You Are Not the Cause of His Anger or Abuse

Anger in relationships is about blame: "I feel bad, and it's your fault." Even when he recognizes his anger, he'll blame it on you: "You push my buttons," or, "I might have overreacted, but I'm human, and look what you did!"

Angry and controlling husbands are very anxious by temperament. From the time they were young children, they've had a more or less constant sense of dread that things will go badly and they will fail to cope. So they try to control their environment to avoid that terrible feeling of failure and inadequacy. But the cause of their anxiety is with them, not in their environment.

The sole purpose of your husband's anger and abusive behavior is to defend himself from feeling like a failure, especially as a:
  • Protector
  • Provider
  • Lover
  • Parent
In truth, most men feel inadequate about relationships. We learn to feel adequate by providing what all relationships require: support and compassion.

The Silent Abuser
Not all emotional abuse takes the form of shouting or criticism. More common forms are "stonewalling" and "disengaging." The man who stonewalls does not overtly put you down. Nevertheless, he punishes you for disagreeing with him by refusing to even think about your perspective.

The disengaging husband says, "Do whatever you want, just leave me alone." He is often a workaholic, couch potato, womanizer, or obsessive about sports or some other activity. He tries to deal with his inadequacy about relationships by just not trying.

Both stonewalling and disengaging tactics can make you feel:
  • Unseen and unheard in your marriage
  • Unattractive
  • Like you don't count
  • Like a single parent
What All Forms of Abuse Have in Common
Whether overt or silent, all forms of abuse are failures of compassion; he stops caring about how you feel. Compassion is the lifeblood of marriage and failure of compassion is the heart disease.

It actually would be less hurtful if your husband never cared about how you felt. But when you were falling in love, he cared a great deal. So now it feels like betrayal when he doesn't care or try to understand. It feels like he's not the person you married.

Unlike love, which masks the differences between people, compassion makes us sensitive to the individual strengths and vulnerabilities of other people. It lets us appreciate our differences. Love without the sensitivity of compassion is:
  • Rejecting (who you really are as a person)
  • Possessive
  • Controlling
  • Dangerous
Harmful Adaptations to Anger and Abuse
The most insidious aspect of abuse is not the obvious nervous reactions to shouting, name-calling, criticism or other demeaning behavior. It's the adaptations you make to try to prevent those painful episodes. Many women engage in constant self-editing and self-criticism to keep from "pushing his buttons." Emotionally abused women can second guess themselves so much that they can lose themselves in a deep hole.
FROM: The Follow-Up Show: Fall 2004
Published on November 03, 2004

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