Wouldn’t it be wonderful to win an argument with your abusive spouse? How would it feel to watch their face turn thoughtful as they realize your point is valid? Wouldn’t it be great if your lover admitted defeat, sucked it up, and took one for the team? Yeah!
But hey – if you’re in a relationship with an abusive spouse, that’s probably not going to happen. And if it does happen, if you do win one time, you will pay for it either through their silence and withdrawal, their undermining, their outright rage or some other type of abuse.
There is no such thing as winning an argument with an abusive person. But it may be more important to understand that there’s really no reason to win many arguments at all.
If you say a shirt is bright peach colored and your best friend says it’s tangerine, is there really any reason to argue the point? I mean, the brown belt pulls the outfit together no matter what you call the color . . . In fact, I’ll bet you don’t argue over those tiny disagreements with most people. I’ll bet that you do find yourself arguing over minute details with your abuser.
For example, why do we, normally rational and understanding, argue with our abusive spouses over the origin of Spam? I mean, just five minutes ago you were both sitting there catching an episode of your favorite show, chatting about the plot line. Next thing you know, you’re in tears feeling that if you had merely agreed that Spam was once a failed dog food that none of this would have happened! And “How did Spam come up in the conversation at all?”
The first thought is incorrect and the second thought is irrelevant. All that matters is the end result – your peaceful night is ruined and you can’t remember how the heck it happened.
Bad Reasons to Argue With Your Abusive Spouse
Bad Reason 1: “If I had agreed that Spam was once a failed dog food that none of this would have happened!”
This thought is incorrect because what you ended up arguing about was a distraction. Think back a little further. Perhaps you disagreed with your spouse’s interpretation of the television show’s larger meaning to society. Your abuser thinks that if you disagreed over a TV show’s obvious meaning, then you couldn’t possibly be the woman of his dreams. His dream woman understands the world exactly as he does.
However, instead of recognizing this in his own mind, he seeks to overpower you with nonsense until you’ve been sufficiently punished for not being who he wants you to be. And gosh darn it, if it takes arguing over Spam to tip the balance in his favor, then that’s what he is going to do.
It doesn’t matter if your spouse remembers what upset him, it only matters that he’s won. And it doesn’t matter that he hasn’t won on the initial point – this Spam thing will do just fine. I mean, look at you woman, you’re obviously irrational and emotional over Spam for goodness sake! He must be the superior being, and his beliefs reign supreme.
Whew. Your abuser rescued his world from falling apart (at your expense).
In order for “none of this to have happened” you would have had to agree with him on his interpretation of a TV show. Ridiculous.
Bad Reason 2: Asking yourself, “How did Spam come up in the conversation at all?”
This question is not the right question. You can see why illustrated above, but after an argument with your abuser, dwelling on why questions is a waste of time.
Backtracking to the last point of contention that you remember will not help you to understand what happened. This is what happened: diversion happened. Your abusive spouse took you way off point so he or she could win. Period.
Alternative Way to Argue With Your Abusive Spouse
Next time, try this conversation instead:
Abusive Spouse: I cannot believe you think Spam has always been for human consumption! You’re so closed-minded!
You: (incredulously) What!? (because this mental jump to Spam makes no sense)
Abusive Spouse: Talking to you is like talking to a can of Spam – you’re both too stupid to comprehend the English language!
You: If you continue to insult me, I’ll leave you in here alone.
Abusive Spouse: Oh yeah? What do I care? You’re always telling me what I can and can’t say! You’re such a control freak!
You: (Get up, grab your ipod or a book or whatever, and leave the room without another word.)
Yes, it truly sucks that you must leave the room while watching your favorite show. Yes, it is unfair that your abuser seems to win this argument. But on the other hand, your abuser already assaulted your mind with lies (you’re closed-minded, stupid, and a control freak). If you stay much longer, you could feel the need to win the point that you’re none of those things, and that argument will get nasty.
Think about who you are arguing with. You’re arguing with someone who said those things to provoke you into behaving in a way that proves his authority to himself (Control Your Emotions So Your Abusive Partner Can’t). He’s fishing for proof that he’s right and you’re wrong over an idea that could have multiple interpretations.
You could both be right – but abusers aren’t after the win-win. They’re after the power over. They seek to dominate and silence the real you so their ideal partner, the one who believes exactly as your abuser believes, remains intact in his imagination.
You don’t have to argue with nonsense. In order to save your sanity, don’t let yourself get sucked into an abuser-fabricated argument. Instead, choose to halt the cycle of abuse. Your best argument is a firm statement of boundaries backed up by doing what you said you would do. Period.
- Verbal Abuse Disguised As Love
- Language of Love Omitted From Abusive Relationships
- Verbal Abuse Is Not A Communication Problem
- Communication In Abusive Relationships Is A Myth
*Both women and men could be abusers or victims, so do not take my pronoun choices as an implication that one gender abuses and the other is victimized.