Rationalizations 3- 4
#3: "He Doesn't Mean It."
The third rationalization to stay in the
abusive relationship in addition to Communication Magic and Hiding Pain is He
Doesn't Mean It. An abuser may follow his abusive statements with, "It was
only a joke," or "I was only kidding." I worked with Molly, a 36-year-old
accountant whose husband, George, had been court-ordered to an anger management
group. George would constantly belittle Molly in front of her friends and their
child. Molly would laugh along with them rather than risk more painful verbal
This rationalization is the result of the abusive technique mentioned
earlier called, "Can't-You-Take-a-Joke." Molly made excuses for George's
abusive humor by stating, "He doesn't really mean it." This is the abused
person reaction to the abusive technique discussed in track 2 "Can't you
Take A Joke." So one side of the coin is the Great Catch saying "Can't
you Take a Joke." The other side of the coin is the recipient rationalizing,
"He doesn't really mean it"
what would you do when your client defends their partner's offensive remarks stating,
"He doesn't mean it?"
Technique: "He doesn't mean it?"
first step, I felt, with Molly was identification of the abusive statement.
second step, Molly felt, was her stating this identification to George.
in order to get to the point of stating this to George, I needed to work with
Molly on ways to increase her courage and self-esteem.
For her to reply to
George, when he states it's only a joke, "It isn't a joke to me. To me, a
joke is when people laugh. I am not laughing, and I don't think it's funny."
To increase Molly's self esteem to get to the point to say this, I used self-affirmations
that Molly created. Here's an example of one of Molly's affirmations: "I
deserve to be treated well." Thus, if you are treating a client who uses
rationalization #3, "He doesn't mean it," would affirmations be of assistance
in your next session?
#4: "I Am Just Too Sensitive."
The forth rationalization to stay
in an abusive relationship, in addition to Communication Magic, Hiding Pain, and
He Doesn't Mean It, is
I Am Too Sensitive. Mary, a 32-year old housewife,
stated, "I am just too sensitive. These things Allen says and does would
not bother other people. Like calling me slob while flicking his cigarette ashes
on the floor and saying I need to clean them up. I should be able to get over
it. He has lots of financial worries at work, and I feel I don't back him up enough.
I feel I provoke him into yelling at me, and somehow, maybe it is me."
Mary started crying, Allen would respond by yelling, "There you go overreacting
again!" By Allen labeling Mary as "too sensitive," he was able
to deny responsibility for his action. The fault was Mary's...she was too sensitive.
Sound familiar? Thus, Allen does not have to change, because he doesn't think
he is doing anything wrong. Mary's rationalization that she was too sensitive
created a road block to the development of an emotionally supportive relationship.
What would you do?
Technique: Making a Dispute List - 2 Steps
felt a good next step to increase Mary's awareness of her negative self-talk was
to have Mary make a Dispute List.
I told Mary, "Have a debate with your self
1. First, think of something demeaning Allen said to you. For example,
calling you a slob as he flicked his cigarette ashes on the floor demanding you
2. Then, on a sheet of paper make two columns.
In the first column dispute
Allen's attack mildly. For example, I felt like a failure and unimportant. In
the second column, dispute it vigorously. Be firm, yet rational, and don't move on until you believe what you have written
in the second column." For example, Mary also practiced this method with irrational
beliefs she held about herself, further increasing her self-esteem.
track discussed... the rationalizations of: Communication Magic, that sudden, wonderful
changes will happen if they can just get their Great Catch to understand; Hiding
Pain stated, I don't want to give him the satisfaction of seeing my hurt; the
third rationalization is, He Doesn't Mean It for which affirmations were used;
and I'm Just Too Sensitive for which Dispute Listing was used.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Iverson, K. M., Gradus, J. L., Resick, P. A., Suvak, M. K., Smith, K. F., & Monson, C. M. (2011). Cognitive–behavioral therapy for PTSD and depression symptoms reduces risk for future intimate partner violence among interpersonal trauma survivors. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 79(2), 193–202.
Jeong, J., Adhia, A., Bhatia, A., McCoy, D. C., & Yousafzai, A. K. (2020). Intimate partner violence, maternal and paternal parenting, and early child development. Pediatrics, 145(6), Article e20192955.
Kobayashi, J. E., Bernard, N. K., Nuttall, A. K., Levendosky, A. A., Bogat, G. A., & Lonstein, J. S. (2021). Intimate partner violence and positive parenting across early childhood: Comparing self-reported and observed parenting behavior. Journal of Family Psychology, 35(6), 745–755.
Marshall, A. D., Jones, D. E., & Feinberg, M. E. (2011). Enduring vulnerabilities, relationship attributions, and couple conflict: An integrative model of the occurrence and frequency of intimate partner violence. Journal of Family Psychology, 25(5), 709–718.
Stephenson, J., & Renk, K. (2019). Understanding the relationship between mothers’ childhood exposure to intimate partner violence and current parenting behaviors through adult intimate partner violence: A moderation analysis. Journal of Child Custody: Research, Issues, and Practices, 16(4), 339–363.
Willie, T. C., Powell, A., Callands, T., Sipsma, H., Peasant, C., Magriples, U., Alexander, K., & Kershaw, T. (2019). Investigating intimate partner violence victimization and reproductive coercion victimization among young pregnant and parenting couples: A longitudinal study. Psychology of Violence, 9(3), 278–287.
In "Dispute Listing" what are the two types of entries on
the Client Worksheet? To select and enter your answer go to .