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About toxic and (un)healthy relationships

toxic relationships

Abuse exists in several forms. Most known is physical abuse because it’s easy to recognize.

But emotional abuse is more insidious and can sometimes be harder to recognize. And sometimes, after you spend a lot of time with a toxic person, you can’t really see what’s happening anymore.

People who have followed me for a while know that I don’t like to share anything that doesn’t contain a direct solution to a problem. But I do think we have to go back to basics for this blog and to look at some of the traits of a toxic or abusive person.

But a relationship is meant to be a place where both can blossom. A safe cocoon where the two people involved can develop, support, and acknowledge each other in whatever direction they want to go. A relationship is a place where you strengthen each other, not tear each other apart.

The traits of a toxic person

In an unhealthy relationship, you will notice that the toxic person is inclined to inflict damage on the other person rather than find a solution to a problem. But one of the basics of a healthy relationship is to find solutions together. Not to argue with each other.

A toxic person feels insecure and threatened -a lot-. Whenever you have something fun to look forward to, you want to go out with a friend, or you are successful at something, Mr. or Mrs. Toxic feels weak. But instead of working on these insecurities and weakness they’ll try to find a way to do you harm, make you smaller. Because they feel uncomfortable with your success they will diminish it and leave you with a bad feeling. Or there is something wrong with whatever you are happy with or look out for. Example: you are invited somewhere (in my case to visit a tower) and the other person is suddenly sick, took the car, or needs you to do something.

You get the most love from a toxic person when you are most vulnerable. Favorably when you are on your knees, isolated, and when the toxic person is the center of your universe. It can be that you don’t feel strong or have a strong base of reference because of the way you were brought up or some of your life experiences. However, it could also be that you were strong and the toxic person found a way to break you, to accuse you, to make you feel bad and when you are on your knees, feeling so small and you need someone to lean on… the toxic person changes suddenly and shows you their love. They give you that hug you needed, show you the rainbow, tell you it’s going to be all right and it wasn’t that bad, won’t happen again as long as you don’t… *fill in whatever*

It comes down to this.

When you are small, they feel strong. If you are strong, they feel threatened and weak.

I have an example: my ex and I were rebuilding the house and I was putting the spack on the walls. I really knew what I was doing because I paid very close attention to the carpenter. I saw that my ex-partner struggled with it and that’s why I did it the spacking. When my ex-partner noticed my success he took away the spack (or is it called stucco?) and forbade me from ever spackling in HIS house ever again.

He always mentioned that the house was HIS when he disagreed with something to remind me he could throw me out on the street in an instant. When he had hurt me, he would say: you can leave if you don’t like it, but when I would leave he would search friends’ and family’s homes to bring me back to his house again.

It is easier for them when you are weak. When you are vulnerable, when you are fired, when you get out of a nasty relationship or when you have difficult family members, a difficult past, they feel strong and in control. But where a healthy relationship tries to lift you out of those difficult times, the toxic person tries to keep you there. Because when you are not dependent of them they feel like they are not the center of your world anymore. And that’s what they need to feel good. Because sadly, they are incapable of knowing what true love is or how to accomplish it.

A toxic person sees almost every argument as a personal attack and if you have been in a relationship like this you probably recognize this: before you tell the other person that something is bothering you (if you tell them that is) you put your words on a scale first. You think and rethink your words to see if there could be any triggers amongst your words.

Your experience is that during conversations the roles are reversed before you know it! Before you are finished talking, you are suddenly the person with the problem. It’s all about what you are doing wrong and what you don’t understand. It doesn’t matter how careful you are in choosing and expressing your words because everything you say (and don’t say) can and will be used against you.

Instead of really listening to you, letting you talk, and acknowledge their part in how you feel, the roles are reversed, and that person makes you the problem (twisted). Situations from years ago are thrown in the battle, words are used against you, and often the other person won’t let you finish speaking, and talks in an aggressive or emotionally manipulative tone and doesn’t let you think. Or they speak in an aggressive/emotionally manipulative manner and seem to disappear, whether that is emotionally and/or physically. Often people who have experienced domestic violence stop explaining their point of view to prevent escalation.

A famous quote of Jim Rohn is:

You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

Don’t underestimate the influence of the people closest to you! It doesn’t matter how strong you are, your frame of reference is or how your self-esteem is built up… the way other people talk to you or treat you can build or demolish your self-worth, self-esteem, and self-image. It is so important to choose the people closest to you carefully. Because when someone is depreciating you, it will influence how you see yourself and become part of your thought patterns. Sometimes you won’t even know that a conviction you have really comes from another source.

A quote of Bruce Lee is:

As you think so shall you become.

I am convinced that you should choose your inner circle carefully. A good inner circle will build you up, inspire you, and challenge you to be the best you who you can be.

In a healthy relationship, two imperfect people come together with an imperfect life and with an imperfect past. Together they create a safe haven where they can heal and give each other the circumstances where they can thrive and work on themselves to be the best, strongest persons they can and once that safe haven is created, they can work on their life goals together.

Abuse, Personal

The injustice in proving child abuse: Guestblog by Lisa Cybaniak

Injustice proving child abuse

(This blog was originally written for LifeSurfer)

Today I want to share with you a blog written by my friend Lisa Cybaniak. The title of the blog is: the injustice in proving child abuse. I know that a lot of my readers have faced injustices, whether a prosecutor didn’t prosecute, or a policeman didn’t want to write a report or when social services or the CPS failed to protect a child because the right of the offender to see his child is more important than the safety of the child itself.

Lisa is a survivor of 10 years of physical, psychological and sexual abuse, by her ex step-father. She is a motivational speaker and blogger, helping shed the stigma of being abused. She is the founder of, dedicated to helping survivors of abuse survive well, having the life they deserve. And in this blog she shares her story with us.


The injustice in proving child abuse

There is a distinctive injustice in proving child abuse. It lies in two words ‘prove’ and ‘child’.

I was physically, sexually and psychologically abused for 10 years, from the age of 2 until 12 by my now ex step-father. During this time, I was told I was stupid, ugly, useless, worthless and unlovable nearly every single day. This more than shaped my self-image, it destroyed it.

This was only topped by the notion that I was good for nothing, except a sexual object. This seemed to be the only value I had, according to my experience. Adding to these insults was the physical abuse, which included anything from being methodically hit in hidden areas, to being held under hot water, strangled, limbs twisted, or cutting the backs of my ears.

My home was not a safe place. My mother had no idea what was happening in the next room. My abuser was sadistic, and methodical. If she walked into the room while I was pinned to the floor, he would laugh and say we were play fighting. Many of his insults and threats were whispered into my ear while he looked like he was a caring father to onlookers. And he certainly made sure she was fast asleep before leaving their bed to enter mine.

Most days, I returned home from school a couple hours before my mother returned from work. I never knew what awaited me. Was he in a good mood and would leave me be, or would he be in a mood already and be waiting to take out his frustrations on me with complete privacy to do as he pleased? I literally felt like I was fighting for my life on a daily basis.

The teen years

Growing up in this way left scars far deeper than any visible scars ever could. I had to learn how to deal with my anger and frustration in acceptable, respectful ways, for one. An even greater challenge was learning my worth.

Here I was in my teen years now, trying to learn that I was more than a sexual being; someone with intelligence, beauty, and value, while boys tried their hardest to get me in the sack. Teenagers are overflowing with hormones, and trying very hard to explore life with more independence. They want to date, and kiss, and have sex. I felt those feelings too, but I needed to be worth more than just sex. I really struggled knowing that I was still being looked at sexually, even a few years after leaving my abuser.

I wore more conservative clothing, comparatively speaking. I had long hair, not because it was beautiful, but because it helped cover my face. I was quiet, despite loving being on stage. Off stage though, I wanted to blend in to the background and not draw attention to myself in any way.

Basically, during my teen years, I looked for approval and acceptance from others, as many teenagers do. But I was looking for someone else to show me my worth, to prove to me that I had value. I was looking for a knight in shining armour; someone to take all my pain away.

I had so much pain. My mother and I had left my abusive home a few years earlier, and I had entered therapy, but I was struggling as much as I did living in that house. I still felt like I didn’t know what awaited me each day. I still felt broken.


The injustice

We live in a time where there are so many types of abuse that the word ‘abuse’ is now too vague. Abuse can include anything from neglecting children by not providing for their basic needs, grooming them over the internet, child pornography, to trafficking them for sex. I cannot imagine what it is like for those brave police men and women who work tirelessly every day to fight against these horrific crimes.

When I was 16, I was in a new therapy group that inspired me to seek justice, to ensure my now ex step-father would be punished appropriately so he could never harm another child again. When I told my mother, she understandable broke down. She was terrified that he would know who was accusing him and come after me so I could not testify against him.

She was so terrified that she purchased a gun, received the proper permits, and joined a gun range where she took up target shooting. She wanted to be prepared and able to protect me this time.

Of course, neither my mother or I had any idea how to go about pressing charges, so she called the police to speak to someone. The advice she received was shocking. The police detective she spoke to told my mother that if I indeed wanted to press charges, I would need to be prepared for the consequences. My name would be plastered in all the papers, so everyone would know what had happened. The shame I would feel would be unbearable. Also, I would need to be prepared for the trial. With no evidence, it would be my word against his. Under those circumstances, it would be unlikely I would be successful.

Let me address each of these atrocities individually.

Shaming the victim

Survivors of abuse feel an unexplained shame surrounding their abuse, as if they had something to do with it, were at fault even. We know it does not make any sense, but feel the shame all the same. The police detective played on this shame and used it to convince my mother, and subsequently me, to not come forward.

Not to mention that as a minor, the papers would not have permission to print my name in the first place! Pure lies. This man clearly was using fear to steer us clear of this process. The only one who should be feeling shame is him. I was trying to seek justice and stop a predator from preying on others. I should have been feeling supported and proud of my bravery.

Evidence of abuse

As a teacher, I undergo annual safeguarding training where we learn of all the signs and symptoms of abuse and neglect. Each time I shake my head. Many children are being abused by a much more sadistic and methodical abuser; one who strikes in places others will not likely see to observe suspicious bruising; one who grooms their victims, using psychological abuse for months or even years to break them; one who only moves on to sexual abuse when he is confident his secret will never be revealed because she has already kept all his secrets for years now.

To my knowledge, nobody ever witnessed this man physically abuse me over the course of ten years. He brushed any incidents off as play fighting when someone walked in during a ‘moment’. I knew well enough to lie and play along. As the saying goes, ‘If you want to cry, I will give you something to cry about’. I knew very well that letting the secret out of what life was like in our house would lead to far more pain than I currently had. Pain that my mother would have to endure, as I knew he would punish her in order to hurt me.

How exactly was I supposed to have gathered evidence? Especially of the sexual abuse. Should I have had the wherewithal to have sourced some sort of hidden camera (in the 1980s no less!), had the skill to set it up, out of sight, so I could use it against him nearly a decade later?

I understand that we need evidence to prove guilt. There are many people who, unfortunately, go astray and accuse people of terrible crimes for which they know they did not commit. In these times, we are grateful for a system where you are innocent until proven guilty. However, let’s be reasonable here. This detective telling my mother that it would be my word against my abuser, and under those circumstances, I probably wouldn’t succeed was the same as saying ‘No one is going to believe a child over an adult, so just don’t bother’.


Consequences of injustice

In my case, I have never received justice. I walked away from filing charges at the age of 16 because of the response my mother received from the police. This has haunted me every single day of my life. In fact, it made the lessons I needed to learn in my self-worth and value so much more difficult to learn. How could I value myself when I let him walk away? Every person he hurts is on me, surely.

Eventually, I was able to find some peace. I needed to give myself permission to forgive myself. I learned to appreciate the facts of my situation – I was still only a child. I did not have the knowledge or confidence that I have now. How could I? I am now 26 years older, and wiser. I accept myself for who I am now, and who I was then. I had goodness in my heart, and did not walk away because I didn’t care about others. I was scared, not just of what he would do to silence me, but of the lack of support I was shown from those who should have been on my side. Shame on them.

My justice

This is my justice. Coming out with my story, wearing my heart on my sleeve, and sharing my journey to recovery with anyone who will listen. I am doing my part to break the stigma of abuse, helping people find their power again, or perhaps for the first time.

Lisa CybaniakWant to know more about Lisa? Go to her website: to see how she can help you.

Abuse, Guestblog, Mindset

CPS and visitation right’s of an abusive father


(This blog was originally written by me for LifeSurfer in 2015/2016)

Question from a reader

I received an email from someone in a tough situation with Youth Care, the family judge and the Dutch Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service. Because I receive this type of questions quite often from women all over the world who are forced to give their children to their abusive ex-partners I thought it would be wise to translate my blogpost for the Dutch LifeSurfer and share it with you all. I’m aware that I’m recommending Dutch lawyers and am talking about a Dutch case and Dutch organisations, but I know that a lot of you are in the same tough situation. To find good lawyers and other professionals in your neighbourhood, use Google, investigate, ask questions and seek references from professional domestic violence organisations in your area.

My reply to the reader’s question:

Dear …

I am sorry that you’re in such a tough situation. I understand how you feel – the enormous frustration and helplessness =that makes you want to fly up the wall.

Personally, I can’t do a lot for you besides showing my sympathy and give you some tips from my experiences about what to do and what not to do. Keep in mind that every situation and outcome is different and that, from my computer, I can’t study all facets of your situation or predict outcomes.

Tip 1;

don’t stress the situation with Youth Care and CPS type of organisations too much; how weird that might sound. I know you want to show them that your concerns are real and justified but the more you underscore the situation, the less they will believe you. In the beginning, I thought: ‘If I tell them 10 times what happened to the children and me, they will believe me.” However, this had the opposite effect. Don’t get me wrong; you do have to tell them what happened to you and especially the children but don’t keep telling them the same thing over and over again. When they decide that they don’t believe you or that they are not going to act on it because of their inadequate knowledge about child abuse, partner violence and the ruling dogma’s within the organisations that should defend your child, you’ll find it hard to change that mentality. It might be best to find others to support your cause.

Tip 2;

make sure you have a very good lawyer and be critical before you hire one. It is important that you feel supported and taken seriously. My lawyer is Mr. Erkens from The Hague. You need a lawyer with his or her heart in the right place, who is willing to fight for your case. Mr. Erkens is a real support during hearings and shows me that I am not the only one defending my children. I live up north and his office is in The Hague but he doesn’t have any problems traveling back and forth. Before him I had other lawyers who’s main priority was keeping a good acquaintance with the judge than to defend my children with a bit more passion which resulted in much pain. Finding an lawyer who puts your children and you first and really go for it, is an enormous support.

Unfortunately, the truth is that the current justice system works against women. Many professionals are busy turning the tides but until then the situation is as it is. Another law firm that has my (professional) interest is Van Kempen cs in Amsterdam. I don’t know Van Kempen cs personally, but they have specialisations that could be helpful in your case.

You can follow my path, but there can be consequences

If you think your kids are suffering from the visitation rights, you can follow my path. I didn’t give away my children for visitation because I believed their physical and mental safety was the most important thing. During the initial visitations my children were abused both mentally and physically by their biological father with all the consequences that had for them. When I stopped the visitation I was threatened with hostage, fines and the threat that the children would have to live with their biological father although he abused them. Ultimately, I received only fines but for me, the safety of my children was more important than anything else.

Tip three;

Keep a journal in which you write down everything that happens. Make sure you have a voice recorder app on your phone or tablet. You can use this to record your ex and/or child, for example, when your child says something shocking or shares her or his experiences with their biological father. Don’t ask much questions but give room for your child talk freely. Questions are often seen as if you lead the child in his statements and thoughts about her or his father.

Tip four;

Seek help for your child on your own. Don’t let a Youth Care employee or organisation do this; instead ask, for example, an independent specialised  childpsychologist. Look for childpsychologists who specialise in the field of child abuse, trauma recovery etc. Such a psychologist can draft an independent report. Ask this psychologist how you can best guide your children through these hard times.

Beware; There are many youthcare organisations that you can’t recognise as such.  They present themselves as independent operating companies, but are part of youth care. A practice with only a few psychologists specializing in children and adolescents is usually trustworthy but try to find out if they are really not part of youth care in your region.

Tip five;

Press charges. You didn’t tell me the age of your children and if you have pressed charges but the latter is important to consider if something has happened in the area of abuse. If you are abused during the relationship, if he threatens you now, press charges. If you’re worried that the charges will trigger or can lead to an angry outburst from him ask for help from a shelter so you and your children are off the radar for a while untill he has calmed down.

Support in your battle for the welfare of your child

Here are a number of books that I recommend you read:

Books of Lundi Bancroft like for example: “why does he do that?” and Donald Dutton: “the abusive personality”

This link might interest you as well:

I also have a Facebook page for lifesurfer:  You can also search for support groups in your neighbourhood.

The battle you must fight for your child’s interest is very tough, and I’m very sorry you must go through it. Be sure to take a moment for yourself now and then to clear your head. Follow your own insights. Remember that I give you tips based on my experiences and my experiences and outcomes may differ from yours.

Do breathing exercises (you can’t make long-term decisions while you’re stressed) and make sure you have support around you.

I wish you lots of strength and happiness,


Abuse, Activism, Family by blood

#Love my detour My guestblog posted at

(This blog was originally written by me for LifeSurfer in 2015/2016)

Originally posted for as part of the #lovemydetour series. To read the original blog, click here. To read more about #lovemydetour and Amy Oestreicher, click here.

Do you know the feeling of being in love?

You have that lovely feeling in your tummy and throat when you feel immensely happy and can’t get that grin off your face? I have that feeling almost every day, but the thing is… I don’t have someone I have a crush on.

It is my life that I have fallen in love with.

No, my life isn’t and wasn’t perfect. I was sexually abused by my uncle for more than ten years, and I was raped and mentally, financially, physically abused by an ex-partner who I met when I was only 14 and he was almost 22.

Due to one assault, my children were born prematurely, and when I escaped, my ex-partner vowed to take the children away from me, which he has tried to do ever since, making use of the judicial system but never once inquiring after the well-being of our children during this same time. I lost almost my entire family, but I regained a family of the heart in return.

There are many memories of when I thought I was at the lowest point in my life only to sink into a deeper hole. But as I look back, I notice that every sinkhole was actually a detour resulting in the happy life I lead now.

My most important detour was the moment I decided to be the author and creator of my own life. It laid the foundation of how I would handle difficulties in the future.

I was 24 in 2010 and the relationship with my second boyfriend had just come to an end. As I lay in bed weeping, I realized that it wasn’t so much the end of the relationship that I was weeping about but more the feeling of despair and not feeling I was capable enough to handle things on my own.

This was the same feeling that led me to the relationship with boyfriend no.1 in the first place and while I was escaping the troubles of boyfriend no.1 I gave myself to an even older man, boyfriend no.2 who was, in essence, a copy of no.1 although no. 2 wasn’t physically abusive. However, the emotional abuse was more refined and worse than with no.1 – they even shared the same name!

As I stopped weeping, my friend asked me: “Do you want to change?” “Yes!” I cried out. “Okay,” she said. “But it is important to work on yourself first. You are capable of handling things for yourself, and I will be here to help you hold the mirror.”

At that moment, I chose to be strong and to become my own author, to love myself unconditionally. I started to heal myself, find the spots within me that needed TLCG (Tender, Love, Care, and Growth). I broke the bonds with people that were draining the life out of me; I educated myself and traveled a lot with the boys.

I finally felt free.

In 2013, we hadn’t heard from my ex-partner for years, and a part of my university program was to study abroad for 6 months. My dream was to work for the United Nations, helping others so they could lead a life without abuse. Due to the controlling and abusive nature of my ex-partner, he suddenly showed up and used the judicial system to prevent us from going, and as a result, I couldn’t study in America to accomplish that dream.

But I didn’t break. I just found ways around this while still achieving the core things I wanted to do in life: helping women after trauma discover how to recover and to create a happy life for themselves. Sometimes the “how” or the “way” can change but it doesn’t mean our “what” has to change, too.

What I learned in the past 5 years is that I can always rely on myself. Always. I am incredibly strong and am resilient like a rubber band. I have learned to love my own company and to watch myself form the sculpture of my own life.

The most important part in all this was to love myself unconditionally and to discover who I am and what I need to create my ideal life, making decisions based on how I want to grow as a person. And to remember; it all starts with a decision.

You see me pictured here with the Oldehove, a churchtower in Leeuwarden (Netherlands) which was never finished due to the sagging of the tower. Some say that the Oldehove is a failed project, it stands here in this state for almost 500 years now.It’s something to be ashamed of as a city.

But to other people it is an symbol with a story to tell about all those people walking the 183 steps to the roof for hundreds of years now; muscisians, families, soldiers during the worldwar II and people from all over the world. They truly enjoy the view and stepping in the past for a few moments and some feel even proud of this unfinished tower.

To me the Oldehove is the symbol of a very powerful detour, full of resillience despite being ridiculed, challenged and threatend by nature, fire and even by it’s own citizens. Yet, still she stands tall for almost 500 years. Call that a detour!

Or like Mahatma Gandhi said: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

Abuse, Guestblog, Mindset

Most asked question from survivors: “Why did he abuse me?”


(This blog was originally written by me for LifeSurfer in 2015/2016)

Recently I asked an survivor whether she had questions for my blog that would let me help you. The questions she asked were namely “Why” questions about the abuser:

  • Why did he abuse me?
  • Why does the abuser makes a victim out of himself?
  • Why does he belittle others?
  • Why do others not see how the abuser really is?
  • Why did he see it as extremely annoying to think about his behavior?

I would like to go briefly into it.

An abuser makes himself a victim because from this position:

1.) he does not need to take responsibility for his actions,

2.) he can lay the blame on you,

3.) and because from the position of a victim he does not have to think about his actions (because it is your fault) and also, this way he can easily push away potential feelings of shame and does not need to seek help for his behavior.

4.) In addition, from this position he receives empathy and validation mostly from other women (“oh what a nasty ex you have”) and sometimes even female professionals, whereby of course often some of the facts are omitted from the story, or respectively added to it.

Why an abuser behaves the way he does, is difficult for me to indicate from sitting behind my desk. Of course there is a lot to say about it from the psychological point of view, but the possible answers are very diverse and as a matter of fact, the most of us will not be able to find out precisely why. It could be due to a personality disorder, but sometimes an alcohol addiction plays a role. An abuser who mistreats due to a borderline personality disorder does it because of different impulses/motives than someone with an alcohol problem.

What can help for example is to find out what kind of an abuser he is. For that, I use Dutton’s distinction, you can read more about it on the following website:

In conversations with clients, I am not that much interested in their abusive partners though. I am more interested in the “why” of the victim. ‘The fear is beaten into you with the first hit” says a friend of mine, but another question is; what did you tell yourself that made you want to continue that relationship? When did you have enough?

In many relationships where emotional or physical abuse plays a role you see a cyclical pattern;

In the first phase there is tension building; the abuser is moody, attacks verbally about little things, belittles the victim, shouts and criticizes.

The victim responds by trying to calm the offender down, being quiet or on the contrary talking a lot, ensuring that no one irritates the abuser. That is why, for example, she will ensure that the children stay quiet. She is passive, withdraws and walks on eggshells.

In the second phase the physical abuse starts. The victim is kicked, beaten, pinched etc. The victims respond to this by protecting themselves, for example, by going away or calming the partner down. At this stage some children or neighbors call the police.

Thereafter the third phase follows, in which the abuser apologizes or asks for forgiveness. He declares his love and says he will never do it again. Cries. Says that he/she cannot live without the victim. Gives her an important feeling and position. Threatens with suicide if the victim leaves, appeals to her tendency to care for him. This behavior of the abuser keeps many women in the relationship and causes mutual dependence. The reaction of the victim is that she agrees to stay, tries to stop legal proceedings and becomes hopeful for their relationship in the future. Another group of abusers threatens during this period with a lot of conviction to kill the wife and/or the children, or to take the children away. In this case there is no period of remorse and empty promises, but the abuser will simply ignore what he has done to the victim. The woman knows these are no empty threats and remains to stay alive or to protect her children. After that, the first phase starts again.

The point is that many women become ‘addicted’ to their feeling of wanting to save him. Both the abuser and the victim convince themselves and each other that together they can conquer the world. The victim has the feeling that she has to keep standing behind her husband.

A process called “traumatic bonding” is activated. Traumatic bonding is the result of continuous cycles of abuse characterized by an interrupted alternation between a punishment (abuse) from the abuser towards the victim and bigger rewards (to keep you in the relationship). Powerful emotional bonds are created here. Negative emotions are pushed away while the positive ones remain. These bonds discolor both the past experiences as well as the hoop for a better future.

The difference between the man who commits abuse and the man in the third phase is so great that women want the most to forget that in reality this man has just one body, and want to ignore the science. Moreover, many abusers say that ‘it wasn’t at all that bad’ and that ‘she should not make such a fuss out of it.’ The victim adopts these sentences like a mantra.

The question, therefore, is not that much why he did what he has done, because the chances are very high that you will never get the answer.

Even more, the why-question about the abusive partner diverts from what it really should be about; how is it possible that a woman as wonderful as you has entered such a relationship and  remained in it after he started treating you wrongly. What did you tell yourself about yourself, the other person and the relationship? Why have you stayed? Was it out of fear or were there other processes at hand? Why did you feel attracted to him?

You cannot change someone else, but a better life for you does start with you understanding of yourself. Do ask yourself, above all, about what you need to make yourself mentally and physically resilient and to live your life up to your wishes. Stop focusing on what you can’t change, it’s a waist of time.

Do you want to learn how to no longer let fear govern your life, how to make healthier choices or do you want to become more self-confident? Or do you simply want to move on with your life in the new direction?

-X- Alianne


If you want to look from a scientific perspective towards partner abusers, I can wholeheartedly recommend the books of Donald Dutton. The abusive personality is one of my favorite books EVER but is not meant for people who don’t read on a regular basis or dislike reading about in-depth psychology.

P.S. 2 I think this short video of Matthew Hussey can help you out. It’s not as much about partner abusers but it is about toxic relationships.

Abuse, Mindset

Understanding the mind of an abuse survivor. Guestblog by Lisa Cybaniak


My lovely friend Lisa wrote the beautiful blog below and I really would love to share with you all. It’s all about the mind of an abuse survivor in a relationship. I love how Lisa can explain in detail what she experiences as an survivor in the relationship with her husband (yaaay!!).

Understanding the mind of an abuse survivor

Trying to have a relationship when you are an abuse survivor is more difficult than most. There are the obvious difficulties with attachment and trust, but people who have not experienced abuse (thankfully) need to understand the mind of the abuse victim in order to have a successful relationship.

 Learning to cope

Speaking from personal experience, having a relationship after abuse is extremely difficult. But, it is difficult not just because you have to fight the intimacy issues, and the hostility issues, and learn to deal with your anger appropriately, or because of the low self-esteem. It is difficult because of the special senses us abuse survivors gained during our abuse. This doesn’t just apply to survivors of child abuse, but also adult abuse, for example in domestic violence cases.


Let me explain. When you are being abused, you learn how to cope. You detach yourself from the situation. Many people have heard of this, and it seems very logical. Your mind just sort of wanders from the abuse, especially during violent outbursts. You detach yourself from the pain, both emotionally and physically. You endure.

Eventually, you lose who you are. You methodically go through the motions, not really knowing what you like or dislike, what drives you and what bores you. You don’t know these things because your life is about more than these frivolous things. You can’t afford to have interests, to like things. Disliking something or being bored by something? Don’t be ridiculous. You have no idea what people are talking about. Your life is about survival, plain and simple.

Surviving abuse involves a great deal of detachment. It also involves the formation of a sixth sense. If you are to ever try to have a successful relationship with an abuse survivor, you need to understand this crucial point.

 Sixth Sense

Abuse survivors have learned how to anticipate, and in the process, diffuse the situation. I learned this around the age of five. I had perfected it by the age of seven. I learned these skills from being physically, psychologically, and sexually abused for 10 years, in a very crucial time of my life – from the age of 2 until 12 years of age.

During this time, I learned how to read micro-expressions. I started to become even more skilled, the more violent my home life became. The more times I entered my home not knowing what to expect, seeing a smile on my abuser’s face, assuming safety, only to find the maliciousness behind that smile, the more sophisticated my new sense became. My life depended on it, after all.

Sensing the Air

I started to be able to sense the air, the atmosphere of the room. I learned to ‘feel’ it, to understand it. I could feel the tension dripping from the air when I would walk into a room and he was looking for a fight. I began to recognise the smile he showed to others to give a sense a safety and trust, but really showed the anticipation he felt for what the near future held – the pain he would soon inflict on me.

I knew the rules of the house. I dared not break them. I now also understood the hidden rules. I could now anticipate his moods, his words, his feelings, and certainly his actions. And I learned to use this to my advantage, naturally. I used all this to adapt my words, my actions, and even myself. I could give him what he needed in order to avoid certain pain later.

Generally speaking, this ‘special’ sense saved my life. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. It is the reason I am alive today.

 The Effects

Here’s the problem, and what anyone trying to love an abuse survivor needs to understand. That was 30 years ago. I have not been in a situation where my life has depended on that skill a single time since then, yet I still do it EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. Every day, in every situation, I assess my situation. I determine how critical it is. I ‘read’ each person in my environment to determine the threat.

I especially do this in my relationships. Every relationship I have ever had, from friendships to romantic relationships, I have ‘felt’ the atmosphere in the room. I read something into everything. This is a skill that is part of me, and no matter how much time passes, it will never leave.

I can walk into a room and tell you who is upset at someone, who is down-right fighting with someone, who is in love, who is shy and intimidated, and who is attempting so hard to gain trust. I can also tell you who cannot be trusted, with no evidence what-so-ever.

I always second guess myself, thinking I am being pessimistic, reading too much into a situation, only to find out later just how right my instinct was.

 Loving an Abuse Survivor

Great, right? Sure, if you want someone in your life that is constantly assessing the situation. However, if you are hoping to marry, as my fiancé is, well…. you have a bit of work ahead of you. Marriage is not going to change anything. Abuse survivors are always going to be, well, survivors. I am always going to assess the situation, adjust to the ‘feeling’ in the room, be what the people in that room need me to be, and do what I need to do to survive.


Thankfully I have learned to verbally express what I am feeling. And even more thankfully, I know I have a man that understands, because I verbally express myself each time I need to. I tell him what I’m feeling, and we speak openly of my abuse. He hates that it happened to me, but recognises that it was a lifetime ago and I have done, and continue to do, what I need to to grow from my experiences. He knows that when I react in a way that is not ‘normal’, or tell him I’m sensing something that I can’t put my finger on, that this is who I am, because of the abuse.


Communication is key, and what I failed to have in other relationships, including a previous marriage. I communicate not just the facts of the abuse, but when my senses have kicked into high gear. And because I’ve communicated this, he is more patient. Let’s face it, sometimes he is giving off negative energy because of work, or other stresses. The world does not revolve around me, so not everything happening around me has anything to do with me. But I will perceive it this way, because this literally saved my life for 10 years. No amount of time is going to change that. Luckily, me learning to communicate all this, to a man who is strong enough to attempt to understand it, has led to my first successful relationship in my entire life.

One Foot out the Door

There is a large part of me that feels I am still in that house, still fighting for my life every day. It makes me need to fight every day to attach myself to this life I have created, with my man and his wonderful sons. I fight to let them, and others, in and I fight to let them stay. In my survivor’s mind, I will always be looking for the way I can save myself if things go wrong. I will always be on heightened alert. I will always have one foot out the door.

That is not just my battle, it has also become his. He fights through this with me every day, not really understanding it, but respecting it. It’s not every man that can do that.

Really Fall in Love with HER

To have a relationship with an abuse survivor doesn’t just mean you need to listen to what they endured years ago. It means you need to be able and willing to live with the consequences of that abuse for the unforeseeable future, because how she survived that abuse is now her nature. It has made her who she is, and it isn’t going anywhere. But, isn’t that what drew you to her in the first place? Didn’t you fall in love with her because of who she is?


Lisa Cybaniak has spent her entire adult life dedicated to helping others, for the first 16 years as a Registered Massage Therapist, Reiki Master, Acupuncturist, Lamaze Childbirth Educator, and Doula (someone who helps couples during the emotional time of labour and delivery), and the last 3 years as a Secondary School Science Teacher – yep, a science nerd!

Despite all this experience with helping others, the experience that shaped her and had the greatest impact on her life, was the childhood abuse she encountered for 10 years, and the subsequent 30 years she has spent overcoming it, in essence, learning how to help herself.

The next natural step for Lisa then, is to use what she has learned over her lifetime, to help others do the same – help themselves to live the life they deserve, one full of love and respect, success, and laughter. She focuses on sharing her experiences through her blog, ‘Life, like you mean it!’, and on Motivational Speaking, where she focuses on motivating people of all ages to overcome the challenges they face each day, whatever they may be, to be the best they can be.

Join Lisa in this adventure called life!

Abuse, Guestblog

How I responded after I was rejected by family after sharing my abuse experiences

family by blood

(This blog was originally written by me for LifeSurfer in 2015/2016)

What do you do when you are unexpectedly confronted with the family who abandoned you after you told them about being abused by a family member?

That’s a question I had to answer – within 5 seconds.

My mom and I made plans to eat with eachother at my moms house on a friday evening, a few weeks ago. And as we arrived I walked into the entrance hall, unaware of what was about to happen. As I was about to open the door towards the living room, my mom suddenly said: “watch out that the dog doesn’t escape.”

All kinds of alarm bells began to ring in my head because the only dog that visits my mother’s house is the dog of an uncle of mine. The children were walking behind me, waiting for me to open the door as I went deep inside myself to gather all the pieces I had within me as I replied: “Why? Which dog?”

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Focusing on you instead of on energy suckers

Focusing on you

(This blog was originally written by me for LifeSurfer in 2015/2016)

If I could tell you one thing today let it be this:

Instead of focusing on the abuser; what he must be thinking, what he is up to next, if that last message he has sent was narcissistic or not, what he… whatever… just stop it and instead focus on what is right for you. What makes you feel empowered. What makes you feel loved. What makes you feel happy. What makes you stronger. What makes you feel alive.

You don’t have any control about what the abuser is up to next and your strength is not in what you can’t control but in what you can do to make yourself stronger. All else is wasted energy. The only thing you have any influence on is you and how you respond to things happening to you and to your life.

That’s sounds easy and it isn’t, I am aware of that. But if you want to become a stronger version of yourself you have to stop giving power away to things you can’t control and start focusing on you , your progress, and making your life the best as you possibly can.

Taking back your power

So if that means you have to block him on facebook and whatsapp to regain some sanity, do it. Actually, that is one of the most important things you actually can do. If you have children together and there has to be some kind of interaction; ask someone to do that for you. Give yourself time to become a stronger version of you without becoming confused because you are reminded of the person you once were and the power difference and inequality that has been in the relationship between the two of you.

Become aware when your mind is drifting of to thoughts like whatever he should have done, must do, has done or whatever… realise why you still have those thoughts (anger, fear?), tell yourself that you will release those thoughts/won’t act upon them and go do something totally different. If you don’t have something to do; do pilates, or yoga, or the dishes. If you don’t have dishes to clean, come to my place, do mine. You have better things to do in your life than wanting to change things that won’t be changed, to busy yourself with things you cannot change, to give power away to someone not worthy of your precious time and energy. You have better things to do.

Remember: you are A.W.E.S.O.M.E.

And you totally got this.

Abuse, Mindset