Your abuser can’t know himself like you know him

Your abuser can’t know himself like you know him February 5, 2014


Due to my book Seven Reasons Women Stay in Abusive Relationships and How to Defeat Each One of Them, I get a lot of letters from women in abusive relationships. This is for them and anyone else in their situation. Though I’ll use “she” pronouns for the abused and “he” pronouns for the abuser, what I’m saying here applies equally to men and women.

Pretty much the hook that keeps you committed to the relationship in which you are being emotionally and/or physically abused is that, despite it all, you love the man who abuses you.

You love him because you see in him a worthy nobility—a true and moving lovableness—that he himself is largely unaware of. That good part of him is the part you love. It’s the part of him that you keep hoping will grow, subsume, and vanquish whatever terrible thing within him that keeps compelling him to hurt you.

But the really big problem with that is this: When it comes to perceiving your abuser, you’re confusing him with you.

You see his inner goodness, yes. You see his vulnerable little boy. You see the man he could be.

He, on the other hand, sees, feels, and senses no such thing within himself.

He doesn’t because he can’t.

And why can’t he? Because by treating you as he does, he necessarily severs from himself all relationship with his core inner goodness. He destroys all pathways of communication between his surface self and that buried very deeply within him which could, in fact, save both you and him.

You can’t make him know, experience or access his better self. And he’s so heavily invested in being unaware of that self—so engaged in the facade that he’s constantly orchestrating, so committed to the drama of the persona that he’s certain constitutes his entire self—that he has no appreciable reason to stop, tear apart his own life, and force himself to face anything within himself that would condemn him for what he’s done and who he’s become.

He’s the engineer of his train. And he’s not about to look back and see what he’s dragging behind him. He’s just going to keep going furiously forward, ever forward.

And as long as you stay on his tracks, you’re going to keep getting hit by him.

If you really love your abuser—if it’s really and truly about him rather than you—then leave him. (And I know that’s not as easy as it sounds: see Seven Reasons.) All you can do for him—the very best you can do for him—is to stop playing such a vital supporting role in the terrible movie of his life. It’s not likely that he’ll ever hear the voice of goodness inside of him: he’s too committed to his chaotic cacophony for that. But if he has any chance of ever hearing that voice, he’ll only do so when, all around him, it’s suddenly become very quiet.


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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Jill

    hell yeah.

  • Jennifer Sandberg

    Yup, John, you hit the nail on the head – so to speak. This why I am trying to get out. Actually, I don’t love him anymore. That has been gone for a long time……

  • Outstanding summation, John Shore. Sobering truth.

  • There are resources that are available to help you Jennifer. If its a safety issue, contact your local rape crises center. They are well equipped to shelter you and help you navigate through the initial steps. And, if you are like I was, you’ll discover a lot of people who are willing to lend support, comfort and shoulders to cry on.

    One last thing, if you are fearful of his reaction if you leave, what will happen if you continue to stay, that insurmountable list of what ifs that run rampant through your mind, its understandable. That first step to put and end to it all is terrifying, which is what holds so many of us back, but its best gift you can ever give yourself.

  • Sara Lin Wilde

    If only I had been able to read this sooner. I ended up having to figure it out all by myself . . . though I doubt I would’ve been able to articulate it as clearly as you have.

  • Amanda

    This is excellent John. And it sums up nicely why I stayed for so long… that and the fact that it took me a long time to realize that it was the good times that were the abberation, and the bad times were the norm rather than the other way around.

  • Chloesmom123

    This is awesome! I don’t want to hurt him, but I can’t help him if I stick around and enable him to continue his cruel drama. I’m so sad, but, after reading this, I am more at peace. Thank You! God bless you and yours.