Choose Victory!Thanks for all of the great feedback and encouragement that I consider turning these articles into an ebook. I may do that in time, but for now I am concerned that you get the help you need without delay, and so will share a bit more with you today (-:
I had a few good questions thrown at me after writing the first part of this article and these have been the inspiration for part 2.
The first question I will try and answer is from a regular (and very generous) contributor on our Wordpress Blog who asked - "With everything going on in my life can I really win this war?"
Without knowing her husband my answer is still, "Yes". I can say this because winning in this case means reclaiming your sense of self worth and determination and operating from clean heart, knowing that even if your partner is operating from ego, you are not.
I have no idea what situation people reading this article may be in. When it comes to abuse, at one extreme there are people kept in slavery by verbal and physical abuse, with no one to help and no way to leave. Slavery today is as big a problem on the planet as ever and I when I say that a person CAN win, I am not underestimating the plight of those so oppressed.
Reclaiming our spirit however is an individual and internal process.
There is a great movie (with a very strange title) that was made many years ago called "The Effect of Gamma Ray's on Man in the Moon Marigolds".
Without giving away the plot, towards the end of the film the young girl in this story - who is subjected to a horrible family life with her alcoholic mother - declares while talking to herself (and the night sky) "Mama you can't make me hate the world."
Most of us dealing with abuse have more hope of righting the power imbalance than the young child of a single alcoholic mother or a physically abused or drug addicted slave, and the victory we can hope to achieve will hopefully be somewhat brighter and not so internal or base line to our spirit's survival as this.
Once upon a time I did not think I could possibly stand up to Steve, but once I learned to, I could not believe how easy it became. Eventually I saw that it was me who had kept myself his victim by not rising above my own fears.
I was scared he was sleeping with other women and would let this thought tear me apart.
I would think I needed him to believe in me to believe in myself.
I would live to please him and be shattered when my efforts were in vain.
I thought I needed him to be trustworthy instead of trusting and relying on myself.
I am not sure at what point it was I woke up from this spell - but wake up I did.
In a similar way I remember the day I stopped letting my 7 year old son get the better of me (as he had for many years). I was all fired up and irrational with anger at something he had done when I stopped and asked myself "Am I really going to let a 7 year old get the better of me like this? Kim what are you doing! You are much smarter and older than him!"
It was exactly the same with Steve. The part of him that wanted to challenge me and wrestle for his independence - like a teenager might wrestle with his mother - was still a teenager. When he was behaving this way I realized in terms of maturity he was only about 14.
That helped me a lot, because seeing what I was truly up against I knew that of course I could win! The only trick would be me making sure that no matter how childish he became I STAYED AN ADULT.
Okay, so this is embarrassing but so important that, embarrassing or not, it just needs to be said. You see back when Steve would act like a snotty irresponsible teenager, I would become a big crying BABY in response!
Once I really saw this, I decided everything needed to change. I would think to myself, "Maybe he is with another woman?" But then I would say to myself, "Who cares? If he is, she is as low as he is and I am not letting two adult brats drag me down to their level!" In this way I learned 'magic scissors' and started holding onto my power and not giving it away to his bad behaviour, or my own fears.
The exercise for bringing your happiness back in my last article is vital for this. I learned not to push down the hurt and fear but to rise above it. I made a deep and serious commitment to myself that I was not going to let the brat in him keep me from my goals and responsibilities, because what I thought of myself was much more important than what he was doing or what he thought of me.
What also helped was the image I had in my mind of a very cheerful, confident but strong and kind nurse. Can you get a picture in your mind of what she looks like? The type that will not let you get away with saying you don't want to take your medicine or avoid the injection? She is very organised and efficient, very good at her job and very assertive and grown up. I started becoming this nurse when I needed to take charge.
Because after all, if your spouse is abusive, there will usually be an enormous amount at stake in your life.
- Was I going to let the bratty teenager in him rip apart all of the security and peace in my life?
- Was I going to continue to let him tear down my self esteem?
- Was I going to let that part of him destroy our kids lives as well?
No way. I was going to do whatever I had to do to bring that brat into line!
This is why I am always suggesting the Super Nanny as a great source of inspiration. It is not so much the techniques she uses I love as much as her complete determination. You can see it written all over her face that ...
a. She might get annoyed but she is NOT going to let those bad kids get the better of her.
b. She is NEVER going to resort to playing the victim; no matter how hopeless it looks; she is in charge and knows full well that her will is stronger and that in the end she is going to win.
Whose will is stronger in your situation? The real you fighting for your right to live your life in peace being loved for who you are, or your partner's or your own false pride?
And what is really at stake? If it is not worth fighting for - don't fight and let your partner decide to leave, but if it is, play smart and decide from the beginning you are going to claim the higher ground and that you are going to win.
I think it is also significant that I always separated the brat in Steve from his true self. I made it clear that the selfish nasty and arrogant character was not welcome in my life and was my sworn enemy, but at the same time that if he dropped the act and "got off his high horse" he was 100% welcome and 100% safe.
When times were really bad; like once when I was literally walking the streets in the worst part of town looking for Steve because he had disappeared for 2 days, I would think, 'It has been this bad before and still we got through it, I feel like hell now but this too will pass.' It ended up he was not where I feared but had flown home to his parents without telling me.
And it did get better. Now I have to pack him and the kids away sometimes to get any work done (LOL) because otherwise I would never get any peace!
In my last article I mentioned playing a figurative game of chess to take down your partner's false pride. and in regard to this, the next question I will try and answer is one about what false pride looks like.
But first ...
If someone doesn't like you and doesn't want to be with you, this is not abuse or false pride. As much as it hurts, this may just be the truth about how they feel. Accepting this and letting them talk about it without you trying to convince them to stay or letting your own hurt make you hurtful in response may end up being the start of something rather than the end. They may really want to leave, but bracing yourself and letting them talk without you saying too much or arguing or convincing is really your best bet.
That is not always easy to pick however as Steve would tell me that he hated me all the time and didn't want to be with me - even when deep down I knew he really did. Letting him talk about it as described above would help, but a lot of the time he didn't want to talk he just wanted to be allowed to take his anger at life on me day after day.
Likewise someone may not like you when you are in defence, drunk, on drugs or you are agitated or anxious, but still they may like being with you at other times, and this may be something you need to accept as well. If you are family and forced to spend a lot of time together you may need to be considerate of their needs and more aware of your own moods and anti social habits.
I used to play a game with Steve where I involved myself in trying to cheer up his bad moods and then would be upset with him if he did not give the same amount of time to my feelings in return.
That was my problem and not his. Now I let him solve his own problems and I do my best to solve mine. If we need each others help we ask each other and most of the time the only problems we talk to each other about are problems that we share.
Okay so back to false pride.
This usually occurs when some one's performance is below par or they have behaved badly and are ashamed of themselves but can't admit it and so blame everyone else and put everyone else down. This is what was really going on when Steve didn't leave - but still acted as if he had the right to be angry and pretend he wanted to leave all the time while also showing no real concern for me or responsibility towards me as his wife.
Does that sound familiar?
This kind of defence is something people can get stuck in for years. They stay in this pattern of defence because they may wrongly believe that no one will forgive them if they admit they were wrong or perhaps just can't handle feeling the embarrassment of admitting they have been proud and hurtful and have made a lot of mistakes.
Some people feel they will die if they admit they are wrong, and because of this fear end up destroying their whole lives with false pride.
Apologies don't fix this and unfortunately it can be tempting to rub this persons face in their mistakes to try and make them feel bad so that their apology will really mean something. This of course doesn't work and just causes resentment and usually even more blame.
So what can we do about false pride?
Poor Steve, he always gets to be the example here but hey he is a good sport, so let's break this down ...
False pride is always built on a lie.
That is why it is so hard to admit to. Because it is a lie, it is bigger than having made a mistake. Overcoming false pride means admitting that we don't know how to do something that we have previously pretended we did. Or admitting that we are not something we pretended we were. Coming down off the pedestal of our false pride means admitting vulnerability and people will not usually do that if they feel threatened or are in fear of attack.
Steve's lie was that he was a more capable parent than me. That he was a better cook, was better organised and had better common sense and more friends.
This was not true, but when I let his false pride dominate me I let it BECOME TRUE.
I would hide in my room at breakfast time because I couldn't handle the way he talked to all of us like some kind of overzealous army officer. I stopped cooking too because I was so hurt by him bossing me around in the kitchen and putting me down.
So after years of letting this rip me to shreds and constantly playing the victim, instead I decided to expose the lies and show myself and my family that he was wrong whether he admitted it or not. I did not wait for him to admit to the lie, because that would never have happened. Instead I exposed it myself while putting zero blame or pressure on him.
I did not wait for apologies or try to rub his face in it but instead took charge in the areas of our life I knew that I was really better at than him.
I said, "We have all become overweight with you cooking, I am taking charge of the shopping and the kitchen and I don't want you in here when I am cooking unless I ask."
and if he ignored that and tried to tell me what to do I said firmly and just like I would to the kids ...
"Get out of MY kitchen. Dinner will be ready soon."
"I can't handle how you yell at the kids, if you want to be the boss go do a parenting course but until then I am in charge in the mornings."
I would then go ahead (with my best impression of the confident, cheerful and capable nurse I had in my mind) and get in and prove I could do it better. Not to him, but to myself (-:
By exposing the lie in this way a number of very positive things happened for Steve too;
a. There was nothing to discuss or fight about because I just did it and refused to let him interfere.
b. He didn't have to keep up the act of pretending to be good at things he wasn't.
c. As long as I didn't look for his praise or approval for what I was doing, my self esteem improved too.
So really Steve loved it as I got good at this and now instead of behaving like a wilful teenager he slowly became a useful and trustworthy adult.
At the same time I also gave him credit for things he was good at and said things like ...
"You are so talented with numbers, instead of cooking I want to see you get our books caught up. I will keep the kids away from you and make sure you have enough time. Let's see how fast you can get it all out of the way?"
Of course it took time for me to find this confidence and sometimes I still fell down (and let him put me down) but in the long run it did pay off immensely. Before I was hurt by Steve's back-seat-driving while I cooked, but now instead and with total authority I would tell him to get out of the kitchen and go find something useful to do.
But remember before this could happen I had put some other very solid limits and boundaries in place.
Whenever you challenge someone's authority in this way you need to be very careful and really think out your plan of action first, and for this I strongly recommend you read our ebooks. Unless you take this step by step and build boundaries and trust, and unless your confidence is real, attempting to take charge too soon can cause some serious fights.
So start to think about it. What is the lie? In your case it will probably be different. Maybe your partner is not really cut out for the job they do. All I know is that if they are stuck in false pride, somewhere in their life there is a lie.
What about your partner punishing you with the silent treatment or sulking?
Or perhaps with them wanting to keep you up all night talking about your relationship?
Or saying nothing is wrong, but acting fake and with their heart switched off?
Or what about that chin stuck in the air while they gaze over your head with glazed and arrogant eyes?
Just like false pride, these are all defence styles that people use when they are scared. Being around someone in defence is very unpleasant but we CAN learn better ways to deal with it when we find ourselves or our partner in defence.
Dealing with these other defences will be the subject of part 3. There is no one magic bullet in the information to come however, so first really think about working on your confidence and if it is worth the fight, making the decision that you will be victorious!