Years ago I sought out books to help me understand my husband’s sporadic unreasonable behavior toward me. I looked for ways to circumvent or prevent his behavior, which was so unsuccessful that it made me weep in frustration. A marketing executive, I worked hard on our relationship, was faithful and loved my husband. It took years to put the patterns together, but unfortunately it escalated to physical abuse and a near deadly attack.
How do you take a stand and protect yourself and your children from a dangerous partner who is also your spouse whom you have loved? How do you navigate fearing a person whom you have journeyed and built a life with?
Consider a few more questions…
Do you feel relief when that person is not around?
Do you walk around on eggshells? We all know that expression – You can’t say what you are thinking because your partner explodes or puts your ideas down.
Does your partner call you stupid, dumb, a b*tch or bastard?
Does your partner lose focus on what you are arguing about only to emphasize your faults, or the past? Does it feel like nothing ever gets resolved? Does he/she apologize, say they love you, then do it all over again?
Does your partner denigrate the other sex? Women are…______. Men are…______. These abusive partners tend to generalize and exaggerate as a matter of course.
Is your partner sarcastic and puts others down?
I encourage you to start observing how you feel. I used to want others to witness what I was seeing, but my spouse’s bad behavior was always in private. I needed to learn to trust myself and not rely on others to see what I was experiencing from my partner.
There are people out there who are NOT OKAY. They hurt and abuse the most vulnerable persons – their partners, their families, the ones they profess to love.
Why? It is all about power. They want the family to “respect” them, and respect in their book is achieved by dominance, either physical or verbal.
I had an exchange student who I adored and whose step-father exhibited abusive behaviors on a milder scale. She needed help and she escaped her situation by coming here for a year to study.
With distance on our side, without being aggressive, my exchange student started to ask her step-father why he said what he did – trying to make him think about his words. She didn’t argue, she didn’t fight, she just asked questions. It really helped her deal with him.
Questions that victims of verbal abuse can begin to ask are: “What do you mean by that?" “What are you trying to achieve with that remark?” And later, if they are at receptive, tell them how it makes you feel. The more you don’t take their behavior personally (as a result of the blame that is placed on you) and the more you practice not reacting, the more you will feel empowered.
As I was warned many years ago, abuse can and usually will escalate. When I started not reacting, my husband would attack our son verbally and then try to shove him around. Not at all what I wanted. My hope was that my spouse would change, but my (now ex) husband needed a new victim. The power to change is in the abuser’s hands. Although, it is so difficult for them. They don’t see themselves as abusive, because they get what they crave most from their dominance – a feeling of self esteem.
I highly recommend the book, 'Why Does He Do That?' by Lundy Bancroft. Bancroft spent many years counselling abusers. His book can help you discern what type of abuser your partner is and whether you should leave. If your abuser starts to hit you, grab your arm, push and shove you, it will only get worse. Go and get help. Call Family Safety Network in Driggs. Our advocates are well trained and are the best listeners. Remember, unlike others you may have talked to about your partner, advocates do what their title says – they advocate for you. They are in your court. An advocate will walk with you through your journey to peace. You are not alone.
Erica Tremblay is the Vice President of the Board of Directors at Family Safety Network.