Someone who has been on the receiving end of abuse will do almost everything in their power to avoid conflict. When in a relationship, they make themselves as pleasing as possible, prioritise their partner above their own needs, and avoid contradicting the other person.
However, an abusive person will invariably bring all interactions around to a conflict point because they desire it. What the other person does or doesn’t do is irrelevant. Abusers thrive on other people’s distress and will seek to evoke it. They needle your pressure points, create drama where there shouldn’t be any, and indulge in wildly turbulent emotional displays designed to break you.
On top of all this, whatever the victim goes through is diminished, dismissed, denied or ridiculed and ultimately made to be the victim’s fault and not the abuser’s.
Every argument could mean the end of the relationship, physical abuse or emotional degradation. There is nothing the victim can do, say or be in order to avoid the abuse or stop it. What ends up happening is the victim is traumatised by unprovoked conflict and then re-traumatised by the abuser’s refusal to take responsibility for it.
The threat hanging over the victim’s head is never completely gone, even in calm times, and is on a scale of life and death.
After years of this in a relationship, the victim will often end up with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD). It destroys their confidence and undermines all of their relationships.
If someone manages to survive this and get away from the abuser, they will be terrified of arguments in relationships because they have never been able to engage in a healthy version of this.
As soon as conflict arises in any relationship afterwards, they will become terrified, emotionally distraught and unable to exercise higher cognitive functions. They’re plunged into fight, flight or freeze mode.
How Do You Heal?
The first step towards healing this trauma is to understand that it isn’t your fault. If you were in an abusive situation, there is nothing you could have done to make that person treat you better. All you can do is leave and seek shelter.
DO NOT allow their toxic words or treatment to become your reality.
To do this, it is very important to get professional help from someone who understands Narcissistic Abuse. A lot of other counselors will try and apportion blame for failure of the relationship across both parties and this is not helpful. In a normal relationship, sure, but not when you were dealing with an unhinged and vindictive individual.
The other important strategy for healing is to start tapping into your own inner strength and avoid looking for it from external sources. You need to get good at trusting yourself and looking after yourself and if you contract that out to other people, they will either buckle under the pressure or use it to abuse you further.
The other reason for not leaning too heavily on friends or family is that some of them may believe the abuser and might not have your best interests at heart. You need to keep all relationships at arms length until you can be certain that they want what is best for you.
You must be able to stand on your own two feet, no matter what. You must become secure enough in yourself to know that no one is allowed to treat you this way and that you have the ability to walk away from anyone who tries.
This phase can take years. That’s normal and often necessary.
You Need to Seek Conflict
When you start dating someone after the healing process, you need to find out early on what their “fighting style” is before you take things further.
This requires you to be imperfect around them and to perhaps contrive conflict, just to test out the waters. Optimally, you would want to be your authentic self in this scenario so that the other person gets a chance to see you warts-and-all but this can become challenging for someone with CPTSD. They may be terrified of showing such vulnerability.
Start with small stuff. Pick a movie or restaurant which the other person isn’t totally into and see how they behave. If they sulk the entire time, abort that man-fetus (or woman-fetus) ASAP.
Try teasing them about something minor, like their hair style. If they can’t deal with it, or hit back with something scathing instead of joining in on the banter, that person does not have enough emotional maturity to enter a relationship. They should be able to either take something with good humor or even start some banter which both of you can enjoy. If you’re not enjoying it, exit stage left.
Finally, try turning down an invitation to go out and instead go out with friends. If the person becomes controlling, emotionally manipulative or abusive, you know for sure that you need to avoid that person.
This might look like them constantly messaging you, having a cry, becoming angry, accusing you of not loving them, accusing you of cheating, making threats such as ending the relationship or spreading lies about you, and my all-time favourite abuser maneuver; going silent and not contacting you for days and then demanding an apology when they do get in contact again.
If you can evoke any of these unhealthy responses in the first few weeks of dating someone, you can avoid years of turmoil in your future.
It may suck, but the truth is that you’re better off single for the rest of your life rather than tied to someone who can’t manage their own emotions and lashes out at you over it.
You absolutely deserve better.