“He’s Never Hit Me.” Abuse.

Self-Care Tip #163 – Name abuse when it is there.  Be a friend to yourself.

Alexandria (Alex) was crying a lot.  She was trying to divorce her husband but he wouldn’t leave.  He wouldn’t speak.  He only yelled.  He yelled at her, alone, in front of their kids, in the morning, when he came home from work, he yelled.  And he never spoke to her any more.  It’s been weeks since they spoke.  When I asked her if she thought she was abused, she said, “No.  He’s never hit me.”

Mar de Emociones / Emotional Landscapes

What do I do?  I can’t go on like this but everything I try, he won’t listen!

There are so many things many of us would tell Alex.  But would any of it make sense if she didn’t know she had rights?  If she didn’t know what was happening to her?  If she didn’t know, this is abuse.

The “Do You?” questions, per Dr. Quijada, to ask yourself if you aren’t sure if you are abused:

Do you feel good about yourself when you are together?

Do you feel scared?

Do you feel like you have choices?

Do you have effective boundaries; observed boundaries?

Do you say, “No,” and are heard?

Do you have a balance of power?

From the outside looking in, we could answer these questions for Alex.  But anyone who is or has been abused in any way knows that from the inside, answering these questions is hard.  It was hard for Alex.

Alex missed a few beats.  She didn’t want to see herself as abused.

Identifying abuse, naming it, is a start towards the other side of things.  It is reaching the peak of a hill or mountain of life-stuff, taking the view in after the fog lifts, and knowing that things are the way they are.  This is abuse.  A tangible thing.  Not the drifting mist of fights or arguments that once stalked you, leaving you bewildered and empty-handed.  Simply naming abuse is the start of empowerment.  Name it.  Name it out loud.

“I am abused.”

Alex said,

Wow.  I didn’t know that what he is doing is abuse.  I didn’t know.

After we talked about the name of what she was suffering, she talked about what she thought she could do about it, such as:

Call 911 if she feels unsafe.

Record him.

Say the words out loud, “I am valuable and should be treated well.”

Get a restraining order.

…And other things.

Alex didn’t have a lot of extended family support, so for her, that was out.

Alex said,

I feel more empowered.  I didn’t know I could do that.

And there it was.  A dandelion growing out of the cracked cement.  Hope.  A redistribution of the unequal power.  Alex was growing a plan.

Question:  What would you tell Alex, yourself, or anyone else in her position?  How do you see words being a form of abuse or not?  Please tell me your story.

23 thoughts on ““He’s Never Hit Me.” Abuse.

  1. I love this topic, first of all, because I am currently distant with someone I care about over this issue (not by my choice). Everyone involved with her understands that her husband is no good, pretty objectively (sorry if that sounds judgmental)… She has pushed away everyone who has had anything to say to her about it. He tells her flat-out lies about those who care about her, would barely let her converse on the phone to any of us who love her without being present over her. As far as any of us know, he has never hit her… But even how he talked to her/snapped at her/derided her in public was, in our opinion, fairly horrible. He appears to not care too overly much about working, he is not educated and together they somehow arrived at the decision for her not to go through with the post-college education she’d had as a goal for so long. (Isn’t it a clue when a guy gets you to change a lifelong dream??) They have a child…the situation is complicated, but you get the gist. Even before they were married, anyone who cautioned her to wait (or even not marry this fellow at all) was not invited to the wedding. She has alternately cut off both her parents several times and all the rest of us who love her and would defend or help her. I am sometimes angry that she chooses to believe in his awful world and that she will not respond to friendly overtures from those who love her, like me. That she chooses to throw away objective evidence of friendship and love that we’ve given her over the years for his objective awfulness. Other times, I understand and feel forgiving because I know she is deep in this and cannot see objective facts well. Any advice for helping someone see her way out of a situation she believes deeply in?

  2. We have to ask “Am I really happy with this person?” When they strike out at me do I immediately feel that there must be something wrong with me? Too often we accept the unacceptable because we are afraid to be alone and make compromises out of that fear. It is better to be alone than to be in fear or living day to day wondering what crisis may erupt to make us miserable. In a metaphoric sense we may allow others to chain us but by accepting this we chain ourselves and must learn to realize there is a better way and that we can be free of those chains whether they are externally or internally imposed.

  3. My husband and I abused each other. Between my depression and anxiety and his drinking problem, we were both a horrible wreck. We also got married very young and were both still very selfish.

    Now, we’re strong together. I’m dealing with my depression, he’s more understanding of it. He has stopped drinking and goes to meetings.

    People can change. Some people do not, but we worked really hard and made it work because we sincerely love each other and our little family. With 2 kids, we knew we couldn’t afford to stay on the path we were on.

    Great post.

  4. Reading this entry reminded me of my parents. My father emotionally abuses my mother, my sisters, and me.

    My sisters and I have been telling my mother for years to divorce him, but she does not have the courage to do so because she believes he will get violent.

    But I really wish my mother would read this and feel empowered to do something.

  5. This is an interesting topic. I want to know how it translates to parenting. Like probably every parent, I need to yell at my kids sometimes to get their attention. But this is a good reminder to try to make eye contact and channel Mr. Rogers instead–admittedly a hard thing to do.

    • i’m w u. i’ve struggled so much w this myself. u said it right though. we are accountable to ourselves and can’t blame anyone, including our sometimes crazy kids for becoming mean.
      i started out w this “Pay a dollar” http://wp.me/p10lj3-M to sensor me and then i went on to other remedies. each person finds their own way to accountability. let me know how it goes for you! blessings fellow-sometimes-crazed parent. keep on!

      • I went bananas tonight over a dinnertime issue. Ba-na-nas. I usually try to give myself a time out to breathe (I’ve learned that much)…but in this case, I couldn’t step away. I am frowning on myself pretty hard right now—I wish I could always be the totally perfect-rational-calm-I-have-no-buttons-whatsoever-let’s-discuss-this-at-length parent my 3-year-old deserves. I am liking this “pay a dollar” idea…it evens out the power field.

  6. This one hurts in way too many ways. Don’t know even how to respond. Just wish, as one of the related articles under the blog suggests, that I could learn how to forget. I got away, physically, only when the abusers had died. Forgetting is a whole other thing. God bless those who are abused and those who, in just being there for them when they are ready to accept help, are an important part of their survival. Keep loving your friend, Sarah. One day she will, if she can, be incredibly grateful for how much you continued to care. I know how important it is to have a friend who hangs in no matter what. Just don’t’ let helping your friend hurt you.

  7. Pingback: Why it Works « birdinyourhand

  8. I was in an abusive relationship, both emotionally and physically, for five years. This person constantly called me names, told me I was nothing and nobody would ever want to be with me if I left him. I think I started to believe his words and think that is why I stayed for so long. He controlled everything I did. I couldn’t go to work without him giving me a hard time just because I worked with the opposite sex, and was jealous everytime I spent time with my family. One time he threw out all of my makeup because he didn’t want me to leave the house and knew that I wouldn’t without it. I had bought some new clothes and he went as far as cutting them up because he was mad about me coming home late from work. I Could go on and on about all of the things this person put me through, or should I say allowed him to put me through. Even the physical abuse wasn’t enough for me to leave, probably because I thought I wasn’t good enough for anyone else. It didn’t matter how many names he called me, how many times he put me down and humiliated me in public, or how he abused me in front of my daughter…I couldn’t get away from him. I just didn’t have the courage. I always wondered, if he disliked me so much and treated me so badly then why wouldn’t he just let me go? Why did he want me around? I always said I would never let a man abuse me after seeing it happen to my mom when I was a kid. I always tried to understand why she would put up with that, and for so many years hated her for staying with these men who abused her and putting my siblings and I through hell. Ironically enough, it was my mom who got me away from my abusive relationship and to this day I am so grateful she did. I probably wouldn’t be around today if it wasn’t for her.

    • It isn’t about “like” or “dislike”. It’s about the need for control over another person. Good for you for having the courage to leave. That’s so powerful.

    • Those words “you are nothing” etc… are the subtle ways in which he gained control. It is a progression and unfortunately we all hear almost daily of the outcome. Control, manipulation and denigration can so often be silent and subtle and before anyone realizes it they have gained control. Thanks for this discussion awareness is key.

  9. This hit home with me. I had an experience this morning where my partner became angry and hurtful when I mentioned that I was going to help a friend coach a softball team. The part that struck me was that I was afraid to tell her because I was afraid of how she would react; and, sadly, she did not disappoint. Using all of my “good” communication skills to let her know that what was said was hurtful, I got shut down. As I was thinking to myself about why this particular time I felt hurt I came to the conclusion that this is a toxic person and that this relationship cannot continue. It is a tremendous blessing that I am able to recognize this and therefore have the freedom to choose how to respond to my circumstances with a clear vision. My choices are 1) continue to tolerate this kind of treatment, or, 2) to leave this environment. This isn’t the first time I have tried to work things out with my partner regarding this issue. By the grace of God and many years of therapy, I can clearly see the “abuse cycle” occurring here. I now have the strength, self-respect, and support needed to remove myself from this situation. Just say, “No,” to abuse! God bless.

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