Nice Conversations With Abusers Are Not So Nice
Thursday, March 29 2012 Kellie Jo Holly
The story I want to tell you today happened between my ex and me over two years ago when we were still together. At the time, I knew he was abusing me. I realized that there was little hope that he would change. I didn't want to leave my marriage, but I was beginning to think there was no real marriage to leave anyway.
Looking back, I remember my internal struggle to find an elusive peace. I longed for a partner who loved me and would work with me through life's trials and celebrate its joys. I so wanted a normal conversation, a nice conversation without the abusive junk lurking underneath the surface. I was hoping my life away.
If you see yourself in the following story, please think long and hard about whether you want to wait it out to see if your partner decides to change. Remember that the abuser finds great benefit in abusing, otherwise s/he would have changed long ago.
Typical Conversation with My Abuser
The following is from one of my 2008 journal entries, included in the book My Abusive Marriage...and what i'm doing in it.
Tonight we had a long talk about our finances. He was being nice. I told him "Here's the print-out of the cash flow. I'm not going to spend my time analyzing it so you can tell me I'm wrong, lying, or hiding something from you. You tell me what you think."
That statement didn't make him happy, but he said, "If that's how you feel," and took it from me.
It was painful to sit there for FIVE HOURS as he systematically told me what the problems were, how we were both at fault, and what I should do to fix it. One thing is that I should know exactly how much cleaner it takes to clean the tub. Another is that the amount of gas I use in a week should not vary. A third is that the next time I do a print-out, the dates should be organized in a different fashion because he doesn't understand my reasoning for doing it by pay periods.
It's interesting that he came up with the same conclusions about our financial state that I had tried to show him during the previous four "conversations" that turned into belittling, discrediting, devaluing, and countering my conclusions.
When he finally went outside to work on the shed, I had an hour and a half before I had to go pick up our son from school. I wanted to work on the website, but my head was full. I wondered why I felt so exhausted, and decided to play a video game instead even though I know it's a waste of time when I have so many other things I need to prepare.
Then I started crying. I just cried and cried. I realized that this "nice" conversation was anything but "nice" even though it was obvious to me he wanted me to think he was restraining his temper in order to get through it "peacefully."
Unexpectedly, he came back into the house about half an hour later. [Usually when he goes outside to work we don't see him again until dinner time.] He seemed genuinely surprised that I was crying. In hindsight, of course he was surprised. He said, "I didn't yell or anything during that talk!"
Conversations with My Abuser Were Always Traps
What he didn't understand is that now I know that he used his "niceness" to get a predictable reaction from me. Always before, I have been so grateful to him for being "understanding" that I don't "punish [him] with [my] bulls8!t" for a time afterward. Yes, he actually said that my crying was punishing him for my bullsh8!.
Before he knew why I was crying, I took advantage of something. I took advantage of the fact that he was surprised, didn't know why I was crying, and would do anything to figure out why his usual plan hadn't worked. I took advantage of the opportunity to be held. I hugged him.
I think I hugged him because I wanted to pretend for just a moment that he loved me, that my distress could have an impact on his actions, that I still loved him. I wanted so badly for all of those things to be true, even though I knew that none of them were.
I am in such foreign territory. It's as if I've lived with a stranger, a "pretend husband" for years and years and years. I've thought that I could help him overcome his drinking problem, his anger issues, I thought that by loving him he would love me. I was wrong.