All My Friends Said He Was A Jerk But I Married Him Anyway! A Handy Guide to Spotting th Early Warning Signs
Well, it is complte. Right now I’m doing a bit of self printing and binding. If you are interested in buying one from me please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am charging $10.00 and that includes postage.
Last month I published about one fourth of the first chapter. Here’s is more:
Debra’s example is much like my experience with the psychologist at the party. Physical containment typically begins with the abuser’s hands – on a woman’s face, wrist or arm, or in my example where he places his hands on a wall, chair, or other object. Anything that restricts movement or feels uncomfortable, but isn’t quite enough for her to challenge without being accused of “freaking out” or “misinterpreting” his actions. It is just enough to manage an initial amount of control. Sometimes a man will use more of his body to contain a woman, for instance, “playful wrestling. It is one thing for a couple who knows, trusts, and loves each other to engage in this kind of goofing off but quite another for a man you’ve just met or barely know to prove his physical dominance over you. When things happen is just as important as what happens.
If a man’s motive is to impress the woman why not share what he enjoys about the sport? Not every man who shows off his wrestling skills is a would-be abuser but how early it is done, along with the totality of these behaviors that are a warning sign.
Debra continues with another example. “Ryan showed me a set of handcuffs he had. Nothing really, just a plastic set. Wrist shackles, he called them. He and I were trying to put together a team type costume for a party. I think we’d been dating about a month. Anyway he was thinking something like a prison guard or police officer and I’d be the criminal. We actually talked about it both ways, me the guard and he the criminal, but he had me put them on. They were supposed to easily slide off, except they didn’t. He thought it was funny and let me beg for too long to get them off. Then when I did get them off he was pissed at me.”
While not as obvious as the pair handcuffs the phenomenon of the commitment bracelet among adolescents is similar. This bracelet is worn by the girlfriend and the boy keeps the key. He is the only person who can remove the bracelet, meaning she must obtain his consent to break off the relationship or even take off this piece of jewelry. She is an object that he owns.
As was evident in Debra’s case, generally the early warning sign is one’s own gut response. There is a slight sinking feeling or a wave of trepidation and apprehension. But not every woman is attuned to her body and personal space enough to know she is being violated. Younger girls and women with less experience may allow behavior an older and more experienced woman—perhaps like the woman Debra met in the bathroom—would immediately recognize as problematic.
Brandy didn’t see the commitment bracelet as anything but romantic when she accepted it at the age of sixteen. When she had a sporting accident and was taken to the emergency room doctors couldn’t perform an MRI because the bracelet couldn’t be removed. Daniel was not anywhere nearby and it took several hours to locate him and take it off. Brandy’s parents were angry and forbid her to continue the relationship.
“I think I was determined to prove them wrong,” said Brandy. “I defended everything he did. My parents were strict and I resisted every limit they placed on me. I married him the week I turned eighteen immediately after I graduated from high school.”
“It was just the beginning,” Brandy continued. “Beating came later, not a lot later either.
Shirley’s experience is similar to Debra’s. Initially she couldn’t recall any instance of physical control but halfway through the interview she remembered how heavy Brad felt leaning on her shoulder as they walked. He wrapped his arm around her head and neck, whereby the crook of his elbow put her in a headlock. He shifted his weight so it became hers to burden.
“One time I teased him that he wasn’t carrying his own weight. He took it hard and accused me of not recognizing affection when I had it. That and how ungrateful I was for not appreciating having a man whose focus was on being attached to me.”
Shirley grabbed a tissue and blew her nose. “I actually apologized to him. He didn’t touch me the rest of the walk.”
“Kevin was always a neat freak. His clothes were spotless and wrinkle free. I never quite managed to arrange that at well as his mother did. Anyway when he moved in with me he did some cleaning. I didn’t think about it at first because it seemed so helpful, but then he started teaching me how to do it right. I never cleaned enough or correctly.”
Janet had brought in her own coffee and paused long enough to sip. “Where the physical containment came in was when he grabbed me by the shoulders and marched me into the bathroom. The shower tiles showed swipes of the sponge I’d used. He stood guard and watched as he directed me on how to appropriately clean the shower stall.”
Janet asked as she looked into her lap. “How could I have been so stupid? I married him after that.” She paused. “At least I think it was after that. I don’t remember everything exactly as it happened anymore. Marching me started not long after he moved in. My name was on the lease for heaven’s sake. Why didn’t I make him leave?”
Not all physical constraint is applied through physical contact. In Marianne’s case it was accomplished through verbal threats.
“It started with what seemed an innocent misunderstanding,” she says. “One day when he got home from work and I’d had the day off he asked what I’d done and if I’d gone anywhere. It sounded innocent enough and I didn’t think about my visit to the grocery store for cereal, so I said ‘nothing.’ Even when he acted cynical about my denial I didn’t get it. Later when I did remember all he said was, ‘Yeah, sure the store.’ It was about an hour later he asked for the receipt. I didn’t have it. He didn’t say anything more, but after that he started checking my mileage. It got worse. I was accused of cheating. I stopped going out except to and from work.”
Marianne gazes out the window before continuing. “He texted me every hour to ask me where I was. To keep the peace I was always at work or always at home. Eventually that wasn’t enough because he set up camera’s to see if anyone came to the house while he was gone. Sometimes he’d leave work early and show up without warning.”
Marianne’s example of physical constraint through mental and emotional abuse is common. The controlling spouse often dislikes some or all family members and becomes enraged if the woman sees them. He accuses her of undermining him, of not being on his side. This isolation leaves her more and more emotionally dependent on him.
I do hope the above is helpful! I’ll continue to publish the remainder of the first chapter. Additionally I’ll add a first meeting checklist that can be useful when evaluating your meeting with a potential partner.