The Drip, Drip Toward Abuse

Emotional abuse is just as damaging as physical abuse.

Emotional abuse is just as damaging as physical abuse.

By Caroline R. 

At the beginning of my freshman year of college I began dating “Bob,” who seemed sweet, genuine and caring.

The first few months were the most amazing of my life. The perfect honeymoon. And I fell fast.

The rest of the relationship was a whirlwind of hurt.

I must behave like a proper lady

Bob and his dad are both traditional, believing that men are the boss.

When I visited his parents Bob always corrected how I behaved because apparently I didn’t act like a proper woman.

My tattoos were neither art nor self-expression, so I was told to cover all three of mine whenever we saw his family. If I wore anything that showed cleavage Bob told me to change my clothes because that was “trashy,” not girlfriend material.

And he always insisted on paying, as if I were not able to. One night we went to dinner for his birthday and I handed the waiter my card to pay. But instead of gratitude Bob got angry with me. In his own mind he felt less like a take-charge man.

I finally broke free

Over time things kept getting worse.

Those first few months had left me deeply in love with Bob but more and more it felt like being strangled 24/7. I was not allowed to go anywhere without him. When he did allow me to go out he insisted I text him constantly so that he would know where I was. And the emotional abuse escalated.

After seven months of being controlled I finally broke free.

It wasn’t easy. I felt lonely and I even deactivated all of my social media because it was painful seeing things that reminded me of him. Especially when he was pictured with other girls.

After a few months I began feeling happier and more confident and I rejoined the world, both real and virtual.

I drew a bikini top on one of his pictures

I even posted some gym pictures. But soon a friend sent me a screen shot of Bob criticizing my photos: “No one wants what everyone has seen… No guy wants to be with a girl who shows off her body.”

It’s all so trashy… Modesty should be respected…

Yet Bob’s Instagram was full of shirtless shots of him and other girls.

What a double standard!

So I turned it around. I drew a bikini top on one of those pictures and posted it on Twitter, which started a huge conversation on double standards and gender inequality.

I got a lot of support.

And he finally deleted his Instagram post about me.

This was written by one of my students.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on February 10, 2017, in men, relationships, violence against women and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. I’ve been in a similar situation, I dated this guy for 5 1/2 years, I even knew his Ex so I really should have known better because I knew about the things he had put her through but had just assumed at the time she was making things up because I was closer friends with him than I was with her. Things started off really great but then they got bad very quickly, EVERYTHING and I mean everything was a double standard in our relationship. He was able to go out and do whatever he wanted and stay out as late as he wanted but if I even went out for an hour or two with my FEMALE friend he would throw a huge fit and ignore me the entire night, wouldn’t answer my texts or phone calls or speak to me at our apartment. We had a lot of the same friends and we hung out at the same places and his friends would play double agent or spy on me, and if I was seen talking to another guy or even standing next to one they would report back to him and tell him that I was a whore who couldn’t be trusted and was cheating. It was completely unreal and I really wish someone had punched me in the face and told me to not get involved with him. I spent 5 1/2 years being emotionally, psycologically and physically abused. I tried multiple times to brreak it off and leave but each time he threatened to kill himself and would make a HUGE scene and I would just cower back. The night he finally put his hands on me I fought back and I ended things, packed an over night bag and went to stay with my mom for the weekend until he calmed down and I could move my things out. Unfortunately things didn’t end on good terms, I got a text the next day that was very eerie and when i tried to call him he didn’t answer so I had the police check on our apartment, 3am that night I got a call from the chief of police telling me they finally got into the apartment and that he had shot himself. Even after the relationship ended I was constantly hounded by his friends, constantly blamed for his decision and told that I should have killed myself instead. It took 3 years and moving across the country completely alone for me to finally full escape and be able to be my own person and accept that what happened wasn’t my fault and no matter what I did this was likely the outcome of what would happen regardless if it was with me or someone else.

  2. I found it interesting how in this post, the author spoke about how “Bob” and his father were traditional, in the sense that they believed men had to be “the boss.” What really struck me as peculiar was how in the initial honeymoon stages, the relationship between Bob and the author seemed spectacular; only later on did the distasteful and controlling parts of his character become evident. Perhaps its the way we’ve been conditioned as a society to buy into this glamorized vision of love? Or maybe we try to see the best in people, after all the people we choose to spend our time with is a reflection of ourselves. The way Bob chose to treat his partner reflects how we as a society have failed our young men. We’ve taught them that it’s okay to objectify women and make demands of them to fit our fetishized desires.
    If we were to reverse the gender roles, we could see how ridiculous these standards are for women; they’re boxed in from both sides. I thought the author proved a valid point when they drew a bikini on a picture of her shirtless boyfriend and posted it online. I admire that the author had the courage to spark this dialogue. It’s necessary if we are to move forward into a more egalitarian society.

  3. I totally admire this girl for doing what was right and parting from Bob, some girls are too afraid of leaving the guy who does the most harm to them because they love them. I am not quite sure how girls take so much from a man who repeatedly abuses them mentally as well as physically. I have never been a physical abusive relationship but, I know if a man ever touches a hair on me, I am gone as much as I love him but, I love myself and my daughter a lot more. With children I think it is a bit more demanding because you are not only putting yourself through that but, you also have to think about your children. If he hits you, not caring if there are kids around, imagine what he is capable of. I think women need to think about themselves as a rose fragile that needs to be loved and taken care of or they’ll break. I wish women could have confidence and break away from whatever doesn’t make them happy without feeling remorse or afraid. There is no way we “should” act. If we have tattoos or piercings we should show it not because we are rebellious but, because we can just like men. Men need to understand that like them, we too can think and stand up for what makes us happy and be at ease with ourselves.

  4. This is a perfect title to this article, so many people have no idea what it is like to get into an abusive relationship, they rarely if ever begin this way, the controller is a very cunning creature. Most women that end up in these relationships describe how attentive and loving they are at the beginning, how romantic, they insist on paying, opening doors, etc. Victims of this kind of abuse often feel inadequate because their partner convinces them that they are unworthy and that no one will ever love them or at least love them as much as they do. Too many young girls get involved with controlling boyfriends and confuse this attention and controlling behavior with love because these controllers are master manipulators. My mother is still married to my controlling father, he has convinced her that she is not good enough and that if she leaves she will be alone and destitute. He is so proficient in his manipulation that despite the fact that she was the sole breadwinner for the majority of their marriage and still makes substantially more than he, that she cannot survive without him. Even after years of physical and emotional abuse she stays. The truth is, the controllers are insecure creatures, they have no self-confidence and pray on their partners to make themselves feel bigger and better. My advice to all is this, be proud and secure with yourself, love yourself first and never let anyone convince you that you are less than anything.

  5. After reading this article on what your student experienced I truly feel sorry for her experience in such a toxic relationship. A lot of people can get caught up in the “honeymoon” stage, like she stated, and except abusive behaviors from there partner and not fully realize what’s going on. I believe that abusive behaviors are more common with men in relationships because of that stereotypical idea of men “wearing the pants”, and because it may be more common it’s harder for their partners to recognize the signs of a failing relationship. But I also believe that labeling “Bob” and his father as both being traditional is an overused term to hide the fact that they aren’t accepting of something, and in this case it’s gender equality in the relationship. Also the double standard of body shaming on social media I something that affects a lot of people every day. Even though “Bob” doesn’t practice what he preaches (in this case modesty), with the media portraying women’s bodies as sexual objects while men are seen shirtless everywhere without the slightest bit of concern, there are many like-minded “Bob’s” because of this that need to open their minds.

  6. Elisabeth Esquivel

    What an empowering story! I can’t imagine what kind strength it would take to remove yourself from such a toxic situation. I wish there were more open discussions like this about an emotionally abusive relationship in high school. I didn’t learn until I got to college, when I had to take an introduction course about being aware of unhealthy relationships. It was then I realized that many of my friends in high school were in emotionally abusive relationships. Repeatedly texting someone, shouting accusations of jealously, controlling who they hang out, commenting negatively on their clothing, were all things that I saw friends deal with their boyfriends. I was a concerned friend, but I definitely didn’t intervene as much as I should have. I knew that it was definitely crazy how their boyfriends were acting, but I didn’t know to what extent that could effect their feelings towards themselves or their future relationships.

  7. In all Asian countries, most men behave like that ‘Bob’….

  8. I also married a nice guy. There are lots of good men, but unfortunately too many like described here. It can sometimes take longer to recognize abuse when it isn’t violent, but control is a very serious thing. Glad she saw the light.

    • Yes, and that’s part of the reason you get the drip drip. The guy is usually trying to see what she will put up with. And she has just undergone such a world wind romance where he acts like she’s the most amazing thing to ever happen that it’s easy to go into denial at first.

      • I’m not a psychologist studying the minds of abusive men, but I have to call out bullshit on the notion that they generally deliberately going through some fake routine and drip drip to find out what women will put up with. The behavior pattern of being on your best behavior on your first date slowly sinking, sinking down to your own normality and reality is a common behavior for all human beings. Some men just have a long way to sink that’s all.

      • So you aren’t a psychologist but psychologists say they actually to plan it that way. Rush because they are typically fantasizing about battering their partner. So they “need” to get her deeply in love as quickly as possible so she won’t leave — at least not right away.

      • “psychologists say they actually to plan it that way because they are typically fantasizing about battering their partner. So they “need” to get her deeply in love as quickly as possible”

        Wow amazing, such a clear cut, black and white analysis of reality. Amazing that in all the fields of human psychology, abusers have such simplistic behaviour that it yields so readily to analysis.

        Abuse is a behaviour, not a state of mind. That behaviour has many and varied causes and motivations.

        According to Makepeace(*), the #1 motivation for abuse by men is anger.
        Bonem and colleagues (2008)(*) examined the self-reported antecedents and consequences in a sample of male batterers. Results indicated that the most common motive was partner behavior (e.g., partner annoyed the assailant; partner yelled at the assailant; partner criticized the assailant).

        Makepeace JM. Gender differences in courtship violence victimization. Family Relations. 1996;35:383–388.

        Bonem M, Stanley-Kime KL, Corbin M. A behavioral approach to understanding domestic violence: A functional assessment based on batterer- identified contingencies. Journal of Behavior Analysis Offender and Victim Treatment and Prevention. 2008;1:209–221.

      • Yeah, they are angry. They are angry because their partner didn’t buy the right brand of bread. Or dinner was five minutes late.

        They’re angry. But what is behind that anger?

        They are looking for excuses to get angry.

        Typically a wife will start being extremely careful and trying to be the perfect wife, So the guy has to try harder and harder to find something to make him angry. So that he explodes because his wife bought Coors instead of Budweiser.

        Typically, these men fantasize about beating up their wives but create an excuse in their minds to justify it.

  9. This is a relationship that should have been stopped way quicker. I alway wonder why it takes so long. But then the worse thing a young guy can hear from a girl he likes, is “You are a nice guy.” I wonder why that has to be the kiss of death. Actually, it typically leads to no kiss at all 🙂

    • Yes. Abusive relationships should almost always be stopped sooner. The fact that they aren’t is often tied to the way they start. I wrote a blog post called “grooming Women for abuse” or something like that – I’ll look for it. Remember how the writer here said that the first part of the relationship was like a dream come true? Batters often do that on purpose. They have a whirlwind relationship that is amazingly wonderful. They do that so she will fall in love very quickly and stay in the relationship because she keeps hoping it will go back to that. Here’s the link I was talking about:

      On the nice guy thing, women don’t break up with men BECAUSE they’re nice. BECAUSE they are nice they wish that they could be in the relationship, so they mention that when they break it off. It’s wistful.

      But women actually do love and even marry nice guys all the time. The fact that my husband is a good man is one of the most important reasons why I married him. And all of my friends married nice guys too. And women were lined up for blocks when “Sleepless in Seattle” came out. In that movie Tom Hanks is a really nice guy. And women were super drawn to him.

      Here’s more on the topic:

  10. “Those first few months had left me deeply in love with Bob but more and more it felt like being strangled 24/7. I was not allowed to go anywhere without him. When he did allow me to go out he insisted I text him constantly so that he would know where I was.”

    This is a sad story, but let’s get real here. This has nothing whatsoever to do with gender inequality.

    I had…. ok, ok full disclosure, HAVE a girlfriend who texts me all the time to know where I am, who pulls a fit if I go anywhere without her, etc etc. It’s debilitating, and destructive. For now at least, I’m just ignoring it. If she wants to have a fit and not talk to me for days, whatever. She’ll come back.. or not as the case may be.

    But the point is, this has nothing to do with gender. There are jealous men, there are jealous women. You can’t change them. You can’t. Deal with it.

    • I agree that you can’t change them. So it’s best to get out of the relationship.

      Abusive relationships both do and don’t apply to gender inequality. It’s true that both women and men can be abusive. I know relationships where the wife is the abusive party.

      Here’s how it applies to patriarchy: in gender-equal societies there is little to no abuse. When Europeans first arrived on America’s eastern seaboard they were amazed that rape and battering were virtually nonexistent. And rates of abuse go down as feminism rises. That appears to be for two reasons:

      1) when you value someone you don’t harm them. When you value women as a whole you are less inclined to harm them as a whole. Since the early 1990s rape is down 75%, battery is down to 65% and incest is down 44%. That’s partly because we have things like battered women’s shelter’s and hotlines. And it’s partly because men’s attitudes have shifted. They no longer see themselves as so entitled to the bodies of women and children. And they value and respect women more.

      2) in patriarchy rape and battering increase as a way of creating a sense of male power and control of women. And to shame and humiliate women.

      In patriarchies once you have the pattern going one way you can certainly shift it to go the other. Because what you create is a domination culture. And women can learn it too.

      By the way, rape and battering have decreased even more since the early 70s but I can’t recall the numbers on that. The statistics come from the Bureau of Justice which randomly calls people and asks if they have been victims of certain crimes.

      But I’m glad you brought this up. I’ll have to write more about it on my blog.

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