and not even real to its owner. So we also have to consider that for ourselves? What does that say about us?

  • Brittany


    Thank-you for sharing your story. I have always loved the TinyBuddha website for inspirational reads – but this one really hit home for me. I went through a terrifying, emotionally and physically abusive relationship two years ago and It has taken me a long time to feel confidence in myself again. It is crazy how we are so blinded by love and I too felt like it would all get better, or I could get over it, if he would just apologize and see things from my perspective, from a kind and genuine heart.

    Therapy and counseling was the best thing I could have ever done, not just to get over my trauma, but to understand the psychology behind these “unhealthy” types of abusive people. My life is forever changed, but I know in so many ways for the better. Its comforting to hear from other women who go through this and come out of it strong, happy and independent.

  • JD

    If there were ever a blog post I needed to read to express exactly how I feel at this moment! Thank you for writing this piece. I whole-heartedly understand your every word and how it feels to be on the receiving end.

  • Feeling so happy for you!! <3 Excited to see the gifts you're discovering to bless this world with 🙂

  • Your insight into the complexity of it is amazing. How tightly woven the story can be to that person. Your ending statement hit me: “a personality that was invented and not even real to its owner – what does that say about us?” In my experience, I slowly began to recognize that, in short, he didn’t “walk the talk”. I was lured in by all the “right things” he said (but didn’t live)…stories I wanted fulfilled that I wasn’t fulfilling for myself. Had I been in a more centered place myself during that time, I can see (based on how I value my life and the energies in it now) how I would have been able to pick up on the mask much sooner and pleasantly walk away.

  • momzilla76

    This describes my father exactly, as do many of the comments here. I tried to have a relationship with him as an adult after cutting him out of my life for a time. Once I woke up to the fact that he was treating me in unhealthy ways I too tried to diplomatically tell him. He could only patronize and insult.

  • It’s so disappointing, most especially coming from a parent – you want to believe somehow the title will make them overcome anything in order to be the best for you, their child. Sadly, they’re not immune. Our best choice is to find in this the biggest challenge we’ll likely face–to access the divine of who we innately are without the support and guidance of that parent. Love to you.

  • Lois

    You just described my life with my soon-to-be ex-husband after 25 years as a couple and 23 years married. His choice to leave, and his second failed marriage. I’m devastated, but he has zero willingness to see a counselor or make any effort at all. So preventable and such a loss for our family. Every single thing that you said could’ve been said by me.

  • LovenoLimit

    Just what I’m dealing with now. I’m driving myself crazy trying to get this man to see my hurt….to see things from my perspective. And the more I tryto get him to understand, the more I become the bad negative person…the bad person. It’s taking me months for me to realize it, but I’m fighting a losing battle. He’s set in his ways. He have probably been like this his entire life and doesn’t know any other way. Everyone’s the bad person. He see’s no error in his ways. And I’m done trying to make him see it

  • RoscoeB

    This is an excellent post, very well written and poignant with regard to how emotionally disordered people will stop at nothing to project their fragile sense of self. It sounds to me like your ex was dealing with Borderline Personality Disorder as I too experienced a similar relationship with a woman for one year before things dissolved.

  • LovenoLimit

    I’m dealing with or delt with the same thing. I’ve tried to reconcile things more that once but all I get in return is projection, dismissiveness, and blamed for EVERYTHING!!!! Everything is my fault. I admit I’ve played my role, but he’ll never empathize and say, “I can see how my behavior or actions led you to act out a certain way”. True enough, we’re adults and we’re responsible for our actions. But there’s still that good ole thing called, “cause and effect “. For some reason, I find myself still trying to reconcile it. I think the reason is, he have me second guessing myself and thinking “was it me”? Did I mess this up”? So I find myself trying to get him to see that I didn’t do anything wrong. But it’s going no where.

  • LovenoLimit

    I too had a manipulative and emotionally unhealthy ex. You can’t help but take it personal when you see that he doesn’t behave that way with other people. He’s the type that you’d be out in public with him, and other people would look at him like, “what a great guy”. He laughs, smiles( beautiful smile) jokes and interacts with everyone. And I get the same
    Thing from him also (15% of the the time). But the other 85% I’m getting anger, insensitivity, disengagement,lack of affection and other shit.

  • LovenoLimit

    I think mine have personality disorder. I told my friends who also knows him and they laugh. But I’m dead serious. I believe he does suffer from personality disorder. Might explain why he’s always on the go and gets involved in all these different projects that really doesn’t lead to anything or bring in hardly any income. I think he does it to feel relevant. I dare not tell him that though

  • LovenoLimit

    “there’s no easy way to spot someone so mentally unhealthy, especially if they have a plethora of seemingly reasonable answers to their behaviours. They don’t get it about themselves and they are never going to”.
    Mike, I couldn’t have said it better. This about sums up my ex. And like you said, if I was to address him as abusive, he’d be very offended. He’s not in the mental health profession, but he’s very intelligent (which was one of the major attraction) and I remember my Bff telling me, be careful because smart men knows how to be manipulative. And that he is. I’m always, til this day, 2nd guessing myself.

  • LovenoLimit

    Kelly, I didn’t really start dating til I was in my mid 30’s, after ending things with my kids dad whom I was with (on & off, with issues), since HS. So like yourself, I question if I had dated from a younger age and had more experience with men & dating, would I have been able to recognize the mask also. In the beginning, his actions matched his words…..which could have been part of the manipulation or front.

  • LovenoLimit

    I too am stuck with that feeling of the rug being pulled from underneath me. It’s soooo very unfair and I feel cheated. I too want that apology. To be acknowledged that I was treated unfairly. But I’ll never get it. And I need that day to come where I won’t need that apology, that acknowledgement.

  • LovenoLimit

    It’s interesting to read this article because I think when we hear the word “abusive relationship”, the 1st thing that comes to mind is physical abuse. At least that’s how I use to think. After experiencing an abusive relationship, and also reading this article, I realized that abuse comes in so many different form. My experience was emotional abuse. Not in the form of name calling and being put down with words. But the lack of love, caring, affection, intimacy. Instead I got anger, denial, projection, and blamed for everything. He never saw the error of his ways. He was manipulating. I believe he behaved in such a bad manner that forced me to act out. And then when I did, he had a reason to stay away or say I’m the reason he stay away

  • SJ

    I really loved reading this. Very insightful and something I can relate well to. Moving on from destructive relationships can take a very long time, but the reward is building a more loving, understanding and appreciative relationship with the self that no one can take away xx

  • Lynne

    This sounds exactly like my story, and I am still processing the loss after months. I was in love with him and this helps me to understand why we could never have a real conversation about the dissolve of the relationship (all my fault). But I also believe he feels justifed and will never see to the truth as to the destructiveness of his actions. I feel for his young daughter who cannot get away.

  • S. Dawn

    Do you believe that things happen for a reason? That people enter our lives (regardless of how long they stay) for a reason? I do. This article came across my facebook feed at a moment I need to understand and hear. A light bulb has not completely gone off for me (yet) but reading this article has provided me with a peace. Thank you for sharing.

  • LesAnonymes

    I think when people won’t connect to the part of themselves that feels shame, they don’t connect to themselves. I think learning about how to deal with shame of your actions makes you an empathetic person who won’t make the same mistakes.

  • AL

    Thank you for this article. I’ve recently gone through a similar situation, and am trying to release my anger as best I can. I lashed out a bit via social media, albeit on a platform where I didn’t think mutual friends would see it, but I was wrong about who would see it and perhaps wrong to go that route to work through my feelings. He found out I’d labeled him as abusive and ripped into me.
    However, talking about it, venting, being able to let it out where and when I wanted to as suppressed memories and waves of hurt threatened to pull me under helped me process things and accelerated my path of healing. I understand so much more now, and no longer blame myself for the things he’s said and done to hurt me. The more I read, the more I talk, the more I think…the more acceptance comes.

  • LovenoLimit

    So true. You can’t convince an alcoholic to that they need AA if they don’t believe that they have a drinking problem

  • Didi Claire

    Very true, thank you. Before I left it was like life was being sucked out of me. Now I am thinking positive about my life and looking to a brighter future ahead. I am grateful. Thanks alot.

  • Didi Claire

    My story exactly, the only way I wd see him change is by a miracle from God. I tried it all, talked to him, explained everything, cried to him, sacrificed, loyal to him but all efforts were dispensed in a big black hole. It felt like life was being sucked out of me. I am glad I left, I don’t regret that decision one bit whether he moves on or end up together again for our daughter’s sake- which will be a miracle from God if he changes. If not I am better off alone. Good luck to you too.

  • Laura Wylie

    I recognise part of myself/behaviour in what you are describing. I am so desperate for self-growth. Looking inward has helped, and I completely accept responsibility. From now, the hardest part is letting go of the shame of past mistakes.. it’s a journey I guess.