If THIS Is Happening In Your Relationship, Raise The White Flag

Long-term relationships and marriages are bound to go through peaks and valleys, but if you’re enduring months, years and even decades of criticism from your lover or spouse, you’re in trouble.

Slowly but surely a toxic partner can undermine our confidence, self-esteem and even our health in order to control and contain us.

They criticize the way we look, the way we talk, the way we eat, the way we do pretty much everything.

This often results in us feeling lucky to have our toxic partner, because who else would want us with all of our flaws?

As our self-esteem takes a beating we’ll often rush to fill our partner’s needs and won’t feel like we deserve to have any needs of our own.

Criticism on Steroids

In hyper-destructive relationships our partner can even criticize us for reacting negatively to their outrageous, emotionally abusive behavior.

I have a client I’ll call Genevieve whose husband Michael is a carpenter, but his dream is to become a professional actor. When he’s not working he spends a great deal of his time auditioning for parts.

Recently Genevieve noticed that Michael wasn’t answering her texts or phone calls when he was out. She also noticed he wouldn’t leave his phone casually lying around.

Suspicious, she discovered he’d developed a “friendship” with a very attractive, single woman he met on a commercial audition for toothpaste.

She confronted Michael about her findings and told him she felt uncomfortable that he was developing a relationship with a woman she didn’t know.

Michael was furious Genevieve snooped and the criticisms came on hot and heavy. She was too insecure. She was suffocating him. She was cruel not to allow him to have friendships outside of their marriage.

When Genevieve said she’d be fine with the friendship if she could just meet the woman and they could incorporate her into their community, Michael went ballistic and disappeared for two days!

By the time her husband returned Genevieve was so cowed that she decided not to bring up the “other” woman again, for fear of losing Michael. She even apologized for giving him such a hard time.

Emotionally abusive men and women tear us down so they can control us, to make us think we don’t deserve what we want or even what we need. Criticism keeps us trapped by making us think we’re unworthy of anything better. It confuses us by making us think that we’re the ones who are damaged, otherwise why would our partner treat us so poorly?

Raising the White Flag Isn’t About Giving Up, It’s About Surrendering to the Fact That We Need Help!

If you recognize yourself in this article you maybe be addicted to the emotional-cycle-of-abuse and might need help.

The first thing you must do is recognize you have absolutely no power over your partner’s criticism. If this is chronic behavior there’s not a pretzel shape you can fit yourself into that will make it stop.

You may need to gain the strength to leave the relationship permanently. Or, if you absolutely can’t leave due of finances, children and other factors, you’ll have to learn how to detach from the drama and set healthy boundaries within the relationship in order to rebuild your self-esteem and enjoy your life again.

There are a myriad sources of help for this painful cycle. You can begin by attending a 12-step program (CODA is often a good one, sometimes Al-Anon is good too), hiring a therapist or speaking with a spiritual advisor.

Qualified therapist’s can walk clients through 12-step recovery with talk therapy and step-work. Having once been addicted to the emotional cycle-of-abuse myself, I know there’s a way out and a way in to something much, much better.


-Shannon Bradley-Colleary

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