A young beautiful black-haired girl dressed in a white T-shirt and white shorts lying on her side in a room on a wooden parquet in a square painted with a white paint, bending her legs in a lap and pressing them against her chest and hugging them with a hands. Top view - How To Protect Yourself When Self-Isolating With A Controlling Partner - Sandra Harewood Counselling

How To Protect Yourself When Self-Isolating With A Controlling Partner

A young beautiful black-haired girl dressed in a white T-shirt and white shorts lying on her side in a room on a wooden parquet in a square painted with a white paint, bending her legs in a lap and pressing them against her chest and hugging them with a hands. Top view - How To Protect Yourself When Self-Isolating With A Controlling Partner - Sandra Harewood Counselling

 

Home isn’t always a safe place.

And even if you do feel okay, maybe home it isn’t always a calm, peaceful place.

You’re only there because you’re worried about the impact leaving will have on the children.

Or maybe you’re there because the sums just don’t add up and for financial reasons you can’t leave.

Perhaps you’ve been frightened to leave because your partner’s mental health seems fragile.

Whatever the reason, as the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic deepens and Government takes more decisive action to enforce social distancing and social isolation, you’re beginning to notice your anxiety about what this means living with this person.

You might not know whether they are narcissistically wounded.  But their behaviour feels controlling and emotionally immature.

Now you’re feeling trapped and powerless while self-isolating with a controlling partner.

Trying To Control Uncertainty

These are uncertain times; nobody knows what will happen next.

What is certain is that life has changed dramatically in the last 10 days.  Whoever would have imagined one month ago that here in the U.K. we would see scenes where people are scrambling and fighting over essential food items and toilet paper with our most vulnerable in society looking at empty shelves.

And if you’re in a relationship with a narcissistic wounded partner, you are also vulnerable.

You’re vulnerable because you know all too well that their behaviour, particularly during times of stress, is just as unpredictable as Coronavirus (COVID-19).

You’re vulnerable because the collective fear and anxiety that we are all experiencing now, on a global scale, will potentially impact your partner in a, particularly acute way.

Narcissistic behaviours are driven by the need to be in control of the self.  People with high narcissistic traits do this by attempting to control their environment and others.  Controlling behaviour is their way of self-regulating and creating certainty.  To manage their fears, stress, anxiety, and vulnerability, they control others.  Therefore they will attempt to control you.

So at this time of collective anxiety regarding Coronavirus, their behaviour may be more challenging for you.  The deeper the fear, the deeper the need for coercion and control.

Self-isolating with a controlling partner is not straightforward.

A Familiar Sense of Isolation

We are following the route of other European countries with more stringent isolation rules.  These lockdown measures mean unprecedented restrictions on our freedom.  Other countries have suspended public transport and force people to carry a document certifying why they are outside.

The reality is while in lockdown or self-isolation, you are likely to be spending concentrated periods with the person who is causing distress and trauma in your life.

Seemingly out of nowhere, it certainly caught me by surprise; we are feeling cut off from the world.

This feeling might have been creeping up on you long before Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Social isolation is a standard coercive tool used by controlling people and is a form of emotional abuse.  Not only are you distanced from your friends and family, but your partner might also isolate you as a means of punishment by stonewalling or withholding.

Self-Isolating With A Controlling Partner – Cut Off From Lifelines

But even if you haven’t noticed any of that, the things you did outside of the home had meaning.

Going to work might have meant an opportunity for a  sensible, calm conversation with a colleague as opposed to the familiar monologue or inevitable circular argument.  A visit to the gym might have meant a distraction from all the confusion and muddle at home.   Going to a Slimmers World club might have given you a sense of common purpose and community.  Meeting another mum at the school gate might have let you know you had shared struggles and joys.

Being away from home may just simply allow you to breathe.

Now the person you have been trying to create distance from you’re stuck with.

I get it.

So what can you do to protect yourself and keep sane when self-isolating with a controlling partner.

Step up your self-care practices.  Self-care is crucial during this time.

7 Essential Self-Care Practices When Self-Isolating – (COVID-19)

Most of these practices are about boosting your immune system and maintaining proper cognitive function so that you are better able to discern unhealthy behaviour patterns and maintain an emotional distance.  They will also help you to manage your stress and anxiety.

1. Follow NHS Guidelines

The first step is to follow the NHS guidelines to minimise the risk of you becoming ill with Coronavirus (COVID-19).  Wash your hands regularly, catch coughs and sneezes in tissue and dispose of it.  Follow the social distancing and social isolation guidelines.

2. Eat Well & Keep Hydrated

These are stressful times.  Stress can have a dramatic effect on our digestive system and can lead to an imbalance of gut bacteria which, in turn, triggers inflammatory symptoms.

Processed food and refined sugar wear the immune system down.   Alcohol suppresses the immune system, which can predispose you to getting sick.  Conversely, diets high in antioxidants and low in sugar boost the immune system and fight off viruses.  So it makes sense to cut back on coffee, sugar, and alcohol.

Optimise your digestion by upping your intake of vegetables.  Drink plenty of water as well as avoiding processed food as much as possible.  Take advantage of the opportunity to cook healthy food.

3. Sleep Well

Sleep improves the immune system.

Lack of sleep can have a detrimental effect on your mental health.  Your brain will fog, making it difficult to concentrate and make decisions.  You’ll start to feel down, and may fall asleep during the day.

As much as possible, keep a to a nighttime routine as this is especially important when you lose your routine.  You need to maintain consistency where you can, to help your body clocks stay set. Most adults need between 6 and 9 hours of sleep every night.  By working out what time you need to wake up, you can set a regular bedtime schedule.

Before bed, wind down without any screens in dim light, and set the alarm for the morning to ensure that you’re waking up at the same time each day of the week.  If you’re having trouble sleeping, get up and do something quiet and relaxing instead of tossing and turning.  Laying in bed only serves to make you more anxious in bed and can worsen insomnia.

4. Exercise

It’s essential to keep the body moving.  You can go for a walk or run while following the social isolation and social distancing rules.  Your activity could be gardening or following an online yoga or fitness class.

5. Keep In Connection With Others

When you’re self-isolating with a controlling partner keep in connection with others.  Our brains are wired for connection, and so this will make social isolation inherently tricky.  Keep in contact with work colleagues, friends and family.  If possible, start a WhatsApp group with your neighbours.  If you have a class list for your children, perhaps you can set up an online group for that.

Think of who you can keep in touch with independent of your partner.

6. Use The Time To Educate Yourself

Take the time to educate yourself about what is happening in your relationship.   Knowledge is the first step in being empowered.

Read books on what healthy relationships look like.  Check out books on the behaviours you notice in your relationship. An excellent place to start is Why Does He Do That by Lundy Bancroft.  There are many books on narcissistic behaviours, including many posts here.

Download the book so that you can read it privately on an app like Kindle or listen to an audio version.

7. Limit Your News Exposure

While it’s essential to stay informed, it is also important not to become fixated with the news.  Most news media is designed to target the emotional part of the brain.  When you see or hear alarming headlines, this will trigger a mild flight or fight response.

So while it is essential to keep informed and up to date, it is also stressful for the body.  Inevitably in a time like it’s tempting to watch the news continuously to keep up to date with the latest developments.

What you are inadvertently doing is increasing the amount of cortisol in the body which impairs your cognitive function.  This, in turn, will make it more difficult for you to remain grounded and centred in the face of your partner’s behaviour and establish an emotional distance.

Practice setting boundaries for yourself.  Set limits on when you will watch the news and for how long.  Perhaps only between 9.00 am-5.00 pm and only from a reputable news source.  When you are better able to set boundaries for yourself, you ‘ll get better with setting them with your partner.

Your Safety Comes First

If you do feel unsafe, self-isolating with a controlling partner reach out for support.

If you are worried about self-isolating because of your relationship dynamic,  please call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247 or contact the Helpline via Refuge’s contact form at www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk. To ensure your safety, you can let us know how to contact you and what time to contact you.  You can also contact Women’s Aid who have advice on self-isolating.

In an emergency, always be ready to call 999 if you are in danger.

Over To You

Are you self-isolating with a controlling partner?  If you want a safe space to talk, figure out your feelings, get in touch, and book your first counselling appointment.   I offer video sessions online via a secure platform.  Coronavirus (COVID-19) doesn’t need to end your therapy sessions.

Or call me today on 07535 864836.

Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear from you.

P.S. PASS IT ON

Enjoyed this post? Then use the icons below to tweet it, share it on Facebook, and send it to specific friends via email.

© Sandra Harewood 2020

About Sandra

Soul Centred couples counsellor Sandra Harewood specialises in working with couples and women with childhood wounding that impacts their adult relationships. Sandra provides a soulful space for her clients to explore and discover creative solutions to their difficulties and create a great relationship.

 

Stressed Woman With Her Hands Covering Her Face - What Your Physical Symptoms Can Teach You About Hidden Stress

What Your Physical Symptoms Can Teach You About Hidden Stress

 

Stressed Woman With Her Hands Covering Her Face - What Your Physical Symptoms Can Teach You About Hidden Stress

 

Over the next few weeks, I’m creating a series of posts describing how controlling and unhealthy relationships with partners who are narcissistically wounded and or emotionally immature can impact your health and your relationship with your body in challenging ways.

Today I’m focusing on stress and your physical health – the mind-body connection.

Practicing Pilates – Back In 2021

While I aim to live in the present and express gratitude for each day, I’m glad we’ve got to the end of January!  This time of year, I can find challenging.  And I am not alone.  We are leaving behind one of the most stressful times of the year.

Where to start?

National Divorce Day is in January.  According to the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, divorce is the second most stressful life event closely followed by separation from a partner.  Then there’s the overspill of Christmas finances, tax returns, family tensions, disappointments, guilt about the New Year’s resolutions that have already been kicked to the curb and worry about weight, body, and health.

And this time of year can also be notoriously difficult when you are in a relationship with a controlling, narcissistic, or emotionally immature partner.  Inevitably there is some drama.

So have you left the stress behind?

According to Dr Gabor Mate, MD, and others in the field of trauma, perhaps not.

Mind-Body Health

We often forget that our mind and body are connected; we are one body.  What affects the brain affects the body.  Emotional health is a significant cause of physical illness Dr Mate has suggested, playing a pivotal role in anything from breast cancer to autoimmune conditions and many other chronic diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and arthritis. 

Dr Mate’s work is controversial, but I think it’s fascinating.  He is NOT suggesting that we replace clinical medical interventions with psychotherapy.  What he is inviting is some curiosity about the impact of long term stress on our bodies and the association with illness.

There’s a lot we already know about this.

Fibromyalgia also called fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), is a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body.  The condition is often triggered by a stressful event, including physical stress or emotional stress.  There is a scientific link between eczema and stress.

Emotional Stressors

One of the biggest things that make us stressed is the fear of abandonment or the absence of love.  We are relational beings born to be in connection with one another.

Other significant stressors are emotional uncertainty and the feeling of the loss of control.

These are some of the underlying the day to day realities of living in controlling relationships.  You feel stressed when you experience the silent treatment, threats to end the relationship or periods of sudden disappearance.  You feel stressed when you feel manipulated or obliged to attend to your partner’s needs, above all else.

The Reality of Stress

The stress response is triggered when there is an actual or perceived conscious or unconscious threat.  So you might not even realise that something is stressing you out.

Stress affects every part of your body from the brain, kidneys and muscles to the smallest blood vessels.  We need a healthy stress response mechanism to maintain balance in the body. Without that balance, the body cannot function when it’s under threat.

When we are stressed, the heart pumps faster, blood is diverted to serve only essential organs, the brain concentrates on the threat forgetting about anything else it doesn’t need to, and stored energy supplies are activated.

The body doesn’t try to do everything all at once.  That’s why when you are stressed, you may notice that you’re forgetful and cannot focus, or perhaps you’re losing weight because you’ve forgotten to eat or using a lot of energy.

The Body Says No!

Cortisol and adrenaline are a necessary part of the stress response and the body’s attempt to remain balanced.

But when we have too much of these hormones, it’s not good for the body.

High levels of cortisol inhibit the body’s capacity to heal wounds by suppressing the immune response.  Perhaps that bug that won’t shift turns into flu, and you have to stop.

Elevated levels of adrenaline raise blood pressure.  High blood pressure is linked to heart disease, kidney disease, and strokes.  Inevitably, if you experience any of these things, you will have to slow down or stop.

The body is designed to deal with acute stress. But it’s also meant to return to normal once what we’re stressed about has been resolved.  The problem is chronic stress.  When there is either an actual ongoing threat or perceived threat, the hormones keep flowing.  So if your partner keeps threatening to leave you and never does or if they have been physically abusive and you’re understandably conscious, they might do it again – that’s an undercurrent of stress in your life.

The likelihood is that it will be punctuated with periods of acute stress, i.e. arguments, conflict and drama.

Potentially without realising it, your stress response is triggered daily.

To Stressed To Feel

It’s perfectly understandable if you don’t realise you have been triggered.  It is not uncommon in such relationships for you to lose touch with your feelings.  You don’t know what you feel.  If you’re experiencing gaslighting, the likelihood is that you have become conditioned to override your feelings.  When you lose touch with your feelings, you lose touch with what is going on in your body, i.e. your body language.  Then you might not even recognise that you are stressed.

Stress becomes the new normal.

As a result, you don’t recognise the physical symptoms of stress.  When you don’t realise it, you can’t do anything about it.  There’s a sense of helplessness around the pressure which you cannot escape.

This sense of helplessness may also have its roots in your childhood.

The Stressed Inner Child

Often how you respond to stress as an adult mirrors what happened to you as a child.  This learnt response would be a mix of how you responded to stressful situations and how your parents responded to you.  So for example, if your parents had high expectations of you and you, in turn, wanted to please them and were conscious of what it would mean to disappoint this creates stress.

This is the internal stress caused by having to adjust your sense of self to fit in with or protect someone else.

When a parent is not able to hold a dream for their child without letting them know that they would honour the child’s ambition for themselves, which might be different, this is stressful.

In the same way, if your parent could not let you know that it was alright to make mistakes and show empathy and comfort you when you did, or that failures lead to growth you as a child would have had to find ways to deal with the resulting stress.

Maybe you learnt how to people please and put the needs of others first. Perhaps you struggle with saying no.  These are potential ways of coping with acute stress but lead to unrecognised chronic stress.

The Body Remembers Stress

The problem is, strategies such as people-pleasing deal with the situation in the present moment to suppress the stress.   But if that’s the default way of relating, then the body speaks up and lets you know it remembers that it’s holding all that stress.

Then you get backache. You haven’t noticed that your breathing is shallow.  You’re not aware that your posture’s changed.  When you’re stressed, your breathing patterns change your shoulders hunch up and cause strain and tension in the back.   Severe back pain makes you stop.

You don’t acknowledge your stress, and suddenly you experience a migraine.  A severe migraine makes you stop.

Stress is something that most people will experience at one point or another.  Besides stress, there will be other potential contributors to your physical health including your family history, hormone levels, diet, fatigue, environmental factors and even certain medications.

But the next time you have a physical symptom, as well as checking it out with your GP or medical clinician, notice what’s going on in your relationship.  How stressed are you?

If your body could speak, what might it be telling you?

Why are you at dis-ease?

Over To You

How is your physical health?  What score would you give it out of 10?   If you want a safe space to talk, figure out your feelings, understand your symptoms of stress, get in touch, and book your first counselling appointment.

Or call me today on 07535 864836.

Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear from you.

P.S. PASS IT ON

Enjoyed this post? Then use the icons below to tweet it, share it on Facebook, and send it to specific friends via email.

© Sandra Harewood 2020

About Sandra

Soul Centred couples counsellor Sandra Harewood specialises in working with couples and women with childhood wounding that impacts their adult relationships. Sandra provides a soulful space for her clients to explore and discover creative solutions to their difficulties and create a great relationship. 

Get my FREE guide The 7 Feelings You Have When You’re In Narcissistic Relationship + be on my list and be the first to receive my latest news, blogs & workshops for health, wellbeing, and healing from narcissistic abuse.

 

 

Man And Woman Laying Down Head To Head Holding Hands - Why Attachment Styles Matter to Your Relationship - Sandra Harewood Counselling

Why Attachment Styles Matter To Your Relationship


Man And Woman Laying Down Head To Head Holding Hands - Why Attachment Styles Matter to Your Relationship - Sandra Harewood Counselling

 

Have you ever wondered why your partner always seems to want to escape when you argue? 

Or perhaps why you always seem to be the one trying to get them to stay in the room and make things better.

It might all be down to attachment styles.

Your attachment style matters because how you move towards and stay connected to someone is shaped by it.  Knowing more about your attachment style gives you an understanding not only of who you are and how you operate in relationships, but importantly, a better understanding of your partner.

Early Attachment

Above all, we all need to feel attached.  It’s part of our humanness.  Life begins in the womb with you being connected to your mother by the umbilical cord.

Your attachment story begins here and takes shape in the childhood years that follow. 

Buried memories of how your primary caregiver(s) responded to your needs, determine your attachment style.  Or to put it another way how safe and secure you feel in adult relationships in some way reflects how safe and secure you felt as a child.  

You may not be consciously aware of them, but the feelings you felt as a child remains with you into adult life.

3 Types of Attachment Styles

There are three main attachment styles:

  1. Secure
  2. Avoidant
  3. Ambivalent

Research has shown that most people, nearly 60%, have a secure attachment style.

But what does that mean?  

For the most part adults with a secure attachment style develop strong emotional bonds, have lasting and trusting relationships, are comfortable sharing feelings and are not anxious about the relationship. 

We tend to be familiar with one style based on our childhood experience. But you can find yourself behaving in other ways, depending on your partner’s style.

Please Don’t Leave Me

Picture this. You’ve had a great evening out.  All of a sudden a remark made leads to an unexpected argument with your partner.  Here are some common reactions from each attachment style.

Secure Attachment Styles:

You’re hurt, and you can see your partner is unhappy too.  You go home.  You’re still hurt, but you trust that it’s not that big a problem.  You know that you have a good relationship.  And like all relationships, it will have its ups and downs.

The next day, you talk about it.   You tell your partner how you felt about what was said and you, in turn, listen to what they have to say.  You work it out, make amends and get on with your day.  

Avoidant Attachment Styles:

You become guarded close down and have nothing more to say.  You want to be left alone.  The situation feels overwhelming, and you’re beginning to feel engulfed. The energy drains from your body, and you can’t think.  You might leave your partner sitting in the restaurant.  If you decide to say, you’re silent. 

The following evening you’re still annoyed.  Although part of you wants to, you think twice about reaching out to your partner, and you’re most certainly not going to apologise.  If your partner attempts to talk to you, you’re dismissive. 

Ambivalent Attachment Styles:

You go into panic mode.  You’re scared that the argument means it’s the end; he’s going to leave you.  

You start talking, perhaps too much, trying to stop your partner from leaving, even though they’ve told you their just popping outside for two minutes for some fresh air.  Then you start imagining the worse thinking he’s checking his ex’s social media profile, and you’re tempted to follow him outside.

You only begin to feel calm when your partner reassures you and tells you everything is okay.

A Childhood Story of Closeness or Distance

John Bowlby, an early pioneer of attachment theory, believed that early experiences in childhood are essential for influencing development and behaviour later in life.  Your early attachment style is established in childhood through your relationship between you and your parent or another significant caregiver.

So what do these attachment styles look like?  See what resonates with you.

Secure Attachment Styles

  • You’re comfortable alone or with others.
  • You know what it is like to depend on someone but can also take care of yourself.  This is because you had a warm, secure, and consistent relationship with your caregivers.
  • For secure adults, mutuality in a relationship is essential.
  • In adult relationships, a secure person offers support when their partner feels distressed and reach out to their partner for comfort when they feel troubled.
  • Your relationship tends, to be honest, open, and equal, with both people feeling independent, yet loving towards each other.

Avoidant Attachment Styles:

  • Your parents might not have been that relational, showing little care or nurturing.  One parent might have had a self-esteem problem or cared about themselves and what other people thought over and above you.
  • To be loved, you learnt to set aside your needs for that of the caregiver.
  • You struggle with intimacy because they are petrified of showing their authentic self.  Consequently, you can feel trapped if your partner gets too close.
  • Paradoxically, you have a real fear of being abandoned.  This anxiety can result in turbulent relationships

Ambivalent Attachment Styles:

  • You had some experience of a warm and secure connection with caregivers; the problem is that it wasn’t consistent. Sometimes when they wanted attention, they were turned away.  This mixed experience led to confusion; sometimes, you felt seen and sometimes not.
  • You tend to be insecure in the relationships, never entirely trusting their partner’s feelings towards them.
  • You can act in ways which only exacerbate the problem, e.g. becoming clingy, jealous or possessive.

Why Your Attachment Styles Matters.

While it’s not guaranteed that early attachment styles match adult romantic attachment, studies show that those early attachment styles can help predict patterns of behaviour in adulthood.  As a result, you can be curious about how and why you and your partner relate to each other.

Controlling relationships are not secure.

For one thing, typically they are characterised by anxiety and fear.

Generally speaking, controlling people fall either in the avoidant or ambivalent style. Even though the control might show up in different ways, underneath it all is the feeling of not being good enough for someone to sustain a relationship with them.

Understanding your attachment style helps you begin to appreciate how you behave in relationships and recognise why you are repeatedly attracted to certain people.  By the same token, it also allows you to start to challenge your insecurities and fears about yourself and relationships.  

If you want more information on attachment styles and relationships, a great book is Your Brain on Love by Stan Tatkin

Over to You

Are feeling controlled?  Perhaps you find you find yourself panicking and anxious following an argument and then rushing in to make things better.  If you want a safe space to understand, talk, figure out your feelings and understand your attachment style and how it impacts your relationship get in touch and book your first counselling appointment.

Or call me today on 07535 864836.

Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear from you.

P.S. PASS IT ON

Enjoyed this post? Then use the icons below to tweet it, share it on Facebook and send it to specific friends via email.

© Sandra Harewood 2019

About Sandra

Soul Centred couples counsellor Sandra Harewood specialises in working with couples and women with childhood wounding that impacts their adult relationships. Sandra provides a soulful space for her clients to explore and discover creative solutions to their difficulties and create a great relationship. 

Get my FREE guide The 7 Feelings You Have When You’re In Narcissistic Relationship + be on my list and be the first to receive my latest news, blogs & workshops for health, wellbeing and healing from narcissistic abuse.

Box of Coloured Eggs With Painted Faces - Verbal Abuse: When The Joke Just Isn't Funny - Sandra Harewood Counselling

Verbal Abuse: When The Joke Just Isn’t Funny

Box of Coloured Eggs With Painted Faces - Verbal Abuse: When The Joke Just Isn't Funny - Sandra Harewood Counselling

 

Many people assume that verbal abuse is just about swearing.  And some go one step further by thinking that swearing is only abusive if it’s attached to name-calling. If they didn’t call you an #@$%ing [insert], then they haven’t been abusive. Read more

Frightened woman with her arm outstretched with the word stop written on her hand. The Honest Truth About Your Partner's Anger Issues. Sandra Harewood Counselling

The Honest Truth About Your Partner’s Anger Issues

Woman with her arm outstretched with the word written on her hand. The Honest Truth About Your Partner's Anger Issues. Sandra Harewood Counselling

 

What we have called anger may be abuse – David Richo

You can usually tell when someone is angry. It’s visceral. A raised voice, trembling, fidgeting, fast speech, heavy breathing, the furrowed brow, the clenched hand or maybe flared nostrils. But equally, it can be the opposite. Silence or sudden disappearance.

Often couples come to counselling naming a problem with anger in the relationship, anticipating that better communication and anger management skills would help solve the problem of endless conflict.

The problem is, however, that abuse and anger look similar. Abuse is visceral. But equally, it can be the opposite; the cold shoulder, stonewalling or the silent treatment.

Anger is a normal, healthy human emotion. When it is an authentic form of self-expression, anger is assertive and can enrich and repair relationships.

Anger issues can, however, damage and put relationships at risk, especially in controlling or narcissistic relationships.

One Thing You Need To Know About Anger

When people conclude that anger causes abuse, they are confusing cause and effect. “[He] was not abusive because he was angry; he was angry because he was abusive”. – Lundy Bancroft

In other words, anger is a tool of abuse. It must be remembered that control in some relationships is a form of abuse.

It’s important to realise that the purpose of control is to make you small. If you become fearful of your partners’ anger and that fear stops you from speaking up, doing the things you want to do or taking care of your children, then that is a symptom of control.

It may well be true that your partner is triggered and has difficulty managing their anger. But if there is a pattern of anger for which there is no genuine accountability, no will to do something different or it is expressed no matter what the cost or hurt, then perhaps it’s not anger management that’s needed but more rather a closer look at the need to control; the need to control you.

7 Warning Signs That Those Anger Issues Are Abusive

So, while anger and abuse might look the same, there are differences. Here are 7 ways you can tell.

1. True anger is direct. Abusive anger is displaced.

When you are being direct, you speak up respectfully and say what doesn’t feel right. “Excuse me that’s not okay”, or” that’s enough” or ”that hurt me, and I’m angry about that.” No drama, just a few calm words.

How you feel about being direct is another matter. Our relationship with anger comes from our childhood experiences. How did you see your parents manage conflict? Were there slamming doors, violence or loud voices as you nervously sat in your bedroom?

Maybe there were no anger issues at all, they never argued. Perhaps, in that case, the anger was displaced. Was your dad always sleeping and disengaged or maybe your mum always seemed angry with you blaming and shaming? Or maybe you had a genuine sense that they sat down and worked things out in a respectful way.

And what about you? Can you remember your teenage self saying NO to a parent? What about stomping up to your room and throwing a pillow across it or wanting to leave the house to cool down that rage. Did you have a parent who let you be angry, validated your feelings and taught you safer, healthier ways to express them? When a child has their feelings validated, they learn to express them directly and safely.

The alternative is abusive displaced anger. This way, anger is expressed through sarcasm, lateness, revenge tactics and feigned illness. They say, “I’m not angry, but.” And displaced anger issues are directed to the wrong person because it’s easier. So your partner won’t express their anger to their boss or family member, but instead, it is misdirected towards you, situations or other people that aren’t responsible for the pain they feel.

2. Healthy anger is expressive. Abusive anger is threatening.

Some of the expressions mentioned above are normal and healthy physiological responses to anger. Others are choices. These include screaming, swearing, name-calling, threats, intimidation, demands and jokes that are intended to harm, not amuse. Perhaps your partner tells you to “shut up” or barges past you because they want to leave the room. Pushing, shoving, and breaking your personal property are all forms of physical abuse. This is abusive anger.

3. Real anger arises from injustice. Abusive anger arises from an injured ego.

Your partner is unfaithful, they’re not pulling their weight around the house, they have mistreated your children, or perhaps they are driving dangerously when you are in the car. From time to time, they lock themselves in the study for long hours absorbed with their work. These are all things that undermine your sense of safety, intimacy and connection and need to be addressed.

Abusive anger arises from a bruised ego. Your partner feels disrespected because you are paying others too much attention or you’re not taking their side when they are inappropriately disciplining the children. If you are successful at work or other people admire your intellect, your partner feels envious and slighted. You might notice their anger at such times, particularly if they are professionally struggling. Perhaps an argument occurs just before a job interview or presentation.

4. Healthy anger communicates a problem. Abusive anger silences.

Your anger is communicating something to you. When it rears, it’s letting you know that you feel hurt, betrayed, disappointed, neglected, sad, tired, stuck or scared. Additionally, anger is also a sign that a boundary has been broken and needs to be reset. It’s perfectly natural to want to communicate those things to your partner.

In contrast, abusive anger shuts communication down. Your partner may use the silent treatment to bully, blame and intimidate you until you are silenced.

5. True anger looks for accountability. Abusive anger blames.

Accountability means doing something about your behaviour so that change occurs. When you are accountable and take responsibility for your actions, there is an opportunity for personal growth and healing as well as growth in the relationship.

Apologising and then doing more of the same isn’t being accountable. Narcissistically wounded people find it difficult to say sorry and do not take responsibility for their actions. On the contrary, blame, revenge and gaslighting take centre stage.

6. Genuine anger lets go. Abusive anger holds on.

To let go doesn’t mean that you don’t express and communicate your anger. What it does mean is that you work towards resolution and closure.

Abusive anger lingers and results in resentment, hate, grudges and bitterness. What this means is that the issues you thought were resolved come back again and again. For this reason, you feel as if you are treading on eggshells as you don’t know when your partner’s anger will be triggered. Your partner holding on to anger also means that they are more likely to use gaslighting to manipulate you.

7. Healthy anger is safe. Abusive anger is out of control.

Anger management isn’t about not getting angry; it’s about containment and the appropriate expression of anger. Inevitably, that means getting to know how your anger is awakened and how it manifests in your body, as well as mind and feelings. But no-one has the authority to take away your right to be angry.

Abusive anger is often uncontained and uncontrolled with inappropriate expressions of anger. It’s characterised by loss of temper and retaliatory behaviour. You might hear, “I only did that because I was angry” or “I can’t help myself when I’m angry”’ or “you made me angry.” It doesn’t feel safe to be around someone when they are expressing anger in this way.

Out of The Fog

On reading this, you might notice that your legitimate true anger is often responded to by your partner’s abusive anger. Or maybe sometimes you feel out of control. These are all legitimate feelings when faced with abuse anger. In my next post, I’ll let you know why fear, obligation and guilt (FOG) may leave you feeling this way.

Over to You

What do you notice about your partners’ anger issues?  Are you able to express your anger issues safety? If you want to understand what your partner behaviour means and discover healthy, safe ways to respond get in touch and book your first counselling appointment.

Or call me today on 07535 864836.

Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear from you.

P.S. PASS IT ON

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*Adapted from How To Be An Adult in Love – David Richo.

© Sandra Harewood 2019

About Sandra

Soul Centred couples counsellor Sandra Harewood specialises in working with couples and single women with childhood wounding that impacts their adult relationships. Sandra provides a soulful space for her clients to explore and discover creative solutions to their difficulties and create a great relationship. 

Get my FREE guide The 7 Feelings You Have When You’re In Narcissistic Relationship + be on my list and be the first to receive my latest news, blogs & workshops for health, wellbeing and healing from narcissistic abuse.

 

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