I see it’s been awhile since I posted. I’ve completed all but the last chater of All My Friends Said He Was a Jerk, But I Married Him Anyway: A Handy Guide to Spotting the Early Warning Signs.
The last chapter is devoted to telling happy new relationships with those who have been abused, so I expect I’ll be doing more publishing updates soon. If you haven’t read the introduction please see previous posts. Meanwhile I’m sharing a small amount from the first chapter. If you have any questions, please email me. Physical containment is interesting as the early signs can appear so innocent…
When Kelsey came in for her second session she pulled up her sleeve to expose a bluish bruise encircling her wrist. “Jack’s sister dropped by without notice. I’d promised to make brownies for our office party and said I was going to the store. He told me to wait, but I didn’t see any sense in that. Anyway I said I was going and he grabbed my arm and yanked me back.”
Before I could ask a follow-up question Kelsey explained she felt intense anger and for the first time in their married life she called the police. “Jack and his sister said I had slapped him which wasn’t true. I showed the officer my arm. It was still red but not blue. Anyway he didn’t do anything but warn both of us.” Kelsey massaged her arm. “It wasn’t swollen then, but right now it feels hard under the surface.”
During the first session with Kelsey she had shared how unhappy she was at Jack’s attempts to control her, including a time when he grabbed the back of her neck and marched her to the back of a hardware store to point out the right weed killer. “I was completely embarrassed.”
When I asked her about the first time she remembered Jack applying any amount of physical pressure on her she said that he would take her arm to have her match his pace. “I walked a little faster than normal, that’s all.”
Jack was acting out a behavior that indicates he believes he is entitled to physically dominate a woman. He can enforce compliance through superior strength. In our culture it is not only fathers who model to young boys what it is to be a man. It is also media and social media forces that shape men from their earliest days. Magazines and television advertisements reflect masculinity. Sports tell boys that physical power, financial success, and sexual attractiveness is to be desired. That strength, muscle, and aggressiveness are the characteristics of the ideal male. Movies and video games portray physically violent men who are often dominating women. All of these factors impact children’s perception of their gender role.
For men who have a sense of insecurity from cultural sexism, classism, dysfunctional family systems, or a lack of a healthy male role model excessive control over a woman can help them feel strong and powerful. If surrounded by a support system that reflects this little woman and big man attitude this sense of male privilege becomes internalized and canonized. Were he to buck the norms of his social environment other might tease or mock him for being a pussy or pussy whipped. This shaming feeds his need to prove his manhood through physical domination, which is often acted out on the woman. This belief is destructive and demoralizing for a woman who loves him.
Spotting the Early Signs of a Jerk
“On our first date Ryan took me to a movie.” Debra explained as she positioned her hands prayer-like across her stomach. “We stood in line and he took my face in his hands, both cheeks covered. It was all gentle like but a definite pressure. He said his previous girlfriend always picked the movies they would see. He wanted to make certain I wasn’t like that. I was so confused and had this strange sensation in my stomach. I didn’t like my head locked in, but I agreed I wouldn’t do that even though this seemed like a strange request.
“That’s not the important part though. Before the movie started I excused myself and went to the ladies room. A girl who was also in line I think, walked up to me as I was washing my hands and said, ‘I overhead you and the guy you were talking to. It sounds like you don’t know him very well. I’ve known guys like him. My advice is to run and run as fast as you can.’
“Can you believe it? I didn’t say anything just stared at her. She walked away. I thought to myself, What a nasty witch. What nerve. Now I ask myself why I didn’t listen. I was such a fool!”