Depressed Men and the Impact of Emotional Abuse

The stories I most often hear go like this. A woman meets and falls in love with a man who is incredibly caring, attentive and responsive. It may feel like she’s found the ideal partner. But after a glorious period, things start to change. The once loving man turns into an angry and abusive stranger. This may happen very gradually. He might at first become laughingly insulting, but the words get more and more cutting. He claims that her behavior is starting to upset a great relationship. Before long, the woman is blamed for everything. She’s the cause of everything going wrong in his life, especially his depression.

Under constant attack, she may be fearful of losing the security of the relationship – though there is probably little left anyway. She might suppress her own anger for fear of making things worse and finally pushing him away forever. When her justifiable anger does come out, it may be explosive and “prove” to the man that she’s the irrational and destructive one. The man may not only withhold affection but also shut down communication, isolating himself, refusing to explain anything, barely tolerating her presence.

Despite all that, she may be convinced that there must be a way she can help get rid of this nightmare. She asks over and over again: Is there any hope? What can I do? Even if there is no response from him, she tries to assure the lost partner of her support – she’ll always be there. She gets desperate as everything she tries seems to backfire. Yet she clings to the hope that the wonderful person she used to know will return.

Depression often comes in episodes, and behavior can change dramatically from abusive to loving, then back again. A true abuser will not let up on the blaming and manipulative behavior. He simply doesn’t have any other side to his personality. Whether he’s loving or depressed, charming or hateful, he’s using these moods – perhaps quite unconsciously – to assert control.

There is hope that a depressed man who is acting abusively may eventually realize his need for help and start on a road to recovery. An abuser, on the other hand, will rarely change, and can become more menacing and physically violent as time goes on. Over time, this difference can become clear, but by then a woman will have been through a terrible emotional battering that leaves permanent scars.

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