Customer Reviews: The Emotionally Abusive Relationship: How to Stop Being Abused and How to Stop Abusing
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on January 10, 2007
When I recently discovered I had some emotionally abusive tendencies, I wanted to do something to STOP. The problem was, every resource I could find on abusive relationships was aimed at helping the VICTIM and painted the abuser as an incorrigible monster beyond redemption. They all just said to the victim: "Get out now! He'll never change." Now, I'm sure in some cases that's true, but I don't believe it's ALWAYS true. I think that, sometimes, an abuser CAN change if he's willing, and I was.

What *I* needed was a resource for the ABUSER. Something that would help me and my partner work TOGETHER in HELPING me. Something to help us figure out WHY I was acting the way I was acting and to change it. However, as far as I could tell, such a resource didn't seem to exist.

That was until my partner found this book for me. I was ASTONISHED at what I saw. This was the first book I've ever seen that actually tackles abuse from the perspective, not of dissolving the relationship and allowing the victim to escape, but of trying to REBUILD an abuse-damaged relationship and reestablish a healthy foundation for it to continue.

This book paints the abuser, not as a horrible monster, but as a Human being who has simply made mistakes. This book tell you, IF you're willing to made an HONEST EFFORT to change, you CAN, and an abuse damaged relationship CAN be saved, provided BOTH parties are willing to WORK towards that goal.

This book gives hope to BOTH: victim AND abuser.

It's absolutely AMAZING. I STRONGLY recommend it for ANYONE who is in an abusive relationship, particularly if you'd rather work it out than split up. If your relationship can be saved, this book will tell you how. If it's beyond saving, this book will help you recognize that and give you the tools you need to get out and move on. Either way, it addresses BOTH sides of the relationship in a way no other book or resource I've ever seen does and I feel, on that basis, it's probably the strongest self-help resource I've EVER seen on relationship abuse.
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on January 11, 2005
I had a very turbulent relationship and it was nothing like I'd every experienced. It left me feeling sad and depleted BUT I wouldn't let it go no matter what friends an family said or even what I knew I should do. We rarely had intimacy and I always felt guilty and like I needed to care for this person often at my own expense. When the relationship finally ended he was verbally abusive and threatened me (though not specifically) and said that I was going to pay for how I treated him.

I bought this book after the relationship ended in an effort to understand what happened. As I read this book I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I had been emotionally abused. Since the relationship had ended the most helpful aspects for me were reflecting and understanding what happened and learning to let go of the guilt I always felt even about the relationship ending and me not wanting to have this person in my life.

I recommend this book. I'm not completely healed from it all but it has helped me understand things a lot more and helped me to move in a more positive direction in my life. I also appreciated the signs to spot an abuser so I can avoid that type of a relationship again.
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on February 15, 2007
I purchased this title while investigating the characteristics of emotional abuse and attempting to determine if I was in an emotionally abusive relationship. It did provide that insight by explaining identifying characteristics of emotionally abusive relationships, exploring possible causes (to include personality disorders), and offering ways out. While there is some tremendously good advice (e.g., leave if in danger), I found some of the recommendations to be counterproductive (e.g., list out and then dwell on all of the abuses that made you feel bad, make your abuser read your list, make your abuser give a 3-part apology) and somewhat too superficial in aiming to change top-level behaviors rather than deeper causes (i.e., it treats only "symptoms" rather than the "disease"). Once I fully understood that I was square in the middle of an emotionally abusive relationship, I found the advice in Dr Steven Stosny's book You Don't Have to Take It Anymore to be much better focused on: 1) correcting deep core value hurts that create resentment and ultimately spawn abuse (for the abuser), and 2) "healing and growing to feel more valuable and confident regardless of what anyone says or does" (for all involved).
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on October 24, 2006
Even though I am a woman recovering from emotional abuse, I appreciate the fact that the author took care to provide a more balanced view of emotional/verbal abuse and not automatically side with or exonerate women, unlike some other authors. Women have proven to be just as capable of abusing as men, even if it doesn't seem to play out in the statistics.

I also appreciate the fact that there are a lot of exercises within the book that allow you to get proactive in your quest to break certain patterns in your own behavior (whether you are the abused or the abuser), as opposed to books that only "preach" at you. This book enabled me to deconstruct a pattern that started for me in childhood, to see how I was being abused and to see how I was being abusive as well. EXCELLENT read.
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on March 8, 2003
I could not put this book down. Most "self-help" books lay on my shelf half read, but this one was a real page turner. The author does an excellent job describing the forms of emotional abuse and helps you understand the dynamics behind it. She also provides helpful information in the book for the abuser. The best part of her book is the information she provides at the end of the book for changing your life so you can begin to seek out healthy relationships. She provides concrete, tangible things you can do to help raise your self-esteem and to identify the warning signs in possible abusers!
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on March 8, 2008
I read this book last night and had nightmares about the possibility that someone could be emotionally or even physically harmed by following this author's so-called "program". If you're up for a heaping dose of "blame the victim", a lack of understanding of victim's issues and even some not-so-thinly disguised contempt for them (in one section, the author describes victims as "whining" and "groveling"), this book is for you. But if you truly want to understand what has happened to you, why you are not at fault, and how to deal with it, I suggest "The Verbally Abusive Relationship" by Patricia Evans, "Why Does He Do That" by Lundy Bancroft, or "Emotional Blackmail" by Susan Forward. Another good book with lots of advice on how to manage your life once you've decided to leave an abuser is "When Love Goes Wrong" by Ann Jones and Susan Schechter.

This book is written by an author who reveals that after 20 years as a practicing therapist AND undergoing therapy, she had an epiphany that she is a narcissistic abuser herself. One thing is clear, she has an agenda: to fight the "demonization" of abusers in popular media and give them a "chance" for recovery. From the beginning of the book, she makes excuses for their behavior and blames it on their bad childhoods. At the same time, she makes sweeping generalizations about victims that are negative and substantially untrue. She wants you to believe that even though she took 20 years, AND therapy, just to gain awareness, this book by itself can pop open the eyes of abusers everywhere to her "breakthrough program". What she doesn't share with you is that the odds of that happening to a true narcissist/abuser are very, very slim.

The worst part of this book is its potential for guiding victims into dangerous situations without a whole lot of support. Her suggestion to confront your abuser - head-on, alone, with "confidence" and a meager handful of pat phrases - would be laughable if it weren't so hazardous to your emotional and even physical health. This suggestion shows a gross lack of awareness that many abusive people react aggressively and even violently when confronted and no one else is watching. The author also INSISTS that since your parents MUST be either controlling or abusive, you must first confront your parents and then "maintain boundaries despite threats or manipulation".

You could probably write another book on what is wrong with this is book, but a few of the author's most glaringly wrong-headed points are this:

- Abusers can change, but first you must do a complete analysis of your life history, and then you must confront them with grace, composure, and a perfectly-worded response, because you just might open their eyes. WRONG: it is not the responsibility of the victim to dance around an abuser's behavior or convince them to change - in fact, the victim is the LEAST LIKELY person to trigger an abuser's change of heart.

- All victims willfully choose their abuser, put up with the abuse because they don't think they deserve any better, and are repeating abusive patterns started by one or both parents. WRONG: Abusers can hide their true nature for months or years; being moderately accommodating and agreeable is a positive trait as long as you're dealing with "normal" people; most victims grew up in non-abusive households.

- Poor self-esteem is what causes you to allow yourself to be abused. WRONG: abuse causes a lack of self-esteem, not the other way around. And when the abuser is gone, the self-esteem comes back.

- People with narcissism and border-line personality disorder (BPD) are good candidates for therapy. WRONG: Even with a competent therapist, the prognosis for recovery from ANY full-blown personality disorder is not good.

- People with personality disorders such as narcissism can be "helped" by studying this book. WRONG: People with personality disorders, by their nature, have a highly defective self image; they entirely lack the objectivity and self-awareness that is necessary for self-improvement.

- Narcissism and border-line personality disorder (BPD) are illnesses just like depression and schizophrenia. WRONG: Major depression and schizophrenia are involuntary, biologically-based illnesses which can be controlled with drug therapy and cannot be controlled by changing one's behavior towards other people. Narcissism and BPD are behavioral disorders. There is no drug for narcissists or BPDs to change them into more healthy people. They can change simply by behaving differently, but they overwhelmingly prefer not to.

The author desperately wants us to believe that abusers are not hopeless. They aren't, but victims need someone to set a realistic expectation about their abuser, and the author has not done that. If someone with a career in the mental health field, who's in therapy, can be oblivious to their own personality disorder for 20 years, what are the chances of John Q. Narcissist latching onto this book and making a life change? The author shares no personal insight with us at all - she never pauses for reflection on her own moment of awareness or thinking processes, and never demonstrates heartfelt empathy for victims (I prefer the term "targets"). For that reason alone, I have a hard time believing this author should be taken seriously. The harsh, ugly truth is that most abusers make a conscious CHOICE to be abusive.
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on May 17, 2012
I recently got out of a verbally abusive relationship and read this book to help me process what happened. I should say that, in my case, the abuse was fortunately short-lived. Though I was in the relationship for a year and a half, the abuse only occurred for a few months. When it became obvious that my boyfriend was abusive and not interested in changing, I left.

The good thing about this book is that it breaks down the complicated subject of abuse into manageable pieces. There are many checklists and lists of questions to help you identify just what your partner was doing to you and how it affected you. The writing is clear and it provides steps for dealing with the fall out of abuse. For abusers, there are also clear steps to identify any abusive ways of thinking and deal with strong, potentially abusive emotions in healthier ways.

There are some definite problems with this book. Beverly Engel makes some pretty sweeping assumptions about victims of abuse. She says repeatedly, "The truth is, few people put up with emotional abuse as an adult unless they were abused as a child." She then writes the next few chapters to help victims deal with their childhood abusers (assuming, almost insisting they have them). As someone who was not abused as a child, not in the least, I find this assumption at best, unhelpful and at worst, offensive. The bad thing is there isn't any guidance provided for the readers that haven't suffered from childhood abuse.

She also writes, "No one wants to view themselves as a victim or as someone with such low self-esteem that she would put up with unacceptable behavior. But the truth of the matter is that you have allowed yourself to be a victim, and you did allow someone to treat you in unacceptable ways." This is an example of the blame the victim vibe that other reviewers have commented on. She attributes to victims not only a troubled past, but low self-esteem, dependency, inability to live alone, passivity, and poor decision making ability.

I realize that she is trying to help people to identify their patterns, which may or may not originate in childhood, and keep them from going from one abusive relationship to another. The truth is that ANYONE can become a victim of abuse. First, an abusive pattern takes time to develop. Just one incident, might put someone on their guard, but you need time and more evidence and more incidents to make a judgement. Contrarily, the more infrequent the abuse, especially as it begins, the longer the victim will stay in the relationship since the abuse is not yet identifiable. Also, most abusers do not reveal their abusive tendencies until they feel secure in the relationship. This could take years and not appear until after marriage or after they have children, etc. So you meet and marry Prince Charming or Miss Right because they treat you wonderfully and you are very compatible. At some point, the abuser switch flips and they turn out to have been hiding their true nature from you (which abusers are very good at doing). Somehow it is now assumed that YOU are an individual with low self esteem and a troubled past. This makes no sense to me. Frankly, it makes me not want to share my experience with anyone, because I don't want others to label me as desperate for love, passive, or an easy target. Unfortunately, her attitude and assumptions project these negative traits onto victims of abuse.

Certainly, some victims do struggle with these tendencies and some victims do seek out abusive personalities. This is not true of everyone. The book would have been better had she included chapters for the victims with a pattern of abusive relationships and chapters for those without.

I also think that some more subtle examples of abuse would be helpful. It is obvious that the girlfriend/boyfriend who calls their partner 20 times demanding their partner return home when out with friends is controlling. Abuse, especially in the beginning, is much more insidious and subtle than that. I think it would help victims more to talk about the subtle abuse (the looks, light criticism, standard phrases, etc.) and ways they should respond to prevent it from escalating, if possible. Very few resources do that. Her examples are interesting, but they are obvious. Anyone can tell what is happening there. In reality, abuse is often much more difficult to discern and some examples picking apart the abusive interaction would go far in putting victims on their guard early on and not continuing to get involved with abusive people.

Since there is such a strong compulsion among abusers to blame others/the victim and therefore they tend to lack self-perception, I have doubts whether an abuser would really be able to change from reading this book. It would take an extremely dedicated abuser and one with keen powers of self examination to successfully work through all these steps without an objective third party. For abusers that also have a personality disorders, just put the book down and call a therapist. She did as good a job as anyone could, in book form, at giving abusers steps for changing, and she certainly does her best to encourage them. Despite that, counseling is still the best option and this book would best be used in conjunction with therapy.

In general, I think this book is a helpful read, with a few obvious flaws. I'm glad that it doesn't demonize abusers, and I like its focus on healing steps for both parties. It was more informational for me than anything else, and I'm glad I read it.
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on October 6, 2003
As our relationship continually ran into difficulties, I knew something unhealthy was happening. I then read many books on the topic of abuse and control. This book not only describes and categorizes abuser and abusee, more importantly, it offers a guide to understand the cause as well as relavent corrective actions. Read this book!
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on June 30, 2008
I just got out of an abusive relationship and this women treats the subject as some small problem that can be solved with therapy. Lundy Bancroft understands this author does not. Moreover the information in this book could keep women in abusive relationships by hoping the abuser will get better.
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on July 24, 2009
This book is an atrocity. it is very, very inaccurate. The misconceptions are voiced, and clearly biased. Rarely would I consider a book dangerous. This book is dangerous in the sense it offers wrong opinions as well as WRONG objective data about a diagnosis. If this individual is in the clinical realm, which she is, then one would reasonably prsume she would of done her due dilligence in research.

As a psychologist who has treated personality disorders for years I was shocked on how mis-informed this author is. I have read hundreds of books. Some poorly written, some with hidden agendas and others that excelled. This book is not poorly written, however the author clearly has a hidden agenda and is dead wrong on rehabilitation success rate of the narcissistic personality disorder.

Please, everyone should do their due dilligence before obtaing a book on this subjuect matter. Just as there are bad therapists therre are bad books. This is one of the worst.

Dan Williams, author, " Above His Shoulders"
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