Communication in an abusive relationship is a bit like running the gauntlet. One minute its congenial and cozy and for no apparent reason it switches. By now most of you will recognize the switch. It’s a sneer or a change in his face. There is a tone, or even a favorite sentence and then you know that this is no longer a cozy conversation. Everything that comes from that point onwards will be an explanation of what you have done wrong or how awful you are.
Managing this relationship is recognizing the hooks and baits and not taking them . You are going to be drawn into an argument and then be abused. One of the signs of danger is when you feel the anxiety growing in your stomach – you are about to be hooked and then he is going to watch you flop around hopelessly trying to defend yourself or losing your tempter or just being less than yourself in some way.
Negative labels are one of those hooks – you are called stupid, lazy, ignorant, opportunistic, unattractive, and a bad mother.
The first habit you will begin to develop (and remember that habits require persistence over time to become habits), is to ignore the negative labels. Don’t entertain them. If he says you are too thin or too fat don’t walk around looking at other women to see if they are fatter or thinner. If he says you are stupid don’t remind yourself that you did well at school or worry that you didn’t. Simply don’t entertain the labels.
See these insults as hooks and don’t take the bait. They are just ugly words and you don’t have to swallow them. You are not a stupid fish taking the bait. You are a clever woman who sees the hook in the bait. Imagine yourself swimming away. Even if you are forced to stand there being berated, you are not there in your mind. You are a free clever fish who hasn’t been caught. Swim away.
Make it a habit. See it, recognize it and whatever you do don’t take the bait. Watch his mouth move and practice not hearing the words. Some women have used the image of the bubble. They are floating in the bubble that protects them and each insult bounces back to the person who delivers it. Some days you will do better than others. If you have a bad day its’ fine. Tomorrow you will be better.
DEVELOP THE HABIT OF NOT TAKING THE BAIT AND NOT BEING HOOKED.
There are other hooks with attractive bait but they are equally dangerous – bait is one of reconciliation.
“I am sorry”, “I really didn’t mean it”, “you drive me crazy”. This is the bait that consoles you and takes you straight back into the arms of the abuser. Don’t take that bait either. It will set new standards for you and him.
I was talking to Sue about the reconciliation hook and how beautiful some words sounded to me.
“Sue, I remember the day I felt truly liberated was the day the bait didn’t even look attractive to me. I had become a clever fish who could swim away. I was sitting on the floor tearing up photographs of the two of us. Out of the corner of my eye I saw his boot. In the gentlest most seductive voice he said,”You know I will always love you”.
Now that was the bait that until that day had been completely irresistible to me. I would have grabbed and gobbled it down without a moment’s hesitation. I looked at him and carried on tearing. I was finally a free fish.”
Crispy oven-baked fish – this works just as well with chicken
- 6 white firm fish fillets
- 1 ½ cups all-bran flakes or panko (if fewer calories are required bran flakes make a great substitute. I used it as shown in the photograph)
- ¼ cup parsley, chopped
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- ½ cup plain Greek non-fat yogurt
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a bowl, combine bran flakes or panko, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper. In a small bowl combine mayonnaise, mustard and yogurt. Coat each piece of fish or chicken with mayonnaise mixture and then dredge in spice mixture. Place fish on a lightly greased sheet pan. Bake for 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.