The Surprising Ways Abuse Occurs in Relationships – Pt. 2

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

Abuse in relationships is extremely common, and it can take shape in many ways. Some of these forms are obvious, while others are inconspicuous or subtle. In the second part of a series on abuse, Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen discuss how these types of abuse affect relationships, as well as the psychological well-being of the people in them.


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Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.

Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. Here we teach you how to win the fight for your brain. To defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD, and addictions.

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Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast.

Welcome back. We're talking about abuse this week. And the different types of abuse and now we're gonna talk about the signs of abuse. First I want to talk about some of our testimonials, which I really love. Here's one. It says, "Mind-blowing literally." From Mathilda C. It says, "I've been watching several podcasts lately of Dr. Amen and his wife Tana. I'm thoroughly impressed with you both. And the information you have to give us is mind-blowing and so very important for a happy and healthy and hopefully long, fulfilling life. I'm now a huge fan. Thank you both for helping us all with your knowledge and experience. God bless you both." Michelle Callahan. Thank you, Michelle.

Dr Daniel Amen: So continuing this hard topic we're tackling this week on abuse. We want to talk about some of the signs and symptoms. How do you know if you're in an abusive relationship? Either personally in your family, at work, or even in society? And it starts with domination and control. That the other person says things on a regular basis that upset you or frightens you. So your [crosstalk 00:02:08]-

Tana Amen: Or belittles you.

Dr Daniel Amen: Tender-hearted and you find that you're always being anxious or freaked out.

Tana Amen: Walking on eggshells-

Dr Daniel Amen: Walking on eggshells.

Tana Amen: Where they're belittling you. Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: Another sign is becomes overly and inappropriately jealous of attention from or conversation with others. So they begin to limit or they attempt to limit your contact with others. And I'm actually thinking about mean girls in high school that-

Tana Amen: Oh, interesting.

Dr Daniel Amen: Try to do this. That's actually very common that, you know, these girls become friends. Or these guys become friends and they start to talk to other people and it spins that other person into a controlling situation.

Tana Amen: Now, we should be clear that is not the same thing as having boundaries in a marriage. I'm clear, you cannot go be with someone else. I mean, you can. Actually you can.

Dr Daniel Amen: Is that controlling?

Tana Amen: But there will be ... You can go do it, but there will be consequences.

Dr Daniel Amen: When we go through these-

Tana Amen: So-

Dr Daniel Amen: I have many of them.

Tana Amen: I mean, you can go do them.

Dr Daniel Amen: But yes. No, you need [crosstalk 00:03:24]-

Tana Amen: There are boundaries.

Dr Daniel Amen: Well, let's go to number three. Monitors your time or whereabouts.

Tana Amen: Okay. We need ... Wait, wait, wait. We need to talk about this. Yes, I have a pretty intense security system. Think about our lives, what we do. I have a pretty intense security system at my house. And I have an app on my phone called Life360. I guarantee you, 60 to 70% of the Moms out there have this app on their phone for their kids. And if you don't, you should. It monitors where your kids are down to like the address.

Dr Daniel Amen: It's not just your kids. It's anybody you sign up [crosstalk 00:03:58]-

Tana Amen: Anybody you put on it.

Dr Daniel Amen: So before we started this podcast-

Tana Amen: He chose ... He chose to put himself on it.

Dr Daniel Amen: Before we started this podcast, I see a text opened up on Tana's phone from Life360. Daniel was six minutes on the road. He was going at this speed in his car.

Tana Amen: He has arrived.

Dr Daniel Amen: He has arrived.

Tana Amen: So-

Dr Daniel Amen: And I'm like, you know, take that with the 11 cameras at home.

Tana Amen: Wait-

Dr Daniel Amen: Monitors your time or whereabouts.

Tana Amen: But he chose to be on there. It's designed for your kids, teenage kids who are driving. But as a family, we have chosen to put this on there. And I have to tell you, it's actually really good if you've got elderly parents. Like I worry if I don't see my Mom on there for two days. So it's really good. So you can look at that either way.

Dr Daniel Amen: Uh, number four. Monitors your telephone calls, texts, or email contacts.

Tana Amen: Yeah, we don't do that. 'Cause the day I feel like I have to start doing that, we have problems.

Dr Daniel Amen: Makes decisions that affect both you and the family without consulting you or the family or reaching an agreement. So it's domination. Controls the finances or how you spend money. So this is not a relationship-

Tana Amen: Right. It's a monarchy.

Dr Daniel Amen: It's a power over-

Tana Amen: Dictatorship.

Dr Daniel Amen: Repeatedly crosses your boundaries and ignores requests. Makes subtle threats or negative remarks with the intent to frightening or control you. So that's domination. What about verbal abuse?

Tana Amen: Oh, so till death do us part is not allowed?

Dr Daniel Amen: Well, it's allowed in our relationship because it makes you feel better. And that is absolutely my feeling as well.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: But if it wasn't my feeling, then-

Tana Amen: Right. It has to be consensual.

Dr Daniel Amen: It's absolutely consensual. We'll talk about the black widow cage and all of that at another time. This is not appropriate, but ... Unless you want to hear a bad story. But let's get to verbal abuse.

Tana Amen: I'm not a black widow.

Dr Daniel Amen: Shows complete disregard and disrespect. And that is not something that we do. We respect each other. But, John Gottman, who's a very famous marital therapy researcher says he can tell in a five minute interaction with couples with 90 some percent accuracy whether or not they're going to get divorced. And this was the thing he pegged it on. When faced with a problem, did they talk to each other with respect? Or does it involved disrespect and belittling the other person? And I think we're actually really good at-

Tana Amen: And here's the thing-

Dr Daniel Amen: Showing respect. I mean, not like a hundred percent of the time-

Tana Amen: Well, no. And here's the thing ... But here's the thing. Every couple I think is gonna have time where one feels disrespected. And sometimes it was intentional by the other person, and sometimes it wasn't intentional. But I think the key is that you have to be able to say it and draw those boundaries, or it's not gonna go on very long. Like, it's not gonna last.

Dr Daniel Amen: So another verbal sign of abuse is disregards your opinions, ideas, suggestions, or need. You just don't matter. Makes jokes at your expense. Uses sarcasm or teasing to put down the other person or make them feel bad. People go, "Oh, well, it's just a joke. You can't take a joke." Well, if the other person didn't think it was funny [crosstalk 00:07:38]-

Tana Amen: Doesn't think it's funny-

Dr Daniel Amen: It's not a joke. Swears at you or calls you names. Creates circular, never-ending conversations to confuse or exhaust you. Oh my goodness.

Tana Amen: Oh my God, right? I've been in a relationship like that.

Dr Daniel Amen: Yeah, me, too. Regularly points out your flaws, mistakes, or shortcomings. So we are in church and one of the pastors said on average, teenagers hear seven negative things about themselves-

Tana Amen: See, I don't understand that.

Dr Daniel Amen: To one positive thing about themselves. And if you treat that way, I mean, how are they gonna feel good about themselves? And if they don't feel good about themselves, how are they gonna be good parents themselves?

Demanding and controlling expectations. So these actually come from a website called Demanding and controlling expectations. They order you around, treat you like you're a servant. They get angry when their demands aren't met. They demand obedience to their whims. Treat you like a child. Behave like a spoiled child. Now some of these actually are symptoms of borderline personality disorder-

Tana Amen: Oh, interesting.

Dr Daniel Amen: Which we see a lot of these with people who have that diagnosis. Acts helpless to get their way. So even though it's not sort of domination abuse, it still can be a form of abuse. I have seen that in many relationships. Person becomes so dependent that the other person really has no freedom. They have to drive them everywhere [crosstalk 00:09:23]-

Tana Amen: Oh, yeah.

Dr Daniel Amen: They have to nurture them everywhere. So intolerance, lacks empathy, views you as an extension of themselves rather as an individual.

Tana Amen: Interesting.

Dr Daniel Amen: And then it goes to emotional blackmail. Escalates abusive language or behavior if you talk back to them. Use guilt trips [crosstalk 00:09:48]-

Tana Amen: I've been relationships like that. A relationship like this.

Dr Daniel Amen: Very common. Behaves dramatically in public until you agree to what he or she wants. Withholds sex or affection to get his or her way. Extraordinarily common.

Tana Amen: The opposite of that is true, though, too.

Dr Daniel Amen: What do you mean?

Tana Amen: Sometimes forcing yourself on someone.

Dr Daniel Amen: It would certainly be domination. Frequently emotionally distant or unavailable. Gives disapproving or contemptuous looks. It's that look that only your wife can give you.

Tana Amen: Yeah, I don't know if I agree with that one. Sorry.

Dr Daniel Amen: Unpredictable emotional outbursts. So they control you because you never know what you're going to get.

Tana Amen: Does the one above that include eye-rolling?

Dr Daniel Amen: Gives disapproving or content. Yeah, I think eye-roll would work with that. Jekyll and Hyde-

Tana Amen: Oh, yeah-

Dr Daniel Amen: Temperament.

Tana Amen: Oh, that one I know well.

Dr Daniel Amen: Stomps out of a room. Slams doors.

Tana Amen: Yes, throws things.

Dr Daniel Amen: Sulks, refuses to talk. Shakes his finger or her finger [crosstalk 00:10:57]-

Tana Amen: Or throws things.

Dr Daniel Amen: Or fist at you. Acts jealous or suspicious of your friends. And you have to make sure you didn't give them reason for that, right? I mean, because when relationships are threatened, people get very angry.

Tana Amen: And start acting crazy.

Dr Daniel Amen: Does something to spite you just to get a rise out of you. Which is I often ... In my book, Healing ADD, there's a whole chapter on the games ADD people play.

Tana Amen: Yeah, I think-

Dr Daniel Amen: And the first game they play is let's fight.

Tana Amen: I think you brought up a good point, and we should just throw that in there really fast. This is all the signs of abusiveness, but I think it's always important for the person being abuse to take an inventory. Like, when you read this list, it's like, "Did I do something? Was it always this way, or did I do something to trigger current recent behavior?" You know, "Did I do something to make this person suspicious of me? Did I so something to make this person angry?" Like, legitimately, right?

Dr Daniel Amen: Well, if there has been a violation, and I guess 40% of people who are married have had an affair in one form or another, that's gonna cause [crosstalk 00:12:07]-

Tana Amen: It's gonna cause someone to react.

Dr Daniel Amen: A reaction. It's funny. I was thinking about ... And I'm always thinking about your frontal lobes, right? The front third of your brain which is forethought, judgment, impulse control. But what your frontal lobes really do is they play out the consequences of your behavior. And too often, people act in the moment and they don't understand, "If I say this, if I do this, well, how's that gonna affect my goals a week from now? Or a month from now? Or 10 years from now?" And so they're not playing out the consequences of the affair that just may devastate that person's emotional life for a decade. Or sometimes for the rest of their life.

Tana Amen: So and I think there's one important thing to point out here. Like, I had a friend one time who I didn't agree with what she was doing, okay? So she started complaining a lot about her husband, who was actually a very nice person. And so it was hard. It's hard to be in that situation where you know your friend's like, "Oh, he's being a jerk. He's doing this, he's doing that. He's being mean. He's saying this." But as I'm talking to her, it's like I think it's important to be honest with people, too. Kind, firm and kind, and honest. Because I'm like, "I know you want out, right? So you want out and you actually want to be with this other person. So you're starting to create a scenario that makes it okay for you to leave."

Dr Daniel Amen: Right. That you create the trouble so you can blame the other person as bad, and then that way that's your out to do [crosstalk 00:13:50]-

Tana Amen: Right. And the kinder thing to do would be to just tell him you don't love him and you want out. That would be kinder than to just stir up trouble and cause him to be quote unquote abusive.

Dr Daniel Amen: Well, I mean, and it's much more authentic, which ultimately makes you feel good about yourself. This isn't working for me.

Tana Amen: But to force [crosstalk 00:14:08] him into an abusive-

Dr Daniel Amen: I'm sorry. You end up feeling so much better about yourself than, "You are bad, you are evil. I have to leave you because you are so terrible."

Tana Amen: Right. She's forcing a nice person into an abusive position. And that's not right. That's not right, either.

Dr Daniel Amen: Right. And there's always an interaction. Whether you say there's, you know, your story, his story, I mean-

Tana Amen: There's three sides to every story. His side, her side, and the truth. And it's all about perspective and perception. Because perception is reality, right? So-

Dr Daniel Amen: So another group of statements is character assassination. Belittles, insults, berates you in front of other people. Don't do that. Especially if you're doing it to get your way with children. It's just so disruptive. Puts down your physical appearance or intellect. Belittles or trivializes you. Tells you your feelings are irrational or crazy. Now, I'm actually a psychiatrist so I can formally diagnose you as crazy=

Tana Amen: No, you don't get to do ... You don't get to do that in a relationship. Nope. We drew that boundary early on. And like, you don't get to psychoanalyze me. Nope. Leave it at work.

Dr Daniel Amen: Turning other people against you. Corrects or chastises you for behavior or shares personal information with others. So that's crossing the boundary. Invalidates you, hijacks the conversation [crosstalk 00:15:35]-

Tana Amen: So I want to comment on the sharing personal information with others. I'm sorry. That's actually a pet peeve of mine. It's always important to have someone you trust to get together with to have discussions with. If they are valuable, it's really dangerous to do this girl talk thing with the wrong people. And it's actually a huge pet peeve of mine. To get together with someone you know is unhappy and tell them your dirty laundry when you know they're just going to reinforce the feelings you have, huge pet peeve of mine.

So I know that I have a group of friends that if something's going on in my life, I don't care what it is or in what area of my life. If it's kids, if it's whatever, if I go to those people, they are Christian. They're grounded. They're not going to tell me what I want to hear. And that's more important than me going to someone who's gonna be like, "Oh, yeah. You should go to that" ... And just do that whole bashing thing. The male bashing thing is highly dangerous. So stay away from people like that. You want people who are gonna make you better. Not people who are gonna tell you what you want to hear. That's my two cents.

Dr Daniel Amen: That's actually huge.

Tana Amen: Huge. [crosstalk 00:16:48]-

Dr Daniel Amen: Important.

Tana Amen: Stay away from toxic people. They will destroy your marriage.

Dr Daniel Amen: That if you are with someone who constantly reinforces your negative feelings about your partner, then the relationship is gonna end up blowing up. You want someone who gives you accurate, honest feedback. Now if you're with someone that's abusive, you want that information and support for sure. But you have to be careful who you listen to.

Tana Amen: But it's like my friend who was putting the guy in that position. It's like, no. And then I had another friend who was in an abusive relationship and I'm like, "Sweetheart, you're lying to yourself. You need ... Like, this guy is bad." So you ... But you need to like have friends who are grounded that you respect and that trust. Not ones who are just gonna tell you what you want to hear.

Dr Daniel Amen: When we come back, we're gonna talk about, well, what do you do if you're in an abusive relationship? Stay with us.

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