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cycles of argument in relationships
September 1, 2005
7:33 pm
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greygarden
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this is probably a pretty broad question, but can anybody tell me anything about cycles or patterns of argument in relationships? i have researched the topic, and i know that there is a distinct pattern to abusive relationships: tension-building, violence, "honeymoon". in these patterns, it sounds as if there is a clear-cut "victim" and "victimizer". does it happen, too, when both people are bottling up emotions? how does it work when it doesn't neccessarily end in physical harm? is it true that it only takes one person, with self-awareness and good communication skills, to break the cycle?

September 1, 2005
9:18 pm
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lita
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in my situation, my husband was the type that even if i kept quiet, or just tried to avoid fighting with him, or even if i didnt yell, or argue back. he would get even more mad because i wouldnt fight or argue. so he would throw stuff, scream yell, then eventually he would hit me. so even when i would try to keep piece. it would get worse. so i wonder if i should have been fighting right along with him, of course i know that would be wrong.

September 1, 2005
10:06 pm
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jastypes
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It does not always end up in physical harm. My husband was verbally abusive. And, yes, we both bottled up emotions, so the big blow-out fight would be highly emotional, really loud and horribly angry. And in our case, yes, one person getting their act together can make a huge difference. I went to a group called Women Aware. I learned about abuse and what I could do about it. I walked out of the house more than once. Eventually I learned to recognize the tension-building phase and address the issues as they came up rather than letting it get to explosive proportions. I changed what I would accept and tolerate in my marriage, and my husband had the choice to either respond to that or leave. We celebrated our 20th anniversary this year by renewing our vows. It was a tough road, but we worked hard to make it.

September 2, 2005
10:03 am
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I C Gold
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My X also was verbally abusive and I didn't recoginize the cycle's until it was much too late. Now he's got me so beat and my self esteem so messed up it will take a lot of time and healing to get over this. Of couse having to keep in touch with him won't help but I'm working on my boundries. He emailed me this AM and said the anger he feels towards me helps him move on, boy will that come back and bite him in the butt!!

September 2, 2005
10:14 am
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exoticflower
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It is true that one person being aware of the dysfunction played out in unhealthy communication to break the cycle, but that will not always fix the problem. I tried not to play into dysfunctional patterns I was familiar with, and my ex just found new ones. I honestly beleive that he didn't know at all that he was doing it either, he was just desperate to continue the pattern he knew, there is no way to finish a conflict without a clear cut loser, without someone feeling shame and self loathing, which required someone being the victim. i didn't have the tools at that time and did get sucked back in time and again, but now when we interact, i know how not to. But still, he will refuse to talk to me, or more often I must refuse to talk to him becasue his means of playing a victim are so absurd or hurtful that I can't interact in a healthy fashion with them and have to remove myself from it completely. So, I guess what I am saying is that you can certainly break the cycle, without a doubt, it takes two people to fill in their contributions to dysfunction, but you can only let go of your own and work on it. It may stop the pattern, but not his own dysfunctional issues.

A great book that talks about a lot of this is "healing the shame that binds you" by Joseph Bradshaw. It talks about a lot of the sorts of dysfunctions we play into and why, about your family of origion and how you seek out a counter-dysfunction the rest of your life in the hopes of re-doing what happened in your life as a child but making it right...which with the limited skills we have when we suffered as children, we have only learned how to do through manipulation. We seek out another dysfunctional manipulative mind becasue it is all we know...does that makes sense?

September 2, 2005
4:43 pm
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lollipop3
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Hi grey,

Although my b/f has never been physically abusive, he can be verbally/mentally abusive. As far as cycles are concerned.....for almost a year, he would litterally start a fight every two weeks. You may think it an exageration on my part, but I kid you not. You could actually set your watch to it. It didn't matter what the fight was about, it could have been anything.

This cycle began to stop about 2 months ago. My therapist asked me why I thought things had changed. I told her I wasn't sure. I didn't know if was him that changed or me. She told me that she believed he was changing in RESPONSE to me changing. The fact of the matter is, through therapy and Alanon, I learned to stop engaging in these fights. In the past, I always took it personally, always got defensive, etc. As I have begun to grow in my recovery I have learned to not participate in these fights and as a result they are becomming few and far between. Don't get me wrong, I still have my moments or "slips" as they say, but for the most part things have greatly improved.

With any abusive person, there is always the possiblity that the verbal abuse can escalate into physical violence. If that were to happen, my suggestion would be to end it immediately. Get out and get help.

That has not been my experience (thankfully) and so far things have been improving.

I hope this helped....good luck.

Love,
Lolli

September 2, 2005
6:01 pm
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there seems to exist a major (big)difference between cycles of argument on one hand and cycles of - abusive -argument on the other ... could it be that people involved in what are generally considered abusive relationships "need" the victim and victimizer roles as a "functional" way (at least from their point of view ...) to project their dysfunction outward ... that is to say, on the other person involved in the argument - my question being ... what is the purpose or point of this "split" between a victim and victimizer position in an abusive argument ? can an abuser do without playing into either one or both of these roles ? if not, why's that ?

Or is a cycle of abusive argument mainly about provoking (looking for a reason or "excuse" to start - verbally or physically - attacking the other person - a spouse, g/f etc.) ?

September 2, 2005
6:21 pm
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lollipop3
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True,

I can give my opinion on the first part of your post. The second part left me a bit confused.

I believe you hit the nail on the head when you say that they "need the victim and victimizer roles as a functional way to project their dysfunction outward."

As a matter of fact, that is EXACTLY what my b/f does. If I wasn't sure before, I sure as hell am after this past weekend.

We have been getting along really, really well for the past several weeks. He has had NO contact with his friends that he used to party with. This past weekend, they started calling which he tried to ignore for two days. Finally, one of them left a message saying it was very important that he contact them.....so he did. It was another one of their "dramas" that they tried to drag him in to. I was a bit nervous about what he would do, but to my surprise (and I am soooo proud of him for this) he didn't bite. He told them he wasn't interested and he wanted to be left alone.

Well.....for the next few days....things were VERY tense around here. He was very edgy and started "picking" on me, which is exactly what he used to do to start fights. Needless to say, I did not take it personally, I didn't get defensive, nor did I engage in any way.

It was apparent to me that he WAS bothered by the things that were said to him and he was trying to use me to "let it out".

By my not engaging, he eventually stopped trying, and less than a week later...everything is back to normal.

He did choose to spend one night alone at his house, saying that he needed to be by himself. I said "ok". He told me he loved me and by the next day , he seemed to be back to his normally cheerful self.

Had I gotten defensive and engaged in this, there is no doubt in my mind that we would still be fighting right now, instead of getting ready to go away for the weekend.

Love,
Lolli

September 2, 2005
6:33 pm
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Neshema
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It seems to me that a victim should not be blamed. IT takes one person to abuse an innocent person. If that person tries to stay in the situation and "fix" it when the other is unwilling, it won't be fixed, no matter how hard the fixer tries. Sometimes a fixer doesn't understand that, and in good faith, keeps trying. It can be quite sad and frustrating, until the fixer realizes the futility of dealing with an irrational, abusive, unhealthy person. I personally, was involved with a CODA who also was depressed and anxious. All his issues were unknown to me for a long time. In fact, this man is a psych professor, who I had known for years as a colleague. He was good at hiding his issues even after we had been involved for a long time. He grew up hiding his issues. He was wonderful, until he decided he was so happy he didn't need his psych meds. He went off and his world, both personally and professionally fell apart. He became impossible to deal with, and was very hurtful and neglectful. He refused to admit this and go back on his meds. His coworkers wondered what was wrong with him. His kids wondered what was wrong. No one could fix it. I stayed with him, hoping for the man I knew to come back, until I realized it was hopeless. I realized even if it got better, it could happen again. At some point, you have to admit it takes two committed people to fix something, even though you never asked to be a victim and never planned on "rescuing" anyone.

September 2, 2005
7:03 pm
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lizzie52
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September 2, 2005
7:55 pm
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Neshema
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I meant he was an ACOA, adult child of alcholics, but i guess he was a CODA too....all these labels get confusing!

September 3, 2005
11:19 am
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Matteo
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In an abusive relationship nobody playes a role of a victim, neither that of a victimizer. There is no role playing. There is one person who systematically manipulates the other to gain control over that person; the ultimate goal is the submission and cooperation of the victim.

Anybody might become a victim, doesn't have to have previously any psychological issues or disfunction, including CODA. As someone said already on this side, codependency is an effect of living in disfunctional relationship, not the other way around. The learned patterns of behavior might be transferred to the next relationship, but they are effects of an abuse; it is up to the survivor to break the pattern, not only not to repeat the same behaviors but also abstain from emotionally unhealthy partners. It might take years.

Yes, for the abuser anything might be a good reason to start the fight, even though the same thing, event etc. caused no reaction before; no reason at all is also a good reason to start an argument: that's the part of the "crazymaking" of the victim.

No amount of self-awarness of the victim will change that dynamics. The only way to go about it for the victim is to walk away, which is not always possible after years of brainwashing, no matter how great is their pain. Often they become numb instead. The awareness on the part of an abuser? They are not those who in majority cases are reaching for help, because they want to mantain the power and control over the victims.

Those relationships are not the same where both partners have poor communication skills, cannot control their anger and are trying prove their points in every possible way, including all sorts of violence ( that includes screaming and throwing things, as an example). I would agree that in those cases it takes only one partner to say no to it, draw the lines for both of them, and make sure nobody is crossing them again, and walk away if they are. Easier said than done.

September 3, 2005
11:55 am
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I was the receiver of a lot of very intense, severe, dangerous crazymaking...and at one point believed I was a monster and an abuser myself...having been told that was why he cheated, why he lied consistantly, why he didn't include me in social matters, why this, why that...he even started to pretend to be frightened and beg me to take an anti anxiety medication any time I showed any frustration at all, and when I wouldn't, he would physically corner me and manipulate me (holding my arms down and screaming in my face while smiling "stop it, stop! Why are you doing this to me"...I hit him, freaking out and trying to stop it, and he convinced me I was battering him. I could have lost my child one day if I had stayed with him, as well as my sanity. Recently however, he tried the same tricks unaware of my therapy, lack of confusing medications that he would tell me when to take, and my own understanding that I DIDN'T make him mistreat me, I DID deserve respect and honesty and to be treated well. And no, he isn't growing or responding well himself in responce...but he is showing his abusive nature moer openly in his franticness, and he is using one tichnique after another after another, no consistancy, which is making it a lot easier for me to trust my won perception of reality. There are times when he is subtle about it or consistant in his meathods, but I can come here and feel ok saying "I don't think this is right, I think this is mistreatment (but I say it with more swearing and exclamation points at the time)...something I could never have done FOR ME before...it is a truely amazing feeling to be able to stand up and say "I trust myself and my perseption of reality enough to ask you for feedback and admit that I don't agree with this" from others after years of quiety staying inside, honestly believing that I was just the disgusting crazy woman he was so unlucky to love, enver wanting to bother anyone with my crazy misunderstandings or dilusions.

This is only one extreme, of course, but one to RUN from. I actually tried to kill myself at one point, when he convinced me that my postpardum depression was only a ploy I had subconciously devised to control him becasue I was so abusive and out of touch with reality, that my fears where untrue, that somewhere inside I was really just doing it to hurt him and my daughter. These people are calculated and crazy and callous, and above all, DANGEROUS. they are not just people with issues, they are monsters, pathological personalities, Narrcistic abusers, what have you. Please watch your situation closely. Are you encouraged to doubt your own recollection or perception of reality? Are you told your feelings are wrong? Does he make a point to 'tell on you', where if you are out of line and he gives you a 'warning' he threatens to call your parents or his own or a friend and present you as an agressor or treats it condesendingly (ike losing his temper at you in private, then when on the phone with a friend saying gently "here, honey, no one wants to hurt you, we just want to help you" or something like that? )...if he is showing these signs of abuse, PLEASE leave immediately. Go to a shelter, go to a friend or family member you know you can trust and will believe you, kick him out, WITH THE POLICE PRESENT, and vowing not to speak to or listen to him, whatever it takes. I hope this isn't what you are going through, but I feel unsettled seeing mention of this and not reaching out with my own story to let you know how severe emotional abuse can become. I responded before to this post and wanted to say more, the ending in physical ways sort of made me wonder the severaty of your situation. THis may well not be your situation at all and I hope not, but if it is PELASE concider what I have said here, emotional abuse can be very dangerous and scary, the worst being that unlike physical abuse you may not be able to prove even to yourself that it is happening.

September 3, 2005
6:34 pm
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thanks for your concern, exoticflower, glad I have >(you)< to turn to in case things get rough. I've never experienced (emotional) abuse to the degree you have - thank god - which makes me realize I still have enough to be grateful for in my life. I am posting this to reassure you that I am doing fine and actually living quite relaxed in this regard at the moment. Just needed some feedback from more experienced people here to gain a better (deeper) understanding of the argumentative or behavioral pattern(s) characteristic of any abusive relationship. your story makes me wonder if cyles of abusive argument are particularly aimed at undermining one's self-trust and questioning one's perception of reality because it serves a purpose or goal (control?) in those types of relationships. "As someone said already on this side, codependency is an effect of living in disfunctional relationship, not ... the other way around (mateo, 03.09.2005)" - why's that .. ? .. (because I can imagine people living in a healthy relationship - fueled by an open and equal communication - acting codependent as well) - however, I do agree that codependency can be considered as learned behavior.

September 3, 2005
7:11 pm
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exoticflower
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WHat I am learning in therapy is that the abuser doesn't want to hurt, they want to WIN, which, when we continue in an abusive relationship, or continue to fight back in a power struggle, is what the 'victim' needs as well...what I mean is that like any other dysfunctional situation, like needs like to thrive. for me, I was told my whole life that my feeelings where not valid and where my stepmother would make a point of making me and others question my sanity so that no one would believe me at home or elsewhere--I knew that i was being mistreated, and continues tobecome more agressive in trying to convince ANYONE to please listen that it really DID make me look crazy. And my father was the quiet hero, he alowed the abuse but would step in or buy me special little gifts to make up for it, harboring a personal friendship with me where we where both 'victims of this woman despite his willingness to stay married to her knowing what was happening when he was away. By time I met my ex, I am sure I would not know how to be in a relationship where I was treated in a respectful, honest, sincere way. I had already learned from my father that I needed someone to smooth things over and suffer with me, and from my stepmother that no one will ever believe me, my feelings will never be seen as valid, I can never prove how I feel, what I need, or anything good about myself. My ex came from hos own sort of disfunction, no control, a meek straight A student, ND graduate, trained to be his parents little boy forever--his need for me was one where he could control, be needed, be the one in charge. he was playing grownup with me, he to this day really isn't one. he is still trying to win at the things that as a child he needed to with me, and I was still trying to make an abuser stop and see that my truth is real and relevent, still begging to be heard. WHich createst he same conflicts as they did when we where young, played out in a battle of control. He just happens to be more confident than I, my abuse as a child was quite the blow to my self esteem, and for that matter, it's called DYSFUNCTON for a reason, right? BUt for him, the abuser, he just wanted to win, to be the big guy, just driven by the needs that where not met as a child as well, but he knew only how to calculatedly deconstruct me. That's as far as I have gotten in understanding it... I hope it helps some. I think the long story short here is that same likes same in some ways, you will almost always seek out the same dysfunction that drove you as a child and continue to attempt to correct it, but without the adult tools it is hard to desire the healthy adult outcome. And an abuser often wants only CONTROL, and that can never be healthy.

September 3, 2005
7:35 pm
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Matteo
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I would take an issue with the statement that "abusers don't want to hurt, they want to win". Sure they want to win, and they will use all kind of violence and abuse to success, and they not only don't care if it hurts or not, they hope it does hurt. Emotional, psychological, verbal abuse hurts, physical violence, incest, rape, torture hurts as well, among other kinds of abuse. The hurt they cause is not just the side effect; it is a tool helping them achieve their goal to control other person.

September 3, 2005
9:05 pm
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exoticflower
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I would take an issue with the statement that "abusers don't want to hurt, they want to win".

I don't know what that statement means, like, literally. Does it mean disagree? Ask for further clarification of? Are angry at?

What I meant was that they want to win at their goal which is to CONTROL, to feel power over, of which hurting it seems would be the ultimate proof of. I don't see it as a side effect at all, I see it as the goal, to hurt and control, which makes them feel they have one.

I hope I didn't make you angry, or that take issue is a negative thing, I really as just sharing my own experiance and what I have learned about it through therapy. I suppose I should have been clear about MY abuser didn't want to hurt as the primary goal, he just wanted to win and be in control, crazymaking and hurting me being nessacary to that goal in his mind. In MY situation, that's what I am learning about where the urge to abuse and manipulate comes from.

September 3, 2005
9:08 pm
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exoticflower
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Also, I am just starting to work this out in therapy, and am sharing something intensly personal here, some parts of the abuse for the first time. When you tell me that you 'take issue ' rather than asking me what I meant so that I could see where I mispoke, it leaves me feeling embarassed and uncomfortable.

September 3, 2005
9:24 pm
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Matteo
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What I ment is I disagree. You said that you've learned this in your therapy, so I assumed this is what the therapist told you. And it did somewhat upset me, because what the therapy is all about? Healing the survivor or excusing the abuser's motivations? I did understand it in general terms, but even though you didn't say earlier that the statement was about your abuser, it really doesn't matter if his primary goal wasn't to hurt you. What matters is that he did hurt and caused you great pain and suffering.

I never ment to make you feel ucomfortable in sharing your experience or embaraced, and I am sorry that I did. Probably I should have explain more about what I disagree with. Thank you for pointing this out to me. Take care.

September 3, 2005
9:27 pm
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Exotic,

Please don't be concerned with one person that "takes issue" with what you have shared." Everyone is on their own personal journey, with different perspectives on your "truth". Don't feel embarassed or uncomfortable. You are loved and respected here, don't ever doubt that!!!!!!!!

I have not posted much lately because I have been on a downward spiral in my life, but I DO still check in daily and read what's going on with everyone. YOU are an inspiration to me!!!!!! Don't ever doubt yourself, please!!!! You are a self-aware, brave, kind, loving and patient woman (with a great sense of humor). I love reading your posts and I hope you realize how special you are!!!!!

(((((((TC)))))))))))))

September 3, 2005
9:32 pm
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22haha
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exotic-
I applaud you for asking for clarification on something you didn't understand. Better to be explained, rather than to jump the gun and accuse someone of something they didn't mean. I do agree with you that abusers do want to win at thier game of control. To me.. thats all it is about.. contol. If they have it, great, if not.. look out. I have no control in my relationship but am learning to get control of myself.

September 4, 2005
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exoticflower
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Hi! Wow, did I stir something up? Sorry abou tthat, I was just saying how I felt at the time, I'm trying to do better at that without overexplaining myself or feeling ashamed of my own truth...but then, I suppose I'm overexplaining now, arent I?

As long as I am, I want to explain that I am the one who is seeking out an understanding of where my abusers need to control came from, by understanding it helps me to forgive him. I will NEVER excuse his abuse, it almost cost my daughter her mother, almost cost me myself, my sanity, maybe even my life. However, I do want to forgive him to release the control that resentment has over me at times, I think it will be a way to free myself further from all that he has done. My therapist has done wonderfully, I feel less pain every day, and am coming to a point in my healing that I can even move foreward on my own and ask her for help understanding my abuser knowing that it is not to obsess but to let go. She never defends him or says it is ok, just helps me when it is my focus sometimes to try to understand where I got pulled into his abuse, what of myself was vulnerable to such treatment...and for me, part of that is understanding the treatment itself and why he 'chose' me and why he did the things he did. It is working for me--I am more aware every day of how deep my denial was when I was with him, and of how dangerous such abuse can be. I used to be a miserable wreck that was scared, distrustful, self loathing, paranoid (and for good reason)...overall, my life was a living hell. Sometimes things still suck, yes, but more often I am feeling better, free, able to forgive myself and know that I didn't deserve to be abused, that no-one does. So, whatever she is doing, my therapist is fine in my book becasue it is HELPING, I am reclaiming my life and growing, and that is what I wanted from my treatment.

Thanks for all of the support you guys, looking at this I realize that I have doen ok...remind me of posts like this next time I feel like hell, please! Now, off of my "god as my witness I shall never be abused again" soap-box...I hope I have cleared anything confusing up, no one is saying abuse is ever ok, or that an abuser isn't the bad guy...or at least I'm not! Personally, I say drag em in the streets and shoot em and I won't cry, just sharing some of what I have learned about an abusers mind being that of a child in its self centeredness.

September 4, 2005
12:54 am
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exoticflower
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haha, I have to ask...still sharing the same ex, arent we!

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