I’m here delivering hot and spicy romantic advice directly to you! Today, we’re going to be talking about emotional abuse (a subject I know a little bit too much about, unfortunately) and whether a self-admitted emotional abuser should try to get his girlfriend back . . .
“I have a question.
My ex and I broke up because
1) I cheated, not physically solely through text.
2) she said I was emotionally abusive because I didn’t offer her attention how she needed me to.
3) I lied to her about many things, mainly at the beginning. These were things that weren’t her business at the time. I listened to the video and you said if I was emotionally abusive to not use the text program.
I wasn’t abusive on purpose, I just wasn’t paying attention to her wants and needs. Am I still ok to use this program? I love this woman so so much and miss everything about her. She’s the one I want to marry.”
Thanks so much for your question. First off, I should say that the video Chris is talking about is all about my freakishly-popular “Text Your Ex Back” program. (You don’t need to watch the video to understand the rest of this newsletter but it’s there if you want it.)
And Chris, you are 100% correct, in that video (and in the Text Your Ex Back program itself) I say in no uncertain (but occasionally hilarious) terms that if you have been emotionally abusive to your partner than underneath no circumstances are you to use my material to induce them back.
Because . . .
Well, because emotional abuse is one of the worst things you can do to a person. It destroys their self-esteem and sense of agency. It makes them question their own concept of reality. It turns a vibrant and wonderful human being into a shivering, self-loathing pile of the whimpersome doubt.
“Now,” you may say, “Mike, your description of what emotional abuse can do to a person sounds like it’s coming from experience.”
And I would say: “Um, yes, because I spent several years in a horrifyingly-emotionally-abusive relationship where the very fabric of who I was brought into question. And it’s taken me almost two years now since I ended that relationship to rebuild myself out of whatever household materials are available.
So I know from emotional abuse and I HATE emotional abuse and I pretty much dedicate my life to teaching people romantic and sexual communication skills so they don’t fall into the trap of emotionally abusing each other to fill the void in their own hearts.
BUT . . .
Um, Chris, are you SURE you were an “emotionally abusive” boyfriend instead of simply a . . . well, a kind of shitty boyfriend?
Let’s break this down:
1. You cheated on your girlfriend over text.
This is definitely shitty boyfriend behavior. It’s not the shittiest boyfriend behavior (physically cheating is worse, as is selling all your girlfriend’s stuff without telling her) but it’s shitty enough that it would break up most couples where the median age is under 25 and would cause all sorts of problems for couples with a median age over that.
But it’s not emotionally abusive. One definition I found online says:
“Emotional abuse (also known as psychological abuse) involves a regular pattern of verbal offense, threatening, bullying, and constant criticism. As well as more subtle techniques like intimidation, shaming, and manipulation.
Emotional abuse is used to control and subjugate the other person, and quite often it occurs because the abuser has childhood wounds and insecurities they haven’t dealt with – maybe as a result of being abused themselves.”
So, the short version is that emotional abuse involves using WORDS to demean, criticize, beat up, correct, manipulate, shame and otherwise do horrible things to a person.
The only way cheating over text would be emotionally abusive is if you did it TO hurt your girlfriend and TO make her feel unattractive/unwanted/unsexy and other UN words AND actively told her that was the reason that you felt like you “had to” cheat on her.
Now, am I saying that your girlfriend didn’t feel all those things when she found out about your dirty, filthy text cheating?
Nah. She probably did. But that wasn’t because you MADE her feel those things or WANTED her to (I hope.) It was because she’s a human with human insecurities and that’s the way humans work especially when in love.
2. You Didn’t Give Her The Attention She Wanted
Hmm. OK, again, according to our definition of emotional abuse this doesn’t qualify. Did she ever actually TELL you how she wanted to get attention? Or did she just expect you to know what that attention was and then get FURIOUS at you when you didn’t provide it?
Because . . . um . . . Chris? Not letting someone know your expectations (or having unreasonable expectations) and then flooding your partner with disappointment and rage when they don’t deliver is . . . well, that would be your girlfriend being emotionally abusive to YOU. (Woah!) (And yes, my ex would do this all the time. It sucked.)
I really wish I knew what kind of attention your ex-wanted so I could find out if it was basic and reasonable stuff like “I’d like you to look me in the eye, dammit” or if it was weird stuff like “You must come greet me the moment you come home.
You must tell me how beautiful I am while using iambic pentameter. You must hop on one foot. You must worship me as the sun and the moon and tell me how ugly other women are. If you don’t do ALL of these things it means you don’t love me and that you are emotionally abusive.”
3. Next, We Get To The Lying Thing
You say that you lied to her about many things, especially at the beginning. But you don’t say what those things are. Were you lying about the size of your genitals? Did you say you had a secret past as an MI6 agent?
Personally, I always say that a level of “innocent” lying in relationships is normal and expected. I mean, humans regularly lie to ourselves about EVERYTHING so there’s no way we’re going to be able to be 100% honest with somebody else. If you’re just lying about your high score in “Overwatch” or something it doesn’t matter.
Either way – While lying can definitely dip into the realm of “Shitty Boyfriend Behavior” it doesn’t fall into the Emotional Abuse category (unless you were lying by telling your girlfriend that her entire read on reality is wrong and that she was “imagining” that you were being a dick. That’s basically gaslamping.
So, Chris, Were You Emotionally Abusive?
So . . .
What do you think?
I don’t have anywhere near enough information to be 100% certain here, but my finely honed RELATIONSHIP GUT is telling me that you weren’t. Nope, you were just a young guy (I’m betting you’re under 30) who did shitty boyfriend things that young guys do (and hopefully grow out of.)
So, should you use Text Your Ex Back to get your ex back?
Well, that’s up to you. But I will say that IF you get back together with this woman it’s important that you don’t go groveling back and let her continue this narrative that you were “emotionally abusive.” (Her telling you that you’re emotionally abusive over and over is . . . gasp . . . emotionally abusive. DAMN!)
I don’t want to judge your ex as an emotional abuser without more information but it sure sounds like she’s edging up on it. So IF you go back make sure you go back with your eyes open. Do a Google search for “Signs of Emotional Abuse” and see if they apply to you.
Oh, and while (if you get back together) you SHOULD explain to your ex what emotional abuse is and that what you were doing doesn’t come close to qualifying DO NOT head to your girlfriend telling HER that she’s been emotionally abusive to you.
A, of all if she’s actually emotionally abusive she probably has no idea of any kind and her self-identity won’t let her even consider the idea (so you’d be wasting your time.)
B, of all, if she’s NOT emotionally abusive, going around and saying she IS is just . . . well, an unhealthy manner to start out a relationship.
C, of all, if she IS emotionally abusive? Well, then you shouldn’t try to get her back at all. You should RUN and find someone who will treat you like a human being, a partner, and a man.