5 Things I Said To My Abuser That I Wish I’d Heard Myself Say
I remember saying words to my ex-husband, Will, that didn't help my abusive relationship or me at all. Will ignored them for the most part, but the tragedy is that I ignored them too. Here are the top five statements I wish I'd heard myself say.
Things I Said That I Should Have Listened To
5. My time matters.
I didn't dare think this comment let alone say it out loud until close to the end of our marriage. Will scheduled his priorities in permanent marker and any revision caused by our children or me made him mad. Days like birthdays and holidays took away from his schedule. One Christmas I think he'd have put Christ in line behind "changing the oil".
Will's schedule became the center of my existence. Every change in his schedule forced a change in my own, but it never worked the other way. I couldn't find the time to do fun things or work on projects because his schedule interfered. I came to accept that waiting to see what Will wanted me to do was my job.
Near the end, I started telling Will that I wouldn't change my plans just because his changed. I didn't wait around in case I needed to go to the beer store or stop going to meetings of The Woman's Club. One time I refused to pick up an auto part for him because I was reading a book (perhaps petty, but for cryin' out loud this mess went on for so long!). I came to value my time although he wouldn't (and still doesn't).
If I heard myself say it, perhaps I would have believed it sooner and became unwilling to sacrifice for him in this way all of the time. I wish I had heard myself say, "My time matters too."
4. That isn't funny.
Normal people censor their jokes depending on their company if they respect the one in their company. If Will were a decent man, he would have stopped telling me "jokes" that I told him I didn't like. Jokes about minorities and women make me uncomfortable. Jokes about chopping me into little pieces and feeding me to the fish and witty comparisons between me and people he hates made me uncomfortable. Sarcasm is the highest form of wit for an abuser, and the consistent barrage of his biting, belittling comments and the one-man giggle fests that followed made me uncomfortable.
Over time, I came to dislike and distrust even his smile. I believe that the kinds of jokes a person tells reveals their character. His choice in jokes was a red flag that I ignored.
If I'd noticed how many times I said or thought "that isn't funny" during our first few weeks of dating, I could have saved myself the pain, effort, and 18 years that it took to decide he wasn't right for me. I wish I had heard myself say "That isn't funny, Will."
3. I don't trust you.
I distrusted my husband from the beginning of our relationship, but I believed I had trust issues, and he agreed. I thought that until I sorted out my issues that it wasn't fair to allow myself to distrust Will. I stuffed distrust down tight because (logically) it is normal to trust your partner, to give him the benefit of the doubt or forgiveness and move on. Instead of considering the mounting evidence against him, I thought I didn't trust him because of me.
I realize now that my distrust of him coupled with my choice to deny it kept me imprisoned behind invisible bars. Ignoring my growing distrust set a destructive pattern that ultimately allowed me to ignore most of what I felt. Eventually, the only feeling left was numbness. Unfeeling. Depression. Loss of self.
If I had heard myself say it and honored the feeling, then I wouldn't have begun doubting my other thoughts. I wish I had heard myself say, "I don't trust you."
2. Stop yelling at me.
"Stop yelling at me" is number two on this list because it was almost the most fruitless but heartfelt thing I said to my husband. I repeated this statement way too often. As with that's not funny, "Stop yelling at me" may need to be repeated during a relationship, but not multiple times during a single conversation. Not during 75% of the conversations we have with one another. I begged him to stop yelling with tears rolling down my face. I screamed it at the top of my lungs and whispered it to myself.
After the abusive anger episodes, I would remind myself that it's not okay for someone to treat me this way. I didn't connect that thought with the idea that it is okay to leave a relationship when my partner's main mode of communication is to yell at me.
His insults and condemnation compounded the effects of his yelling. He didn't yell when he was getting his way; he yelled when I wasn't doing or thinking what he thought I should. He yelled to regain control and it must have worked because I hurt so badly afterwards that I didn't think to back up my words with action. I didn't think yelling was a valid reason to leave.
If I'd heard myself say it, I would have realized I felt a need to think and say it too often to believe he would ever stop. I wish I had heard myself say, "Stop yelling at me!"
1. I just want you to be nice to me.
I said, "I just want you to be nice to me" both under my breath to myself and out loud to him. I wrote the idea in my journals and it came out in my artwork. The desire for respect and pleasantness from Will drove me to damage myself more than any other statement on this list. I mean, it seems like such a simple request between lovers. Because it seemed so simple to me, I believed that his compliance was just around the corner.
He sent me intermittent signals that he would be kind (now I know these signs as part of the honeymoon period). I kept holding out for the day he would decide to be nice to me for the rest of our lives. So simple...yet so impossible for him. I don't wait for that day anymore. It was too painful, lasted too long, and caused my mind and heart too much damage.
If I'd heard myself say it, maybe I could have been nicer to myself. Maybe I would have realized that it's not normal to feel the need to say this to my love so often. I wish I had heard myself say, "I just want you to be nice to me" most of all.
Jo, K. (2012, October 4). 5 Things I Said To My Abuser That I Wish I’d Heard Myself Say, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, February 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2012/10/5-things-i-wish-heard-me-say
Author: Kellie Jo Holly
Kellie--what an on-target comment about the motivation and happiness of an abuser!!! I just left my husband of ten years yesterday, taking our three young kids. I have such a long road ahead of me but this comment helps to remind me why I left. Even though he has hurt me so much for so long, I still kept hoping he would change, but nothing I said or did ever worked. Thank you for your blog; I have been reading your words for the past three years and it helps.
I want to tell you abuse in other then male on Female relationships takes place. My love a female, found safety in ignoring the rest of the world as a child. I was the abused as a child. I am in my 60's and still with an abuser. Even lesbians learn to the qualifications of abusing each other.
What I really want is to teach her not to be so involved with her own feelings, that she cannot see what she is doing to me. There must be classes for abuser's, to find a safe way to unlearn.
After talking to my cuz and us both saying we enjoy life better when they are not around. I decided to share this tidbit. Her response was she most work more hours in the day. She cannot understand.
I know I have to deal with this better. She is trying to be kinder, but she does not see her barrier is hurting both of us. It could be hurting her even than myself.
Dear Jan, of course abuse in relationships is not always male on female. To believe that would be naive. Abuse is about CONTROL and POWER...last time I checked those were both human sins, not only men's sins. Women want to feel powerful and in control just as often as men - fortunately, most members of both sexes realize the only person they have power and control over is themselves.
However, there are many factors that affect victims of abuse no matter their gender or the gender of their abuser. One of them is the belief that we victims can "teach" the abuser to behave differently. We all TEND to want to teach our abusers compassion, tolerance, and how to love. We all TEND to think we have the power over them, the ability to control what they want to learn and what they don't. We tend to think our abuser "must be miserable" because of how they lash out at us, the ones they love - what happy, sane person does THAT?
Problem is that abusers, regardless of gender, do not really care what you want. They want to control their world with precision, and if they have to hurt your feelings (or your body) to get you back in line, then so be it. Manipulating, controlling, and abusing others WORKS FOR THEM. There is no class that can effectively change an abuser's behavior if the motivation to ABUSE (getting what they want!) outweighs the motivation to stop abusing. The barrier your love puts up between you does NOT hurt her as it hurts you because she does not have the same motivations that you have in regard to how she treats other people.
You want compromise. She wants the win. She is hurt when she loses (is forced to compromise). If you want HER to find happiness, then let her go away and find a woman who wants to live under the spell of a controlling person. THEN, when she is able to completely control a person, PERHAPS the one you love will find happiness. If you want her to find happiness with you, then just do whatever she tells you to do. Be who she defines you to be. Don't step out into the sunshine, laugh, or show any trait that she does not approve of from now until the day you die. Can you be happy doing all of those things? I don't think so. You wouldn't have commented if you were happy being controlled.
Jan, you deserve better. You are not going to get any relief so long as you live with and love her as you wish to be loved. She doesn't want "you" - no abuser wants "us" - they want a puppet. You enjoy life better when she isn't around. You don't want to be her puppet any longer.
Thanks for writing this! My bf is always 'joking' about my fat gut, about how I am his 'ball and chain', that I am 'stupid' and 'can't do anything right.'
I don't mind the odd joke here and there...but when it's multiple times a day, it really wears thin (along with all the other types of abuse)...I have asked him to stop but he says I need to take a joke.
Basically, if he isn't ignoring me and threatening to kill me (sometimes in subtle ways by glares, playing certain violent movies/ songs that he knows I hate, sudden movements, being 'agitated' in bed to keep me up, accusing me of sleeping around) ...then he is in the 'honeymoon' period being all happy and 'affectionate' yet constantly making 'jokes' at my expense. It's almost not even like a honeymoon period...it's almost like a set up so he can blow up again when I ask him to stop making jokes.
I am about to get married to my longtime bf but the signs of the verbal abuse are there. I have made my point that the destructive anger, name calling, yelling, "i will leave you if you dun act on it" and refusal to discuss my feelings are unacceptable and he promised to change. I can't deny that there has been great times (he is good in creating one-off surprises) and he has been changing, but sometimes when he is ticked he still do it.
Is there any hope that treat of abuse can be gone in our lives forever? Or should i call the future plan off?
Best wishes to all hoping for a healthier place.
It will only get worse. Plus, abuse can worsen dramatically after the abuser feels like you are truly "theirs". There's nothing like a marriage to give the abuser a sense of ownership.
Don't rely on my opinion alone. Visit http://www.thehotline.org and call the number or chat online. Visit with a trusted friend or better yet, a therapist to get a handle on your thoughts. Abuse makes us doubt ourselves. Besides all that, it's never a good idea to marry someone who hurts you emotionally or physically. There are too many other guys out there who would treat you right!
Mine never yelled at me. He preferred to act as the 'healthy' one, thus any non-positive emotion I dared to express, he would use against me to reinforce his gas lighting. I did tell him 5, 4, & 3 quite often near the end. I was also glad I told him:
"Look in the mirror and see who you really love"
"Why are you so nice when you want something from me, but ignore what I want from you?"
"I never got any closure for anything, ever"
He claimed to be a psychology student at one time, and I have no doubt he studied it well enough to know what he was and how to conceal it, and also to know when I eventually figured him out as well. Thus why no contact ever again was easy because he didn't want any with me or most of our mutual friends.
Ok, I fit the profile, in every way. I'm scared to get the law involved on case they don't believe. Ideas? I'm on Denver, colorado. We're not married, no children.
Remember that it does NOT matter what officer responding to your call "believes". The night I left my home, there were three policemen who responded. They all KNEW he was emotionally abusing me (he continued the abuse in front of them) and I had the sense that they "believed" me about the physical violence. The problem was that I did not show EVIDENCE of physical assault (yet). The police look for evidence, and when evidence is non-visual, they cannot remove the perpetrator due to the LAW. What they believe has nothing to do with it. What they can show and prove counts.
If you experience physical abuse, please plan to call in the law should you need to do so. They are your best option if you are in immediate danger and cannot run out of the house to safety. Otherwise, you can plan to leave without involving the law. There is nothing that says you MUST report any type of abuse unless you choose to do so.
If you leave and your partner stalks/harasses you, get a restraining order and go from there. If your partner hasn't ever physically abused you, there is an increased chance of that type of abuse after you leave. Fill in this safety plan to better prepare yourself for the journey ahead.
Oh ladies....I've thought for so long that there was something so wrong with me. I have been reading all these blogs for three days now! Kellie it feels as if you've had a camera in my life for the last 20 years! I've been so so abused! Reading these blogs I've come to realize how extensive my abuse was/is! I kicked him out of my house about two years ago now but he's had his tentacles weaved into my soul all this time...I was still being abused. He now has found a new love of his life and informed me of this at the most opportune time as to inflect the most damage. Oh how I begged and pleaded with him to please not do this to me and how cruel it was to do it on my birthday. Wow Kellie thank you for this blog...I will not stop reading and I will survive this. Thanks Lynda
Kellie, this is a great one. All five things applied to me. Vicky, I am on the backend of the divorce, it's final but he didn't honor it, so I understand the court system is slow and how it doesn't recognize the abuse. My advice...be patient. Stand up for yourself, and don't expect that everything in the decree will be honored. Hugs to you and Kellie and anyone else reading.
Coming back from mediation yet again being the deadbeat, I was feeling sorry for myself because why does the court believe what he says and doesn't recognize that I've been the victim. Well, your words inspired me to go back and start where I left off and continue my case. Even if I don't get more time with my kids and he further brainwashes them, I know his new girl friend is going to be in my shoes someday and the message has to get out. Bravo!!!!!