What He Wants Her to Know

A while ago, I produced a series of videos called What She Wants Him to Know. I tried to capture the sentiment of what emotionally abused women desperately want their mate to know and understand about them—that they need to be seen as an individuals and encouraged to find and speak their voice, to be empathized with and valued, to have their anger and hurt understood, and for men to go on their own journey of in-depth healing. They want the abuse to stop so healing can begin.

What I didn’t anticipate was the response these videos would bring from some men who are working hard on their recovery. Far from being incurable and totally unwilling to seek help, many narcissistic and emotionally abusive men have come to see me for our four-day Men’s Intensives or two-day Personal Intensives and followed up with our Men’s Aftercare group. Intent upon healing, these men do their utmost to rid themselves of their pervasive, defensive, self-protective, and abusive character armor.

But, as these men are working hard to heal themselves and, to the extent they can, their marriage, they can’t quite shake the feeling that they can never lose the title narcissist. There is much misinformation on the internet, promoting the idea that “no narcissist can ever change. They can never empathize with you and will only seek their own selfish needs. They are sociopaths and can only hurt you.” In short, their situation is deemed hopeless.

Who are these narcissistic and emotionally abusive men?

No doubt, some men are sociopathic narcissists—but not all. Men who find their way to The Marriage Recovery Center have appropriately been told, “You must focus on cleaning your side of the street.” With more or less success, they endeavor to focus on themselves and their healing, but also desperately want to save their marriage.

Recently one of the men in my Aftercare group asked, “Why haven’t you included some videos on What He Wants Her to Know?” I mulled over this question. Are these men bringing this up to shift the focus, getting themselves of the ‘hot seat?’ Perhaps. Do they feel discouraged and inadequate? Without a doubt. Is it possible that we, as a society, have allowed a misperception to flourish that ‘These men can never change and their feet must always be held to the fire?” Yes, we have.

I invited the men in my group to ponder what would be included in What He Wants Her to Know, with clear guidance that this assignment was to, in no way, be an opportunity to vent, blame, or excuse away their emotional abuse. It was an attempt to build an emotional bridge to their mate, an attempt to rebuild “the me and the we” that is often lost in our larger society.

Narcissism Recovery: What HE wants you to know

Here is what the men offered (with a bit of additional information added by me):

    1. Notice the things I do that indicate I am truly in recovery from my emotional abuse.
      These things may include acknowledging that I have emotionally abused you, apologizing with a humble and contrite spirit, being committed to true and lasting change, and having accountability from groups and counselors.
    2. Labeling me a narcissist may help you process your experience, but it is not helpful in my recovery.
      It is difficult for a man to get past denial and own up to the fact that he has been abusive to his wife. The label “narcissist” carries with it a lot of dark narrative, much of which does not apply to me as I’m working hard to make changes.
    3. I desire accountability and want to know when my behavior hurts you, so please do share that with me. But it is not healthy for either of us if you assign motives to my actions or tell me that you know what I’m thinking when I do something abusive or hurtful.
      While I may not always receive it well, I am trying to grow and get better at hearing criticism intended for my/our good. But, sometimes you attribute to me thoughts or feelings behind those actions that are not accurate, and I wish you wouldn’t do so.
    4. I know that my emotional abuse has been horrible, but please remember that it does not totally define me.
      I also have good qualities and would like to be encouraged for them, just as you desire acknowledgment and encouragement from me. I’m asking for the opportunity to be redefined, noting that my character is changing, even though it’s not totally fixed. It would be helpful in my recovery to acknowledge when I do something right in addition to making me aware of my failures.
    5.  Please remember that I have feelings too.
      When you are accusatory, derogatory, and use shame-based language when communicating with me, it makes the defenses I have used to protect myself go into full force, making it hard to empathize with your hurts. I know there is no justification for the ways I have hurt you, but I’m desperately trying to change. I am not the uncaring, unfeeling sociopath that many authors and YouTube videos characterize me to be.
    6. A hurtful action is not necessarily an abusive action and every misstep is not a sign of relapse.
      We all do things that are hurtful to others that have no connection to an abusive orientation or belief system. Mistakes do not mean that real change is not taking place in me.
    7. It takes two people to make a marriage relationship work, be restored, and be what God intended it to be.
      If you want our marriage renewed, and I realize you may not, join with me in that endeavor. Participate in your own healing as I participate in mine. If you hold me to a standard of perfection before you participate with me, our marriage is as doomed. Join me in a healing path, individually and as a couple.

Are you ready to “heal together?”

This then, is what your man wants you to know. It’s just information—information you can utilize to build a bridge to him or to discard. You may or may not be ready to heal together. If you are, if you want him restored, as well as your marriage, talk to your therapist about a plan that incorporates marriage healing along with personal healing.