do you respond to a dirty look or hurtful comments that come out of blue when
you least expect it? I'm usually caught
so off guard that I can't even react or think
until later. I need quick action."
Those behaviours are intended to catch you unawares. You don’t specify when they occur, but if they are coming out of the blue then I’m wondering whether they tend to happen when you are feeling relatively safe and happy.
In order for an abusive man to feel good about himself, someone else needs to be made to feel bad. I don’t need to tell you that in most cases that someone else is going to be you.
Maybe you were feeling too comfortable for his liking, or maybe because you weren’t feeling under threat he felt threatened by you. It’s possible that you were a teeny bit more assertive or opinionated or ‘demanding’ than he would have liked.
You must have noticed by now that, according to his rules, you are actively discouraged from:
· Standing up for yourself
· Having your own opinion
· Making any demands whatsoever, however modest.
Such behaviours count, in his eyes, as gross insurrection that need to be dealt with instantly, or the safe and natural order of things – his unquestioned supremacy – will be threatened.
In other words, at bottom he is one very frightened little boy. But there's no need to waste your time on sympathy for him. Spare your compassion for yourself, for once.
So, you ask: how do you respond?
Actually any obvious response is likely to be a bad one. Looking hurt and falling silent is gratifying for him. Challenging his comments is good for him also, because then you engage in trying to persuade him of your point of view - which is never going to happen. But it does put him firmly back in the driver’s seat.
The best way to respond is by making small noises of the “Uh huh”, “Ok” type, that denote that you are polite enough to acknowledge that he has spoken, but that you really don’t think the content is worthy of any comment. Or you could simply say: “What?” in a tone of detached surprise.
It is also far better for you to do that and not dwell on the injustice or hurtfulness of what he has said.
Your partner is a very skilled communicator. He likes to score direct hits on your psyche and tends to be very good at that. However, it’s your choice what kind of target you present. Not reacting in a predictable way gives him the message he has missed the target.
I’d love to be able to say that, having missed the target once, he will just give up. In theory, asking “What?” could stop him in his tracks and make him reconsider what he has just said and what he hopes to achieve. If he does that there may be the beginning of a more useful dialogue. But that is probably the outside chance.
It is, unfortunately, more likely that he will keep trying to get under your skin, escalating the hurtfulness of his words. He has to do that because by now he’s feeling insecure himself.
If that is the way he chooses to operate, and it may well be, then you have to ask yourself a question or two?
- What is so worth holding onto in this relationship that I am prepared to tolerate being treated in this way?
- How much worse does he need to make it before I understand that this is what I can expect in this relationship?
It’s not quick action you need, Brenda, but constructive action.
And if you feel your self-worth is too low for you to be able to make changes, then my ebook, “The Woman You Want To Be” will help you to
- put those negative beliefs behind you,
- love the woman you are and can be and
- create a life worth living for yourself.