For a very long time, I thought I was a poor communicator. When I’d talk to my boys, I’d say the same thing three or four different ways like I had to do for their father. I would talk to my sister and pepper my conversation with “Do you understand what I’m saying?” At least she would listen to me ask the question without cutting me off half-way through it.
Now that I think about it, he really didn’t ask me many questions that required a thinking response. He would ask what I was doing followed immediately by “Where are the boys?” and “Did you do the laundry?” Three questions at once, with no time to answer. There was a definite right answer, I just knew it, but the right answer wasn’t necessarily the truth.
With Verbal Abuse, There Never is a Right Answer
The right answer depended on what he thought I should be doing, explained why the boys were somehow not where they should be, and the only answer to the laundry question was, “I’ve done the laundry and your boxers are folded in quarters and put into your dresser,” to which he would reply, annoyed, “I like my boxers folded in thirds.”
I would respond, “Oh, I’m sorry. Last month you said you liked them folded in thirds,” and he would say, “No I didn’t.”
At this point, I’d think that I didn’t know what I was expected to do, but that I’d better go find those boys before their daddy had to go get them, and that I must be losing my mind because I could have sworn we had this exact conversation last month and he had definitely said “thirds”!
Ah, well. No use protesting, was there? If I told him that I definitely remembered he’d said thirds, then that would be an argument, now wouldn’t it? Better to let it go and just do all the things he’d implied I should have been doing from the beginning. I thought I was being the better person. Maybe I was holier-than-thou, as he’d often remarked.
The Art of Being A Verbal Abuser
“Geesh, Kellie! STOP THINKING!” I’d think to myself. And that is exactly what he wanted. He wanted me to stop thinking.
That’s what the rapid-fire questions were all about. That’s what the denial of reality was for! Getting me to stop thinking in favor of simply reacting was the goal. It didn’t matter what my reaction was because no matter what I said, he could counter-act it with the simple act of denying that it was true.
The whole game was about throwing me off my guard, hoping I’d feel the stress of a cornered animal who can react in seemingly irrational ways, giving him another reason to tell me what I’m doing, thinking, or being. In this case, he subtly coerced me into not only not thinking, but considering that maybe I was being “holier than thou” in my own thoughts (which weren’t really mine)!
Holy crap. He was GOOD.