Have you ever been told that you are responsible for “making someone upset” because you said “no” to a request of theirs? This assertion is common practice in abusive relationships.
Your partner wants you to do something that you are not in agreement with… This is part of life. People make requests, some of which you comply with and others you resist.
In respectful relationships in which there is mutual honor for the integrity of each party, a “no” is met with acceptance. In relationships characterized by abusive control, “no” is challenged and becomes a quest to convert into a “yes.”
Moreover, the wear and tear endured to seek the “yes” becomes the “fault” of the resisting party. Objectively, we all know this is ridiculous. However, when you live in an abusive controlling relationship, this is policy.
Emotional Mental Abuse of Saying No in Abusive Relationships
That one little word “no” is known to bring extreme conflict for couples in abusive relationships. For those seeking to say “no” and feeling they “can’t,” there is great internal and external stress.
You know you will be in battle until you give in or until the tug-of-war rolls into some other dispute. Oftentimes, you find yourself in the cascading fight not remembering its origin. And only later, you recall the heated debate stemmed from your little “no” earlier on.
Your internal stress can be subtle relative to the outward strain, or simply more private and personally significant. You vacillate between holding your own for all the reasons your original “no” was established and giving in merely to abort the outward battle. There is no real win in this dilemma because the ultimate basis for relationship satisfaction is missing.
Responsibility and Accountability in an Abusive Relationship
The other component underlying much of this conflict is the thwarting off of responsibility by one party onto the other. The controlling party will want his/her victim to believe she/he is responsible for any distress they may feel within and around their interactions.
They will insist that you are responsible for their stress over your resistance…as though you are accountable for their inability to accept you as you are. A key element that sustains these dynamics is the victim’s willingness to assume this responsibility. Your accountability for your partner’s experience keeps the abusive controlling dynamics in place.
As you release ownership of their thoughts, feelings and behavior, you empower yourself. You step out from under their control, release the burden of responsibility back onto them and are able to fully own what is yours…and yours only.
If you are in an intimate relationship in which saying “no” comes with a high price of conflict and cascading distress, take a look at the core control dynamics of abusive relationships. For information on breaking the cycle of domestic abuse, visit http://www.enddomesticabuse.org/spousal_abuse_tx.php.
Dr. Jeanne King, Ph.D. helps individuals and couples worldwide recognize, end and heal from domestic abuse.
© Dr Jeanne King — Domestic Violence Prevention and Intervention