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#401453 - 06/23/12 03:29 PM little boy misbehaving to get attention?
mmfan Offline


Registered: 09/25/11
Posts: 114
He uses subtle digs to try to hurt me. I believe he does this to try to provoke a reaction so he can test whether I truly "care." If I don't respond with the "hurt" response he is looking for, he feels unloved, and will escalate his behavior until it blows up into a full argument.
When he sees my upset and tears, it calms him down instantly because he is reassured that I do care.

I can't help but feel like he is acting out the way a small child would, to get attention. I see this behavior as disturbing and unhealthy, though I guess it makes sense from his POV.

I don't know how to react when he does this. I resent being manipulated into giving a certain response. At the same time I do want him to know that 1) I do care, and 2) He is capable of doing real harm, and that could have the opposite affect of what he wants.

I feel caught in a lose-lose situation with this. Any ideas?

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#401454 - 06/23/12 03:36 PM Re: little boy misbehaving to get attention? [Re: mmfan]
GoodHope Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 07/05/11
Posts: 413
Can you tell him this? Say it to him just as you've written it. I love you but I'm not going to allow you to provoke me to prove it.
_________________________
Wife of a survivor

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#401485 - 06/23/12 11:41 PM Re: little boy misbehaving to get attention? [Re: mmfan]
mmfan Offline


Registered: 09/25/11
Posts: 114
Yes, I've tried that (because it makes sense, right?!) and his response is, "What? I'm not trying to provoke you" - or he will deny having said whatever he said. It's maddening. Sometimes I think he's just not aware enough of his behavior to realize he's even doing it, let alone WHY he's doing it.

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#401510 - 06/24/12 08:55 AM Re: little boy misbehaving to get attention? [Re: mmfan]
GoodHope Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 07/05/11
Posts: 413
Say it, then don't react. Another woman on this board says that "really, hmmmm" (or something like that) saves her sanity when she remembers to employ it. Might be worth a shot.
_________________________
Wife of a survivor

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#401546 - 06/24/12 01:16 PM Re: little boy misbehaving to get attention? [Re: mmfan]
Anomalous Offline
Greeter Coordinator
MaleSurvivor
Registered: 03/07/10
Posts: 1341
Hi MMFan,

Your partner's behavior doesn't have anything to do with an "inner child," though his behavior is immature and indicative of poor coping skills. His provoking you with hurtful words is based on his low self esteem and low self worth.

GoodHope is right, you need to tell him that hurting you and provoking you to "prove" your love is unacceptable and is manipulative.

His denials of his behavior are also manipulations. He knows exactly what he is doing. It is not essential that he understands why he is doing this in order for him to start to contol his behavior.

You must set firm limits with him regarding his abusive behavior. And yes, it is abusive. He is intentionally hurting you to get his needs met - getting you to cry to "prove" you love him, which gives him a sense of security.

He has every right to feel hurt and enraged at the harm he endured. He has NO right to abuse you.

You do not say whether or not either of you are in therapy (at least not in this thread). Both of you need to have your own therapists, preferably one who specializes in trauma and/ or sexual abuse.

Until he deals with his feelings of low self esteem and low self worth, he will not feel that you "do care," despite the fact that you care deeply. His behavior will continue to be hurtful and manipulative unless he, and you, get help.

His hurting you is serving two purposes for him. On the one hand, when he provokes you until you cry, it "proves" to him that you love him and that he is worthy of that love. On the other hand, if you do not react in the manner he is trying to provoke (pain, sadness), he will take that as "proof" that you do not care and he is not worthy.

Without help, this is a no-win situation.

There are several books written for the significant others of sexually abused males. I am certain those who post in this forum will be more than happy to share the titles they have found most helpful. The books are available at the bookstore and your public library.

By acting out in a manner that, to him, will either "prove" or "disprove" your love for him, he is not dealing with the underlying issues of abuse.

If he does not already come here, you may want to leave information about this site for him. You may also want to get some books written specifically for male survivors.

Whether or not your partner chooses to take positive steps toward healing from his experiences, you need to heal from them, and from him. Hopefully he will choose to grow with you, rather than apart from you.

The best way to support him is to get yourself help and to be healthy.

Be gentle and kind to yourself.



Anomalous
_________________________
Acceptance on someone else's terms is worse than rejection.

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#401558 - 06/24/12 02:55 PM Re: little boy misbehaving to get attention? [Re: mmfan]
peroperic2009 Offline
Moderator
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 10/09/11
Posts: 3600
Loc: South-East Europe
Hi Mmfan,
I think that Anomalous has some good point. Sometimes talk is not enough. At other side when there is some dynamics set already it is difficult to suddenly change it, but it is possible.
I hope you'll find way to escape those games...
Pero
_________________________
My story

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#401577 - 06/24/12 05:09 PM Re: little boy misbehaving to get attention? [Re: mmfan]
whome Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 05/07/11
Posts: 1734
Loc: Johannesburg South Africa
MMFAN

So don't is the simple answer to your question.
You give a reaction because you think that this is what he wants.
What I see is that you are doing things to make him happy.
WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY? Do you still remember what it is that makes you happy?

You need to work on the things that make you happy, and while you are doing that, be mindful that he is healing.

There are things that you can control and things that you cant. What you can control are those things that concern you, what you cannot control is him and his healing.

I know that this might not be the answer that you are looking for, but it is what I learned from my healing path.

I was so busy with my healing and I completely forgot about my family. When I finally reached the point where I felt that I was OK, my wife had had enough. So just when I felt that I was ready, she tossed my butt outta there. Fact is that she also needed to heal and needed to learn that I had impacted on her life in a mighty way. I had abused her mentally and phsycologicaly for twenty years. That's a lot of healing.

Care for him, but care for yourself more.

Heal well
Martin
_________________________
Matrix Men South Africa
Survivors Supporting Each other
Matrix Men Blog

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#401599 - 06/24/12 07:59 PM Re: little boy misbehaving to get attention? [Re: mmfan]
mmfan Offline


Registered: 09/25/11
Posts: 114
Thanks GoodHope for the tip, anything to help preserve my energy/sanity at this point, I'm open to trying.

Anomalous I read your post several times, and I can see that you get it. I like your distinction between inner child and immature. I think you're right it's a symptom of low self esteem. Your explanation of his behavior helps me to see how it is serving him (and how it's not serving me!) And you're right, when he's busy looking for external "proof" for his theories, he's not developing an internal sense of worth, which is what he needs to confront.

And thanks for understanding that a non-response is as problematic as a response. The calmer I am, the worse it is ("No one gives a @#$% about me, I might as well die" etc). Maybe I just need to learn to weather this dramatic behavior, and let him learn to weather the feelings that go along with it.

I guess you won't be surprised to hear that he's not in therapy. He says it won't help. Individual therapy has helped me a lot (my therapist is a lifesaver), and I think it would help him. But I know we all have our own timelines of readiness, so I respect his choices. I also mentioned this site and he says he's too uncomfortable with men.

Bottom line though his behavior is unhealthy and I can't allow him to manipulate me because that isn't healthy for ME. Thanks for reminding me of this. I flinched actually when I read the word "abusive" because it is somewhat embarrassing, having done a lot of my own healing work, to think I'm allowing an abusive behavior.....But I'd rather realize it so I can change the pattern somehow, for myself.

Hi Pero thanks for your supportive post!
Thanks Whome I appreciate the spirit of your post, I do need a reminder now and again to put myself first.

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#401883 - 06/27/12 05:02 AM Re: little boy misbehaving to get attention? [Re: mmfan]
Anomalous Offline
Greeter Coordinator
MaleSurvivor
Registered: 03/07/10
Posts: 1341
Hi MMFan,

I am happy to hear you are in therapy.

I hope you will discuss your husband's behavior with your therapist.

But please, do not feel embarrassed or think that you are "allowing" it. It is difficult to know how to deal with certain behaviors. Instead of berating yourself for "allowing" it, I hope that you can see you have been tolerating his behavior, until you find a healthy solution for how to deal with it.

It can be very difficult to assess the behavior of those closest to us, let alone assess it as abusive.

Congratulate yourself for reaching out and hearing what we had to say, even if it was painful. Also congratulate yourself for taking positive steps to making yourself healthier.

Your husband's insistence that he doesn't need therapy "it won't help," is his way of seeking attention for his behavior and a justification for not changing. Part of his reticence can also be fear.

As for his statements "I might as well die" when you do not give him the reaction he is seeking, that is absolutely inappropriate and you can no longer let him abuse and manipulate you with such statements.

If your husband is suffering from depression, the statement "I might as well die" could be a veiled threat of suicide.

Even if he is not depressed he could act out in a manner harmful to himself, which may or may not be a fatal attempt, to get your attention.

I doubt he will go to therapy unless the issue is forced.

If you are setting limits with him, one of the things you can tell him is he has to go to therapy. And if he continues to make such threats, you will have him hospitalized.

You cannot be held emotionally hostage, nor should you have to worry about whether or not he will act on this veiled threat to prove a point.

Please re-read two of your paragraphs from an objective view (if you can):

Quote:

And thanks for understanding that a non-response is as problematic as a response. The calmer I am, the worse it is ("No one gives a @#$% about me, I might as well die" etc). Maybe I just need to learn to weather this dramatic behavior, and let him learn to weather the feelings that go along with it.

I guess you won't be surprised to hear that he's not in therapy. He says it won't help. Individual therapy has helped me a lot (my therapist is a lifesaver), and I think it would help him. But I know we all have our own timelines of readiness, so I respect his choices. I also mentioned this site and he says he's too uncomfortable with men.


In particular, I want you to see that every time you either do not give in to what he wants (display of pain) or you suggest ways of him getting help (therapy, MS), he throws up road blocks, and comes up with reasons why the help won't work or why he cannot do it, before he has even tried.

My guess is if you brought home some of the books about and for male survivors, there will be reasons he won't read them, either.

To be blunt, you are going to have to find a way to get him to seek help. "Raising the bottom," rather than waiting for him to hit it (which is what is done in an intervention). You will also need to decide, with the support of your therapist, what your bottom line will be if he refuses to get help.

The bottom line is not a threat, nor is it a punishment or blackmail. It is not intended to shame or to humiliate him. You are drawing a line in the sand.

He must make changes if he wants to stop hurting.

You have to be healthy regardless of the choice he makes.

Hopefully he will decide to get help. If not, he will be suffering alone.

Be gentle and kind to yourself.




Anomalous
_________________________
Acceptance on someone else's terms is worse than rejection.

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#403332 - 07/11/12 05:33 PM Re: little boy misbehaving to get attention? [Re: mmfan]
mmfan Offline


Registered: 09/25/11
Posts: 114
Anomalous thank you for your thoughtful reply. We had another upheaval today and I realized I hadn't checked for any replies recently. I appreciate your taking the time to dissect my thinking a bit. Your perspective is invaluable and one that my therapist can't provide. I do speak to her about him, but, I think she gets frustrated as there is a lot of my own stuff I need to be working on, and I notice she draws the conversation away from him. (She's right...but I do legitimately need help dealing with him.)

I did feel a bit embarrassed after some of the responses thinking I might have "allowed" abusive behavior. Your word "tolerate" lets me go a bit easier on myself, thank you.

Thanks for pointing out that "I might as well be dead" is abusive, I needed to hear that. I think you're right to worry about how far he might take these "tests." The suggestion of taking his threats at face value and calling emergency services, I hadn't thought of, and that's a good one. If it's a bluff then I'm calling him on it, and if it's not a bluff, well then emergency services needs to be involved anyway!! Thank you. I can add this one to my tool box.

You are right, he throws up many many roadblocks. You are exactly right about the books too. He's very intelligent, and unfortunately this superior brainpower generates superior methods of evasion/excuses. I think you're right, he's scared.

I'm in a bit of tough spot, as he and I are not actually married nor partners, we are best friends. The reality is that we both invest a large amount of time and energy in one another and in many ways it is like a relationship, but I don't feel as his friend that i have the right to give him an ultimatum to get help. Besides, the ultimatum would be false, as I accept him as a friend regardless of whether or when he gets help, and would never stop being his friend (as long as I can remain healthy being his friend).

By and large I've given up trying to influence his behavior, and have been trying to focus on my own sanity and boundaries. (So your suggestions and feedback here are invaluable.) You are very right I can't be held emotionally hostage, it is very stressful. This is one place where I need to draw a line.



Edited by mmfan (07/11/12 05:38 PM)

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