I have recently ended a relationship and have concluded that my previous two relationships ended in a very similar way. I was told I was being emotionally abusive. I have struggled with my own confidence and esteem growing up in a home with a mean father who was always so unpredictable around my mother, brother and I.
My previous two relationships have both ended very similarly with both of them telling me that I am being emotionally abusive. When I read about the warning signs, I fit the bill all the way. I have all the right things going on in my life but am not doing the right things to STOP this behavior in my relationships. The guilt I have inside about the damage I have done to previous relationships is also consuming me to the point where I lack some basic confidence to see this and get through it. I realize that I don't need to be in control of my partners in my relationship, but I have struggled finding someone where a mutual respect lays as a foundation for our love to exist.
I clearly need to omit my father from my circle of influence and establish some boundaries as I cannot find myself comfortable being in the same room for extended periods of time before the effect of his toxicity, makes me boil inside.
I never want to hurt anyone the way I have my previous ex girlfriends ever again! I have never felt so low in realizing how clearly this behavior I have showed is not the man I want to be. I can understand how difficult this is to overcome and at times feel hopeless with the information that is out there.
I appreciate any insights you can share.
Response from Dr. DeFoore
Hello, and thanks for telling your story here. You sound like an intelligent and well meaning man, who has come to the sober awareness of his own destructive patterns in relationships. I congratulate you for that. And as you know, that's just the beginning. I will recommend a process that will hopefully put you more in touch with the good man you really are and choose to be.
I encourage you to follow through on your feelings about your father. It sounds like that relationship is very toxic to you, and I don't think you will have the emotional health and positive relationships you want until you create and maintain clear, healthy boundaries with him. You might start with 90 days of no contact at all of any kind with him, and then decide what to do from there. You can inform him of this plan in writing, if you like--as a matter of fact that is what I recommend. Explain that you are doing it for your own health and healing process, but do not blame him for anything in the letter.
Once that "breathing room" is established, I suggest you try the following exercises which are designed to help you emotionally release your father and his negative influence:
1) Write down all of the ways in which you are like your father. Look at that list and ask yourself if there's any of those qualities or behaviors you want to keep. In other words, choose what you like from the list, and I'll help you let go of the part you don't like.
2) Then write down all of the ways you are different from your father. These are the things that make you unique as an individual. Look at this list, and choose what you like from it.
3) Make a third list, that includes only those things you like from the above two lists.
Now repeat that entire process with your mom, and combine the two lists of the things you like and choose for yourself.
Next, picture your father in front of you. Thank him for any good things he's done for you, leaving nothing out. Then tell him about the things you didn't like, that hurt you, scared you and made you angry. Get it all out, and write it down--but picture his face while you're writing.
I do not suggest you say these things directly to your father. This is just for you.
Then repeat the entire above process with regard to your mother.
Now write down everything you are aware of that you have ever done that hurt others. Make a full and detailed list.
Now, here's a process I recommend for dealing with your emotionally abusive patterns. By the way, these exercises refer to anger, and that is because there is always anger behind any kind of abusiveness.
1) Come up with a mental picture of your anger--the part of you that hurts others. Amplify it, making it larger than life, and keep searching for an image until you have a clear picture in your mind.
2) While picturing it in your mind, say this to it: "I can see that you are a part of me. I created you a long time ago, for my protection. If I let you run my life, you will destroy it. I'm not going to try to kill you or make you go away. You have a place here, but you're not going to be in charge any more. I'm taking over, which will keep both of us safe. I know you're strong, but your strength belongs to me, and I choose to use it for good things."
3) Notice how the image responds or changes in your mind while you say these things. Keep working with it in this way until you begin to see a healthy anger image start to emerge. Ultimately, you want to transform it into a loyal ally--that's what happens when your anger is healthy.
4) Every time you start to get angry, picture this image of your anger--keep at it until you can see it clearly. This is called "See It Don't Be It," and it will help you to manage your anger.
5) Next, do the journaling exercises on this page, to give your anger someplace to go on a regular daily basis, address your past issues and shift your focus to the good in your life.
6) Then, use these imagery processes for emotional healing, which will give you a chance to "go back" to your past experiences in your mind and bring healing and resolution.
You're a good man, and that's why you want this emotionally abusive behavior to change. Focus on your goodness, and make up your mind that you will become that in everything you do.
My very best to you,
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