Thursday Thought — How Do I Make Conflicts with Him Go Better?

You have perhaps noticed that I haven’t written about how you can resolve conflicts with your partner more constructively.  That’s no accident.  I don’t believe that a woman can make things go better with a controlling or abusive man by changing how she argues with him.  Some people may say that you should bring things up with him in a very diplomatic, nondemanding manner, almost like you’re asking him for a favor.  Others will tell you the opposite: that you should be firm and non-nonsense with him, setting clear limits and boundaries about his behavior.  You may be advised to talk just about how you feel, so that you don’t sound like you are criticizing your partner.  Some people believe that you’ll reach him more successfully if you give him lots of reassurance that you love him and that you’re just trying to make your relationship go better.

Some days, one or more of these approaches may seem to actually work.  But it’s an illusion.  Within a few days or weeks he’ll be right back to his usual behaviors. This is one of the ways you can identify the fact that your partner is abusive:  There simply is no “right way” to talk to him.

It makes sense to improve your own behavior, but for a different reason:  because it will help you build your own self-respect, and it will help your children.  It won’t change him.

(Entry from Lundy Bancroft’s Daily Wisdom for Why Does He Do That? [Affiliate link] p196)

***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. 


27 thoughts on “Thursday Thought — How Do I Make Conflicts with Him Go Better?”

  1. How would you approach the devil and how would you expect him to react? Cuz it’s the same principle.

    […] dealing with someone who loves no one besides himself and whose very nature is to accuse, trick, deceive, gain power and glorify himself, to persecute God’s children and to hurt as many as possible while simultaneously gathering God’s other children together against the one he has singled out. This deal is taking place 24 / 7 and every thought they have is to harm others while exalting themselves.

    Satan is 100% evil without a drop of goodness–from the beginning (John 8:44). Those who belong to him are exactly the same and they LOVE what they are. We know from God’s word that the evil one often APPEARS to be working toward helping God’s little ones understand truth (Eve), but this is just a ploy he uses in order to enslave her and all of humanity. And all throughout the Bible we see how he whines and complains and finds fault and grumbles about not being able to harm God’s children the way he wants to (Job) or how he is simply misunderstood and should be God himself (2 Thessalonians 2:4). We see that he has many working with him (demons) and that there are levels to evil as there are some demons more evil than others (Matthew 12:45) and some abusers are more evil than others as well. (Some rape, torture and kill their victims, others brutally destroy them through psychological warfare without ever raising their voice or displaying any emotion.)

    The last paragraph is a great summarization of how to survive — and thrive:

    It makes sense to improve your own behavior, but for a different reason: because it will help you build your own self-respect, and it will help your children. It won’t change him.

    Because WE –God’s true children– matter to Him and He loves us and desires to help and strengthen us. He has NO love for children who have chosen to worship themselves just like THEIR father the devil. Make no mistake, those who belong to their father the devil DESIRE ABOVE ALL THINGS to be who and what they are.

    These have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations… (Isaiah 66:3)

    1. With all due respect, it is not true that all who are under the bondage of sin and in effect Satan, are abusers. “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and FROM THE POWER OF SATAN UNTO GOD, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them who are sanctified by faith that is in Me.” Acts 26:18

      Also, you said “”God has NO love for children who have chosen to worship themselves.” That statement has errors and I can site Scripture point by point to present my case. I am by no means defending those who abuse. But this is a dedicated “Christian” website – from what I have read – and there is nothing to gain by making broad sweeping statements that are not truly grounded in God’s Word, as if it were.

      God bless you.

      1. Hi Anon2, and welcome to the blog.

        I agree with this statement of yours:

        it is not true that all who are under the bondage of sin and in effect Satan, are abusers.

        I think that probably the Anonymous you were responding to was meaning only to refer to abusers, not to everyone who hasn’t come to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

        In regards to your second paragraph, I think I can see your point. The expression “children who have chosen to worship themselves” can be somewhat ambiguous. I suspect that the other Anonymous meant the kinds of people Jesus referred to as children of the devil —

        You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)

        The reason I suspect that is what she meant is that she used the word ‘children’.

        At the same time, I believe you are right in pointing out that not all unbelievers are described as having the devil as their father. The Bible talks about how all unbelievers are in the domain of darkness, and “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19b). But that is not the same as saying that all unbelievers are abusers.

        Thanks for your contribution to the blog. We always like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

      2. Thank you Barb for your clarification and thank you Anon2 for letting me elaborate.

        When I refer to those that God does not love, I am referring to those who have a seared conscience — those whose fate has been sealed by the choices they made. Here’s a link to another post on this website that helps explain part of my reasoning for my comment Does Unconditional Love Even Exist?

        The Bible verse you quoted above (Acts 26:18) refers to those who are under the “authority” of the devil (exousia: conferred power; delegated empowerment, operating in a designated jurisdiction, and hence of an earthly power) whereas those I’m referring to are described in John 8:44 BELONG (patér:: a father, one who has infused his own spirit into others, who actuates and governs their minds; one who shows himself as like another in spirit and purpose as though he had inherited his nature from him) to him and are his TRUE children.

        This part,

        With all due respect, it is not true that all who are under the bondage of sin and in effect Satan, are abusers.

        This is true and I didn’t say or even imply that all who are unsaved were abusers. In fact I listed the type of person I was referring to in the second paragraph, (this type of person IS an abuser) “…whose very nature is to accuse, trick, deceive, gain power and glorify himself…” These are the people in the church who CLAIM to be of God but whose nature represents all the characteristics of the devil, and who are ACTIVELY pitting God’s children against each other.

        I wrote, “…dealing with someone who loves no-one besides himself..” This comes from 2 Tim 3:2, “People will be lovers of themselves…” The word for this is philautos and it is used only once in the Bible. It means, “self-loving, selfish.” The passage (2 Tim 3:1-5) is a checklist that God’s children are to utilize in order to help us identify those who DO belong to Satan and how we are to react to them.

        A person who is yet unsaved with a conscience can learn and hear and come to the Lord, but we need to heed the truth written in God’s word that tells us that some people never will because they love their sin and the glory they receive here on earth — and we need to be allowed to speak the truth about them and learn how to tell the difference.

        Please note that I am responding to a post that describes an abuser who is irrational and abusive, who doesn’t change and doesn’t seem to see the need to change and (in this article) several approaches are addressed but the author states that it will not matter in the long run because when dealing with certain abusive personality types — change is an illusion. They can’t see the log in their own eye.

        As the article in the link above points out there is no such thing as “unconditional love” and forcing those who are capable of loving others to love EVERYONE unconditionally is not biblical and drains us of the love God meant for those he wishes to reach. Discernment through the Holy Spirit and testing all the spirits is what the Bible tells us to do and as we learn to listen to the Holy Spirit’s counsel though the study of God’s word, we are able to grow in wisdom and knowledge of Him.

        And part of that wisdom is realizing and identifying that some people desire above all things to worship / love only themselves, and the Bible addresses this many times. Jude 1:12, Romans 1:28-32, 1 Tim 4:2 and others. Most of us here were never taught these biblical truths and have been running around trying to be everything to everyone, and this is not only soul-destroying but anti-biblical. We need ALL the truth of God’s word and part of that truth is that there are some people that God DOES NOT LOVE and these people are TRUE children of their father the devil — they have the same nature. It’s because of the choice they made to harden their own hearts that God then continues to harden them further.

        Thank you for giving me a chance to reiterate what was written and to re-read a good post!

  2. Absolutely true! I have had one mind-numbing conversation / discussion / argument with him after another. I come away from each one trying to figure out what I could have done differently or better. How did I go wrong that time? There is no way to do it better or to do it right. Thank you for this.

  3. My, oh, my, oh, my. This.

    I tried every single way there is to the moon and back. Not a single thing would work. Maybe the actual “conversation” would go “better” but nothing helped the relationship. If we seemed to have a good “conversation” without an extreme blow up, it would seem like something was resolved, it would feel like it “worked.” But nothing would change. Or whatever issue I was hoping he would “change what he did,” yeah, it sure would change. Revealing that something he was doing created a problem for me was the surest guarantee that he would ramp up that behavior! Telling him how much I appreciated something good? Guarantee he would stop doing it!

    There is no winning.

  4. People advise me to not upset the apple cart or to make sure I pacify him so he won’t explode or get angry but Lundy is right – he is angry all the time anyway and there is no right way to approach him. Also, constant striving to get along — I feel like it enables him him to freely continue to abuse.

    1. Starlight — oh, yes. Some would call this “walking on eggshells”, as if all he needed to keep from “being upset” is to change your behavior depending on the direction of the wind. It’s truly sad that people would advise you in this manner. Abusers love to see their victims tiptoeing around them. It’s yet another twisted power play.

  5. As I was getting ready to leave my ex, I was mad and decided to just be argumentative and nasty whenever I felt like it, instead of always being kind and thoughtful and mindful like I always had been. He actually briefly treated me better when I was flat out mean. It really drove home to me that my side of the conversation really had no bearing on his side, ever.

    1. I discovered conversing with my ex-abuser became a game of his to try to get me to doubt my ability to communicate effectively by spinning my words into something to use against me.
      By him replying irrationally to any rational and reasonable request of mine- he hoped to continue to errode any remaining confidence, self esteem or dignity of mine.
      Thus hoping to set me up to be depend on his perceptions, and decisions for the future.
      As if he is the only one that can make sense.
      It was a slow but intentional process of his.

      Once I realized his agenda and decided nothing good could come out of being married to such a person, I stopped talking to him about most things because it only gave him an opportunity to further affect me.
      Doing this gave me a clearer sense of control.
      Although he clearly got anxious once he realized I was on to him.
      After that I started making a secret plan to get free.

      1. That sounds like something you could see as a helpful insight. If your fears are holding you back, would it help making a list of the fears, and then bit by bit brainstorming what you might be able to do to (a) reduce the risk of a feared thing coming to pass, and / or (b) confront a fear and explore how to shrink it, how to make it appear more like a molehill and less like a mountain. If fears are put on the table for inspection under a strong light, and disentangled one from another, you may find that helpful. But if not, just throw my suggestion in the bin!

        Our Safety Planning page may be of some help to you.

      2. Stands For Truth, your story is my story. I could not have said it better. Spinning my words and hurling them back in my face was the biggie.

        He would love seeing me frustrated, knowing that’s not at all what I said and of course he enjoyed watching me defend myself. He was a master at putting me on the defensive. On several occasions he did it in front of his son…he would bring up something I said previously, completely twist my words and package them in lies and then put on a magnificent display of being a victim. He could even get his eyes to tear up and say how badly I hurt him. Academy Award for sure! His son would glare at me and, well, you get the picture.

      3. I have also discovered that covert abusers always take their victims at “face value.”
        This knowledge can be played to your advantage.
        –In other words the way you act and what you say; they will believe.

        (Although ironically you can never take them at face value-because they are masters at saying one thing and doing another)
        So with this in mind, once you realize that the abuser is taking what you say and using it against you, it is time to change what you “choose to talk about”- in front of him.
        This way that the material he has to work with is boring or “benign” material.
        (Stuff that you know does not matter)

        “Like you could go on about a certain type of of toilet paper that you like”.
        Or talk about how you need to Google a recipe to find out how to make a certain dish… Anything that takes the attention away from talking about what you truly value.

        This way the “dead space” of important stuff you decided to no longer talk about, gets filled with talk about the new “non important stuff”, and he wont know what happened. (the best part)
        Suddenly you have sidetracked his ability to attack whats important to you, and at the same time are taking away his ability to target you.

      4. It’s good to be wise and protect yourself, but I wouldn’t try to outsmart an abuser unless it was the only option available. I wouldn’t underestimate them either. They can be extremely clever and have a way of reading you when you don’t even realize it. And they have the great advantage of lacking a conscience.The best thing is to get right away from them.

      5. KayE, this is a stradegy that I used, that actually worked without his knowledge and helped me get back in control of protecting my intrests.

        On subjects that he brought up that I knew was a set up, I chose not to comment because I could tell where it would be going.
        Or if it was a catch 22 question, I would say let me think about that, and I’ll get back with you.

        My abuser was constantly acting, so he couldnt tell when I was acting.
        He was blind to it – because thats what he did all the time.
        So if I felt the need to fill dead air space, subtle topic deviations worked, and most of the time he never commented because it was subject matter that he couldnt really work with.
        (or should I say work against)

        Remember, its our “own words” that the abuser uses against us- so why not choose subjects that wont give him much to work with?

        This is smart stradegy all around because once you know what an abuser is doing, it keeps the target from being set up.

        Another thing that I learned from an admin from a blog about charactor disordered people is that they really dont have any values.

        This is why much of their time is spent targeting the things we value.
        They try to use our values against us to manipulate and control us.

        Once we realise we are with someone like this, we must be smart about what we “choose” to talk or not talk about.

      6. Standsfortruth I guess I didn’t explain myself properly. I don’t doubt at all that the strategy worked for you, and could work for others. I just disagree with the idea that covert abusers ALWAYS take things at face value, because it certainly wasn’t true of my ex. He is expert at reading people and knowing what they really value. He can seem very sincere and charming, but he doesn’t care about other people, only about what he can get from them.
        I did try the exact strategy you describe, but it only worked superficially. This man knew what was most important to me deep down, no matter how much I tried to hide it from him. And when he realized that he no longer had control of me, he set out to systematically destroy all the things that were most precious to me. Things like my health, my reputation, my career, my home, my pets, my friendships, my relationships with my family and my relationships with my children. He was overwhelmingly successful in doing a great deal of that. The only thing he couldn’t touch at all was my faith, although he tried.
        My personal experience is of an abuser who is so incredibly slick in his deception and ability to manipulate people that there is no safe way to communicate with him at all. Very fortunately they’re not all as bad as that. I agree that it’s smart not to let covert abusers know too much about your real thoughts.

    2. Yep!

      When it became obvious what my husband was and that no amount of truth, reasoning, modeling perfect behavior on my part, had any positive effect on him (and it only wore me out), I sometimes resorted to pre-school comebacks such as:

      “I know you are, but what am I?”
      “I’m rubber and you’re glue so whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you!”
      “Who cares?!”
      “Big whoop!”

      Did it change him? Of course not. BUT, it did make whatever he’d said to me that had induced me to respond so childishly, look childish too. And he often paused to search through the filo folder in his brain for the “right response,” and came up short. If I was willing to resort to such obviously childish phrases–it shone light on what I thought of his ridiculous arguments. Ah, romance!

      1. I’m pretty sure I may have responded ‘Big Whoop’ to my abuser a few times when he was criticising something I’d done. But it was a risky thing to say, because he could easily escalate when his illogic and demand-man tactics were shown up for what they were.

        He believed sarcasm was something he was entitled to use freely and liberally against me, but I didn’t have the right to use it back to him.

  6. Some types (like the type I’ve delt with) need lots of prayer and maybe fasting along with multiple adults witnessing and dissaproving, cognitive behavioral therapy given by the targets, firm boundaries and negative consequences to boundary violations. If this doesn’t work, avoid them. Get help.

    I once had to call the police on my sister-in-law. It helped.

  7. Crazy-making, that’s what it is. No matter what you do, what you say, whether you’re sweet and loving or firm and clear, it’s all going to end the same way: in chaos and confusion. There really is no way to create a win / win with an abuser because by their very nature they need to come out on top. Twisting your words when you’re sweet, accusing YOU of being abusive or unfair when you’re firm, or changing the agreed-upon game plan later are all ways he insures he maintains the control he’s “entitled” to have in the relationship. (In fact, on this last point, I finally stopped agreeing to things in mediation during the divorce because my ex-abuser always changed his mind a week later. Go figure! After twenty-five years you would have thought I’d learned!)

  8. Yes, I agree with this post. There is never a right way or a right time to bring up anything he disagrees with. It doesn’t matter how kind or how firm. He will blameshift. He will minimize. He will ignore. He will manipulate. He will pout.

    I have come to realize some people will have a problem regardless of what’s said or not said….. I’m trying hard not to be that way myself by focusing on my reactions & responses. I’m trying to not get wrapped up in his drama, doing what I can to break the cycle.

  9. I wore myself out in an attempt to figure out what would make him happy and please him. Then I figured it out, he did not want a resolution. He was enjoying tormenting and psychologically torturing me. This was a game to him; and he loved it! He had a large gun collection and when he started sitting around cleaning guns and glaring at me, and placing them on the nightstand while talking about suicide if I left him, I knew it was game over for me… either walk out or be carried out. And besides, as I made attempt to please him I only ever end up being the cat chasing the laser beam pointed by a sociopath, the story we’ve all heard here on this site.

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