Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;
I am getting fed up with the whole “victim” thing women have going for themselves with domestic abuse. Yes, it’s a terrible thing to abuse anyone and no one should do it. But the situation is not always that black and white.
In my last marriage, I admit I didn’t have my temper under control. But I swear, my wife would deliberately push buttons that she knew would infuriate me and would slap me on the face, then scream her head off if I slapped her back. For heaven’s sake, what am I supposed to do? Just sit there and take it?
Fed Up Fred
Dear Fed Up Fred,
Sometimes when people grow up in extremely volatile and expressive families they see this sort of drama as acceptable communication. If no one is exploding they might even feel they aren’t noticed or loved. Your wife may have grown up in a family like this. She may have even chosen you because of it.
Some women make the mistake of picking men with poor boundaries who lack the ability to walk away themselves. However, this doesn’t mean there’s any excuse for slapping your wife, even if she is “pushing you” to be aggressive.
Relationships are a dance. I’ve never seen one person being able to actively lead without the other actively following. In a codependent relationship the taker is as much to blame as the giver. One couldn’t persist without the other.
Unfortunately these issues are rarely dealt with effectively in therapy. People give their story from their own point of view, and the other person is usually “the bad guy.” There is a general lack of perspective as to their own role in continuing the situation.
If your wife is pushing your buttons the last thing you want to do is react to it. You can acknowledge, “ It seems to me you are upset.” You can affirm, “It’s certainly been a shitty day.” But it is not acceptable to scream, yell or hit back. If she is seriously threatening you, then call the police. Otherwise, just put yourself in time out. “I have to leave to cool down, I will talk to you when I feel calm. I wish you would do the same.”
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
Granny says: I always have to laugh at the sensible suggestions therapists make regarding the handling of agitated spouses: “it seems to me you are upset.” Ha ha. Yeah, that’ll work.
Fred, everyone chose’s a partner who plays a game that they understand. Unless you married your wife the same day you met and her personality was a total surprise, you knew what you were getting into. I don’t want to hear this bullshit about how she pushed your buttons and you had no choice but to hit her. You were just waiting for an excuse, or you wouldn’t have stuck around through all the screaming. Listen. I have this to say about men hitting women. A slap from your wife stings and makes you angry. It’s sort of like slapping a Labrador Retriever when he’s been bad. There’s no way you can hurt the dog, but it gets the point across. A man hitting a woman is a different story. Unless we are talking about an Amazon who had been training regularly at the gym, women are more fragile than men. You slap them hard, it’s like slapping a kitten. You can do some serious damage. Fortunately, it seems from your question that this marriage is in the past. Before you get involved with anyone else, I strongly suggest you examine yourself. Blaming your wife won’t stop you from making the same bad choices in the future.
I am forced to agree with you on one issue- too many women see themselves as “victims” when they are allowing or even encouraging abuse to happen. But the fact remains- if you are the one who has your shit together, the only intelligent response to unfair slapping is to walk away. When you get into it, all you do is turn yourself into another abuser. And god knows, the world doesn’t need another one of those.