Abusive treatment can be very difficult to overcome, especially if the abuser is a family member or a friend. With friends, it can be easier to deal with if only because the abused person can take control of the relationship and eventually terminate it. As the saying goes, “You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family.” Continuing to spend time with such people only drains your energy, replaces your positive vibes with negative vibes, and can eventually create mental and emotional disturbances for you.
Being nice to people who verbally or emotionally abuse you does not encourage the abuser to try and change their ways. Many times, nice treatment in return for their attacks only tells them that it is okay in what they are doing to you. Of course, such treatment should never be tolerated by the one being abused. What happens when first attacks occur is the abused thinks to himself or herself, “What did I do to bring on this attack?” and eventually blames himself or herself for the other person’s actions. This type of thinking is common even though it is not correct – the person doing the attacking is responsible for his or her words and actions. The abused person may have good intentions but “going back for more” – that is, returning to the abuser again and again for company – is not the thing to do here. One should never have to be so desperate for human company to reduce himself or herself in staying in an abusive relationship. Likewise, it is emotionally unhealthy to allow yourself to be dragged down to their level, especially if the abuser is an argumentative person. By argumentative, this means that the person almost always says anything contrary to what you say, just to start an argument. The abuser may even think they are doing you a major service by arguing and fighting constantly in an attempt to show you the relationship is a genuine friendship. For some people, a real relationship is all about conflict and abuse and may try to convince you that there is no other type of real relationship. The truth is, a real friendship does not consider such treatment as the rule; it considers it the exception. Again, it is not the fault of the abused person that the abuser acts this way.
Distancing yourself from an abusive friend is the best thing to do. Not getting emotionally involved or having too much physical contact with people of this nature will keep the abused person from nurturing the “What did I do to deserve this?” thought process. Nurturing it will only cause depression and mental distress. There is nothing wrong with completely terminating the relationship when it becomes abusive and for some people, it is probably better to do so. When it comes to an abusive family member, however, very limited contact is the only way to limit the result of abusive treatment. Speaking up about it to the person abusing you can help open communication lines but it won’t necessarily keep that person from treating you the same way as they did before. Regardless of the abuser’s behavior, the main thing to keep in mind here is to not let it affect you. Chances are the abuser wants to see you feeling as conflicted as they are. In the end though, the abused person really is better off without being in a relationship with the abuser, no matter who the abuser is.
The Disease to Please, by Harriet B. Braiker.