Saturday, July 23, 2011

Cute or Cruel? The Fine Line Between Play and Abuse in Relationships and Marriage

One of the easiest ways to learn how to do something right, including creating attraction, is to model the behavior of someone who is already skilled. However, you still have to know enough about the process to know whether the behavior you are thinking about modeling is the right behavior to model.

I hope you are enjoying this day as much as I am. In the July 13, 2011 edition of this newsletter (, I wrote to you about playing with women, and how many of the things we do with each other as men to bond and help each other develop “a thicker skin” are perceived differently by women, cruel in fact, because they use the same behavior to attack each other and therefore misconstrue some of our joking as an attack as well.

This is obviously not well-received by a woman from a man who tells her that he loves her. That lesson inspired the following letter from Nina, who notes the difference between ignorance and abuse (and yes, there are valuable lessons here for those of you whose relationships don’t involve abuse, so please stick with me here and you’ll see what I mean):

Hi David,

My husband and I have been reading your newsletters since we started having trouble last summer, and your book has made a world of difference in our life. We were in a bit of a death spiral, bored and frustrated with each other and had begun picking and sniping at each other in retaliation against what we both thought were deliberate attacks and disrespect, and I need to thank you for helping us get that all sorted out.

He’s back to being the man I married, and I feel better about our marriage and my life now than I’ve ever felt, because Karl never bores me anymore. He’s fun and playful one minute and strong and decisive the next, and in spite of his growing “spare tire” around his middle and his receding hairline, he keeps me in the clouds, if you know what I mean. And by the way, thanks so much for teaching him about the value of anticipation and taking it slow. We’re both enjoying that part of our life more than we did during our dating and honeymoon periods combined.

I wanted to tell you about something I saw today, and have been seeing since our new neighbors moved in. I didn’t realize what I was really seeing until your newsletter about how men and women play differently. I thought that this was what our neighbor Gene was doing to his wife Carrie, but I think I was wrong. Every time we’re over there, no matter who is around or how Carrie really looks (she’s usually very slender and fit but sometimes she puts on a couple of extra pounds when she has to work late a lot at the hospital here), he’ll walk up and say to her, “You’re looking pretty chunky in those shorts (or pants or whatever). We’re going to have to get that weight off of you!” And then he’ll swat her on her bottom or pinch her or grab her and pull her skin to make love handles. It embarrasses her so badly that she’ll start crying and walk away, and he just laughs.

I thought for a long time that he was really that stupid and insensitive, but I’ve noticed other things lately. She never leaves the house without him, and very often when we’re all together and she’s asked a question, she’ll look at him before answering, and won’t answer until he makes eye contact with her and twitches some part of his face. I’ve never seen him hit her, and haven’t seen any bruises, but I think he’s controlling and abusing her, because she never looks happy and often the only way I can describe the way she looks is “trapped.” Is there anything that I can say to her or do for her to help her through this?

Thank you so much for your help, and for listening,

My reply:

Hi Nina,

I’m so happy to hear that you and your husband have had such success, and I’m equally sorry to hear that your neighbor is having such trouble. There is nothing to help her through, except exiting the relationship, unless she wants to risk going to jail by cracking him in the head with an iron skillet next time he abuses her, and the best that can do is give her relief, not a good marriage. A good marriage can’t be had with an abuser.

Seriously, this is probably out of your league and hers. She needs some professional help to help her understand that she doesn’t have to tolerate his abuse and should in fact give him an ultimatum to either stop or leave, and that’s obviously not something that can be successfully handled by e-mail or phone, so she needs to find a local counselor.

What you can do for her is to point out to her that her accepting his behavior is self-destructive and unnecessary, that his behavior is controlling and abusive and not the “norm” for male behavior, and that if she is uncomfortable facing him down herself that she should get counseling from someone who specializes in abuse cases and start getting the problem handled. But be warned, she may try to suck you into her problems, or begrudge you sticking your nose into her marriage, and getting involved in your neighbor’s domestic disputes and relationship problems can land you in all sorts of trouble, including emotionally draining you to the point of damaging your relationship with your husband or causing a feud with your neighbor, so don’t let that happen.

Take care, and keep in touch,

What can the rest of us learn from this situation? First, some women are just as capable and skilled at this kind of controlling, demoralizing behavior as men; indeed, some of them are even better at it than we are. They may not even make a pretense of playing with you; they may just attack you outright in public, airing your dirty laundry, discussing your mistakes and failures, describing in detail your embarrassing moments, complaining about things you do, etc.

But not every attack is abuse. Pay close attention here so you can learn to distinguish between a desperate plea for negotiation and abuse…

When a woman does this infrequently and it’s limited to a single issue, like some on-going disagreement that you’re having, it’s a sign that the two of you are having a communication problem on that issue, she’s frustrated, and thinking that she may get you to work harder to listen to her if she gives you a dose of embarrassment and frustration as punishment. Not the best solution in the world for sure, but malice, control, and abuse are not the motivation behind the problem. She’s merely getting desperate for communication and trying to bully you a bit to get it and punishing you for making it rough for her. HOWEVER…

If the attacks are frequent, and not related to problems, but to things that destroy self-esteem, like overtly trying to embarrass you over your receding hairline or recent weight gain, being passed over for promotion at work, etc., hitting hot buttons that have nothing to do with anything in dispute and especially target your manhood and independence, you have a spouse abuser on your hands, seeking to control you and keep you close to home by destroying your self-esteem and making you seek their approval.

On the issue of abuse, we have it just a little easier than most women. Most of us don’t generally have to worry about our wife beating us to a pulp and putting us in the hospital. But that’s about the only advantage. They can still hurt us financially in any number of ways, including burying us in debt and keeping us there, relentlessly putting us down in front of people to the point that we withdraw from the outside world to keep from being embarrassed in front of anybody we know, acting seductive toward other men in our presence or even bringing them home, and in extreme cases, even mixing things like mild poisons, things we’re allergic to (peanuts, shell fish, etc.) in our food in just high enough a concentration to make us miserable without endangering us. Abusers, male and female alike, don’t want their victim dead, they want them utterly submissive, alive and healthy enough to fully experience the abuse.

If you are with such a person, you can leave or throw them out. There may not be any criminal charges to file, and life may be a bit rough for a little while as you get used to being on your own again, but the truth is that no matter how insecure your abuser makes you feel, you don’t have to take it, and there are others in the world who will treat you with love and respect. It may take you awhile to heal and regain both your self-respect and your ability to trust women again, but you can do it, and I and thousands of others are capable of helping you through it, so you don’t have to do it alone, either.

Being well-matched is one of the cornerstones of a great relationship, and something I devote a lot of time and energy to explaining and helping you to understand in "THE Man’s Guide to Great Relationships and Marriage," and being strapped to an abuser for the rest of your life is definitely NOT what anyone except possibly a masochist would call “being well-matched.”

Getting away from an abuser (and that includes predators who use attacks on your self-esteem to keep you submissive and in the habit of spending your entire life for their benefit at the expense of your own) first requires ascertaining that you are indeed with one, then either quashing their abusive behavior or separating yourself from them (almost everyone ends up doing the latter, because the underlying problems that make one an abuser of any kind rarely can be corrected, even with professional help, which is why we have nice, big prisons with lots of tiny cells), and then going through a process of healing and regaining your manhood and self-respect.

It also requires that you recognize that the odds of being struck by lightning are better than the odds of finding some way to reform an abuser, and accepting that they’re not going to change for you or anybody else, nor are they likely to change for their own sake. They live to find targets, and punish or exploit them. Nothing more, nothing less.

This must all be followed by overcoming any lingering fear you may have of future abuse, and then gaining a complete and working understanding of what a high-quality woman looks and acts like, how she thinks, and what she wants, and then evaluating yourself to see if some part of you needs to grow in order to satisfy such a woman.

The growing part is actually easy, because nearly all of us are born with a hero within, a part of us that wants to do better, have better, and be better, and the only thing that suppresses that part of us is bad programming that we pick up from the world around us. Remove the bad programming by accepting your true nature, and self-improvement comes very naturally and aggressively, because you suddenly realize that you both want and deserve it, and nothing can get in the way of you having it as long as you make the required effort to get it done.

Great relationships don’t happen every day, but it’s not because they’re not available. It’s because even with all the school we attend and everything else we go through in growing up, very, VERY few of us are ever taught – by example or otherwise – what we need to know to find, build, and maintain a great relationship or marriage. We do what we’ve been programmed to do, or worse, what our insecurities, caused by our lack of understanding of the opposite sex, force us to do: settle for the first person who can tolerate is or is good in bed (or both) and screw things up royally, and it doesn’t have to be that way at all.

As I said, I and thousands of other can help you, including the friends waiting for you at our forum,, to varying degrees depending on our expertise and specialty, with any problems you have, but you have to first admit there is a problem and then choose to do something about it before any of us can do anything for you. I’ve been helping people with all sorts of problems my whole adult life, and I’m not a bit shy about saying that I’m one of the best you’ll find to help you, because I have thousands of business and individual clients to back me up on it, and nobody will ever tell you that I couldn’t help, at least to the extent of referring them to other competent help if their needs were outside my area of expertise. You can argue with opinions, but you can’t argue with history.

So what are you going to do about your problems? Are you going to just continue to wallow in them and hope somebody gives you a magic wand or powder or pill that makes them go away, or are you going to take the bull by the horns and get some help to get things going your way quickly so you can get back to (or get around to, if you never have) enjoying your life?

If you’re tired of things being touchy, rocky, scary, boring, tense, lonely or celibate in your relationship, stop tolerating it and let me help you fix it, a lot quicker and more easily than you would ever imagine, because I have the one thing above all others that you are lacking: good information that has been tested and worked for EVERYBODY who has used it, and it will work for you, too. Just jump over to and get your copy of "THE Man’s Guide to Great Relationships and Marriage," and you’ll see what I mean.

In the meantime, live well, be well, and have a wonderful day!
David Cunningham

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