What Would You Do…

If… your partner had a short fuse, and got upset/yelled at others if they were not meeting his/her expectations?


If… your partner embarrassed you in front of friends?


If… your partner pouted/got upset and moody if you didn’t kiss or hug them, or hold their hand when they thought you should, or how they thought you should?


If… your partner sulked/got upset thinking that you paid more attention to your kids than to them?


If… whenever you got a text they looked over your shoulder to see who it was from?


If… they reneged on a promise they made your kid, just to lash out at you?


If… they woke up in a bad mood because you fell asleep before giving them a kiss goodnight?


If… your partner called you names?


If… they kept ‘teasing’ you even after you told them when they did that it hurt you?


What if, all the above was a cycle of wash, rinse, repeat? Wash, rinse, repeat?

And what if, after each wash and rinse, they tried to dry the tears and calm your fears with apologies such as:


“I was just upset because________ (fill in the blank)


“I’m trying to change, it’s just not going to happen overnight.” (Yet other times says, “That’s just the way I am, you should know that by now”)


“I would never do or say anything to intentionally hurt you.” (but sometimes when they did, they admitted that the reason was to get back at you)


Once ________, things will be totally different, I promise”


“Let me prove to you that I can change”

There is a difference between love as a feeling and love as a behavior. Someone can say they love you and still treat you like crap. I don’t just mean occasionally. We all have bad days, frustrating situations, and are not always our best selves, or the best partner that we can be.


Love. Is. A. Behavior.


None of the examples above exhibit loving behavior.


What is the difference between someone being a jerk, and an emotional abuser? Answer: A jerk will listen to what you say, be able to recognize and acknowledge their behavior, even if it takes a little while to change. However, when there is gaslighting, attempts to manipulate or control, or name calling… these are just a few of the signs of a verbal and emotional abuser.


An abuser will not listen and will use their position of power and control trying to control you and your behavior, not seeing or acknowledging that they are abusive. Most importantly, they will not see what they are doing and there will always be an excuse.


Unconditional love does not mean that you must accept ‘love’ from someone who is hurtful, possessive, controlling, moody, unkind or manipulative.


Gary Chapman, the creator of The 5 Love Languages and a well-respected relationship expert, wrote something recently in an email that infuriated me and needs to be clarified. He wrote, “Unconditional love is the choice to love someone else no matter how they treat you.”


No! This is totally irresponsible and is not the case when the other person is abusive. This gives fodder to the belief that the person being abused isn’t doing enough. The abusive partner will use this as a way to convince you (and legitimately believes), that if you would just _______ things would be fine.


What if 85% of the time, things are good? Answer: It doesn’t matter. The 15% of the time filled with tears, pains in your gut that chip away at your energy, your self-esteem, and your ultimate happiness can cause depression, anxiety, loss of hope, and even suicidal thoughts. That 15% weighs far more heavily. Is it difficult when you think of the 85%… the good times? Of course, and that is normal. You may even think you did something wrong to cause this unkind, unloving behavior.


You did not.


Emotional and verbal abuse is not as black and blue as being hit in the eye, so it’s easier to rationalize, or second guess your own instincts. So many people stay in these relationships out of fear of what their abusive partner might do, or they’re unsure of how life would change, or afraid of what people will think. After all, people see your partner taking you out to dinner, to shows, vacations, giving you gifts and flowers…how could you not be happy?


No one knows what goes on behind closed doors.


For anyone who identifies more with sports, I found an analogy on The Good Men Project that I’d like to share. Perhaps this will resonate more than anything I can say:

What if we considered love as a behavior rather than as a feeling. When I played basketball, the coach always told us that on defense you should focus on the other guy’s middle and not get distracted by what he does with the ball. The wisdom of this is that your opponent can fake one way with the ball and then go in another direction, but you can’t fake with your middle. Whichever way your middle goes, the rest of you is sure to follow. In this case, our words are the potential ball fake, and our middle is our behavior. If we don’t follow the ball we are less susceptible to ball fakes and more likely to see how someone’s behavior is the clearest reflection of where their middle is headed.”


For relationships that have “normal” issues, things can be talked through, and if needed, therapy or coaching can be sought.


Unconditional love does not mean that you must accept ‘love’ from someone who is hurtful, possessive, controlling, moody, unkind or manipulative. -@nancytellsall Click To Tweet


Arguing is normal. Yelling is normal. This behavior is common in relationships — even those that have gone through therapy.


It’s when you’re dealing with someone who uses power or control…this is a different animal…literally.


They use emotion as their weapon.


An abusive person will typically not see that what they are doing is hurtful or unhealthy — and they especially won’t see that it is abusive.


They will say they love you, you don’t understand, you’re being too sensitive. Or you’re not trying hard enough to make things work, or you don’t respect them enough to talk more. They will say they respect your boundaries, but their actions scream otherwise.


If they can’t admit that they have a problem, acknowledging that they are an abuser, they can’t get help.


Hence, things won’t change…as much as they ‘try,’ or promise things will be different ‘if’…or different ‘when.’


The cycle will repeat. And repeat.


You can stop the cycle.


I truly hope this helps anyone who may be in this situation.


So now, I ask again…


If this describes your relationship, what will you do?


You can reach the National Domestic Hotline 24/7 online or by calling (800) 799-SAFE.


About the Author

Nancy Lang is a Certified Life Coach, published author, professional actress, mother of two incredible adult children, and M.D.D. (Maven of Divorce and Dating!). It was her role in life as a divorced woman that inspired her to write the book, You Want Me to What?!—The Dating Adventures and Life Lessons of a Newly Divorced Woman, and to create NancyTellsAll.com. It was this role that allowed her to believe in herself and to see that there are indeed opportunities and humor to be found in even the most challenging of situations! Nancy is a contributing writer for The Huffington Post, The Orange County Register, and YourTango.com. To read more about Nancy’s adventures, her poignant, empowering and humorous view on life’s lessons, subscribe to her weekly blog at www.nancytellsall.com