Another expert, another abuse

Another expert, another abuse

by Jackie Anderson
article from Saturday 24, February, 2018

PSYCHOTHERAPIST Sally Brown has published an article arguing that as well as domestic abuse in the home people should have more awareness of emotional abuse. Brown says it can be just as insidious and can creep into your relationship, undermining your self-confidence and self-belief. Emotional abusers she says can be very skilled at convincing you that everything is your fault and you start to question your gut instinct. 

I suppose everyone has their own yardstick as to what qualifies as emotional abuse; endless football on tele and listening to opera would be high up on my list. My gut instinct would be to pull the plug on both but in the interest of marital harmony I’m happy to put up with it. Ms Brown has made a list of signs that should, however, never be ignored in a relationship. I quickly perused said list and on more close inspection it would seem I’m guilty of a few and my hubby more than a few! 

1. Your other half likes to tell stories at your expense and if you object you are accused of having no sense of humour or being over sensitive. 

First on the list, and I’m obviously an emotional abuser! Who doesn’t laugh over your other half’s disasters in DIY, cooking, driving? It’s an endless list and many a dinner party wouldn’t be half as entertaining without listening to stories of various cockups in the past and present.

Everyone has at some point met a married couple who claim never to have had a row. No doubt they would see it as disloyal for my Hubby to tell the story of me trimming the hairballs from the cat without my glasses on – and cutting a 3 inch wound in the process. £300 later it was a given the cat’s misfortune would be brought up regularly, and maybe seen by hubby as getting good value for his money – and quite right too.

2. The abusing partner has overstepped the mark and caused an argument, so you question what the hell you ever saw in him/her. There is then the grand gesture of a meal out, a weekend away or an unexpected gift of chocolates or flowers.

I’m sure I qualify for this also, although have never thought to do the grand gestures, just a “sorry” usually suffices. Hubby on the other hand routinely brings me flowers and chocolates but will now rethink this as forward planning on his part. I Must orchestrate a real hum dinger for a weekend away...

3. No empathy is shown when you have a problem you want to talk about and you are accused of over reacting. You are allowed a short time to vent then told to get over it.

As a couple this is a half-and-half score as my hubby rarely vents but when something upsets me he does show concern – up to a point. His usual line is “we’ve been talking about this for 30 minutes can we move on”. This is usually when I’m just getting in my stride and could easily vent for another 30 minutes and I think I’m making really good points – although its usually helped with sustenance from a glass of vino or two.

4. People think you’ve changed, that you seem quiet and not yourself. They wonder why you rarely go out or why you’ve changed the way you dress.

This constitutes emotional distress? Really? I change my look when I can’t get into the dress I really want to wear, pulling out instead the black elasticated jeans and a baggy top. If in doing this all my friends think I’m in some sort of turmoil, I am, but loosing a few pounds will sort this one out. I would also suggest that if we rarely go out its because we are at an age where sometimes we are just bloody knackered and slobbing-out watching the tele wins hands down. Hmmn, this could be the reason for the elasticated jeans.

5.  You’re being Gaslighted. Your partner contradicts something they have told you previously and deny doing or saying something you clearly remember. Called gaslighting (a phrase I’ve never heard of or maybe I just don’t remember?) the abusive partner uses this to make you doubt your mental health.

I would respectfully suggest this is old age and guilty as charged. I don’t need anyone to doubt my mental health as this happens every day when I go upstairs to get something and by the time I’ve got there have forgotten what it is. The only gas lighter in my house is when hubby has a curry...

6. Suddenly you need protecting. If you go out without your partner you’re given a curfew and he/she insists on picking you up. You are asked to take a Snapchat picture of who you are with when you get there.

Hubby will always offer to pick me up and I like that, I’ve never thought of it as anything other than being loved. As for Snapchat, what the hell is that? I’m technically inept so this would not even be an option and after a few glasses of vino just finding my handbag is a challenge.

7. Backhanded Compliments are their stock in trade. When you first meet you are flattered by all the compliments your partner gives you but as time goes on the compliments become few and far between (possibly as your now in those elasticated jeans). Compliments are replaced by what is seen as constructive criticism, “that top doesn’t suit you”, “are you putting on weight?” and “what’s going on with your hair?” If you object you are told you’re being over sensitive.

Much as my hubby gives me lovely compliments the back handed compliment does rear its head once and a while. He once said I looked younger than my age and I recklessly asked what age I looked – and he only took of two years... Saying my face and eyes look good today suggests they haven’t looked good previously and as for the minefield of weight issues my advice to men would be just don’t go there. When my other half says, “oh your weight will come off when you start to do the gardening”, I could brain him as svelte he is not. As for my hair he’s as bald as a coot so not in any position to give advice.

8. You look forward to evenings on your own. He/she tells you they are going out for the night and you look forward to an evening by yourself or they tell you they are going away for work for a week or two and you find yourself looking forward to it.

Again this seems perfectly normal to me, or it did before reading what should not be ignored in your marriage. My hubby goes away often for a few days and the first day is usually taken up clearing his mess up. I love being able to eat when I want, to watch trashy tele and wear my elasticated jeans with no guilt. I think it’s perfectly normal to feel like this as I really look forward to his return and they do say absence makes the heart grow fonder. I’m betting couples who are together twentyfour-seven get to the point where just the sight of your other half is enough to make you turn to the drink.

9. He/she is stonewalling you. Your partner goes in a sulk for days not talking and refusing to talk. They may even disappear for days and when they come back they will tell you they just needed space.

If my partner disappeared for days the only thing he’d come back to would be a locked door with possibly the burning embers of the operatic CDs etc in the driveway. In the early days of my marriage I would say to hubby “can we sit down and talk” he would visibly blanche and say “oh God what about?” It would be just a blether I wanted but I rather enjoyed his reaction and just did it for the hell of it now and then (hmmn, maybe I am an emotional abuser?) Of course it totally backfired as the years went on and he contracted a bad form of verbal diarrhoea where he really got into sitting and talking, now that’s an emotional abuser.

10. Last one; you feel guilty all the time (why am I thinking of the elasticated jeans here?) You feel like your walking on eggshells. He/she justifies shouting, getting drunk or feeling stressed out blaming the other partner.

I suggest we all walk on eggshells at some point in our marriage, as just dealing with what life throws at you can be stressful, and sometimes walking on eggshells until you can see a solution is the best way. Feeling constantly guilty suggests to me its time to re-evaluate your marriage, clear up the eggshells and move on. 

Getting drunk is not good but we’ve all done it and it’s fair to say my house walls have absorbed some shouting over the years but all-in-all its the good times that get us all through. No one is perfect and it’s easy to read Sally Brown’s signs of a troubled relationship and apply it to the relationship you have. Labelling relationships is dangerous ground as we all have such different expectations of what we want from our partners. 
After panicking when I first read the article – as some of it seemed to apply – I am now relaxed and happy to admit, like many others, marriage is always a work in progress, but I can say without a doubt that my gut instinct tells me its pretty damn good.

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