March 22, 2000
Rushing out of the
house to catch the 7:52 into the City, Ben spied a box of Italian Linguini
on the counter. "Yum," he thought, his mouth watering in
anticipation of tonight's dinner. He looked forward to pasta all day.
Here's what happened between Ben and his partner Joanne when Ben
came home that evening:
"Dinner's ready! I made your favorite chicken dish!"
B: "Nothing. I
just thought we were having pasta... and have been looking forward to
pasta all day. But I love your chicken.: (Ben's communication is clear.
He answer's Joanne's question while he is careful not to hurt her
J: "Oh, I'm
sorry honey... I can make some pasta as a side dish..." (Joanne is "sorry"
that Ben is feeling disappointed. It doesn't occur to her that she has
done anything "wrong" - because she hasn't!)
B: "Would you do that
(Ben accepts Joanne's offer and is appreciative. He would do the same for
J: (Smiling) "For you?
Here's the same
interaction between a Victim and an Abuser:
Victim: "Dinner's ready! I
made your favorite chicken dish!"
Abuser: "Again? How many times
have we had chicken this week? Do I look like a coyote to you?" (Quick to complain and attack. Disregard for Victim's
feelings, since he's just upset and doesn't mean anything by it.
The Victim is expected to know this and not feel attacked.)
V: "I'm sorry... I thought you
would be pleased..." (The Victim, feeling
attacked, is thinking she messed up...again.)
A: "You thought, you
thought... You don't know how to think. That's your problem." (Unnecessary cutting remarks. He's just blowing off
steam. No reason for her to get bent out of shape. But she does...)
V: (Trying to
be assertive) "Don't talk to me that way!"
A: "Why not? You can ask me to
not talk to you that way, but did you think to ask me what I
wanted for dinner? (Challenging the victim and
changing the subject.) Of course not! All you care about is what
you want for dinner. Don't you ever forget: I pay for that food!
But that doesn't matter to you..." (Me-me-me.
Only the Abuser's feelings count. He throws a little guilt in the pot for
good measure. The Victim's reaction to the Abuser's mis-behavior is turned
around, against her. This interaction went by too fast; she
knew something went wrong, but felt lost. The fact that she was spoken
harshly to is lost forever.)
V: "But...but... " (Feeling unjustly attacked and feeling the need to explain
herself, so he'll understand that she meant well:) "You're
always happy when I serve this dish. I went to a lot of trouble to make
this - because I thought this would make you happy!"
A: "You thought? You don't
think! You ask! That's what you wanted to eat, so that's
what you made. You don't care about anybody but yourself! When is the last
time you asked me what I wanted for dinner? Well? When? You don't remember
do you?" (The Abuser wanted pasta for dinner,
but he still does has not said this. The victim is supposed to know
to ask - or not ask, as the whim may be. The attacks and the
V: (Thinking...) Well, I did want
chicken... After all, I had originally planned pasta. Maybe he's
right. Maybe I have been selfish... (The
victim is second-guessing herself, again. The victim takes the blame, or
appears to, in order to preserve some peace.)
"Let me make you a little pasta now..."
A: "What are
you nuts? I'm hungry. It's too late. Let's just eat and get this over
Abuser chooses to hold onto his anger. He is quiet and sullen
throughout dinner and the rest of the night. He will remain this way until
he's done showing her how upset he is over her selfishness.)
self-defeating and irrational underlying assumptions Victim and
Abuser buy into:
The Victim believes
that it is her job to please the Abuser. The Victim forgets that she has a right to be
pleased. as well. Therefore, she feels inadequate that she did
not anticipate him, and guilty because she pleased herself by
making a dish that she wanted - even though she knew it was a dish he
especially liked. She lacks the verbal and cognitive skills to spot
and react to his game playing.
The Abuser believes
that it is her job is to please him. He takes this to extremes. Whenever an opportunity
arises where he feels displeased, it is her fault. She is to blame
and is punished by a display of his disappointment. He takes no
responsibility in communicating what he wants. In fact, he goes out of his
way to prevent her from giving him what he said he wanted, because
dwelling in the anger / blame / pity pot is apparently more satisfying
than getting what he originally wanted!