When he uses the tactic of minimization, the disturbed character is attempting to convince someone else that the wrongful thing he did wasn’t really as bad or as harmful as he knows it was and as he knows the other person thinks it was. He might admit part of what he did was wrong, and usually not the most serious part. By using the tactic, he tries to manipulate others into thinking he’s not such a bad person (impression management) and continues his active war against submission to a principle of social behavior.
As is true when other tactics are used, when the disordered character minimizes the nature and seriousness of his conduct, you know for sure that he is likely to engage in the same or similar behaviors again. As long as he continues to minimize, he won’t take seriously the problems he needs to correct. It isn’t that he doesn’t recognize the seriousness of the issues. If he didn’t think others regarded the issue as serious he wouldn’t feel the need to trivialize it. But refusing to accept the principle at hand and to accept the need to change his stance indicate he’s sure to repeat his misconduct.
(excerpt from Dr. George Simon’s post Minimization: Trivializing Behavior as a Manipulation Tactic.)
42 thoughts on “Thursday Thought — Minimizing Abuse”
I believe my spouse to be passive and covert aggressive. Months ago I asked him to consider seeing a professional counselor for communication issues. I gave him examples of saying one thing and doing another and how he says he forgets important issues we discussed. Not only did he minimize the damage he has caused, now he claims forgetfulness even more than he used to. He promised to see someone he trusted to talk about his issues but not before telling me to forget about the past and move forward.
I read the link following this article by Dr. Simon and that’s what I’m afraid of. If we don’t address these issues of his that’s been hurting me, then he is sure to repeat the offenses. I’m exhausted, this have been going on for 30 years now. He recently talked to the pastor of the church and now the pastor has requested to see us both. I don’t trust pastors anymore. I’ve talked to five already over the course of 20 years and my spouse behavior doesn’t get addressed by them. I want to leave the relationship, I don’t want to talk to another pastor who don’t help. I’m afraid if I talk to this pastor that he will tell me that I’m not forgiving my spouse in order to move on. I have forgiven my spouse of many bad things and have moved on, the difference this time is I am not willing to go back to how things was. I don’t trust my spouse good behavior that he is showing right now. I now regret asking my husband to seek counseling.
I wish I would have just left already. Do anyone have any advice and encouragement?
Don’t do it. Don’t speak to the pastor with your husband. High chances are you’ll come away with all sorts of false accusations and guilt trips to burden you more. Have you read Jeff Crippens book ‘a cry for justice’? It’s a must-read to better understand the problem of abusers being enabled by the church, rather than the victim being helped or protected. Also Dr George Simon has some very good information about empowering ourselves to see the patterns and tactics of abuse. At counselling resource.com and manipulative-people.com. Including articles on covert aggression (he explains why he prefers this term to ‘passive aggression’). I’m sorry I don’t know how to provide the direct links. Keep reading and keep learning and your path will gradually become clearer!
Perhaps a little encouragement. At [30 plus] years of my “marriage”, I interviewed a Christian attorney that spent 2 hrs trying to convince me to try a Christian reconciliation council (charged me for 2 hrs also). Then I interviewed a secular attorney recommended by a friend. A year later, to confirm my choice and start the divorce process, I contacted the Christian attorney first. He talked down to me. I thanked God for telling me which one NOT to choose.
The secular attorney was baffled by the antics of my ex, had never seen the likes of him. Took [number redacted] years to finalize the divorce. Thankful that I chose him.
Unless you can look yourself in the mirror and honestly say you want to stay in your marriage, then I encourage you to be proactive tomorrow. And keep moving forward. It’s easy to get stalled out unless you give yourself some deadlines. This is not advice, just encouragement if you are hoping to hear something like what I have experienced. I was stalled out for that year, hoping for him to change, just maybe. Of course, he did not. I just got sicker and more confused.
Only you can make the decision whether to stay or go. It is up to you. You don’t have to meet with this pastor. You’ve been doing this for 30 years. What is your heart telling you. Is the relationship going to get better? Have you been talking to God about it? If you wish you had already left, maybe your have answered your own questions.
Marriedtomyself, Don’t worry, God, your true husband, will work it out. You know already that counseling is not effective for him. One of the topics this blog was addressing recently was about “God only gave Cain one counseling session.” I think this will be helpful to you. Know always that you are not alone and we are praying for you. God bless you.
Praying for you Married …. Your life sounds much like mine. I am attempting to move forward with seeking a legal separation/divorce. I’m still here and it has been 30 plus years of emotional and sexual abuse. Health issues slow me down and I do not have family support; including adult children who favor my spouse.
AS I have been more honest and sought online Biblical counsel from ministries ‘who get it’; it has encouraged me. Sadly, it has been the secular friends and counselors that are more willing to have me free from this relationship that does not honor the Lord.
Have you read the resources and flagship books recommended by ACFJ? They untwist the Scriptures that so many leaders use to keep victims within Christ dishonoring marriages. Keep praying and studying the Scriptures alongside the resources available. I will be praying that protective friends come to your rescue and don’t ever forget that The Lord cares. It is “man” that lies and keeps you in bondage.
As if it isn’t bad enough that the abuser minimizes his offensive actions, sadly the pastor or church counselor will frequently do the same thing. I was told by them that my husband’s verbal abuse, violence, and cheating wasn’t that bad. They claimed that they had seen worse. Basically, they wound up validating him and not me. It took a secular abuse center and my attorney to affirm how horrendously abusive the situation was. The court advocate summed up that my abuser was “Coo-coo Bananas.” Those were her actual words.
Marriedtomyself, I have learned how important it is to follow our instincts. If you feel that the situation is not likely to improve and have decided to divorce the abuser, that is your choice. Don’t let uninformed, Piper groupies, or disinterested individuals make life decisions for you. You have a right to be safe. You are loved by God. Blessings to you.
Dear Marriedtomyself, you are free to state: “I’ve changed my mind. I now realise how unhelpful it was to encourage my husband to see another counselor. I do not want to talk to another pastor, especially not in couple counseling, since I now know that couple counseling is dangerous in domestic abuse.”
And then make your own plans for how you want to obtain safety.
You are not obliged to see any pastor if you don’t want to. Yes, the pastor will probably condemn you for not obeying him, but your can wear that condemnation as a badge of honour, since it shows that you are seeing through the fog and are bravely choosing to follow God rather than scribes and Pharisees.
And here is our tag for Couple Counseling.
It is hard to “forgive and forget” when he keeps REMINDING you of how little you mean to him through HIS forgetting. His focus clearly isn’t on God and you else he would not forget what is important to God. God’s charge to him is to love you as Christ loved the church. Jesus didn’t just forget us, he laid down his life for us. Lucky for your husband he DID that. unfortunately, your husband doesn’t realize the value of that sacrificial love nor the “good” gift that God blessed him with in matrimony to you.
I know that for me, I pulled back to see what husband would do with the marriage. To date, he seems relieved that I am giving him an out. It hurts, but I can’t live a lie pretending that he ever wanted to be married to me in the first place. He has other idols and God wants us to come apart from those in idolatry. And for good reason. What does light have in common with darkness?
I am looking forward to this site shining the light into the corner recesses that I previously clung to as truth. When People throw 1 PET 3:1 at you, keep in mind the audience Peter was writing to, i.e., persecuted Christians in Rome. He was rather prophetic in writing that as Rome was burned to the ground one year later. It was for short term, not long term.
You have prayed and have been around this block for 20+ years. Your deferred heart is growing sick. Protect your heart above all else, for from it springs life.
Sometimes the truth hurts, but it will never harm. Sometimes, like a vaccination shot, we need it to be free.
For those who have not yet read them, here are my two posts on 1 Peter:
1 Peter 3:6 — Sarah’s children do what is right and do not give way to fear
Should wives submit to harsh husbands just like slaves submitting to harsh masters? (1 Peter 2 & 3)
Your husband sounds like mine. Passive covert aggressive and saying one thing and doing another. My husband does this all the time. He too has the support of my older children.
My husband is unmotivated in getting things finished in our home. He will tell me to get a paint chart … I do that, then nothing more is done about it. He dismisses and minimizes all the time.
I totally get what you are going through. I’ve been with my husband for 33 years.
I cannot relate such to not wanting to talk to the Pastor. I don’t want to talk to anyone any more. Noone believes me
loves6, I believe you. ((((HUGS))))
Sorry… predictive text on my phone…. I CAN relate to not wanting to talk to the Pastor.
I have reached out to many over the last year…. my old pastors wife, my mother in law (as she left my husband’s dad because of domestic abuse), my sister in law, my older children, family friends, my friends, my sisters … I have support from none, most of these people think I’m just dramatic and making a mountain out of nothing. ..all in my head.
Yes I think it may be a trauma thing with my older kids, especially my eldest child.
I’m making my moves, be that slowly. I now have a part time job.. just got this recently, a step towards freedom. Even though he has sulked about me not being around. (Not at home for him to just drop in and see when he needs a pick me up) …. he relies on me a lot for his emotional needs…he is like a child. There are many things I constantly juggle with my husband’s moods and behaviour.
Thanks Brenda and solidergirl
Loves6, it’s good to hear you are making your moves, be that slowly. I’ve been wondering how you were getting on. 🙂
I know the tactic of minimization is very real. It is. premeditated act of viciousness, especially when the victim is clearly telling the abuser, “why do you always do that?” But the abuser continues and the vicious cycle never ends. Boy, I have learned a lot with this blog. Also, the book of Proverbs is an excellent tool for wisdom, guidance and healing. It deals a lot with the subject of anger, scornfullness, abuse etc.
Thank you everyone, I appreciate all the encouragement, advice and prayers!!!! It almost makes my stomach turn just thinking about talking to this pastor with my husband. I will take the advice and follow the bad feelings I have about this and not go.
I need advice for my Christian friend who’s husband is and has been verbally abusive for years. Since his retirement he is home all the time and his abuse seems to be escalating. He cruelly criticizes my friend and blames her for his “feelings” of hostility. Yesterday, he pulled out a gun, loaded it, and threatened to kill himself. I think he is spiritually and mentally deranged, but he toys with her. This just happens to be the most dangerous thing he’s done so far.
I am urging her to leave the home, to tell their adult children, as well as talking to suicide counselors. She has kept this secret, except perhaps with me, and her oldest daughter who lives with them.
Thus far, she, as a Christian, has refused to leave him. She feels God will not allow him to hurt her, but I am concerned for not only her physical safety, but her mental and emotional well being as well. I truly don’t believe she realizes just how serious this is and she is taking too much on herself to try to deal with him alone.
I am not sure there is anything you can do. She needs to understand that bad things happen to good people–we live in a fallen world. When he got out a gun and threatened to kill himself she should have called 911 and had him picked up. The would have been a loving move on her part and protected herself at the same time. She has to be the one to want change. Be there for her and pray that she comes out of the fog.
I agree. When someone pulls a gun in a loved ones presence, it automatically becomes a medical emergency in need of serious and immediate intervention.
One of the problems as I see it, is of years of being controlled and dominated by him, and that old myth of always submitting to the husband no matter what.
I think, in a way, she’s afraid of disobeying him and that he would get really mad if she called 911. But this behavior is out of control and over the top. Like I said, he toys with her, but he doesn’t act this way in the presence of their adult children and tries to keep this a best kept secret where he can abuse her in private.
Submission is suppose to come willingly, not with a gun to your head, and it doesn’t mean do as I say no matter what. Submission, love and respect all go together. No force or violence involved.
I just got an e-mail from her saying he was “better this morning after our mutual prayer yesterday.”, and so she gave him his gun back. She said by doing this, she feels now he knows she really cares about him. Then she said, he told her to find out how much Social Security she can get. I take this to mean if he kills himself.
He’s still playing games with her and messing with her mind.
She believes this nonsense. Sigh…..
You may be able to help her by telling her “I’m really concerned for you. I’m concerned for your safety. I know you are not as concerned as I am, but I would be dishonest if I didn’t tell you how concerned I am for your wellbeing and your safety.”
You could also ask her things like “Have you ever considered you are a victim of domestic abuse?”
“Did you know that when a spouse has made a threat with a weapon (whther that threat to to himself or to his partner), that increases the risk that there will be a lethal outcome in the future? The lethal outcome could be that either or both of the partners dies. Either by murder or by suicide. That is why I am very concerned for you. I believe you are in a high risk situation, even if you don’t feel it yourself right now. Would you like to check out what level of risk you are in? There is a good tool on the internet for risk assessment in domestic abuse.”
And here is the link to that tool: Mosaic Threat Assessment Systems
Thank you Barbara. These are intelligent and reasonable suggestions. I have done all that and more to try to reason with her the past few years. All to no avail. She knows she is being abused, but it’s like she’s wearing her long suffering with her abuser as a “badge of honor” in being a “good Christian wife”. She has almost become delusional with her head in the clouds. That last email really got to me. She said, “he even asked me to see how much Soc Sec I would get”, as if that meant he really was concerned for her and loved her. She didn’t seem to realize what he was getting at. It’s just crazy making. All of it.
I for one will study your suggested links. As for me, I could write a book on the danger of abusive situations as a victim of an attempted murder. I barely escaped. I was taken by ambulance to the ER where the staff met the ambulance and asked if I’d been in a car wreck. Women can be so clueless to the danger they’re in.
I’m not giving up on trying to reach her, but I am expecting this situation to escalate to a crisis point unfortunately.
You are being a good friend to her, Scarlett!
The former X has been saying he was going to die soon for the past 10 years. As of last night, he is still walking among us. When I first left him he threatened to kill himself a couple of times, but he owns no guns. Typically if a gun is involved and the person is threatening to use it, they don’t. It’s the ones that say nothing that end up killing themselves. Problem is, if you are waving a loaded gun around–accidents happen. Giving a man a loaded gun that is behaving in this manner is a ticking time bomb. The whole SS thing makes me shutter. He is definitely using any means possible to control her. I am concerned for her safety, but she isn’t.
All you can really do is pray with her and be her friend. If she is not willing to listen to reality, you will have to listen to her. Read the articles here and on Leslie Vernick’s website. Encourage her to read them. Maybe something will click. I don’t understand why she gave him the gun back. That is something that I don’t believe anyone with any expertise in this area would have suggested. I probably would have taken it to a safe place where he and no one else would find it. Perhaps the local police might like to hear what he was doing with it. I might also suggest going to the local women’s shelter and seeking advice there.
Actually Brenda, I’m not worried about him killing himself. Knowing how much he hates and resents her, I’m concerned about that gun going off and killing her, and him claiming it was an accident. I’ve tried to reason with her but I’m afraid she may be loosing touch with reality, because she keeps wrapping what she says in “scriptures” and really believes God has made her bullet proof, and that God will never allow her abusive husband to physically hurt her. I was astonished she gave the gun back to him. She said…” now he must surely know she loves him because she hid the gun so he wouldn’t hurt himself.” She said, because we prayed, there was a breakthrough the next morning and he was better. Then in the next sentence she mentioned the SS thing, as if that meant he really loved and cared about her!
After her last e-mail that was so irrational, I’ve had to back off a bit, and just told her I wanted her to be safe, and I was there for her 24 / 7 night or day, unconditionally if she needed to talk. I encouraged her to stay in touch, but in the meantime, I’m thinking about seeking ways or people to contact who might be able to help in some way. I’ve moved to another state from where she lives so it makes personal contact impossible. She does call me by phone when he pulls some new tactic. All I know is that this is going to escalate as long as she lives in that house with him and it’s not likely to have a good outcome. She has become that delusional that she can’t see the danger. As for him, he has her just where he wants her so that he can continue to abuse and torture her mentally. I did give her the link to this website, and she just passed it off and went back into her God mode.
Scarlett, I agree, he isn’t going to harm himself. It is all part of his control tactics and they are working nicely. He has done his crazy making well. She does need to get away and is not in reality. I like the way that Barbara worded things that you could say to her. Perhaps you could try those things. Perhaps you could invite her to go somewhere for a few days to get her away from the mess. Maybe a change of scenery would bring some perspective. When I said before that accidents do happen, that is actually what I was going for is that he could claim it was an accident and get away with it. No one knows about his past antics. The police would probably buy the story. The darkness needs to be brought into the light.
Brenda, I was just thinking the other day about inviting her to come to the state where I live for a visit, but doubt if she would be able to come or come without him. It disturbs me terribly to think he might do actually cross the line in one of his rages, but as crazy as he is, nothing would surprise me. As for him getting away with killing her, if he thinks no one knows about his abuse all these years, he’s wrong. I have her emails and remember our talks very vividly. Even these posts are a testimony about what’s been going on, not so secretly as he seems to believe. Abused women will often hide abuse from their families, but there is usually a girlfriend they can and will confide in.
I know he doesn’t like the idea of her getting spousal support if they were to divorce. The state where they live is a community property state.
Today, I am going to call the local women’s shelter there. It’s a good one and they have legal counsel and advocates.
Also, I plan to ask her if he pulls that gun again, if she will go to the shelter. If it were me, after what I’ve been through, I would have been out of there in a split second, with my car keys in hand before he even knew what was happening!
I know I’m probably deluging you with too many ideas, Scarlett, but here’s another one.
You could ask her to read my article Why Didn’t You Leave? [Internet Archive link] and to underline or highlight each of the reasons why she does not leave. That process might
a) help her think through and understand where she is at and what her fears are — what are the factors and beliefs that are most strongly holding her back, keeping her where she is; and
b) if she chooses to share her findings with you (the things she highlighted) that would help you understand what is going on in her mind and what are the biggest ‘hooks’ (false beliefs, false guilts, fears, etc.) that are keeping her entrapped. With that more nuanced and informed understanding you may be able to then help her think through it all more, by composing questions to put to her that may prompt her to recalibrate her thinking.
Please feel free to send any comment or link you feel may help. I greatly appreciate any and all suggestions. I will save the link to, “Why Didn’t You Leave?” But unfortunately, she has gone back into her make believe mode. Recently her son and his wife invited her (and the abuser) out for dinner. She and the gun happy husband presented themselves to the family as the perfect parents and married couple and a good pretend time was had by all. She is back in her “honeymoon” phase of believing her actions were instrumental in reassuring her abusive husband that she loves and supports him by first hiding his gun, and then giving it back to him later.
I can tell when she is putting up her wall and shutting herself off. So, I will have to wait until there is yet another crisis when she calls me to talk. I just hope that nothing really bad happens the inevitable “next time”
Eds. slight disidentification made to the details in this post, for safety reasons.
I apologize for the sarcasm in my last comment. It was not directed toward you Barbara. I just feel so frustrated, helpless in being unable to reach her, and pull her back to reality. I also feel some animosity toward her husband.
For these reasons, I am being quietly supportive, and need to back off for awhile. I realize she is blinded to the situation, and why. She has been groomed and brainwashed nearly all her life by church legalism and has followed her sisters examples- who all married abusive, controlling men. What a sad way to choose to live, no matter what the reasons.
It wasnt’ sarcasm that caused me to edit the comment, Scarlett, it was a bit of detail about the doings of the abuse victim and her family that might hve made them identifiable to the perpetrator should he happen to come across this post. We don’t veto sarcasm here!
Of course you’re right for doing so Barbara. I had given her the link to the blog, which she didn’t read. But you never know when she might turn to it.
Scarlett and anyone else dealing with situations like this:
One of the links we have on our Safety Planning page is the Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit
If the victim makes an Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit, this ensures that her words about her fears and previous violence will not disappear if she does.
A victim can make an Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit (EAA) to document her experiences in ways that will help the legal system successfully prosecute in the future, even if she is disappeared, dead or in a coma.
The process combines video taping of the victim’s actual words attesting to the abuse, coupled with witnessed and notarized legal documents that successfully satisfy legal hurdles often faced in intimate partner violence and stalking cases.
The EAA is a unique packaging of testimony + documentation + perpetrator historical profiling + pre-collected evidence delivered to established safe and legal persons = a delicate issue brilliantly wrapped up for successful prosecution.
I”m praying that the Lord will prompt her to come out of the fog, in such a way that a) her life is preserved and she is not permanently disabled by his violence and abuse, b) the step by step process of dropping the pretence and the lies (the God stuff – delusion of safety) will not be so scary for her that she shrinks and caves back into the delusion.
God knows how to craft and design this step by step process in a way that is perfect for her. He can give her baby-step stepping stones.
Scarlett, no one can persuade a victim of abuse to come to the realization that she is a battered wife. However, by being her friend, you are keeping. a door open for spiritual and moral support. Eventually, when she does turn to you for help, you can only offer options that she can take according to God’s word. It’s important that she feels that no one is trying to fix her, this might push her away. But is mire effective to give suggestions on matetials that she can read from a Biblical perspective.
You’re right, and I am trying to be there for her, do these things you’ve suggested, and stay calm myself.
I don’t think she realizes the danger she is in. In his mind, she is the enemy, and the cause of his misery and unhappiness. He hates her but won’t leave??
However, I can tell she’s concerned about him pulling out that gun and loading it. along with threats. She hid the gun, saying that she didn’t want him to hurt himself, but then he said he’d just buy another one. He does this as his usual control mechanism to keep her in line. Meanwhile, she continues to stay in that house with him, thinking she is spiritual enough that she can pray and “leave it all in God’s hands’. But then, conversely, she called me yesterday telling me all about this escalation in his behavior. We talked and then prayed about it. And then late last night, she did an SOS message on her cell phone that “he was asking for his gun”. I can’t call her because of him, but I sent a more serious e-mail with some information and suggested strongly that she couldn’t take this on alone, and that I didn’t think God expected her to, and that this called for intervention and perhaps separation between the two of them until he shows true signs of change. Like you said…basically she has to be the one to come to her senses. She can’t save him.
Scarlett, I have a few suggestions for you.
You could ring the Domestic Violence hotline and tell them the story. They would have some good tips for you I think, and help you think through options of how you might be able to best support your friend.
You could look at our Resources pages for Supporters of Victims of Domestic Abuse and Family and Friends. We have quite a few links on those two pages. (Note: some of the links appear on both pages.)
Thanks Barbara. I will do that right now.
Jesus bless you for all you do!
“He might admit part of what he did was wrong, and usually not the most serious part. By using the tactic, he tries to manipulate others into thinking he’s not such a bad person (impression management) and continues his active war against submission to a principle of social behavior.”
He might have been counseled to confess and admit his errors, so he does it, with tears, but his actions show that he does not fully recognize the extent of his abuse. Before long, the real beliefs show up. Blame, denial, minimization, overt and subtle, it all comes pouring out.
I just checked on Amazon: Why Is He So Mean To Me? can also be purchased on Kindle. Some women living with their abusers can read safely on Kindle without their abusers knowing what they are reading. I guess it depends on whether the victim uses Kindle (you can read Kindle on any device, such as an ordinary laptop, you don’t need to purchase a Kindle Reader) AND whether the woman has her device well protected so the abuser cannot stalk her electronic activities.
See our resources page on Cyber Safety if you want to learn more about this. We are not experts on it, but we have some good links on that page that may help readers learn more about how to guard against cyberstalking by their abusers.