In Chapter 2 Lundy addresses the myths, largely formulated by abusers, that allow them to excuse their behaviour and avoid consequences for their actions. At the end of each chapter Lundy gives a helpful summary, and a couple of quotes from the summary of chapter 2 [p. 48] give a feel for his conclusions about these excuses.
“Feelings do not govern abusive behaviour or controlling behaviour: beliefs, values and habits are the driving forces.”
“There is nothing wrong with you. Your partner’s abuse problem is his own.”
I found chapter 2 very helpful in allowing me then to focus on what Lundy deals with in chapter 3, the mindset, the way of thinking, of the abuser. It also clarified that the abuser’s problem is his own, where many abusers like to blame others for their behaviour, and especially make their [abused] partner responsible.
In chapter 3 Lundy lists the attitudes and values that characterise abusers – control, a sense of entitlement, twisting things into their opposite, disrespect of his partner and a sense of superiority, a confusion of love and abuse, manipulation [pp. 66-67 give examples of manipulative behaviour], the cultivation of a good public image, a sense of justification in his abuse, a denial or minimisation of abuse, and possessiveness. For each attitude he gives illustrations and examples, and shows how it fits into the overall mindset. As he writes at the end of the chapter p. 75 “Abuse is a problem of values, not of psychology. When someone challenges an abuser’s attitudes and beliefs, he tends to reveal the contemptuous and insulting personality that normally stays hidden, reserved for private attacks on his partner.” He wants, says Lundy, to keep everyone focused on how he feels, not how he thinks, because “if you grasp the true nature of his problem, you will begin to escape his domination.”
The book then progresses through chapters on “Types of abusive men”, “How abuse begins’, ‘The abusive man in everyday life”, the abusive man and sex, addiction and breaking up [a chapter on each], abusive men as parents, abusive men and their allies [how they recruit those who enable their abuse], their engagement with the legal system, the origins of abuse, and the process of change. It is comprehensive in dealing with this sad behaviour. It is all worth reading, but some insights that I thought were particularly pertinent:
Question 8 [pp. 114-123] – “How can I tell if a man I’m seeing will become abusive?”
Here Lundy lists some early warning signs that would alert you to the possibility that the person you are seeing is an abuser. If you are the parent, particularly if you are the father, of a teenage son or daughter these are worth going through with your son or daughter – with your daughter so that she would have nothing to do with someone who exhibits these behaviours, and with your son so that he can test some of his own attitudes and be willing to call out these behaviours in his male friends. Prevention is better than cure, and I say fathers should particularly seize the opportunity so that their children learn from the man in their life how Christian men should behave.
Question 9 [pp. 124-130] – “Is the way he is treating me abuse?”
Living with an abusive partner messes with your head. It is disorienting and you come to doubt your own judgments. These few pages help you test your intuition about how you are being treated and being able to name behaviour as abuse is the first step to addressing it. If you have any doubts about the way you are being treated this is a helpful checklist.
If you are living with an abuser you may have found trying to talk through an issue with him very difficult, and you may even end up blaming yourself for not being able to express your ideas clearly or simply. ‘Four Critical Characteristics of an abusive argument’ pp. 143-147 will help you understand what is happening in your discussions. The list of tactics employed pp. 145-6 are useful for identifying manipulative behaviour in arguments in many contexts – work, amongst peers – and they also help us review how we conduct ourselves in tense confrontations. If we find ourselves employing these we should repent, for they are a long way from the behaviour described in Ephesians 4:25-32.
The discussion of what an abuser gets out of his behaviour [pp. 152-158] is a reminder that abusers keep on behaving as they do because on the whole it works for them, and that, as Lundy writes “If we want abusers to change, we will have to require them to give up the luxury of exploitation.” This is not the job of the abused woman, but of the community – making it difficult for the abuser to enjoy the spoils of his abuse. In relation to this it is sobering to realise that abusers can cultivate others, including people in positions of responsibility, to support and enable them [Chapter 11]. We all, and particularly Christian pastors like me, need to be aware of this and alert to what is happening.
We may not be in an abusive relationship, but may know someone who is, and so pp. 370 ff “How to support an abused woman” should be read by us all. They are thoughtful observations and alert us to the possibility that in our desire to help we can repeat some of the features of abuse by robbing the abused woman of agency, insisting she does what we think is right and not allowing her to move in her own direction in her own time.
There is much more that this book has to offer in its 389 pages. It is well worth the read by us all, but particularly by anyone who may be in an abusive relationship or is close to someone in an abusive relationship. I wish I had read this book earlier.