28 May 2007

A Simple Truth

In general, I don't believe that most complex questions have simple answers.

On the subject of abusiveness in human relationships, however, I think there is one fundamental question that actually has a very simple answer. This answer, unfortunately, is often obscured by a combination of denial and/or rationalization on the part of the person being abused, and denial and/or disingenuousness on the part of the person behaving abusively.

The fundamental question is this:

How can I tell if this person or relationship is abusive?

And the simple answer is this:

Look for the double standard.

A double standard is the 'given' of inequality. It is the bedrock foundation of entitlement.

I apply terms and conditions to you which I refuse to accept when you apply them to me.

I have expectations of you and place demands on you which outrage me when you expect me to reciprocate them.

You are here to serve and please me; any serving and pleasing of you by me, however, is not on the programme.

I have carte blanche to criticize your behavior, your talents, your tastes; but woe betide you if you expect me to meet the standards I apply to you, and heaven help you if you point out any lapses or failures on my part.

Any relationship that exists under a double standard is abusive before it even begins. It is not a relationship. It is psychological predation.

Double standards are actually quite obvious, but it takes a great deal of courage to allow ourselves to see them. It is difficult and painful to accept that someone we care about, someone we think well of, someone on whose behalf we are willing to expend great effort, is unwilling - or unable - ever to do the same for us.

We will make excuses for years, decades, lifetimes, rather than face one simple, painful fact: we care about a person who does not, cannot, will not care back.

Look for the double standard.

It is an unfailing indicator for abuse.

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