Do you feel unable to leave your abusive partner for good? When you pack your bags and go, does he somehow convince you to go back to him? Do you feel responsible for the wellbeing of your abuser – despite the misery he is causing you? If so, then you’ve already met ‘The Persuader’. And there’s something that he really doesn’t want you to know…
In Pat Craven’s hugely-popular Freedom Programme, ‘The Persuader’ is facet of an abusive personality that many women see when we try to leave the relationship. He’s a highly manipulative character, who will relentlessly guilt-trip and emotionally blackmail you into staying with him.
And no, we’re not talking about someone with the persuasive power and guile of a top-end lawyer. The Persuader has a whole host of tactics – subtle, and in-your-face – all designed to keep you right where he wants you. These tactics are very common.
He promises faithfully to change. He promises you the world, the moon, the stars and that holiday in Spain. You know it’s an empty promise, but you want to believe it. Change – if it happens at all – is short-lived and before you know it, the abuse has started again and it’s even worse than before.
He blames drink, drugs, a stressful job – whatever it is, the abuse is never his fault. He’ll join Alcoholics Anonymous. He offers to go to rehab. He’ll get a different job. He’ll work on his self-confidence issues and sort out his jealousy. But, right now he needs your support now more than ever. If you can just go with him to that meeting, and avoid ever talking to another man again or going outside unescorted – he will be the Prince Charming you fell in love with once more (no, he won’t).
My ex was a master at this – it took me ages to realise that he was the only common factor in it all. His use of cannabis, inability to hold down a job, family problems – they were all choices that he made, and I nothing I did would get him to choose differently.
He tells you his ex-wife abused him. It may be true – but mostly, it’s not. Abusers know this is a great sympathy-grabber, a handy ‘explanation’ for his bad behavior. What better way to appeal to our nurturing nature? We can’t ‘fix’ him.
He threatens or attempts suicide – he tells you that he simply can’t live without you. You grapple with anxiety about what he may do to himself. You forget that only he has responsibility for himself – and it is time for him to step up. My abuser slung this around whenever I tried to leave, and I tied myself in knots of worry and guilt. Once, when I called his bluff, he self-harmed and had a friend call me to tell me the ambulance was on its way.
He uses the children to get to you. Whether it’s constant reminders that the children need their daddy, encouraging the kids to tell you how much he is suffering without you, or pursuing you relentlessly through the courts for child contact and reporting you to social services. The children are simply tools in his quest to turn up the pressure on you. My ex never bothered about childcare or upsetting our child with his outbursts and rages – so I was cynical about his sudden enthusiasm for fatherhood after I got out.
He threatens to kill you, the children, or other people you are close to. You are too terrified to break it off. True, leaving is often the most dangerous time for a woman experiencing abuse – but if you go back, you are accepting danger and damage for the rest of your life. This was one of the most powerful weapons my abuser used against me. I still have no idea just how far he’ll go.
He’ll involve as many people as he can. His new girlfriend may Facebook you accusing you of being a cold-hearted b**ch that is stopping him from seeing his children. Don’t bite. This woman is simply a pawn in his game (although she likely doesn’t know it). His mother will call you up to tell you how ‘broken’ he is, and only you can help him sort out his life. His best-friend, bumping into you on the street, will tell you he’s enrolled in a (pointless) anger management class. Don’t fall for it.
If all else fails, he will smarten himself up – maybe get a job and a new car, and possibly even a new woman. You’ll be floored by this transformation, and upset that the new woman now seems to have the ‘perfect man’ that you were working so hard to achieve. Trust me, she doesn’t.
Why does this work?
His tactics are often successful because they appeal to our very nature – women are generally nurturing and loving. We’re brought up to believe that relationships take work, and that we should stick with our man ‘for better or worse’, and that most people are good souls at heart. Our man has some big problems, but he can’t cope without us. We love him and we are sure that if we just try ‘one more time’ he will get better.
The big secret…
Knowing this, the abuser will use every tactic in the book to try to compel you to return. He will be shameless. He will be outrageous. He will switch on the charm. He will bombard you with (often unwelcome) contact. He will be desperate, romantic, angry, vindictive, pleading, tearful, assertive – and you’ll be left reeling by the storm he kicks up.
But, here’s the big secret that abusers hope we will never discover: These are calculated, empty tactics designed to weaken their target. There is a strategy. Nothing is sincere. His need to maintain and extend his control over you is the ONLY motivation. He doesn’t regard you as a person – you are his property – and you don’t get to decide when to call off the relationship.
He is – despite what he so passionately declares – perfectly able to cope without you. Like you, he can choose to take responsibility for his life and choices – or not. Whatever he chooses, your thoughts and feelings don’t even come into it as far as he’s concerned, because it’s all about him.
The abuse won’t get better if you return: it only gets worse. See it from his point of view: you’ve proven you are capable (at least theoretically) of escaping him. He now needs to work even harder, and increase his control, so you don’t get any unwelcome ideas about leaving again.
© Avalanche of the Soul, 2013-14