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“I’ll do this for your own good” is a saying that unruly children know quite well. Parents love to pull it out to warrant punishment for wrongdoing, as if a child would appreciate that at some point they would appreciate the fact that you loved them enough to take their Xbox away for a week.
But when it comes to adult relationships, the term is often used to rid a party of guilt in an argument and, in practice, to justify unfair forms of marginalization or abuse. The rationale is presented that whatever a person does or says is excusable because it is meant to benefit their partner, family member, or friend – in reality, the outcome may be the opposite.
Here’s why there’s no point telling someone it’s for your own good and how to react when someone tells you.
It is “more concealed than open”
Covert forms of abuse are inherently psychological and often take on insidious forms that outwardly do not appear abusive: for example: someone who lights you with gas or give that to you silent treatment. Another of these tactics insists that some form of punishment is for a person’s “own good” and is therefore inherently benevolent. In reality, it is a manipulative trick that can be used to justify exclusion or ridicule, and is usually used with the intention of controlling another person.
How Dr. Heather Stevenson, a New York psychologist tells Lifehacker, it’s something to be taken seriously – especially when it comes to recurring events in your relationship:
Things like trying to control or dictate someone’s behavior and actions, sometimes on the understanding that “it’s for your own good” or “I’m just taking care of you,” are red flags that shouldn’t be ignored.
These forms of behavior control may be unconscious, and it may not be obvious to the person claiming to be representing your interests that they are actually condescending or possibly even abusive. In general, offenders tend to suffer from a Series of mental illnesses, including insecurity and depression, they can inadvertently harm you.
When a significant other or friend puts responsibility for their own emotional wellbeing on you, it is also a sign of abusive behavior, says Stevenson:
Similarly, this is a subtle form of manipulation that can indicate an abusive dynamic when a significant other or family member is trying to get you to do something that claims, “If you don’t do X, it hurts me .
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What should I say if this happens to you?
When you are able to question the logic of how anything that is done to you can potentially be for “your own good,” just ask your partner or friend how it is. For example, if someone ignores you and insists that you get some use out of the stone wall, asking them how you actually do this can be productive. Being able to poke holes in their logic when up to such a challenge can be helpful in encouraging them to find other ways to communicate with you – even if they are upset about you .
Additionally, it is important to note that you are your best lawyer and have a better understanding of what is in your best interests than your partner. While you are entitled to make suggestions, you definitely do not have sole discretion about how you live your life. You can definitely explain your logic, especially if you think something is “for your own good” but you are more than entitled to express disagreements.
Most of all, Stevenson says to trust your instincts and seek outside help and perspective in solving the problem. She writes:
If you are experiencing this in a relationship, adjust to your gut reaction that the request or inquiry may put off, and don’t ignore it. Get outside advice, especially from a trained therapist or specialist, on how to identify these behavioral patterns and how to maintain your limits and your self-confidence.
Most importantly, if your relationship dynamics continue down this path, it may be time you reached out to couples together or thought about ending them.