Moshe-Mordechai van Zuiden
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Eight steps of instructions for husbands of abusive women

I do not dare to write such advice for wives of abusive men because the latter may kill. Most likely, such women need to flee (with the kids) to safety first. Don’t announce you will flee. That could cost you your life!

By abusive, I don’t mean someone who is sometimes (or often) angry and unreasonable. I mean, people who systematically and increasingly try to isolate and control their spouses by confusing and intimidating them.

(Some men with furious wives may need therapy to realize that the men’s arrogance makes them livid. The seemingly problematic ones are not so.)

You can set the following steps to improve your impossible situation. They go from easy to hard. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that you can save the relationship. If you don’t have kids yet (and no pregnancy), you could save yourself a lot of trouble by going for divorce immediately.

1. Empathy for yourself. “Obligated.”

You must (learn to) hug yourself, tell yourself that you feel for you. Take your time crying, shaking, laughing, saying words you need to say or hear. This is survival 101. You’ll get better at it over time.

Forgive yourself for every time you were unreasonable or angry in return. You’re only human. There is a limit to what anyone can take.

2. Empathy from others. Highly recommended.

In such a rough situation, you could use some help. Especially, if you (most likely) had an abused childhood or are such a good but naïve guy. And most likely, you are because otherwise wouldn’t have felt so homey with her or been blind to what was coming.

Don’t seek empathy from people with sweet lives and sweet partners who apparently simply can’t understand your predicament. They’d advise you what you should improve to change her. Effectively, they blame the victim (you). Their supposed help will sap you of all your energy. Change the subject and be with them just to have a good time, not to find empathy.

3. Her bad words are often unchecked. Just an attempt to convey anger. Try to remember that. Every time you don’t forget that, you do yourself a great service. But, the times you did fail to recall this are no big deal.

Notice that her words are quite random. Often, they don’t describe the present accurately at all. (They cover her childhood trauma.) When she comes to the end of her ‘reasons’ for being angry, she just repeats the list. These words are meaningless. Or, maybe, they’re meant to hurt you as she perceives anyone who is close as a threat. Not because you did anything bad; it’s from her first years in life when really, she was victimized.

She makes herself angry and then defends it with whatever comes up for her. Don’t ponder those words. They are not worth the airtime they got.

4. What seems to us an easy improvement for others to make, apparently isn’t so easy when they don’t improve, with or without hints. Their irrationalities don’t need to anger us anymore when we understand that such improvements are apparently very difficult: for the other person.

Do you think it’s easy enough to try to be grateful, honest, empathetic, respectful, loving, decent, fair, etc.? That’s why she married you! But, apparently, for her, it’s not easy. She finds herself in a warzone. It’s wounding the enemy or die. She’s unaware that she makes the war.

5. In an arguing atmosphere, don’t try to appear strong or weak. That is fuel on the fire for the other. A tiny bit grumpy (feeling bad) on the outside. But only a tiny bit. Inside, you can feel strong (or weak).

Don’t smile or look optimistic while she screams. That gives her the signal that you can (or need to) have more.

Don’t look sad or weak while she screams. That reminds her of how she feels and only makes her more frantic.

6. Give pure empathy and maybe compliments. “How terrible for you.” “How do you keep it up?” “It really hurts, doesn’t it?” “How wonderful that you are still doing so much for others while you feel so awful.”

Don’t blame yourself for not being able to set this step. This is really advanced stuff, and you may never be able to do this even once. Maybe you can hire someone to do this for you. But don’t expect her to open up in therapy. She’s at war and will not let anyone into her fortress.

When you try to do this, don’t say “I” or “we.” Don’t apologize for your incompetence or imperfections. You didn’t do anything wrong, and she isn’t concerned with you or the relationship at all when she’s that angry.

You can set this step to see what happens next. But you can’t predict what she’s going to do with so much empathy. Maybe she’ll get angrier, maybe she’ll cry, maybe then, she’ll stop being annoying for a/the moment.

Don’t give empathy to try and make her reasonable. It will come across as you trying to improve her, which means, in fact, you’re arguing with her.

Giving pure empathy is very difficult when you are under attack. First, try the private mantra, “I’m not the problem at all. This isn’t about me at all.”

7. She attacks, but she feels attacked, for decades. She thinks she has to defend herself.

Her anger is meant to make her feel safe enough to shiver or cry.

When you give enough empathy, tears or shivers will come naturally.

But then, the problem is not over yet.

She has to cry a lot before she understands that you are not the problem. That rather, she’s bothered by trauma from a long time ago. Even if she acknowledges that for a moment, she can forget it again. But eventually, she can remember it more often, until one day, she’ll never forget it again.

8. Even if you (sometimes) can’t do any of the above, try to remember that this is all a gift for you to grow. You don’t have to be happy about it, but you do have to be grateful to G^d for the challenge. It’s all a gift.

You could try to save this relationship. You could finally learn to love yourself enough. You can cure yourself of being naïve and overly hopeful. You can decide to say, “Enough is enough,” and go for divorce. But, in any case, use your unfortunate situation to improve yourself and your life.

You probably need to reread and reread the above to work with it.

Trying the above is more productive than worrying. Try to act rather than stay passive because the situation untreated will only worsen. If you stay (increasingly) ‘helpless,’ your kids may learn that being abusive is more attractive than being abused or that when abused in a relationship, there is nothing they can do. You don’t want them to learn either.

About the Author
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, previously a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He often makes his readers laugh, mad, or assume he's nuts—close to perfect blogging. He's proud that his analytical short comments are removed both from left-wing and right-wing news sites. None of his content is generated by the new bore on the block, AI. * As a frontier thinker, he sees things many don't yet. He's half a prophet. Half. Let's not exaggerate. Or not at all because he doesn't claim G^d talks to him. He gives him good ideas—that's all. MM doesn't believe that people observe and think in a vacuum. He, therefore, wanted a broad bio that readers interested can track a bit what (lack of) backgrounds, experiences, and educations contribute to his visions. * This year, he will prioritize getting his unpublished books published rather than just blog posts. Next year, he hopes to focus on activism against human extinction. To find less-recent posts on a subject XXX among his over 2000 archived ones, go to the right-top corner of a Times of Israel page, click on the search icon and search "zuiden, XXX". One can find a second, wilder blog, to which one may subscribe too, here: or by clicking on the globe icon next to his picture on top. * Like most of his readers, he believes in being friendly, respectful, and loyal. However, if you think those are his absolute top priorities, you might end up disappointed. His first loyalty is to the truth. He will try to stay within the limits of democratic and Jewish law, but he won't lie to support opinions or people when don't deserve that. (Yet, we all make honest mistakes, which is just fine and does not justify losing support.) He admits that he sometimes exaggerates to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he's quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds - how Dutch - that a strong opinion doesn't imply intolerance of other views. * Sometimes he's misunderstood because his wide and diverse field of vision seldomly fits any specialist's box. But that's exactly what some love about him. He has written a lot about Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (including basic statistics), Politics (Israel, the US, and the Netherlands, Activism - more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight reality), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA+, foreigners and anyone else who's dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), the Climate Crisis, Ecology and Veganism, Affairs from the news, or the Torah Portion of the Week, or new insights that suddenly befell him. * Chronologically, his most influential teachers are his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim, Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. This short list doesn't mean to disrespect others who taught him a lot or a little. One of his rabbis calls him Mr. Innovation [Ish haChidushim]. Yet, his originalities seem to root deeply in traditional Judaism, though they may grow in unexpected directions. In fact, he claims he's modernizing nothing. Rather, mainly basing himself on the basic Hebrew Torah text, he tries to rediscover classical Jewish thought almost lost in thousands of years of stifling Gentile domination and Jewish assimilation. (He pleads for a close reading of the Torah instead of going by rough assumptions of what it would probably mean and before fleeing to Commentaries.) This, in all aspects of life, but prominently in the areas of Free Will, Activism, Homosexuality for men, and Redemption. * He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, and disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed. He aims to bring a fresh perspective rather than harp on the obvious and familiar. When he can, he loves to write encyclopedic overviews. He doesn't expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds should be disputed. In short, his main political positions are among others: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, anti those who abuse democratic liberties, anti the fake ME peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, pro-Science, pro-Free Will, anti-blaming-the-victim, and for down-to-earth, classical optimism, and happiness. Read his blog on how he attempts to bridge any tensions between those ideas or fields. * He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (, born in 1953 to his parents who were Dutch-Jewish Holocaust survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork. He grew up a humble listener. It took him decades to become a speaker too, and decades more to admit to being a genius. But his humility was his to keep. And so was his honesty. Bullies and con artists almost instantaneously envy and hate him. He hopes to bring new things and not just preach to the choir. * He holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam) – is half a doctor. He practices Re-evaluation Co-counseling since 1977, is not an official teacher anymore, and became a friendly, powerful therapist. He became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he was active in hasbara to the Dutch-speaking public. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He's a strict vegan since 2008. He's an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. * His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second-generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew - how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder - yes, he is a bit dyslectic. If you're a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having an original peek outside of your cultural bubble. * To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me. * His newest books you may find here:
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