Affection withdrawal as an abuse tactic… conquered

I’ve waffled and whinged and whined in this blog a lot about my aversion to hugs and tactility. I’ve bored you all with my 2017 Eureka moment where finally the Ice Queen thawed and being touched no longer makes me wants to recoil in horror and turn into a statue.

What I’ve not really dealt with though is why I’m like I am .

It’s odd; life after abuse. You have so many lingering behaviours once you’ve left , even years on some habits stick (one of these days I’ll take my phone off silent mode) Some ideas still float about your head unquestioned ,until you realise that actually those ideas are not your own ideas ,they were a seed another person planted in your head so gently that you took them and everything that grew from them on as your own but they never ever were yours. Sometimes one day , everything clicks into place and you realise that your behaviour still mirrors that of that abused woman ,and then…well then you have the power to get rid of it .

I had a bit of a Eureka moment like that over this week. I know where my hatred of affection came from , I know why I’m like I am and now I do I can banish it for good.

When I met the man who abused me I was going through a tough time , I was vulnerable . I must have been a gift to him! Now I’ve never really been a hugger ,that I can’t say is down to anything other than I’m not naturally a tactile person. He came along though and showered me with affection. At that low point in my life I soaked it up. Cuddling , touching, all the affection and compliments and kind words and gestures wrapped me up completely. I liked it , I liked being the focus of all this love and I was flattered .

Over time emotional abuse became the norm . I was manipulated and coerced into behaving a certain way. He was charming and I am a people pleaser so it probably wasn’t that much hard work to get me to do as he wished. However on one occasion I resisted . I didn’t play along with his games . I stood my ground and didn’t give in . I can’t even remember what it was that was the issue now but that day he withdrew affection and kindness and compliments and they never returned. Those strokes of the arms as he passed me , the hand squeezes that I’d relied on ,am arm around me or a peck on the cheek all disappeared immediately along with compliments and encouraging words (even only now as I write this do I realise why I hate compliments too)

As I mentioned above I am a people pleaser by nature and I’d grown to like the affection he had lavished me with. He had already done enough ground work on my head to ensure that the affection withdrawal would have the desired affect. It did. Then you see I was always striving to get that back. I was doing anything he wanted to try and pull back the affection , only now I was so very grateful for the tiniest scrap of approval he only need offer the occasional hand on the shoulder or feeble words of praise to make me feel better. I was altering my behaviour and character to get this guy to go back to his love bombing of the beginning . I was absolute putty in his hand , easily moulded to be exactly what he wanted at any given time.

I think we’re joining dots now to find out why I then became the girl that hated hugs and affection and touching. I always knew it had to be a defensive thing and it absolutely was. In my mind I could never again give anyone that kind of power ,that hold over me . I couldn’t settle in to enjoy affection because I knew how horrific it was to have it removed.

Years away from toxic relationships , therapy and this blog though have been my trio of weaponry against the damage done mentally. They’re pretty solid too these days. I talked here last week about my need for patience and yes I do absolutely need that understanding and trust if I’m going to be close to people , physically and emotionally.

You know what though ?Around someone I trust , who has proven themselves to be consistent and worth that trust and whose company I can totally relax in I DO like hugs . I like hand holding and little kisses to the face and my hair stroked. Physical contact is a primal human need and I’d deprived myself of that for way too long .

Kate on thin ice

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49 thoughts on “Affection withdrawal as an abuse tactic… conquered

  1. An amazingly poignant article for me. It messed with my head for long time how he could manipulate and control me by this tactic. It was truly awful. 12 years free now and am now helping other women survivors of domestic abuse through an art project. Thank you so much.

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  2. This is why unconditional love is so important. If I did anything ‘wrong’ love was withdrawn, I was ignored, not spoken to, threatened with being thrown out of the home or later abandoned by my family. It has had a huge effect on me. Whenever my boys do anything and I am cross I always make a point of saying. I still love you! I love your trio of weaponry and I am really glad you can join those dots. #thesatseh

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  3. Unconditional love must be the most important thing. I am a people pleaser too but luckily have a very loving and balanced relationship which I am thankful for everyday. My poor friend has suffered terribly at the hands of a narcissist and is now rebuilding her life. I will show her this article. Thank you for posting. #thesatsesh

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  4. Good on you for beating him and what he did to you by seeing the good in affectionate gestures and not allowing him to turn you against them forever. Hugs and personal contact are so important and powerful as you say – I’m so pleased you are getting stronger and stronger through blogging, therapy and your own self-care. Well done you are amazing. xx #thesatsesh

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  5. I have seen emotional blackmail in action, and how powerful the effects are. Not being deliberately vague, I don’t believe I have dome this, but you can never be entirely sure! A great and insightful read. #GlobalBlogging

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  6. You are a brave woman who speaks important truths. I admire you and I learn from you and I am passing this post to a friend who will find it helpful. I have never liked hugs but that seems to have changed since I moved to a new area that is so much more touchy-feely and I find it is helping my emotional wellbeing to trust those hugs. #TriumphantTales is absolutely the right linky for posts like this

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    1. Aawww thank you so much Kate , I think I just needed to do things on my own terms initially ,with someone I knew would be patient….and now I’m all hugs and hand holding!!

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  7. I’m sorry for the stuff you’ve had to deal with but I’m glad you’re coming out of the other side. A very thought provoking read. I’ve always been a fan of the hug as my 5 year old Daughter and also my wife, mother and friends will testify to! #TriumphantTales

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  8. Sending a hug your way Kelly! You have clearly identified with several of your readers here and I also agree to the hugging with no agenda comment. I suspect more of these lovely things will be coming your way too 😉 Thanks for sharing with #tweensteensbeyond

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  9. This has really made me think Kelly. We are a family of huggers, my youngest daughter in particular and sometimes she says “hug me” so often it can be exhausting but to refuse would be cruel. Being loved and hugged for all the right reasons is one of the joys of life and I am glad you are beginning to embrace that mindset again. Sending you all the virtual hugs. #TweensTeensBeyond

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  10. I’ve said it before but I’m so inspired by your honesty and bravery. Not only are you helping yourself but you’re helping others too who may be in a similar situation. Thank you for sharing this with #TriumphantTales, I hope you can join me again on Tuesday 🙂

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  11. You’re so brave coming through all of this… I’m so pleased you are embracing (pun intended!) affection again and realising the benefits it can provide. Just that on it’s own is amazing, let alone everything else you have faced. Virtual hugs to you! I remember when my mum was a cleaner for an elderly man, they struck up a good friendship. He was a widower and lived alone. One day, as she was dusting, he just reached out and held her hand before breaking down. When she had calmed him down she asked what had brought it all on and he said ‘It has been so long since I have had any contact with someone, I just needed to hold your hand’. She said he was like a little boy and it broke her heart! After that she would hug him when she arrived and as she left just to provide some comfort. I always remember the story as a testament to how important a little affection can be. Thank you for linking up to #honeybeelinky lovely xxx

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  12. This was a real tough one to read but so inspirational as it’s vital people who have suffered abuse know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Life after abuse and you are a shining example of that. I, like you have been in an emotionally abusive relationship and ten years on an only seeing the whole picture as to just how deeply it’s affected me. Reading this makes me happy I’m not alone in that journey. Thank you so much for joining in with #BestBootForward and I really hope we see more of you too xx

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  13. This is so powerful, had me crying. I think this touches many of us who have had this happen and hopefully turns on a light bulb for those that do it. Seriously glad whenever I am here, today it was because of #BlogCrush but wow, amazing stuff, thank you. Off to share and on to visit more. Hope this weekend treats you kindly. 🙂

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  14. I don’t make my kid hug anyone!! Grandma, aunts…does not matter. We are teaching her that her words have power and if she does not feel like it she does not have to do it. I am sorry you have gone through this but I am glad you are using your voice to share your story! #blogcrush

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  15. You keep amazing me luv, what you have been through and yet you refuse to give up on yourself. I admire the way you can reflect, learn and move forward. There are not alot of people out there that are self aware and always looking at improving. You are a true inspiration, sending you hugs 😊#BlogCrush

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