Can This Really Happen?
With so much press saying a woman should “run as fast as she can” if she has experienced narcissistic or emotional abuse, it is understandable to wonder about a perpetrator and victim of abuse healing together.
In our study of how to best help victims and perpetrators of emotional violence, we have noticed a troubling tendency for victims to receive treatment while perpetrators rarely receive the in-depth counseling they need. Furthermore, victims are often treated by one therapist, in one location, while the perpetrator, if he receives counseling at all, is seen by a different counselor in a different location, with counselors often not working collaboratively.
Reasons People Don’t Leave Their Narcissistic Mate
In our experience, a high percentage of those who have been victimized by narcissistic and emotional abuse will remain in relationship with the perpetrator. This is worrisome when you consider he will likely not have received depth counseling, leaving her vulnerable to the subtleties of covert abuse. While this is a devastating scenario, counsel to “run as fast as you can” remains questionable. Many women will not leave, even if encouraged to do so. Consider the following factors:
- Not all narcissistic and emotionally abusive men are untreatable.
- Many women are truly connected to their narcissistic mate.
- With intervention, many men can learn effective tools to bring about character change.
- Marriage can be a wonderful place to be shaped into the person God wants us to be. Our counsel can continue to challenge these men to face and take ownership for the consequences of their behavior.
- God is able to change the hearts of those who are willing.
Certainly, we dare not encourage any woman to stay in an abusive situation! We cannot enable this serious dysfunction. We must be wise in how we approach this problem and offer concurrent healing programs only when it is safe to do so.
Intervention IS Necessary
Remember that covert emotional abuse is often subtle or, at a minimum, hidden from public view. Charming and manipulative, his abuse of power and control, passive-aggression, pervasive criticism, and angry outbursts will likely not be seen by friends, family, or even many professionals, leading to “secondary abuse” by these people. These character issues are destructive, learned behaviors and cannot be easily treated. Without proper intervention, the victim remains vulnerable to ongoing narcissistic and emotional abuse.
We have found that an Intervention is typically necessary to instigate motivation for change. We have made the following observations:
- An intervention must often occur where the narcissistic man is threatened with losing their mate—they may, in fact, need to lose their mate for a time. We have seen much positive benefit come from temporary, but decisive separation.
- The intervention must include significant confrontation of the character traits, dysfunctional thinking, and attitudes that reinforce and give rise to the emotionally abusive behavior traits. This is ongoing accountability for actions, openly acknowledging to everyone how his behavior has devastated his wife, children, church, and community.
- The intervention must lead to a ‘breakdown that leads to a breakthrough’—a heartfelt brokenness, REPENTANCE, that includes a healing of the self-concept that has promoted attitudes of self-aggrandizement. He cannot change what he does not own. He must have a change in belief and attitude about who she is and her precious value to God and to him. He must humbly abandon a power-over-other position and adopt the heart of Jesus Christ. He must choose change.
- The intervention must include healing for the victim, with new and healthy boundaries to reinforce ongoing change. The victim learns that it is not her job to help him or make him change or manage his life. She is encouraged to not over-function. She must be relieved of the burden of trying to make him change and grow.
- There must be long-term, sustained counseling and accountability for REAL change.
- She is encouraged to have ongoing support and safety.
With utmost caution and wisdom, we believe narcissistic and emotionally abusive men and their victims can sometimes be treated simultaneously. We have developed comprehensive programs to do that. We have a 14-week program for abusive men called The Core, which emphasizes taking responsibility for their abusive behavior and creating lasting change, and a concurrent program for victimized women called Redeemed, which focuses on their own healing and building boundaries. We also strongly encourage ongoing, depth counseling for the man, often including a two-day Personal Intensive, as well as ongoing support for the woman. We carefully assess when/if couples counseling is appropriate, never recommending couples work when ill-advised. When appropriate, we offer couples counseling where healing continues.
What Can The Marriage Recovery Center Do For Me?
We are mindful of the challenge of helping couples in these most difficult situations. First and foremost, we’re careful to emphasize stopping the narcissistic and emotional abuse. We offer women support and work to help them recover from long-term abuse, doing everything we can to ensure their ongoing safety. Depth counseling for the perpetrator of abuse is diligently provided, taking great care to repeatedly confront him and hold him accountable for real change. With motivation, proper counsel and Godly wisdom, we have seen many instances of couples healing together.
If you’re wondering if our Healing Together program might be right for you, we’re here to help you make that decision! We offer a 3-hour Marriage Evaluation Package, which includes one individual session for each spouse and one joint session. This will help us get a well-rounded view of your relationship and help you determine what the best next steps are for you and your spouse. Please give our Client Care Team a call at (206) 219-0145; we’d love to help you get started on your healing journey!
Three 1-hour sessions let our counselors help you identify the underlying issues and create a plan for healing your marriage. To learn more about the program or to register, contact our Client Care Team.