There is a playbook. Not a real hard copy, at least I don’t think, but just as illnesses have symptoms (an itchy rash, a dry cough) so too does abuse.
Most people think of it as a bruise. A scratch. But there are millions of people who only outwardly present with puffy eyes, because they’ve spent the night, or morning or lunch break in their car, crying.
That makes it confusing. That absence of a physical billboard. So let’s open the playbook. Learn a little. Just know that by reading this, if you aren’t an abuser, it might turn your stomach – to know people get through life this way.
A lot of people get through life this way. More than you know.
An abuser is always working a strategy. That needs to be remembered, at all times. Every interaction is about gaining the upper hand. Always. With everyone.
They might try to get it through laughter, cracking a joke, seeming larger than life – owning a room. Or by unfolding their victim status about any number of things – the world is definitely out to get THEM, or so they become gifted at eulogizing their hapless and self-inflicted failures.
They flip conversations as if the skill is an art. They grind – they don’t stop.
And they feel a sense of entitlement that is beyond anything you’ve ever witnessed. The entitlement, the victimhood, the manipulation – they’re like clubs in a golf bag, except the name of the game is control.
Here’s an example:
Man throws large rocks through two windows in a woman’s house.
Man then demands “respect” due to his biological link to her kids.
That scenario right there so aptly illustrates an abuser’s entitlement, lack of responsibility and total disregard for the impact of his actions. I’m not even sure I need to give any other examples, because that screams everything in just a few words. It’s ridiculously powerful.
Man hurls insults at woman all day long. Texts. Calls. Emails. Non stop. Yells when the work day is over. Stands over her as she sleeps.
Woman yells back after enduring hours of unending torture.
Man tells woman to “calm down” and “get ahold of herself.”
Oh, here’s another:
Man calls woman and tells her he’s been in an accident. He needs an MRI. It’s bad.
Woman feels badly, checks the car and sees damage, and consoles man for pain he is in.
Man accepts the attention. Then, man reveals the accident was faked, the damage self-inflicted to support the story.
These people don’t stop. Ever. They move from one person to the next in their lives, using all the same tactics of deceit, betrayal and manipulation to gain an upper hand. And eventually, they turn that same behavior on their kids.
I’ve seen it. I’ve cried about it. I’ve tried to stop it.
I’ve attended workshops where adult women have recounted watching their mothers live through these situations, only to have their own dads turn on them as they started to live their own lives. It happens, because it’s the only way they know how to live.
As soon as they feel like they’re losing control – of the conversation, the relationship, the decision-making process, anything – they grab ahold tighter. And that’s the scariest part.
It’s also when you realize you’ve never had conversations with an abuser, because conversations are a give and take. You’ve only ever been an audience.
When you’re out? You’re just a witness, someone with fresh clarity watching as a grotesque sweater unravels, elated that he can no longer keep you up all night blaming you for it.