You undoubtedly accept that everyone gets angry from time to time. You might do so yourself. As a result, do you forgive someone who doesn’t always succeed at anger management? Perhaps you’ve even labeled such behavior positively—you saw the person as passionate. In doing so, you might have rationalized the person’s anger and made it seem less out-of-the-ordinary.
When you’re involved with a man who is controlling and engages in emotional abuse and verbal abuse encased in rage, it’s sometimes difficult to know if his behavior is intentional, or does he suffer from a mental disorder?
I’ll explain what I mean in a moment. Right now, please understand this: It is less important you understand the cause of his behavior than you face up to the fact it is going on. Why? Because this behavior—being the ongoing victim of his emotional abuse and verbal abuse that’s encased in that explosive rage—is destructive. And even if he suffers from a mental health disorder, that won’t change the fact his behavior is likely destroying your mental health and body—never mind ensuring happiness and joy elude you.
Is his Problem Intermittent Explosive Disorder?
Could your partner who spurts out emotional abuse and verbal abuse in rage attacks actually suffer from a mental illness? There is a chance he does. Of course, one type of mental disorder I discuss in some of my articles is Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD. If you’ve read those, you probably know that someone doesn’t have to be diagnosable as having the full-fledged personality disorder to display some of the destructive behaviors or traits. (I’ve purposely used the pronoun, he, since more men than women suffer from Narcissistic Personality Disorder).
Another mental illness, only rather recently identified, might be of interest to you as well. It’s called Intermittent Explosive Disorder, or IED. And again, like with Narcissistic Personality Disorder and other mental illnesses, the person need not have the full-blown disorder to exhibit some of the problematic behaviors.
Frankly, I think it’s very likely your emotionally abusive and verbally abusive partner has engaged in some of the behaviors that suggest Intermittent Explosive Disorder. IED, after all, involves outbursts unwarranted for the situation. Furthermore, these outbursts can include threats, attacks on others, throwing and breaking things, and/or spousal abuse (which emotional abuse and verbal abuse are, certainly).
If you want to try and diagnose your emotionally abusive and verbally abusive partner, he must have displayed three or more episodes of impulsive aggressiveness grossly out of proportion to any precipitating psychosocial stressor. Then, during the episode, he must have done one or more of the following: He suddenly lost control and broke or smashed something worth more than a few dollars, hit or hurt someone, or tried to hit or hurt someone.
Do you think your emotionally abusive and verbally abusive partner is likely diagnosable as having Intermittent Rage Disorder? It’s estimated it afflicts 16 million people. Based on the stories some ex-wives tell me, I suspect we’ll see those numbers increase as more therapists become aware of this disorder. Then, they’ll questions to see if clients fit into perpetrator or victim roles.
Now, I want you to remember something I said earlier: Your partner doesn’t have to display the full blown diagnosable condition before his behavior becomes toxic and has serious repercussions—to the both of you. Also, perhaps your partner doesn’t rage, but he maintains his cool while he makes devastating threats? Actually, people we’ve labeled in the past with terms such as Psychopath, Sociopath, or as someone having Antisocial Personality Disorder, can be cool operators while they go about even deadly tasks. Ted Bundy, a serial killer who was later executed, quickly comes to my mind.
Get Real about What You’re Truly Facing
Think about what you’ve been facing. If you’re inclined to forget or forgive the past, starting today, begin tracking your partner’s destructive ways. This might force you out of your own self-destructive behavior—of denial. Let’s talk about how you should do this and why.
You might want to record when these behaviors occur on a calendar. Of course, keep it stored away in a safe place your partner won’t find it. Also, only record his actual behaviors on this calendar. If he is abusing alcohol or has a pain killer addiction, for example, you might want to list the time and amount of consumption of nay alcohol or pain pills as best you can. List the resulting behavioral impact, too. Describe these as specifically as you can. Leave out any comments about your feelings. You want to stick to just the facts only. You might mention he consumed six beers, and then he stumbled into the sofa and slurred his words throughout the remainder of the evening. This is the only type of information that should ever appear on this calendar. Definitely DO NOT what mark down the luncheon date with your girlfriends, for example.
Why do I emphasize this? Because if you’re married now, but you later end up in divorce court, this calendar could serve your attorney well. My understanding is he can only use it as evidence if it merely documents your husband’s less than stellar actions, however. If these are mixed in with other items, including a commentary of how you felt at the time, it will probably become useless. So, again, state only what actually happened. Write down actually dialogue, for example. Say your thoughts and feelings for a personal journal—which can be therapeutic to keep. But you want to keep this where your husband can’t find it, either. I also would keep the fact you’re keeping such a journal private, especially if you write about your revenge fantasies. You might also want to ensure you are clear upfront this is a fantasy you do not intend to act upon just in case it should ever slip into the wrong hands—like your husband’s divorce attorney.
By the way, I AM NOT AN ATTORNEY AND WHAT I SAID SHOULD NOT BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL ADVICE. I put this in here to alert you to something you might want to check out with an attorney, and especially if you suspect you will someday engage in divorce proceedings and this documentation might serve you well then. And even if you don’t suspect it will ever be needed for any purpose other than to bring you out of your denial? You still might want to approach your documentation in this way—just in case you ever do need it after all. It is always better to be safe than sorry, right?
Now, let’s assume your documentation suggests your partner engages in numerous episodes of emotional abuse and verbal abuse. Even if these outbursts can’s be classified as actual IED, have you considered how destructive they might be to you nonetheless?
How his Rage Might Be Affecting You
We know that when someone is raging, stress hormones are being poured into his system. These are harmful to the heart and other functioning of the body. As the victim of another’s rage, you are not immune to negative consequences. For example, have you ever had aches and pains your physician couldn’t diagnose? Perhaps you could think of these as your body’s alarm system—telling you how you’re living or the environment you’re submitting yourself to is detrimental to every part and aspect of you. Furthermore, if you don’t heed these warnings, you might end up with some significant disease. It might even prove deadly. Have you ever considered that?
Toxic chemicals kill people. Well, so can toxic relationships. Even if your bad marriage or relationship does not lead to physical death, such a relationship can drain the life force right out of you. Personally, I think of it as a kind of slow death. You might hardly realize how you’ve lost your strength and will to live until one day, you wake up and truly believe you don’t have the strength to go on—and certainly, not to walk out of the life you’re in and start over again. And while that’s not the truth—you could stick your toes into a different river of life, if not actually jump right in—you’re likely being driven by thoughts and feelings that already helped create the painful reality you now live in. However, with new thoughts and feelings, you could create a new reality for yourself. If your suffering the hurt of anxiety and depression, it might take a combination of medication and psychotherapy to help you set aside those thoughts and fill your head with more positive and constructive ones instead.
Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let me step back a minute. Can you admit that being the victim of your husband’s or partner’s rage attacks can be terrifying? I’m not the only one who experienced this reaction, am I? Also, isn’t it darn frustrating to have to listen to his accusations when you know you’ve done nothing to deserve such a monstrous attack? Nonetheless, as those butterflies swirl about in your stomach, do you kid yourself that your anxiety is benign, and it won’t do anything to your health?
Indeed, you’re kidding yourself if you believe he’s the only one harmed.
You might want to do some research on how anxiety and stress can impact your health. After all, you’re living with both of them almost constantly when you’re living with someone who rages—someone who’s engaging in emotional abuse and verbal abuse when he does so.
Once you’ve been the victim of even one rage attack, I believe it’s difficult to trust your partner again. A wedge has been driven between the two of you which makes heart-to-heart communication difficult, if not impossible. But then, we humans are wired to avoid pain even more so than to seek out pleasure. Thus, with the memory of that episode floating out there in your memory banks, you’re apt to avoid bringing up something that you find upsetting about your partner or the relationship—because you know your words will upset him, but in a different way! When you can’t clear the air, however, resentment builds. Well, there also might be sadness at the loss of the connection that once was there. Hopelessness and helplessness set in—part of the reason depression hurts. And once beset by these, you might feel there is nothing you can do to stop the downward spiral: You can merely endure it.
The truth is, if you are responding this way, your husband or partner might have you exactly where he wants you. Okay, he might feel badly about his raging and the emotional abuse and verbal abuse that spew forth as a result of it. I wouldn’t count on it, though. And I especially wouldn’t if he’s doing nothing to try and change himself. If his focus is all on you as the problem—you are the one who needs self improvement and should be reading the self help books on personal development and other such things—he’s into playing the blame game. It is a defense mechanism. This way, he doesn’t have to look at himself and his need to change.
You Can’t Make Him Change, but There are
Things You Can Do Now
Yes, there are things you can do—and frankly, you really should do them if you’re in such a relationship. You must strive to ensure your own physical safety, for instance. In fact, you always want to get away from someone who is physically abusing you. Of course, sometimes this isn’t possible in the moment. Once the man you’re with uses physical abuse, you should see that physical abuse as a deal-breaker; the relationship needs to end. I strongly suggest you seek sound advice from a professional before you actually proceed in the direction of leaving, though. There are real dangers in leaving a man who engages in physical abusive you must know about. A professional can help you develop a safety plan that should help minimize those risks to you and your family. If things do go haywire, you’ll all know exactly how you want to proceed, minimizing the risk something will go tragically wrong.
But let us talk now about what you should do if you can’t get away from your partner when he is in the midst of a rage attack. You should strive to remain calm. Do not shout back or try and verbally defend yourself—no matter how outrageous his emotional abuse or verbal abuse becomes. Of course, I say this assuming that early on in the relationship when the emotional abuse and verbal abuse first began, you were assertive and told him to stop talking to you that way. In other words, he knows perfectly well it was never your intent to sit there and listen to such abuse. Still, he has continued on with his emotional abuse and verbal abuse. In fact, his abusiveness might have escalated after that. Therefore, you are quite certain that assertiveness doesn’t work with this man. As a result, when he rants and raves, you should try and remain calm.
How do you do this? Well, you can talk to yourself and feed yourself helpful thoughts while he screams out his lies.
You don’t need to listen to what your partner is saying, after all. Remind yourself, a person in a state of rage is not in a rational frame of mind. Thus, he is not going to make any salient points you can’t afford to miss. Instead, silently tell yourself, for example, he likely suffers from a mental condition. Let that bring forth your feelings of empathy rather than of anger. Remind yourself that behind anger lurks fear or pain—or a blend of both. Of course, that fear or pain might have nothing to do with you. Both could stem from things that happened to him years ago. Sadly, though, those events likely programmed his brain to overreact to situations in the present, even though they have only a hint of similarity to what occurred in the past.
It’s no fun to be the victim of your partner’s emotional abuse and verbal abuse wrapped in a rage attack. By speaking calmly and perhaps acknowledging his anger in a gentle way—as opposed to responding in an angry or condescending way—you might help him to actually calm him down. Now, I’m not saying you have to admit he’s right and you’re wrong. But it might help if you say something such as, “I had no idea this would upset you so. That was never my intention.” Or, there might be times you can admit he makes a valid point—you’d never thought of it that way, but you’ll give it some thought. You might even tell him, “You might be right about that.” Again, you’re not saying you agree, although he might hear it that way. This might well calm him down because he’ll believe he has won. You can live with that, can’t you?
Someday, you might have to ask yourself the question: Do I really want to continue to live this way? Furthermore, just because you answer the question one way at one time, you also have the right to change your mind!
Do You Still Want to Believe He can Change?
If so, then perhaps you need to ask yourself this: Has he taken any actual steps in that direction, or does he merely talk the talk versus attempt to walk the walk?
I rather hate to do this, but let me tell you a sad truth: Quite frankly, he might be engaging in these rages—bursting with verbal abuse and emotional abuse—because in truth, he harvests the results he wants.
Are you screaming back, “But how can he do that? He is pushing away all the people who care about him. He is destroying the love he could enjoy. And deep down, don’t all people want to be loved?”
Some people are too wounded to accept the love of others. Unless they do something to heal those wounds, they will continue to push loving people away—or abuse then and use them to meet the needs they want fulfilled instead.
Let me share an example. A man I once loved told me it is better to be feared than loved. I brushed off his comment; I assumed he was joking. In time, however, his behaviors told me otherwise. This was a belief he clung to, and it drove him. So, was I going to change him and his beliefs by showing him love while he continued to engage in rage—filled with emotional abuse and verbal abuse, of course—to push me away? Well, the love of a good woman might transform such a man in the movies, but it didn’t happen in my actual life.
Is it happening in yours?
Okay, I agree there are probably some men out there who don’t realize how much they rage. These same men might be concerned about losing the love of their family members. These same men might come to accept that rage is a feeling and, as such, it doesn’t have to be acted out. These same men might also come to understand a feeling should never be confused with a fact. These same men might also accept it is possible to learn how to let go of rage.
Is the man you’re living with one of these men? You must ask yourself that question sometime when you re feeling calm and open to the truth. Only then will you hear and accept the answer your heart whispers back.
I sincerely hope you do ask yourself this question, listen to the answer, and make decisions accordingly. But then, I believe no woman should sacrifice her life for a man who seems quite content to engage in rage attacks that are about emotional abuse and verbal abuse that, in turn, are designed to control her because, in turn, that sense of power and control makes him feel good about himself and his life.
Perhaps if women didn’t help such men feel so damn good about themselves, then those men might come to feel some of the same type of emotional pain we have. Then, the desire for emotional pain relief might become the motivator for them to change—just as it has been ours.