I’m pretty sure this has happened to everyone.
You quickly run into Tesco on your way to visit friends and spend a few minutes choosing some things that you hope they’ll enjoy. You get to the checkouts and they’re busy – meaning a quick dash to the shops has turned into a 10 minute stop, as you wait your turn in a busy London branch of Tesco.
But it’s not the end of the world, right?
Your partner meanwhile is waiting outside in the car for you whilst you quickly run in. They’re probably starting to wonder where you are and what happened to the quick, two-minute dash that the stop was meant to be. They’ll probably be a little annoyed when you get back in the car, or maybe they’re not. It is, after all, only a few extra minutes, and you’re not the only one in the supermarket trying to do some shopping…
So even if the baby has now started to cry out of boredom – as they do – and even if your partner is getting annoyed at having to wait… do they show their frustration?
Do they moan at you when you get back into the car, saying you took too long and the baby is now bored and crying?
Do they patiently listen to you recounting how busy it was inside and understand how you couldn’t find the perfect cakes as quickly as you wanted, and then forget about it and carry on with your journey?
Or do they stand outside the car, angrily waiting for you to emerge from the shop? Because as soon as you do, they’re going to shout at you so loudly that everyone outside the supermarket will stop and stare at you both.
Do they scream at you for taking so long and blame the baby’s crying on you?
Do they angrily snatch the shopping bags out of your hands and throw them into the boot of the car with such force that the contents break and squash against each other?
Do they ignore the visible shock on your face and scream at you to comfort your crying baby, and then while you attempt to do that, change their mind and scream at you to get into the car instead?
Do they wait until you stretch out your hand to open the passenger door, and choose that moment to drive off suddenly without you, leaving you stood by yourself on the side of the road, with everyone’s eyes on you, not knowing what to do?
Do they let you walk back towards home alone, too scared to respond to the polite gentleman that walks behind you asking you if you’re okay, just in case they reappear and get even angrier with you for talking to another male?
I’m pretty sure most men would choose option 1 or 2 – they’re either going to be slightly annoyed at having to wait and maybe even moan a little, but very quickly forget about it, or they’re going to completely understand that it’s a supermarket, and supermarkets get busy. No big deal.
But an abuser is not like most men.
Abusers need to feel in control, all of the time, and the minute they’re not, the minute they feel like you’re not conforming to the rules they’ve created (whether or not they cared to share them with you beforehand); then you’re going to be privy to a show of anger, abuse and even violence. Afterward, as if it were just a bad dream, they almost seem to snap out of it as though none of it really happened.
They may apologise profusely… or they may not, but they’re very keen to ensure that things return to ‘normal’ as soon as possible. So whether it’s affection, an apology or a gift, they’re going to deliver this to you along with the expectation that you should now just forget it, accept that it happened and ultimately move on. In order for things to return to some kind of normality, in the desperate hope that it will never, ever happen again, you try to forget and hope that this time, things will get better.
It’s so easy to become accustomed to how an abuser deals with everyday life, with the situations and circumstances that come and go, even those as unimportant as a quick dash into the supermarket. We get so used to how our abuser reacts and deals with it all, that we slowly forget how a regular, non-abusive partner would react. Our normal becomes the norm when in reality it is far from normal. Many of us end up having such little exposure to what is normal and healthy that we assume this is what married life is like, and just hope and pray that things will get better and that we just have to have patience.
Yet if we were to have a barometer in our homes that measured how healthy our relationship truly was, where do you think ours would rate? If we could step back and look at the relationship as a whole, at how we’re being treated, loved and respected on a daily basis, what would the conclusion be? It’s not about the loving words that are uttered between you both on the good days, it’s about the actions and behaviours that surround you and your relationship day to day. How healthy are they? Or how abusive are they? It can be hard to see the reality of your relationship when you’re in it, trying to live it and trying to make it work, just so that everyone can be happy. When you’re busy doing all of this, you often miss what is staring at you in the face.
Just by reading about domestic abuse and learning about the different types of abuse that exist, we can become a lot more aware of how unhealthy our relationship is. Abuse can sometimes take very subtle forms, which we can easily dismiss as a bad character trait or bad temper. This prevents us from realising the seriousness of our situation, as we wait and wait for them to change and stop being so ‘angry’. Domestic abuse isn’t just the images we’ve grown up with on TV shows and movies. Educating ourselves on what abuse is and how it relates to our day to day lives can help us to take a long, hard, realistic look at our relationship.
If you find yourself in an abusive relationship and your partner’s behaviour isn’t improving despite all the promises of change, then the next step is to reach out for support. Reach out to family and friends, reach out to domestic abuse charities and organisations who can give you tailored advice on your situation, reach out to your local council and police. The more you reach out for help, the more you’ll see how much support is actually out there for you, and the more you do this, the more you’ll start to see that you don’t have to keep on suffering.
There is a way out and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
None of the abuse we suffer is ever our fault, regardless of what our abuser may try to make us believe. Our behaviour can never be what ‘pushes’ someone to abuse us, the fault lies firmly with the abuser.
We deserve to be loved, respected and cared for, and not just in words, but in the everyday treatment we receive from our partner. We deserve our freedom, a safe place to call home and a loving and nurturing environment for our children.
If someone is hurting you, verbally, emotionally or physically, then that is not love.
If you’re worried that your relationship isn’t how it should be, but are stuck not knowing how to move forward, then reach out for support. I can be contacted at [email protected] or you can access my free online relationship webinar via the following link: www.ptissem.com/gift