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How can you respond or react in the most concise, clear and healthy way so that their annoyance or frustration with you doesn’t turn into another toxic event in your relationship?

Learning to respond in the most healthy way possible can make the difference between another argument with misunderstandings and confusion, and something that could be cleared up fast.

(The following podcast transcript has been modified for easier readability and to benefit the Deaf and hard of hearing)

What is a battle that you may have had with someone, or maybe having with someone now? Is it emotional abuse? Is it psychological abuse? Something you can’t pinpoint, but you know, you feel it?

Regardless, it is likely a mental strain on the relationship. But when you access your thoughts and feelings, and you think, ‘wow, what they just said, it didn’t feel very nice. It sounded like they were annoyed with me.’

When that happens, how do you respond to it? What is your response? What do you say? What do you do? What should you say? What should you do?

What is the most healthy response that you could give?

I like to talk about how to respond, communicate, and interact in the most healthy ways possible. Basically, any response or anything that you do that doesn’t have toxic elements can be considered healthy.

A toxic element causes someone to feel bad in some way. When someone introduces toxic elements into their communication, they may not be doing it intentionally or consciously. But these toxic elements can make it into our relationships. When they do, we need to have a healthy response so that the relationship doesn’t spiral out of control into something that could be avoided.

An emotionally abusive relationship can form if we don’t respond in a healthy way.

The idea is to catch it while it’s happening so that it doesn’t spiral into the depths of emotional abuse or any type of hurtful behavior. How do we do that? What I’m saying is that sometimes these passive-aggressive comments and behaviors that people make aren’t addressed in a way that gets it out in the open so that you have an opportunity to talk with each other about it.

This is especially a concern or something to be observant about in a new relationship. If these behaviors, annoyances, irritations, or frustrations start to come out, what should you say or do? What do you currently say or do?

I’m going to give you what I believe to be the most healthy ways to respond to any type of behavior that makes you feel bad. My definition of emotional abuse is doing things that make someone else feel bad, and especially, makes them feel bad about themselves, with the intent to make them question themselves and not trust their own decisions.

When you do things that cause someone to feel bad, that puts a definite strain on the relationship. And it can certainly spiral out of control and the behaviors can compound into emotional abuse where emotionally abusive behavior is like a drip-feed day after day. The behaviors compound and get worse because the constant repetition of hurtful behaviors will wear you down and wear you out.

Emotional abuse is the drip-feed compound effect of repeated hurtful behaviors. And it’s not always easy to tell what those behaviors are. This is exactly why I created The M.E.A.N. Workbook so you can pinpoint those behaviors. That when you can’t pinpoint them, you should at least have some sort of response to them.

Let’s get right to some of those responses now. This episode stems from an email somebody sent me. I am going to summarize their message here.

They said they were in a new relationship for less than a year. They broke up and she said she saw some of the signs of emotional abuse but didn’t see the other signs so she wasn’t sure if those were abusive behaviors or just typical relationship issues.

One of the first things she said is that they both agreed that it was fate that brought them together. They were “fated,” as she put it.

I always see this kind of thing as a warning sign. I hate to say that because I’ve been there. I’ve been in a situation where it did feel like, “Wow, this is fate that brings us together! This is so meant to be.”

When it’s that early on in a relationship, all the chemicals are going through your body and everything is just so wonderful and new. I’m skeptical when I hear somebody say this was meant to be when it’s that early in the relationship because we often put on our best face in the beginning. We often put on our best behavior.

Not everyone does this. Some people show up as they are. But if they’re abusive, if they have a tendency to hurt people, whether consciously or not, then they’re not going to show you that side of them at the beginning. They won’t do that because they want to impress you every step of the way. “Impress” is the wrong word. They want to show you that they’re safe, that they care about you, that they love you. They also want you to feel like you can trust them with anything and everything.

Of course, healthy people do this too. I’m not knocking down those qualities. I don’t want to make it sound like anyone who does this is somebody you should watch out for. I’m not saying that at all. But I am saying when you feel all of these things early on in a relationship, it’s important to step back and look at the big picture so that you can make sure everything is as perfect as it seems. You want to make sure that it’s not a little too good to be true.

I’m not saying it can’t happen. But I like to gauge relationships in a way where, if everything is so good to the extreme, like perfect and “fated” connection, then what you’re looking at may have a limit. It may have a finite period of time of existing.

It’s sort of like looking at happiness. Let’s just say that you have this blissful feeling. You are happy! Think about something that made you so happy. How long did it last? And I’m talking about the most extreme amount of happiness where you’re so happy, you’re laughing.

How long does that happy, laughing feeling last?

It doesn’t. That feeling doesn’t last, just like most feelings don’t last. And I’m not talking about the feeling of chronic depression or anxiety anything like that. Those things tend to last when we haven’t been able to heal from them. Negative feelings that are chronic aren’t included in this.

I’m talking about the general emotions that we experience on a day-to-day basis. You could be thrilled about something, but that thrill eventually calms down. It goes away. You reach a homeostatic state – a level, balanced place. That is your ground floor, I guess you could say.

And then sometimes you go in the basement because you’re sad. And sometimes you go into the attic because you’re happy. And maybe those aren’t the right analogies for you, but you get it. Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down. And then hopefully, most of the time, you’re centered and balanced.

It’s not normally that way in emotionally abusive relationships, because you’re always on edge. You’re always thinking what is going to happen next? You’re always wondering what you should do that can create a “bipolarity” in your emotional state.

I’m not saying it causes bipolar disorder or anything like that, but it can create that up and down emotional state that feels like you’re always walking on eggshells in some way.

Because that’s the case, comparing an emotionally abusive relationship to a “normal,” or healthy relationship, isn’t fair because in the “normal” or healthy relationship, there’s healthy communication. There’s more transparency. But there’s more vulnerability in the emotionally abusive relationship.

In the emotionally abusive relationship, you question how you should show up and what to expect next. There’s always that unfinished business, or open-loop feeling, in the relationship. And you never get closure. It’s like you’re waiting for the next hiccup and it never comes, but you know it’s coming. It’s in there and you’re waiting for it, but then it doesn’t come.

And then finally you get a hiccup and then you think, okay I got that hiccup. But then the next one is on the way so you’re waiting for that one too. This is somewhat representative of the cycle of an emotionally abusive relationship. It’s that you’re always waiting for the next thing to happen. Or you fear the next thing happening. You’re just on edge in so many ways. That’s exactly what a lot of people experience.

Back to fate… When somebody says, “We’re meant to be together, it’s fate!” And it’s early on in the relationship, you do have to be careful that they might be at the extreme end swing of the pendulum. It’s the “high” of the relationship, where everyone is acting on their best behavior and each of you really want to impress the other person.

Again, not everyone does this, some people will think it’s fate and all will work out well. But if this has happened to you or is happening to you now, you just have to step out of it. You have to step back and look at it. Look at the big picture. Ask yourself, “Can everything be this perfect? Can everything be this ideal? Are there no issues we disagree on? And can we have healthy disagreements? Can we have disagreements without hurting each other? Or them hurting you?”

Just be aware of this questioning process when you feel like it’s “meant to be.” And I don’t mean to deflate your sails. I don’t mean to make you feel like something special may not be what it seems. I want you to move forward with a healthy amount of skepticism but continue to be your wonderful, caring, loving, supportive, gentle, compassionate self until you notice that things aren’t as they appear.

If you notice that things aren’t as they appear, I’m just preparing you to be clear in yourself so that you don’t get lost in the weeds. These weeds can get very high and you will not be able to see above them. You will have trouble navigating through them.

You’ll be in the weeds trying to get out of them, but you never do. The weeds are when you are completely committed and locked into a toxic relationship. When you’re in that deep, it’s very difficult to get out so you can see clearly again.

At this point, I want to give you some healthy responses to what can happen when somebody throws out these little, sometimes hurtful comments at you and you’re not sure how to handle them.

Someone wrote to me and said the person she was dating asked her, “Why are you walking in front of me?” He asked her this out of the blue. It wasn’t a joke. It was meant to be serious. And she thought, ‘we never had a conversation where I couldn’t walk in front of you.’ I’m putting words in her mouth now, but I imagine this was exactly what she was thinking.

My first thought is to respond with, “Is it a problem that I walk in front of you?”

That can be something that you might say to somebody who asks you something like that. Though, it does sound a little bit aggressive. i.e., “Is that a problem?” So you probably don’t want to say it that way exactly. But you could ask the question, “Does it bother you when I do that?”

It’s an innocent question. And you may not get a very calm answer because if they’re already irritated by something, that question might irritate them more. But it is a good question regardless. And you don’t want to ask it sarcastically. You don’t want to be mean about it. You want to come across as innocent and naive as you could be.

If I was in that situation where my girlfriend asked, “Why are you walking in front of me?” I would probably think. ‘Wow. She sounds upset.’ Then I would ask her question, “Does it bother you that I’m walking in front of you?”

At the same time, I might make an assumption that walking in front of her makes her feel like I’m blocking her or something, as if it was important for her to see what’s coming. Most people will make assumptions about why someone asks a question like that.

My assumption about why she asked might be that if she were in front of me, and she were taller than me (because I’m taller than my girlfriend), and I couldn’t see in front of that tall person, then I might ask the same question.

I would try to empathize, putting myself in her shoes. In the case of the woman who wrote to me, if I were her, I would definitely ask this person the question, “Does it bother you when I do this?”

She can even ask, “Do you want to share with me why that bothers you?” Because there is an assumption being made that it does bother the person, especially how they asked.

You can usually tell if something is bothering somebody by the inflection in their voice. That doesn’t mean I’m always right about that, but for the most part, there’s a difference between saying, “Hey, would you mind not walking in front of me? (with a very low inflection) and, “Why are you walking in front of me!? (with a louder voice and higher inflection).

I raised the tempo and frequency of my voice in the second way I asked the question. So there’s certainly a way to tell when somebody is annoyed or irritated. You could even respond to the question, “Are you annoyed or irritated that I’m walking in front of you?” But a question like that might lead to conflict.

Even if you were very kind about how you asked, “Does it annoy you that I walk in front of you?” There’s an air of conflict in there that might cause the conversation to go in a bad way, which is why I like the previous question, “Do you want to share with me why?”

If they say, “It doesn’t really bother me,” you could ask, “You sound bothered. I apologize if I misunderstood that. If it doesn’t bother you, then I’m just going to ignore it and continue walking.”

Maybe that’s where the conversation should go. This is tricky because you’re walking a fine line. You know something’s wrong. You feel it. And don’t discount that feeling because as soon as you discount it, that’s the compound effect of what can make the relationship, or at least your communication, spiral downward. You don’t want to dismiss the feelings that you have.

In this case, if his comment felt rude or even sort of hostile, don’t dismiss that. Just note it in your mind for now. But then ask a question. You don’t want to let it go because you want to talk about what just happened, unless they are hostile and aggressive. At that point, you may want to let it go and get away until you’re safe. If when you address something they’re hostile and aggressive, you have to reconsider the relationship otherwise you’re in danger.

If you don’t reconsider a relationship like that, I would ask you, “Why are you in a relationship where you can’t even communicate with somebody because they’re always hostile and aggressive?”

I know sometimes you can’t get out of a relationship like this. You have a lot of ties. You have a lot of commitments, but you do have to wonder how long you’re going to spend with somebody that you can’t even talk to. I’m just giving you food for thought. I personally (and I’m not trying to push this on you), wouldn’t want to be with somebody that I couldn’t have a conversation with.

Maybe 90% of your conversations are great and that’s why you’re there. And if that’s why, that’s perfectly fine. I don’t like to push anyone to leave anyone. I like to promote healthy conversation. If you’re not able to have a healthy conversation or at least one without hostility, then that is a problem because now you’re not really relating to each other; You’re not meeting each other in the same space.

It’s not good when one person is trying to have a conversation and the other one is just trying to be aggressive or dominant or whatever they’re doing – controlling perhaps. So we just have to, again, make sure we don’t dismiss the feelings that come up when somebody has an aggressive, hostile inflection that makes it sound like they’re annoyed or frustrated. We want to find out what is bothering them.

That is another question, “What is bothering you? What’s going on?”

You have to gauge if this is going to work in your relationship. “What’s bothering you?” might not work in your relationship. “What’s going on?” That might be a little bit more generic. i.e., they say, “Why are you walking in front of me?” in an angry tone and you reply, “Whoa, what’s going on? You sounded a little bit irritated that I was walking in front of you.”

They may reply, “You always walk in front of me so it bothers me.” At that point, you can have a conversation. “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize it bothered you.”

That might be one of ten thousand different things that bother them. Of course, they might be one of those people that just gets annoyed by a lot of stuff. There are people like that. But the question, “Does it bother you?” or, “Do you want to share with me why that bothers you?” might be a good starting point.

Another example she gave is when her partner said, “Why do you always move so far to the right when a bike passes?” She did not respond to that at all. That’s probably another comment that had a lot of inflection in it. They sounded annoyed or frustrated. They’re probably annoyed at a lot of things. The noise, this person, etc.

I am a big fan of addressing things as they come up and not letting them build. This is a specific event that should be addressed as soon as possible. You have to identify the feelings that you get. You can even say to yourself, oh, that didn’t feel very good. And that’s all you have to say really.

You could follow it up with something like, I don’t know exactly what this emotion is. I don’t know if I’m angry or just confused. All I know is that what just happened didn’t make me feel very good. I have a feeling about what just happened.

I believe it’s important to address what happens inside you because after you have a feeling like this, you might think, ‘What just happened? What did I do wrong?’

That’s often where the victims of emotional abuse go. They think they did something wrong. It’s not that you’re doing something wrong, it’s that the other person is not conveying things clearly. What is annoying them? I want you to be aware of that: It’s not that you’re doing something wrong, it’s that they are not conveying clearly what is frustrating or annoying them.

That means that you don’t automatically go into self-blame mode. You don’t have to take the blame. You just have to find out what is bothering them.

Another question you can ask when something like this happens, aside from, “Does it bother you?” or “Do you want to share why that bothers you?” is, “Why do you ask?”

That’s answering the question with a question.

Her partner asked, “Why do you always move so far to the right when a bike passes?” The answer to that could be, “Why are you asking?”

That’s a good question because it puts them on the spot. If they’re going to have this frustration and annoyance, then it’s good for the relationship for it to come out. It’s good that it gets expressed so that it is not repressed.

You could also follow up, “Why are you asking me that?” with, “Does it bother you? Why does it bother you?”

I know sometimes these questions won’t work. Sometimes these questions will lead you and them to more annoyance. If that happens, then I go back to my question:

Why would you want to be with somebody that you can’t even have a conversation with?

And I’m not saying that you should leave. I’m not saying that you should get a divorce (if you’re married). I’m not saying that the only solution is to get out of the relationship. All I’m saying is that you may need to ask these questions to open up a dialogue. The goal is to try to communicate with each other as clearly as possible. Questions help you clear things up.

If you can’t clear things up, you might need to say, “It seems we can’t have a normal conversation. It seems like whatever I do, it annoys or frustrates you. So maybe we should talk about this. Maybe I’m doing something that bothers you so I’d like to talk about that.”

I’m not saying you should take the blame. I’m saying that we give the other person a chance to express themselves. If they’re really annoyed or agitated, then we want them to feel safe to express themselves. You don’t have to do this, but this is my recommendation if you want to continue with the relationship.

Open the door by saying, “I know something’s bothering you. Let’s talk about this. Let’s put it on the table. Let’s be honest with each other. What’s bothering you?” Then hopefully you can have a conversation. You don’t want to be with someone you can’t have a conversation with so the conversations you are having have to change.

You can’t continue conversing the way you are because clearly, it’s not getting you anywhere. That’s no way to live. That’s no way to feel. You should be free to be yourself or at least express yourself so that it can be discussed. And discussion requires healthy communication of some sort.

And of course, people get angry. People get upset. It happens in every relationship. But it shouldn’t be a constant bombardment of upset. It shouldn’t be that no matter what you say or do it annoys them. This is why it’s important to address these things as they come up. Events like this might need the question, “Why does that bother you?” Which will hopefully reveal a solution.

Unfortunately, I know the majority of people that listen to this show can’t have healthy conversations. They’ve tried this stuff. Maybe you are listening to me right now saying, “I’ve tried that. It doesn’t work!”

If trying to converse in a normal way doesn’t work, then it comes back to why you’d want to be in a relationship where you can’t even have a conversation with the other person. That doesn’t mean you’re unlovable. It doesn’t mean you’re not worthy. It doesn’t mean you’re not important. It just means this isn’t working so we need to do something to make it work, which might mean having a tougher conversation. i.e., “Look, I’ve tried and tried and no matter what I do, you’re always upset. So I don’t know what else to do to make you happy.”

That could be what you say. But that could also make things worse, I realize. That’s why it’s important to pick your battles wisely. If you say something like this to an aggressive or a violent person, it’s definitely not going to go well. But in most relationships, you should be able to have a conversation like this. The healthier you communicate, the better. “Healthy” means the more truth that comes out the better. Just make sure it’s truth spoken in a way that doesn’t mean to hurt the other person.

There’s a big difference between saying, “What you just did makes me feel like you don’t care about me,” and, “You are a big jerk.”

Clearly that’s a big difference, even though they could actually be a jerk. But saying it is not healthy. Calling them a jerk doesn’t say in any way, “What you just said makes me think that you don’t care about me.”


And that expresses something that can be addressed. They may not be able to address your big jerk, but they can address the comment that makes me think that you don’t, you don’t care about me. And hopefully they say yes, I do care about you. Okay. Well, what you’re doing, doesn’t feel like you care about me.

So maybe we can talk about this. Maybe something needs to change so that I know that you care about me, cause it doesn’t feel that way. And someone who cares about you, wants you to know they care about you. They want you to feel cared for. That’s what I quote normal, healthy relationship is supposed to look like.

That’s my perspective, but I believe that’s what a healthy relationship was supposed to look like. Another example that this person who wrote sad is her partner said you’ve been wanting my attention since you got. And so when I hear that you’ve been wanting my attention since you got here, I would think in a healthy relationship that giving someone attention was part of connection and part of bonding.

And so it would confuse me. I would have this confusion of my girlfriend said this. She said you’ve been wanting my attention all day. Okay. Where do I go with that? That’s a question. Does it bother you that I want your attention? That might be a question I ask, or can you share with me why wanting your attention bothers you or how is that a problem?

That might be something you say depends on how you communicate now. The other person, I might even say, you know, the way you just said that doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy. It doesn’t make me feel like something that somebody would say. If they were in a relationship with somebody, it doesn’t feel like a caring, connecting comment.

It feels like it annoying. Does it annoy you? And the answer might be, well, it annoys me because when I’m doing something and you’re in my face or you’re in my space, it bothers me. So I need some space, which again, this is, there might be truth there, so let’s have a talk about it. Okay. So when you’re in this room or do you just need like an hour or two a day?

Or how do you define this? So I can give you a space because I like to have my space to. So I definitely understand that we all need our space. And if I am always in your space or always in your face, I certainly want to know about it. And I definitely want to honor what you need for you. So what you’re doing is you’re giving them the benefit of the doubt, which you probably do a lot of anyway, but this is part of the process is you don’t immediately go into blame mode.

Like there’s something wrong with them. You try to understand their perspective. Okay, so you need some space. No problem. Should I ask if you need space, that might be something you do when I want to connect with you. I can ask if you need your space and they may say, yeah, that would be great. Okay. So that could be the turnout or they may just be annoyed all the time.

They may be one of these people, which I mentioned earlier that is constantly playing. Like, they’re always on the edge of their seat, like in fight or flight mode as if they believe the world owes them something and then everyone’s against them. If you want to know, if somebody’s going to be abusive, look for their annoyance and upset about everyday normal things.

You know, most people wouldn’t be upset about everyday normal. But the person playing the victim, everything annoys them and just stand on my way, get out on my face. I don’t want you to be around and no matter what you do, it’s never good enough. If that’s the case, then they may be that type of person.

They may be wired that way. Doesn’t mean they can’t change their wiring because people can. A lot of people can, unless they’re diagnosable, but a lot of people can change who they are and how they show up because they just don’t realize that they’re showing up in a certain way. They’re still in blaming the world mode because the world is against them.

So when you’re dealing with somebody where the world is against them all the time, you’re not going to. But it is important to find out exactly how your violating, whatever value or boundary that they’re putting out there, because they are not being clear in their communication with you. So somebody has to be clear in their communication.

You have to be clear if they’re not being clear saying something like you always need attention. That’s not very. What do you mean by that? That might be another question. What do you mean by that? And I think I asked that same question on a recent episode where you need to get the facts. That’s why I said in that episode, I think it was the previous one to this.

You need to get the facts. What are the facts? If you don’t have the facts, you are walking around interpreting things. So when this person says their partner said, you always need attention, what does that mean? That might be my question. What does that mean? What do you mean by that? And hopefully they’ll explain it and it’s probably going to be an exaggeration.

I always need attention. I don’t think so. I’m not saying you say that, but it’s probably not true because it’s a generalization that you always need attention. No, you probably might like attention every now and then, and you’re not getting any. So in order to get some, you want to. You want to visit with them in the room therein, or hopefully they’ll look away from the TV for a moment to connect with you or from their phone.

But if you’re not getting it then a it’s important to say, Hey, I would like to connect. Will you take the time to connect with me? Or I would like to connect on a daily basis just for a few minutes, just so we can bond. Or something like that because you definitely have needs in the relationship that should be being fulfilled.

And if they’re not maybe you’re not with the right person in the relationship, or maybe you didn’t convey what you really needed and hoped that they would be able to meet those needs. And at the same time, maybe they don’t want to. These are the kinds of hard conversations that we need to have. Just so that there is nothing left over that lingering, negative, emotional state that I talked about before, when you don’t have the answers, that lack of closure, not having the facts in order to move forward past an event so that you don’t hold on to that.

You know, the negative emotions around that event. It’s important to ask the right questions. Does that bother you? How does it bother you? Do you want to share how that bothers you and things like, why do you ask and what do you mean. This is sort of a recap of the episode where I talk about getting the facts, but I’m giving you some good examples that give you an idea of how a relationship can go into a downward spiral by bypassing opportunities to talk about something only because we might be stuck in a place of, well, that just might be a fluke.

We might be saying that to ourselves. I might be a fluke or maybe I took that wrong. Maybe I misunderstood. When we do that to ourselves, this is how it builds up. This is how the relationship becomes more and more toxic. And it’s important that we are able to communicate when we have certain feelings and have a conversation that hopefully leads to a resolution.

Most people that listen to this show, don’t get their resolution. Most people that listen to the show might ask questions like this and get into the weeds so deep because the other person doesn’t want to connect at that deep level. They don’t want to access maybe some fears or insecurities they have inside of them.

So they turn it back over to you. They give you the Baton so that you can run with it instead of having to take responsibility for their own behalf. In other words, they don’t want to visit the pain or the fear or the insecurity inside themselves because they don’t have the coping mechanisms to deal with it or something.

So they turn it back over to you so that they don’t have to deal with it. I would say a majority of emotional abuse is that the person does not have the coping mechanisms to deal with what’s going on. So they make you the primary focus and make you. Focus on yourself and not on them. By making you believe you’re wrong, making you feel guilty, making you feel responsible for all the relationship problems and on and on and on.

They cause you to focus on yourself. I talk about that in another episode called the turnaround game. They want you to focus on yourself so that they aren’t in the spotlight. If they’re not in the spotlight, then the problems never get resolved and the problems continue to come your way. And that’s why you need to have some of these conversations when something happens.

And I know this person who wrote said, you know, what do you do about all this little stuff that you can’t tell if it’s emotionally abusive and they’re just little annoyances or irritations to the other person, you just find out what about those things are irritating. What about me walking in front of you bothers you?

It sounds aggressive when I say it, but it’s really just want to find out the information. You just want to find out. So the way I’m telling you to ask is a the most passive way I can think of to have a conversation, especially without blaming them, without making them think they’re wrong for thinking the way they are or reacting the way they are.

That’s another thing we want to avoid is trying to make the other person wrong, instead of just asking questions, finding out where they are. I had an episode, it might’ve been in the overall brain, my other podcast on passive aggressive. Passive aggressive people when they are being passive aggressive, you need to put them back in the spotlight because passive aggressiveness makes you think about yourself.

It makes you think, well, what did I say wrong? Or they made me feel this way. Now I’m thinking about myself. And I’m also thinking that I’m upset with them, but it’s still about me being upset at them. So, how do I get out of this passive aggressive cycle where they’re passive aggressive and I don’t know how to deal with it.

You just turn it back on them by asking a simple question. What did you mean by that? I love that question. What did you mean by that? It always forces someone into a position that they have to express what’s going on at a deeper level. They may not ride that wave. If they’re passive aggressive, they going to find a way to divert your attention again, or redirect the conversation.

But it is a good question. What did you mean by that? That way you’ll understand what they meant because the passive aggressive person doesn’t want to tell you what they mean. That’s why they’re passive. If my wife, when I was married, if she said that to me and she asked me that question, what did you mean by that?

I would be so afraid to be hurtful toward her. I would be so afraid to say the things I used to say to her because she would be immediately turning it back on. It would be something that I would have to figure out. I would have to either stop being the person I was because I was judgmental and critical back then.

And I would realize that she’s onto me. That’s what I would think. I was like, she’s onto me. I better not say those things. I’m not saying it would have turned me around. I’m not saying that I would stop being emotionally abusive, but I certainly would have to think really carefully about what I’m doing and how I’m showing up.

And I would also realize that she sees through me more than I realized, and I would also see that she is standing up for her. And these are things that she did a lot of. She was a very strong, powerful woman in many ways, but I was also very good at making her feel bad and that’s something that she definitely didn’t deserve.

And I, I do wish she had the tools to put me in my place back. This is something that can really help in certain, emotionally abusive relationships is that if the victim of emotional abuse puts the other person in their place and saying, look, I don’t like your behavior. You need to stop it. Or I’m out of here that can change a lot of people.

That’s something you do. If you’re ready for some sort of closure, because this could lead to a closure, could lead to a better relationship or could lead to the end of the relationship, but you reach a tipping point or a breaking point where you say, look, I’ve had enough. The way you’re treating me is awful.

And I don’t want to feel this way anymore. So either stop it or I’m out of here. It’s a simplified way to get to the core of the issue. And the core of the issue is this person has taken away your power and you want it back. And a comment like that. If you don’t stop I’m outta here, it takes your power back.

I’m not saying you should say this because when you say this, it could be a relationship ending conversation. But sometimes you reach that point. Sometimes you have to reach that point in order for things to change, because I’m here to tell you that a lot of emotionally abusive people don’t change until they realize you’re serious.

You’re serious about what accountability, when they believe they really will be held accountable for their behavior. That’s when you’re sure to see a big change. The problem is you don’t know which change you’re going to. You may see someone say, well fine, I’m outta here. I can’t stand you anyway. They may say something final and hurtful like that.

Or they may say you’re not serious. And then you’ve got to show them you’re serious. That could happen too. Or they could get mean they could become very. And are you prepared for any of this? Who’s prepared for any of this. I don’t know, but you reach a point where it’s either you continue getting what you get or you do something different because you will notice that a lot of people that are hurting you don’t do anything different.

And if they are doing something different is because they are choosing to make a radical change and that radical change is necessary in order to stop being. This is something I teach in order to stop being emotionally abusive, you have to become a different person. I’m talking to anyone that has been hurtful to the person they care about.

You can’t show up as the exact same person. You have to be different. They have to be able to not recognize who you are. It has to be a total shock to them. They’re going to ask the question, who are you and what did you do with this person? They need to be surprised by the change in behavior. That’s how radical the change needs to.

But so often emotionally abusive people do not take the radical step. They take tiny little steps and they’ll say things like I used to say, I’m working on it. And even though I was saying that I really wasn’t going anywhere, it wasn’t happening. I wasn’t taking those huge leaps that I needed to take. I wasn’t stopping all the bad things.

I felt like since we were still together, then it wasn’t so important that I needed to do this with any expedience. I just went at my own pace and doing that continued to deteriorate the relationship because the behavior that I was showing her, the behavior that I was showing up with was damaging to her and the relationship.

So it needed to stop right away. If I had stopped right away, there might’ve been a chance for my marriage to last, but it didn’t. And it didn’t because I didn’t take her 100% serious until she had enough. I pushed her to that limit and I didn’t even know I was doing it. I didn’t know that she was falling out of love with me and closing her heart so tight that I could never get back.

And that’s what happened and that needed to happen. Quite honestly, that needed to happen because I wasn’t getting the message. It wasn’t coming through. And the day we separated or at least a few weeks after we separated, I finally got it because I was alone long enough to realize, oh, I’m the common denominator for all the relationship problems.

I get it now. But I didn’t have that thought while we were together because we were together and I believed as long as she didn’t leave that it was going to last and I didn’t need to hurry things along. I didn’t know that I had to take it so seriously that if I didn’t change in a radical way that she would leave, I didn’t know that.

And so I never took it as seriously as I should. I just thought, as long as she sees me going through the motions and I was going through motions, but not all the motions are not fast enough and not big enough that I should have done the hurtful behavior should have stopped, but I didn’t have healthy coping methods.

I didn’t sign up for therapy. I didn’t talk to anyone about it. I just did my own little things, hoping that the relationship would get better and that she would see these tiny improvements and that we could work our way up and out of what happened. But I never addressed a lot of my emotional triggers and I never stopped the hurtful behavior.

That’s what led to the end. And that’s what led me to go on this mission to never ever be this person again. And I knew it required a radical shift, a radical change in the way I show. And pretty much overnight after the marriage ended. And I came to all these realizations about myself. I went from judgment and critical of others to completely accepting of who they are.

And I tell the people that joined healed, being that the key to stop hurting people you love is instead of focusing on them to change for you, you accept them exactly as they. And if you don’t like it, you should leave. That’s the whole program in a nutshell. It’s not, there’s so much more to it, but if you decide to accept the people that you care about as exactly who they are, Exactly how they’re showing up everything that they are.

If you choose to accept that person, then you would never try to control or change or manipulate them. You would only be concerned with what you want for yourself. And that’s what I wrote in my judgment If you look up the word judgment or even to a search judgment and relationships, you’ll see my article called judgment, the ultimate relationship destroyer.

And I talk about how. If you go from being judgmental and critical and controlling and manipulative and all the bad stuff that you might be toward someone else, if you shift that and become completely accepting of everything they are and everything they do, then they are no longer your primary focus.

You are, you are your primary focus. What that means is if you don’t like something, they do, it’s not up to them to change. It’s up to you to become more accepting or not. That doesn’t mean you have to accept everything. If somebody starts doing a lot of drugs around you and you don’t do drugs and you don’t like it, and you don’t want anything to do with it, you might not be able to accept that.

Or you might be able to accept that they’re doing it, but you don’t want it in your life. So you’re going to make a decision that works for you. You’re going to take steps that you need to take, so that drugs aren’t in your life. That could mean leaning that could mean talking to them and saying, if you continue to do this, I can’t be with you.

I’m not saying that you should stop. I’m just telling you, I don’t want it in my life. So I’m not trying to control you. I’m just telling you that I would really love to have this relationship with you, but I don’t want all these drugs. So I’m going to take care of myself and you need to do what you need to do.

So this is what. That is the key to stop hurting people. And this works in both ways, the victim of emotional abuse, if you were to accept that person exactly as they are. And you told yourself that’s who they are, they’re not going to change. What would you do for yourself? And the perpetrator of emotional abuse.

If you said that person is exactly who they are now, the person that feels like you’re hurting them, or you really are hurting them. If that’s who they are. And you know, they’re never going to change no matter what you do, what would you do for you? Would you continue to stay in this relationship and continue to try to manipulate them or control them?

Or would you ask what you want for yourself and take those. That is one of the primary or major components and stomping, emotional abuse has taking your focus off the other person and putting it on yourself. What do I need to do for me? Because that person is who they are and they’re not going to change.

We trick ourselves though, and we say, well, they could change. And I’ve repeated this over and over again, but I’m going to tell you, because it’s important to this episode, what has happened in the past will happen in the. It’s the trend line. If the trend line shows that it’s been the same for the last three years, it will be the same for the next three years.

That’s just how it works. And of course, somebody could change tomorrow. Are you willing to wait every single tomorrow until they change? That’s a decision that you have to make. I personally look at it as I’m going to have this conversation. You haven’t changed in the last three years and I don’t expect that you will.

So this is what I’m gonna do for myself. And if they said, but I promise I’ll change. I’ll tell you what I will change. Then I would want to set a date. Okay. If you don’t change by this date, then I’m leaving or I’m gonna do something else. So I think it’s important to set some accountable. Set a deadline and let them know that this is so important that if you don’t do it, I’m not going to tolerate.

Because if you continue to tolerate it, it continues to allow the behavior and they see that you are continuing to allow the behavior, which causes the behavior never to stop. Which if you stick around in that situation, you are essentially enabling the behavior. Not that you wanted it, not that it’s your fault.

It’s just when you don’t stop something and it continues, then you can be unintentionally enabled. So I’m going to wrap this up and just read you the last couple lines of the email that this person wrote. Because like I said, I condensed it and there’s a little longer than this, but she wrote, is there a way to recognize emotional abuse through these small behaviors?

Like there’s little moments of moodiness or impatience, or like I was saying irritations and frustrations. How do you respond? How do you remember? It’s not normal when you’re so blinded in her case, by love and attraction. And I hope I answered those questions pretty much. You really have to address them as they come up and you really have to ask yourself how you feel about it.

When you know, how you feel about something, then you can address that. And someone who loves you and cares about you and wants you to feel okay. Especially with them. They want you to feel okay with them. They’re going to be okay when you ask the question, Hey, what you just did? What was that about? Or you sound a little upset, you know, what’s going on.

They’re going to be okay with that because they want it to work out. They may want to be with you. They want to connect with you. I realize I’m talking mostly about romantic relationships, but this works in any really. You want to find out what’s going on in the moment? Like I said, in a previous episode, just get the facts, get the facts.

And let me just end with this last comment. And I just want you to take it as a general philosophy of how to look at things. If it’s always your fault, it’s most likely not your fault. I hope it comes across exactly as I meant it, because what ends up happening in a lot of abusive relationships is that someone will always point their finger at the other person.

And the other person always feels like they’re responsible or is convinced that they’re responsible or at fault. And if that happens over and over and over again, you’re probably not at fault. You’re probably just trying to figure out how to navigate this difficult relationship and you can’t because there’s a lot going on and you are empathetic and compassionate and want to do the right thing.

So you will probably be more resilient than a lot of other people. You’ll be more tolerant because you’ll be more likely to accept that it could be. ’cause that’s what nice people do. That’s what they do. They just accept while it could be my fault. So maybe it is. And then when you have somebody who’s not so nice, they’re going to take advantage of that over and over again.

And you don’t want that. This is why conversation is so important. And to those who are in multi-year relationships with people, and you have a long history of very difficult communication. This is a big leap for you. You are coming from a place that is very difficult to get out of because you already have an established method of communication.

So when you change it up and you start showing a little bit of empowerment, you know, empowered responses, you will probably get resistance or you’ll get something completely out of left field. And it’s important that both people in a relationship are able to communicate. And also be a little bit forgiving and a little bit allowing to allow differences of opinion.

Share this with someone who might benefit.

Paul Colaianni

Host of Love and Abuse and The Overwhelmed Brain

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