If you are partnered with someone who occasionally says mean things to you, or confuses you with statements that make you feel uncomfortable, or that lead you to increased insecure feelings about yourself, please watch out.
Holly Madison sounds like she knows about this first hand and tells all in her new book Down the Rabbit Hole. For those of you who don’t know Holly, she was one of Hugh Hefner’s gorgeous girlfriends on the MTV reality show The Girls Next Door. She dated Hugh and wanted to marry him and have his children.
Luckily for Holly, her dreams didn’t come true. The former Playboy bunny now tells her story of life with Hugh—that she wasn’t treated very well. She felt depressed, anxious and didn’t know that her relationship had progressed so negatively.
How does Holly paint Hugh? Let’s see … objectifies women, emotionally tortures them, and uses their insecurities against them. Research shows that men who objectify your body are more likely to try to manipulate you.
Why is it women don’t realize when their partners are jerks?
One reason is that women are socially conditioned to please, doubt themselves, and oppress anger to maintain intimate relationships.
The Frog Boiling Effect
In addition to socialization and gender roles, other psychological mechanisms like denial go into overdrive in these situations. Denial is sometimes a good thing. We use it whenever we feel overwhelmed, confused or when we are scared. However, denial can go into overdrive. For example, it can work a little like the Frog Boiling Effect.
There is an analogy that if you boil a frog in a pot slowly, over time, the frog will not know to jump out of the pot until it is too late. Things are fine at first. The temperature heats up and the frog gets uncomfortable, but the frog sits and waits. Things get even more uncomfortable, but by then, the frog is weak and can’t jump high enough to get out of the pot.
In relationships the gradual change and discomfort can creep up on you too.
Things started out fun and nice for Holly. Then came a few (not a ton) of mean statements, mixed with loving and nurturing (they can’t make it too hot too quickly or you will jump). However, by the time things are said and done, narcissistic/insecure/controlling partners will have their partners crippled through negative reinforcement. The victim becomes depressed, anxious and too insecure to leave. It is, in some weird way, a normal response to abnormal and unhealthy positive and negative reinforcement.
What to do
Your relationship may not be doomed. However, you need to make sure you are aware of the impact these unhealthy interactions may have on you.
Get a licensed social worker/counselor/therapist or some other outside support to help you think clearly, and empower yourself to be assertive about your wants and needs, before things get too hot.
Cherilynn Veland, MSW, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and coach based in Chicago. She has been helping individuals, couples and families for more than 20 years. She is author of Stop Giving It Away, which is on sale now at Barnes & Noble.
Join the conversation and get tools and tips for how to stop being a Giveaway Girl on my other blog at www.stopgivingitaway.com.
Pics from Wikipedia.