8 Burning Questions When You Realize You're Being Covertly Abused
How do I accept that my worst nightmare is true?
Take a deep breath. You will get through this.
You’re heading into a process of facing deep pain and allowing yourself to feel feelings. You’re facing profound betrayal and your pain is real. Honor your grief and feel it. You’re losing so much– your hopes and dreams, your security, your safety, your trust, your worldview, and possibly family and friends.
Know that this is a time of turmoil and you’ll feel awful for a while. Don’t fight the pain. Try to accept it. Know that it won’t last forever and you’ll grow tremendously through it.
You’ll get through this and you’ll find reservoirs of strength in you that you didn’t know you had.
What do I do now?
These are the three things that women find most helpful: finding support, learning all you can about covert abuse, and journaling (you might want to hide your journal or use a password protected app like Evernote).
You can find support in our private Facebook community.
You can find support through individual coaching with me.
You can read the Sanity Roadmap to see what’s ahead on this journey for you
Keep in mind that you are going to be going through a season of some hard work to learn to trust your self again. The work is so worth it!!! It takes a while to learn you can trust your intuition, and to see how the abuse has changed your perspective on yourself and on life.
My life is turned upside down! How do I deal with this?
Get support and don’t try to do this alone.
If you have PTSD, working with a skilled counselor or coach can really help. Try to find one who is experienced in trauma, psychological abuse, and, if your PTSD is severe, EMDR.
Learn, learn, learn all you can about covert abuse so you can put your experience into perspective and get out of the crazies.
How can I fix things or help him?
How do I make it stop?
There’s nothing you can do to fix or help your abuser. You’ve probably spent years or decades already trying to help him and the marriage.
I know this is hard to hear, but he isn’t abusing you because he wants help or fixing, but because he feels entitled to treat you this way and doesn’t think there is anything wrong with it.
There’s very little you can do to make your abuser stop; you can’t make another person do anything.
Be sure to read Why Does He Abuse Me? for a much deeper answer to this question.
How do I set boundaries with a covert abuser?
• Learn about covert tactics so you can identify what he’s doing. You can’t set boundaries around something you can’t identify!
• Observe his behavior and learn the specific tactics he uses.
• It’s fine if you continue to react and behave as you always have. At the same time you can journal your observations about his behavior so you can get clarity. This clarity is the first step to setting boundaries.
• Read about boundaries in general to strengthen your belief that you’re allowed to set boundaries and that setting boundaries isn’t selfish. You probably have some internal work to do to see yourself as a separate person with rights.
• It can be helpful to stop sharing any personal information, feelings or reactions with him.
• Pay attention to his intention behind his words, rather than listening to the words themselves. What is he trying to accomplish?
• When you are ready to start setting boundaries, consider how you want to respond to him. If you know you would be physically safe, you can begin to respond to his tactics by labeling them. You might say “I know you are shifting the blame on to me and I won’t accept it anymore.” Expect that this will make things worse and he’ll try new tactics. He may accuse you of intentions you don’t have such as being controlling or even abusive.
• You can choose to stop conversations with him once he uses a tactic.
• You’ll need to learn to stop being drawn into his circular, confusing conversations, to stand your ground and to not defend yourself. It takes great clarity and strength to do this.
• Many women eventually find they need to set the biggest boundary of all- separation and/or divorce. That is entirely your choice and you can do this in your timing.
Most women need support from a counselor, a coach, and/or other women who’ve gone through this.
Each situation is unique and you need to learn what’s best in your marriage. Give yourself time to learn how to set boundaries.
Why did this happen to me?
You were targeted by a character disturbed person who was looking for someone to control and exercise his entitlement over.
You have wonderful qualities that were used against you such as caring, kindness, intelligence, forgiveness, loyalty, honesty, sensitivity, conscientious, commitment to make the marriage work, and a tendency to think the best about others.
You were trained by our culture to believe that everyone’s like you and you had no idea that there were people like him in the world.
Why Does He Abuse Me? goes into this into greater detail. Essential reading!
Did I do anything right?
As time goes by you will discover that you did many things right. There are ways that you resisted that you may not recognize yet, but as you find yourself again, you’ll be amazed at all the ways you tried to keep yourself and your children safe and sane.
You were being systematically manipulated and brainwashed by the man who knows you better than anyone else is the world, who sleeps next to you every night, who you trusted with your whole heart.
His goal was to destroy you. But you didn’t go insane. Honestly, that’s a miracle.
You’re incredibly resilient and strong. You’ll soon see the ingenious ways that you survived.
What does healthy look like?
• You truly love and enjoy yourself and feel good about yourself while you’re with him.
• You feel heard, respected, and supported.
• He brings out the best in you and encourages you to be a strong, capable, vibrant, happy person.
• You experience peace, contentment, and joy when you’re with him.
• You don’t question your sense of self or experience self-doubt when you’re with him.
• He doesn’t create chaos in your life.
• You experience freedom to be your whole, true self with him.
• Conversations are clear rather than confusing, and conflicts reach resolution that takes both of your needs into account.
• The relationship is stable and there’s no feeling of living on a roller coaster.
• You never, ever wonder what’s going on in the marriage and you don’t live in confusion.