Where's the person I fell in love with? The two faces of abuse
Here at REACH, one of the comments we hear most frequently from clients who come to us for help is: “No one believes me when I try to tell them that he is so violent (or verbally abusive) towards me (and the children) when we’re alone with him.
They think he is such a great guy cause he puts on this really friendly, “good buddy” face when he is around his friends and the people at work or church. But in front of me and the children, he’s a totally different person. When he walks through our door, he turns into the devil himself. What happened to the loving person I married?”
This dangerous situation is so common it even has a name: Life with a Jekyll and Hyde Personality. Before the scientific psychological discoveries of Freud and others in the twentieth century, Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a popular novel published by in 1886 The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
It was an allegory about how good and evil existed in one person. Dr. Jekyll, a straight-laced London scientist, discovered a potion which changed him into the rough, murderous Mr. Hyde. Modern theories of psychology might classify the dual personality individual as having antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) or dissocial personality disorder.
The spouses or partners might say they are involved with someone who is “two-faced” or has a “split personality.” The “ Jekyll” side might be charming, talkative, and a non-conformist, perhaps even fearless and a thrill-seeker, which might seem appealing at first. But after “Jekyll” has worked magic and the partner has fallen in love, the mean “Hyde” side shows up.
“Hyde” lies constantly, has no empathy for others, doesn’t accept responsibility for actions and acts in a cold-hearted, manipulative, violent way to the partner or family behind closed doors.
When our clients say that the abuser they are living with or dating has changed into a different person, we try to help them understand that “Hyde” was always there, just in hiding. It is very difficult for an abuser to keep up the charming “Jekyll” front for long because it is not his or her true nature.
And every abuser has some good traits or no one would ever be with him or her. It’s just in this type of person, the harmful traits far outweigh the pleasing ones…and could end up destroying the partner and family.
When horrible “Hyde” is present, here are some typical red flags that might appear:
attacks on personal character (“you’re a loser”….crazy….thief….a liar); blame and accusations (“It’s your fault I hit you…you said you were out with your girlfriends but I know you were cheating on me…”); shame and judging (“You’re such a fat pig—ugly witch—stupid no-mind—who else would have you except me?…”);
sarcasm and twisting what you say (“Oh, are you gonna cry now? Like a little whinny baby?”); rewriting history (“I lost that job because my boss was a jerk”… “I’ve always supported this family!”); playing the victim (“You know I had a hard childhood…lost my mother when I was young…was abused”); manipulation, control and coercion (“I’ll set the rules in this house! If you know what’s good for you…”, “Keep crying and I’ll hit you again” “If you loved me, you’d stay and try to help me”); unpredictable explosions (You have to walk around on eggshells, because you never know what will set “Hyde” off); criticism that is harsh and underserved (“You’re the worst cook…mother…lover….in the world!”); swearing at you
intimidation (“If you leave me, I’ll really hurt you — or the children — or your pet”);
escalating situations (goes from being calm into a full rage in seconds, no in-between); sometimes apologizes for the abuse but never makes any real plans to change.
Can women have dual personalities? Of course. But research has shown that the vast majority of abusers who display this type of personality are male. If you are involved with or dating a “Jekyll-Hyde” person, please come in and talk with us.
We can help you with counseling, support, shelter, referrals to other agencies and protective orders, all for no charge. Believe us, we understand the traumatic stress you’ve been living with … we could have written the book.
Buffy Queen is the community educator with REACH of Haywood County.