Way before I understood that my (now ex) husband abused me, he asked me if I was stuck on stupid, and I thought to myself, “No, I am stuck with Stupid.” Saying that statement aloud did not seem like a good idea, so I kept it to myself. Although quite pleased with the internal right-back-atcha dialogue going on inside my head, I didn’t take the time to reflect on the insults I’d wished I had delivered aloud until recently.
Any insult I once wished I said would have escalated the abuse. I knew it back then, and that is why I kept the nastiness to myself. In hindsight, the insults I did not deliver held value to me. They kept my mind busy so I could not absorb his words into myself. Instead of wondering if I was “stuck on stupid” or believing I was stupid, my mind protected me from that nonsense by making up insults. Busy in my own head, his words could not harm me; his words couldn’t penetrate the shield.
Of course, back in those days before I understood my husband abused me, I did not realize I needed protection from him. I am grateful that my mind protected me, but my lack of understanding about my abusive marriage limited how much protection it could provide. Consider a complicated virus protection program as an example. If you don’t know how to choose the appropriate settings, the program, no matter how great it is, cannot protect your computer as well as it could. It offers some protection due to default, but it cannot help beyond the default until you read the instructions and learn how to choose the proper settings. I was not able to choose the proper settings for my mind to protect me as well as it could. Not only did I not read the instructions, I didn’t know there was an instruction book!
Denial vs the Invisibility of Abuse
I am sure that many people would have said that I was “in denial” during that time. If I slip on their shoes, I can see their point. How could I not know my husband abused me? The evidence was as plain as day (to them). Surely I had to be in denial, right? Slipping my shoes back on, I did not have anything to deny. From my vantage point, I saw that my marriage had problems to be sure. I saw a man who hurt himself as much as he hurt me, and I knew about the nasty thoughts that went through my head when we conversed. Plus, I knew that I didn’t keep all of the insults in my head – some of them came out! I knew my temper could rise to match his, and that I did stupid things (like drool into his drink) to get back at him.
From my point of view, our problems were OUR problems. I worked hard on myself to correct my character deficiencies, thinking that he did the same. I thought that in time, with each of us working to improve ourselves, our relationship would mature too. I thought the statement “marriage takes work” perfectly described my experience. I did not deny any issue I could see. I did not know there was an issue to deny. I didn’t know I needed to protect myself against my husband. I did not know he abused me. I didn’t know the problem was ABUSE.
In many ways, I was stuck on stupid. Abuse prohibited me from asking the right questions because abuse hides in the background, unidentifiable unless you go looking for abuse by name. Abuse dragged me down and pummeled reasonable questions out of my mind. Abuse distracted, diminished and confused me so completely that I could not say, “STOP! Hold up a minute and let me think about this!”
By the time I’d come up with a clever insult, ABUSE had jumped to another subject. I didn’t have time to ask myself, “Why are you trying to insult him? You love him and he loves you, so why are there any insults in this conversation at all?”
I also could not ask the questions, “How can I deal with abuse?” or “Is he abusing me?” or “Am I abusing him?” or any other question that could lead me to solid helpful answers. ABUSE wanted me in this state of stupidity. So long as I didn’t know there were better questions to answer, I could not know that ABUSE hid behind it all.
What to Do About Abuse?
If you know an abuse victim, I hope this article helps you understand his or her state of “denial” more clearly. Perhaps you can get the idea that they are “stuck on stupid” out of your head and see that ABUSE covers their eyes from seeing the truth. Stop blaming the victim and start pointing out ABUSE. Perhaps your pointing out ABUSE when you see it will help your friend or family member see it too.
If you are an abuse survivor, I hope this blog helps you to stop blaming yourself for not seeing the abuse earlier. There is no sense in blaming yourself for something you couldn’t have known. Instead of blaming yourself, think of that moment when your eyes opened and you saw ABUSE for the sneaky, slippery snake it is. I’ll bet you didn’t “deny” the abuse after it became visible to you! After I saw ABUSE, I did want to disprove its existence, so I looked through my old journals…but I found evidence of ABUSE in entry after entry although IT was invisible to me before. The truth is undeniable.
Whether you know someone who is abused or you suffer or suffered from ABUSE, you saw IT for some reason. What was your eye-opener?
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