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The Hidden Agenda

It cannot be argued that every relationship which comes to an end is a case of emotional rape. So what distinguishes this situation from the many other circumstances which bring relationships to a painful end?

Isn't it possible that Steve and Ellen just grew apart, that theirs was a love story that simply didn't work out?

Perhaps Steve was an extremely difficult person to be involved with and, in truth, lucky the marriage lasted as long as it did. Where does the true story of the relationship lie? And in what way can Steve's experience legitimately be described as a violation analogous to rape?

The most significant distinguishing feature of emotional rape - one discovered in material form by Steve - is the presence of a hidden, or dishonest, agenda.

Months later, while he was searching through records to prepare for divorce proceedings, Steve found a five-year-old diary belonging to Ellen. This journal spelled out her plans to pursue an acting career, plans she had never shared with him although he had repeatedly asked about the long-term purpose of her expensive and time-consuming interest in the theater.

The discovery of that diary - a statement of intention clarified beyond doubt Ellen's selfish motives for her involvement with Steve. She had deliberately used his love and support as a vehicle to move towards her own secret goal of becoming an actress.

This is the classic emotional rape scenario: the use of a higher emotion (in this case, love) to fulfill a hidden agenda (her acting career).

Even after their separation, when, although she didn't know it, Steve had read her diary, Ellen still insisted that she never planned a full time acting career, saying it was simply something that had happened "one step at a time."

Her continued denial of the existence of any hidden agenda showed the depth of her deception and led Steve to the painful realization that she had never loved him.

There can be no hidden agendas in real love.

A sincere relationship requires agreements between partners. The exact nature of these agreements - whether they are written, spoken, or implied understandings - is not important. What is important is that there is understanding and trust between the people involved.

Between a man and a woman the most common agreements are that their relationship will be lasting, honest and monogamous. When one partner's intentions are at odds with these understandings, and are kept secret from the other partner, the relationship becomes basically flawed.

In cases of emotional rape this dishonesty is often present from the very beginning, although it is unusual to find hard evidence, as Steve did, of the hidden agenda. (Emotional rapists tend to avoid any definite spoken or written statements of intent, preferring vaguely-defined implied agreements.)

However, a sufficient number of identifiable characteristics are usually present that, while it is often too late for catastrophe to be anticipated and averted, the reasons for the breakdown of the relationship can be understood after the event.

These features, even if identified in retrospect, can help victims understand what has happened to them, giving them a chance of real recovery.

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