Women who are in unhealthy relationships struggle with the question “Is my partner’s behavior normal?” You may wonder whether the problem is that you’re just too sensitive, or that your expectations are unrealistic. One way to get clear on the nature of your partner’s problem is to notice when he gets you back for doing something he doesn’t like. Payback is not normal in a couple. People in healthy relationships get upset with each other, of course, but they don’t get revenge.
Each time that he uses verbal abuse toward you, or the silent treatment, or intimidation, or emotional cruelty, ask yourself, “Is there something he is punishing me for?” You will find that the answer is usually yes. He’s getting you back for:
- A way you stood up to him
- A way you didn’t cater to him as if he were a master and you were his servant
- A way you tried to have your own life
- A way you didn’t live up to some absurd ideal he has
The attachment to payback toward his partner is one of the central reasons an abusive or controlling man has the problem that he does. The more you can recognize the times when he is getting you back for things, the easier it will be for you to avoid getting sucked into believing that something is wrong with you. His vengeful acts show that he is the one with the problem.
(Entry from Lundy Bancroft’s Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That? [Affiliate link] pp202-203)
***IMPORTANT NOTE: While we endorse Lundy’s writings about the dynamics of domestic abuse, we do not recommend anyone attend the “healing retreats” Lundy Bancroft offers or become involved in his “Peak Living Network”. See our post, ACFJ Does Not Recommend Lundy Bancroft’s Retreats or His New Peak Living Network for more about our concerns.
18 thoughts on “Thursday Thought — His Attachment to Payback”
I was locked out of our house (after the separation) for daring to criticize a friend of his. He practically goes insane if I ever say anything bad about that person. This person if getting lots of money from him and there’s nothing I can do about it because the fight would be horrible if I complained. At least God knows and will deal with it someday in His perfect timing. Keep praying for me!
I wish I had seen this sooner for what it was. My stbx has been getting back at me since we were dating. By the end I was finally standing up to him. Each time I did, I knew it would mean the silent treatment, that he would call me by my mother’s name like it was a curse word (he hated her), and the chance he’d go after yet another woman. The event he called the final straw in our relationship was me demanding that we take better care of our kids’ pets. [Several animals have died] because he refused to let us care for them properly. I said no more in a very firm way. That day his revenge was to decide to divorce me and make the following three years a living hell of manipulation, driving me to want to die and to think I was crazy. Not even a troubled child has fits like that. I can’t believe I wanted to keep him. I am so thankful to be free of the revenge.
Ah yes, the ol’ call her by her mother’s name. How well I know that one, along with, “no wonder your parents hated you…” etc. These episodes never occurred until after we got married, so I truly had no idea what lay ahead. Academy Award winner, here.
Yep, I was called Mrs. So and So as well (anything but my married name). These monsters of abuse all seem to have the same DNA…
Does this include passive-aggressive treatment? I think I consider the silent treatment passive-aggressive too, as well as withholding anything good from us.
Hi Gothard Survivor,
Did you know that the term ‘passive-aggressive’ is often misused and therefore misunderstood by the general population?
For more info, see these posts:
Covert aggression is not the same as passive aggression
Overt and Covert Aggression
Barbara — I just read both of the blog posts you cited regarding covert aggression, but I wanted to ask: could certain “passive” behaviors also be considered “covert” aggression or vice versa (such as The Silent Treatment)? I thought the posts were clarifying, but then some of the comments brought up certain situations where I had trouble distinguishing between certain aspects of passive and covert aggression.
My husband operates in very subtle, covert manners, but has actually said to me when I confessed something and apologized to him, “I don’t get angry, I just get even.” I remember having a check in my spirit saying “Yes, I think he’s telling the truth here!” I believe he uses my mistakes / sin that I have confessed as a justification for whatever he would like to do without a guilty conscience. And, he confessed at one point after a very hurtful situation in our marriage that he had done what he had because of a sin (that I came to him on my own and confessed and grieved over) I committed early on in our marriage.
That was one of my big “a-ha” moments that something was really off in our marriage.
Yes, very occasionally abusers DO speak the unvarnished truth. Your ‘ah-ha’ was spot on.
Payback–another excellent identifier of an abuser […] These people are grudge holders and it is just another manifestation of their HEART. It has NOTHING to do with others around them but unfortunately we are never taught to look out for evil people and are often instructed by the church to interact with them and not to judge them but to examine ourselves instead. So much evil perpetuated by those who are supposed to help God’s little ones identify it (evil) in order to stay away from it!
What’s in the heart the mouth speaks.
I’ve been experiencing this today, I think. We both have some intense trigger issues. But he won’t acknowledge his unless he is very angry and dumping it on me and he won’t admit when that’s what is in play. I asked him some questions about a thing we are fixing that can’t be sold unless its working right and was concerned about whether this or that would cause any problems. He blew up, yelling and screaming, claiming I was nit picking him and trying to tell him what to do, that I was just like his mother, who told him what to do and knew nothing about what he was doing.
Even after I apologized for coming off bossy and tried to explain where I was actually coming from, he still followed me railing at me and insulting me, making comments like “Well how about I follow you around and nitpick your housework”, etc. It was so beyond childish and petty that I wondered why he couldn’t hear himself. The payback was to throw down his tools and refuse to complete the project in an act of defiance. When I pointed out to him that his fighting style was dirty and unjust and used tactics similar to that of relatives he’s complained about, he got mad and said I was only supposed to apologize and not compare him to so and so. He twists what I say and says things he knows are slanted and unfair. He rips me to shreds with his ugliness but is only conscious of his feelings, his hurt and my sin. Never his. According to him its all about me. Could have fooled me. I am the one who is dying on the inside and is the first to try and make things right even when it would seem just to almost anyone if I punched him out! That’s the pattern. When we have a fight, he acts like nothing happened and rarely does a thing to take responsibility to patch things up between us. He does not own his own sin and his idea of an apology is “Sorry for how that went”, or “sorry for how I handled that”. Never even an admission of how cruel or unjust he was or an expression of concern that he has really hurt me. In fact I’ve seen him purposely be a jerk and then smirk like he thinks its funny. So fed up with him.
I have my own daddy issues; probably why I was so desperately pursuing him and stayed with him. But they don’t include vicious blistering tirades over some trigger and a refusal to even consider that I may have an issue. He either needs to face that he is abusing his wife because of his hate for his mother and get some help and healing for it or I need to be out of here. Really asking God to guide this train.
Even More Anonymous, this sounds so much like my ex.
Many unaddressed projects and problems were ongoing- around the house because if I dared to call him on them, we would end up in a crazy making circular argument.
I look back on it all now and it seems like he was setting me up to be in a catch 22 situation.
For me to make mention of these issues was always problematic because it gave him something to spin on back at me.
But to not mention they wore me down because they needed to be addressed.
I finally started Googling online tutorials of these unfinished projects to see how I could finish them, because many of them had to do with getting the house ready to sell.
(a house that was approaching foreclosure)
I now see how he was purposely working against me on issues that I felt convicted about, and enjoyed the game of doing so.
He knew how much these undone projects bothered me, and if I mentioned them, it would give him opportunity for another circular argument.
Even More Anonymous Than Usual, what you’ve described is sadly very typical of abusers and I hope you keep reading the posts on this website to see that the behaviors displayed by your husband actually just reveal HIS true nature and his heart. It’s soul-destroying because as you’ve explained, it doesn’t ever seem to be his fault and the focus and the blame is always and easily twisted and put on you.
It may be hard to understand but your husband’s behavior has NOTHING to do with you or your “daddy issues” and all to do with him needing to control, harm, manipulate and blame someone else. Satan is exactly the same way and if it hadn’t been Eve in the garden, his lies and manipulation would have been the same for any poor soul who happened to be there. Sadly, we are just the ones who didn’t get away fast enough and who weren’t forewarned about him and his tactics. It has nothing to do with his hatred for his mother either–this too is just another place to put blame. It all belongs to him.
Thank you again Standsfortruth for giving great examples of the crazy-making behavior this evil brings into our life. As the Bible says–there is no peace with these people just like there is no peace with their father the devil. The “peaceful” moments of the relationship are simply times the abuser is using to lull us into a false sense of, “See, I am not that bad,” so that later when he once again revels in his abusive nature–he can remind us that he’s not always like this.
Sigh. Another one of those gaps that will never heal. I’ve read the original post and comments many times over the last few months.
I get it. Really I do.
I just don’t see it occurring anywhere or anytime in my life. Yet with my history, I know it has to have happened.
I wonder if this took the wind out of their sails……..or if I responded according to plan.
Hi Finding Answers, I wonder whether this could be the reason you don’t see the payback occurring anytime in your life:
Since you were abused and very deeply traumatized in infancy, maybe that made you so afraid that you didn’t overtly resist any of the other abuses that were done to you later. If the victim does not overtly resist the abuse, the abuser(s) don’t need to go into ‘PayBack’ mode to crush the victim’s resistance.
All victims resist oppression. But sometimes, oftentimes, the only way victims can safely resist is in their minds, or in really subtle ways, ways so subtle that the abusers and intimidators will not detect it, and therefore will not retaliate to crush them.
I think the way you have resisted the abuse has almost always, or always, been internal – I think you resisted in the privacy of your soul and your body, and you kept it private so the abusers who were surrounding you and continually hounding you would not escalate and ‘up the ante’.
Would it be helpful for you to re-read this PDF? Honouring Resistance: How Women Resist Abuse in Intimate Relationships [Internet Archive link]
And would perhaps your sibling’s diabolical chant be a form of payback – a kind of ‘payback in advance’ so to speak – to make sure you never disclosed, never reported, never pushed back?
Maybe threats and warnings are ‘payback in advance’…to preempt the victim from speaking out and seeking justice.
I read your reply over….and over….and over….knowing something was there for me. Yet, a blank. The blankness of mind indicating one of those “holes” or “gaps”.
I re-read the booklet on honouring resistance. Although I didn’t find an immediate answer, I was able to identify a few areas I had resisted in the past I had not thought of in prior reading.
The Holy Spirit led me to the words – I would never have been able to find them on my own.
I resisted by staying alive….
The Holy Spirit leads me to follow this thought, though I have only a vague idea where He might be taking me. (And now the writing gets hard, not “fog” hard, but “blankness” hard. The difference is very real. I am being led to create from nothing.)
I have survived over halfway through five decades of life. I don’t think anyone expected that, especially me. When people say God does not “micromanage” life, they are not entirely accurate. I have had times in my life – including since the walls crumbled – when every aspect of life is guided. This complicated sorting out the difference between “abuser”, “God-as-abuser”, and God as loving Papa. (Not an easy task to trust when there is no emotional boundary for security.)
I want to survive. I want to live. God has given me the tenacity to fight, the capacity and capability to learn, the understanding I must work within limitations resulting from a lifetime of abuse.
I am a “misfit”. I’m OK knowing I am one. It’s not a new role for me. 🙂
God knows where He wants to plant me. Presumably, He wants me to survive. I don’t have His “big picture” sight, and I am terrified of all the unknowns. I am torn between trusting Him and not trusting Him. I have no concept of security.
(……insert net-speak for praying for hope….)
I’m in awe and praising God for this.