when you tell a man how he has hurt you and his response is “oh I’m such a piece of shit I’m a terrible person omg omg” and mentions/does nothing at all w/re: to your pain

(and then you’re the one reassuring and comforting him of course you are, again)

This is a abuser tactic. If a man does this, he is a toxic person and a manipulator who needs to be avoided forever.


no no no no no

Tumblr, you have a serious problem where you call all unhealthy interpersonal behavior “inherently abusive”.

I know many kind and caring people who do this. These are people who have guilt and anxiety issues; realizing that they’ve hurt someone they care about can send them into a panicky spiral of self-flagellation.

I sometimes do this. Occasionally when I learn that I’ve hurt someone, I go into a state of sick guilt that I’ve written about before:

At its extremes, guilt is paralytic: I can’t really do anything except curl into a ball and apologize profusely and hope that the other person doesn’t hate me. Sometimes my anxiety will prompt me to try and make amends, but I feel so underconfident that I second-guess all my thoughts on how to do that, and so I’m left with wretchedly apologizing over and over again… Generally I can only productively deal with a mistake [by thinking about the situation clearly, diagnosing where I went wrong, and coming up with a plan to avoid causing harm in the future] once I’ve worked through my guilt.

I’m completely aware that this is unhelpful and unhealthy behavior. And it would be completely reasonable for someone to say, “Look, your behavior makes it hard for me to tell you when you’ve hurt me. This is a deal-breaker; I can’t be close to someone when I feel uncomfortable telling them that they’ve violated my boundaries, or when I have to comfort them every time I tell them they’ve harmed me.”

This would be perfectly valid, and I would never try to stop anyone who wanted to leave me for this reason. That would be abusive.

But I really resent being told that since I sometimes have guilt spirals, I’m inherently a “toxic person and a manipulator who needs to be avoided forever.”

Everyone has the right to set their own boundaries. “I won’t date or be friends with anyone who goes into a guilt spiral when I tell them that they’ve hurt me” is a perfectly valid boundary. It’s also perfectly valid to not have that boundary. I personally do not find it stressful to interact with people who go into guilt spirals; I’m okay with comforting and reassuring them and helping them work through their guilt, and waiting until they’ve calmed down to have a more productive discussion. Because my boundaries and preferences allow it, I often have positive and healthy relationships with people who work this way.

So I’m concerned about how Tumblr discusses things like this. I’m concerned that people like misandry-mermaid, who have so many followers, would casually call everyone with an anxiety disorder “toxic people and manipulators”. I’m concerned that Tumblr creates a narrative where every behavior is either Completely Valid And Above Criticism or Inherently Abusive And Evil.

Tumblr, do you realize how many anxious, kind people will read posts like this and conclude that they’re horrible toxic abusers?

And by constantly emphasizing this narrative of “horrible toxic abusers”, do you realize that you’re making it harder for people to set their own boundaries in all cases where they don’t think their partner is a horrible toxic abuser? Do you realize that you’re making it harder for the girl who knows her boyfriend loves and cares about her, but who still can’t healthily be in a relationship with him because of his anxiety issues?

Please be careful when you create narratives. Someone doesn’t have to be evil or abusive for you to have a boundary that precludes engaging with them. And the only behavior that’s inherently abusive is refusing to respect the boundaries that other people set.