The concept of loyalty is positive in most people’s minds. It conjures up visions of devotion, devotion, love, respect and honor. In a healthy relationship involving two emotionally balanced people, loyalty is appropriate and can cement a mutually satisfying, fulfilling union. However, there are instances where “loyalty” can be seriously misplaced. When a partner is emotionally or otherwise abused by the other person in the relationship, the devotion and attachment that the victim shows is unhealthy. Here are 4 reasons why the concept of loyalty can be misplaced in abusive relationships:
1. Loyalty should come from love, empathy, and concern about how the other person would react if there were a disloyal act. In other words, when a loyal person in a relationship is tempted to do something that would hurt the other partner, they act out of concern for the hurt feelings the partner would have because of the betrayal. This does not occur in an emotionally abusive relationship.
2. A primary motivator for a victim of emotional abuse is fear. There is concern about the price, consequence or punishment expected of the betrayed partner if the victim deviates from the parameters of acceptable behavior in the relationship. This differs from true loyalty in that the victim “behaves” out of intimidation.
3. The victim’s partner’s loyal behavior in an emotionally abusive relationship is demanded by the perpetrator. His or her definition of “loyalty” becomes the defining model for the relationship. This confirms the perpetrator’s control. He or she may place in the abused partner what most people would consider unreasonable expectations of devotion or loyalty. For example, the abuser might demand that the victim give up time with friends and family. In a balanced relationship, this would be viewed as a controlling and inappropriate request. In the mind of an abuser, however, this can become a crucial test of his concept of “loyalty.”
4. Rather than empathy, love, and genuine respect compelling the victim to act within certain parameters, the victim may also feel obligated and guilty to follow the “rules.” The abuser may blame the victim for their anger and abuse on the pretext that the abused partner is disloyal and thus caused the abusive reaction. Thus, loyalty as a concept is once again distorted from its true meaning, and for the victim, the primary motivation becomes primarily to avoid abuse.
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