The following notes are from the book, “Respect Me Rules” by Shelly and Michael Marshall. (If you are interested in this book, click here to read more about it on Amazon: http://amzn.to/2vpR9i7 and please know that this is an affiliate link, which goes to helping support this site.)
I enjoyed this book, but I will say that it may upset someone who is fresh out of an abusive relationship, or who is still in one and feels trapped. This book talks setting boundaries and being assertive, which are two things that many targets of abuse feel powerless to do.
1.Trying to set boundaries with a physically abusive person is a bad idea and can put the target in harm’s way. Physical abuse is extreme abuse, and any sign of it needs to be taken seriously, and ideally the target needs to leave the relationship sooner than later.
2.You are not a victim—you are a target. You do not need to stand still any longer for their target practice, and you can stop being a target starting today. Even though we have been victimized in the past, we do not have to stay a victim.
3. Many abusive relationships never pass the point of verbal and emotional abuse, but make no mistake, these forms of abuse cause harm and slowly grind a person down.
Some of the faces of an abusive relationship:
- General disapproval. There is a pattern of anger, hostility, and criticism towards you. The abusive person’s disapproval is general in nature, but becomes more pronounced when you have an opinion that differs from theirs.
- You can’t make them happy. What made them happy last week, upsets them this week.
- You walk on eggshells. Your home never feels safe because of their outbursts and criticisms. You feel better without them being around because you don’t have to constantly monitor your words and feelings.
- You feel micromanaged. Everything you do is monitored—and you can do nothing right.
- They doesn’t care what you think, what your plans are, or how you feel. If they ask about your past, or you open up to them, it will be used against you later in a fight. All you talk about is them: their work, their programs, their politics, their friends, etc.
- You can’t discuss it. When you try to talk about problems, they gets angry and blame you, telling you that you are crazy or imagining things, or they give you the cold shoulder (or silent treatment), or say they don’t know what you are talking about.
- They rewrite history. They deny saying what you heard, and claims you said things you didn’t. They blame you for marriage troubles and accuse you of being manipulative, abusive, controlling, or crazy.
- You can’t get through to them. No matter how hard you try, you can’t get through to them in a meaningful or lasting way. Their responses confuse you because your words are twisted and manipulated to put them in a superior position and make you wrong. You believe that if you could just get them to understand how you feel, things would change.
If you can identify with any of these, you are being targeted.
4.A good person does not treat their spouse (or friends) with disdain, hostility, or criticism. A good husband or wife treats their spouse better than their best buddies. (It’s important to realize this needs to be a two way street—if you treat them well, but they treat you poorly, then you are being targeted.) They will not hide behind scripture, culture, gender, or tradition to justify mistreatment of anyone, especially their spouse.
5. There is no excuse for abuse. When we offer up excuses for their behavior, saying that they are acting this way because they had a bad day at work, or are tired, or their mother died last week, we give them excuses to mistreat, berate, humiliate, or discount us. There is no excuse for being mistreated.
6. The abuser cannot abuse someone who will not accept being lied to, berated, put down, discounted, threatened, called names, yelled at, or raged at. Without a target, the abuse can’t land anywhere. There can’t be a fight if you don’t get in the ring. We can’t control an abuser, and dragging them into therapy to get them to change will not work. We can only change us, and when we do they will either be forced to change how they react to us—either in a good way or if it continues or gets worse, someone needs to leave.
7. Abusers are masters at creating fear, guilt, and helplessness. But feeling trapped is not the same as being trapped. You can get out from under this, and it starts with reclaiming your power and control—instead of thinking that they have all the power to hurt me so they must be the one who has the power to stop it.
When mistreatment happens, some people may put a quick end to it, whereas others many justify it due to low self-esteem, cultural or gender expectations, or because they are lonely and would rather be mistreated than alone.
We are taught to accommodate the person we love, to compromise, and to always try to make a relationship work. Thinking this way, it can be easy to think we are being a caring and loving spouse when really we are facilitating abuse.
It can be understandable to think that if we can be nice and accommodating that this would stop the abuse, but it doesn’t. It often makes it worse because abusers are not rational.
We do not have to accept being called names, put down, or criticized.
In order to be respected, we have to realize that we are worthy of being respected, and must insist on being treated with respect.
8. Boundaries are set in three steps:
- Choose to demand respect. Do not get defensive or mount an attack, but make up your mind that you are worthy of being treated with respect (because all human beings are).
- Set boundaries. Address specific offending behavior and not their character. “I do not allow anyone to call me names.” “Standing in the doorway with your fists clenched while you yell at me is intimidating and abusive.”
- Implement consequences. “If you ever hit me, I will call the police, press charges, and leave this relationship.” “If you order me to do something, I will not do it. I do not take orders from anyone. I will continue doing what I was doing until you treat me with respect.” If you call me names, I will leave. (You may think it’s unfair that you have to leave, but remember, we can’t control others. The point is to send a clear message through action that we expect to be treated with respect.
Setting boundaries can be scary. We may fear they will leave, become more abusive, say mean things, or fall out of love with us. There comes a point where we either face these fears and set boundaries or we live with the abuse. Setting boundaries isn’t the same as manipulating someone. Manipulating someone is when we control the outcome. Setting boundaries lets them choose—we are only saying what we will or won’t put up with.
Your partner may accuse you of being manipulative and controlling. You are not. You are refusing to let them make you their verbal punching bag. You are not trying to control them. They can act however they want, you just won’t tolerate it—you are controlling your response to their behavior by not allowing it.
You must be consistent with your boundaries and consequences, and not let your partner wear you down. Abusers will escalate when you start setting boundaries so prepare yourself for this. It will take time for the abuse to stop, it doesn’t happen over night.
Never defend or explain. He starts yelling about something. Don’t’ get distracted about the something. Reassert that you will not be talked to this way and then take some sort of action—leave the room, hang up, etc.
Do not accept derogatory statements or actions. He calls you a name, like telling you that you are a fat cow, you tell him you don’t believe that. He tells you that you should believe that because it’s true. You tell him that you don’t believe that because you may be overweight but you are not a cow, then resume what you are doing.
Some situations may be intolerable and you should leave as soon as possible. These situations might be:
- They get drunk or high and abusive
- Gives you the silent treatment
- Stays argumentative when you refuse
- Acts intimidating using gestures or intimidating language
- Becomes destructive towards the house or personal property
- Hurts or scares you, your children, or your pet
Under no circumstances should you leave yourself or your children in an intolerable, psychologically damaging, demeaning, or otherwise dangerous or deadly situation.
My goal is to educate, empower, and inspire other abuse victims in understanding more about what happened to them (and how to prevent it from happening again), as well as how to go on and rebuild an amazing life.
Even though I have had a lot of "in the trenches" experience with highly manipulative people of all kinds, I consider myself to be a student of Narcissism, mindset, motivation, healing, and life in general, and am by no means an expert on any of these topics.
It's for these reasons, that when you are reading my information that I encourage you to hold to what helps, and let the rest go.
Latest posts by Dana (see all)
- Episode 55: How Do I Stop My Addiction to the Narcissist? - August 23, 2017
- Episode 53: Strategies to Help Prevent Your Child from Being Manipulated by a Narcissistic Parent - August 21, 2017
- Episode 54: How can we handle victim blaming and revictimization? - August 18, 2017