Ah yes, anger that flares out of control. I was an angry, angry woman for a very, very long time. I’m not saying I don’t have anger issues anymore, but I will say, it has been, I don’t know, six months since I yelled at someone. And I’ve confessed this here before, but I used to yell several times a day.
This is a strange phenomenon in the domestic abuse world because the typical picture imagined is that the perpetrator is mean and loud and throws things and sometimes hits and totally yells. While the victim is meek and mild and mousy and wouldn’t even think to stand up for herself, let alone raise her voice.
In my case, things were flip-flopped. He was the calm one. I was the out-of-control one. And talk about then having to try to prove my case fifteen-plus years later when everyone pretty much knew me as the – pardon my French but there’s no other way to say it – Christian bitch. People thought, I’m sure, Well, if I were married to Beth, I’d fill-in-the-blank too.
So, sweet one in a difficult marriage, say this is you. Say your abuser is charming, and more subtle in his attempts to manipulate and control, and say you are a mess, retaliating in your anger with loud words and perhaps even violence.
I may have shared this before but I remember the day the lights went on for me on this specific issue. We were outside and an argument was starting up. The words of my current counselor were ringing in my ears that the moment I felt myself about to lose control, I was supposed to say something like, “I can tell I’m going to lose it…I need to go calm down…we can talk about this again in (ten minutes/tonight/tomorrow morning/whatever).”
The argument had taken a nasty turn and I was going to try this tactic. Because I desperately wanted to get better. I was honest and said I was about to lose my temper and I needed to go cool down.
The response, “What? You can’t have an adult conversation?” I paused, feeling confused and defensive. “No, I just really want to try to work on my anger and I need to calm down.”
“If you walk away now, we’re done with this topic.” Then it hit me in that moment that after years of being told to stop yelling, to quiet down, to lower my voice, of how much my yelling was despised…it turns out, my yelling was actually loved. Because I looked out of control, and completely looked like the bad guy in the equation. And those comments above – things I had heard for years – were controlling, manipulative threats. So, I turned around, and literally fled, running through my yard as fast as I could to get away. I ran away like Joseph from Potiphar’s wife.
Because, as it turns out, I believe the desired response – all those years – was for me to sin in my anger.
So here’s what you need to do, and it’s going to be difficult: whatever you do, do not let your abuser incite you into losing your temper and losing control. Because then, he will win.
Take my counselor’s advice: say that you need to stop and cool down, walk away, and then come back when you’re more collected.
And if your abuser says things to try to trap you into staying beyond your boiling point, don’t bite. “What, you can’t have an adult conversation?” “Yes, I can, but I’m going to go calm down first.” Then walk away. “If you walk away now, we’re done with this topic.” “I’m sorry you feel that way, but I still need to go calm down.” Then walk away. Trust me, nothing is worth losing self-respect or ground you have gained in trying to get healthy.
And, listen, if your abuser is really trying to change as well, he will be more than happy to give you the time you need to collect your thoughts. Stand strong.
If this post helped you, I would encourage you to check out “Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage”, found here.