I was asked recently for some examples of emotional abuse. Of some from my own experience.
Domestic violence is relatively obvious in the physical injuries that are inflicted. But emotional hurt and pain is much harder to see. And it is harder to explain as anything other than the unintentional pain and hurt that happens between two flawed people in a relationship.
I left my marriage only knowing that I could no longer stay. It took eight years before I understood what had been happening to me. And I discovered that while I was working with asylum seekers on Nauru! Staff were having workshops on communication styles. We looked at passive, aggressive, assertive and passive-aggressive. Each style came with some explanation and examples. When I read about the passive-aggressive style I was dumbfounded – this was my life!
These are the characteristics of the passive or covert aggressive style of communicating and relating that I read:
•Beneath a “seductive veneer” there is “vindictive intent.” (“But he’s such a nice man” I would say to myself. I was unwilling to contemplate that the father of my children was deliberately trying to hurt me.)
•Can be outwardly pleasant but emotionally cold or distant. (Whenever I wanted to have a ‘difficult conversation’ I would rehearse what I would say. I tried to remove any emotion, and choose a ‘good’ time to talk. But each time ‘the wall’ would go up and ‘the shutters’ came down.)
•Will see themselves as the victim – blame others. (I was the decisive extrovert. It appeared that I was the one in charge and he could be seen as the passive victim.)
•Angry people where anger is shown in a passive or non-violent way. (In the 28 years we were married I saw him overtly angry three times. But anger oozes out. I always knew when something was wrong, even if he wouldn’t say anything.)
•Passive resistance, opposition, negative attitudes. (I always ‘got my way’ but he would find reasons for not doing the things he agreed to do. My partner would accompany me to couples’ events I wanted to go to then leave me alone for the entire evening while he sat outside and smoked.)
•Conflicts about dependency, control and competition. (I sensed a competitiveness between us early in our relationship. He couldn’t allow me to shine in my own space, but would compete for attention or denigrate my achievements by small comments here and there.)
My partner/relationship ticked all those boxes!
Now I understood why my heart felt like a bloody pulpy mess. My heart/emotional wellness had been ‘stabbed’ over and over again. By neglect and withdrawal. By resistance and negativity. By control and manipulation. This was so unfair!
Unasked for, undeserved
Like any abuse, I did not deserve this, I did not ask for it, I was not responsible. But I still felt guilty and ashamed. Unlike physical abuse, the wounds could not been seen and the scars were hidden. (I am in no way diminishing the impact, pain and hurt that violence does to an intimate partner – abuse is abuse and it’s all wrong!)
This is my some small part of my experience of domestic abuse.
I share it so that those who have a similar experience can know that there are others like them in the world.
This is shared it so those who have never experienced this may understand just a little of what goes on in seemingly ‘happy’ marriages.
I do this so that those who are in similar relationships, but have not yet recognised why they are so hurt and unhappy, may have something to pin their experiences to.
And I reach out to those whose journey has been similar to mine to say “You are not alone” and there is new life awaiting!