Better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.
The topic of abusive relationships is heavily on my mind these days. I received many messages from my Divorced Moms column last week on why women stay in abusive relationships. It makes me so sad.
A few days ago, one of my frequent readers, Z, asked if I would speak with her brother. He is going through a horrible divorce. So we spent about an hour chatting this weekend. His stories are breathtaking. Of course, there are two sides to every story, I get that. But if his are to be believed, wow.
And, really, the only way to handle an abuser (besides calling the police, moving, and getting the hell out) is to keep your mouth shut. Hence today's topic: silence.
The awesome, amazing power of silence. If only I had mastered that during my marriage. Nothing shows contempt as loudly as complete and total silence.
During my marriage, I more often than not, kept my mouth shut. In the midst of horrific screaming fits, I would tell myself, "He's drunk. Or he wants to get drunk. Arguing with a drunk is pointless. Keep your mouth shut." And I'd remain silent for a few days. I'd leave the room and go to another part of the house, usually while Rob the Great (Alcoholic) would follow me from room to room, screaming again and again until he got tired of it enough and went to bed.
But when I decided to fight back, it was ugly. And when I did, I came out swinging (verbally) with all the power I could. And because I can have a very sassy tongue, I would say things aimed to wound back and they were just as mean as anything Rob could come up with. If was my (futile) effort to try and take a little bit of my sanity and power back. To defend myself.
That is where I failed miserably. I wish I would never have "gone there" verbally. Because nothing-- and I mean nothing at all -- argued my point more forcefully than an unwillingness to engage. Silence. Showing complete and total contempt.
And, when asked for my advice, I tell others who are in abusive relationships: Go silent. If your current mate is screaming at you, keep your mouth shut. Instead of screaming back or devising ways to try and defend yourself, spend the time on your exit strategy. If you're still being harassed by your ex, don't respond. Let your attorney handle it. Because that's when you loose your dignity, sanity, and emotional health. Sleep and healthy eating patterns go right out the window.
There is no winning in a war with your abuser. Words nor fists will accomplish anything at all.
A good friend of mine is still at "war" with her ex. He won't leave her alone and his wife is even in on the action. Last time they were in court, the wife showed up with a gaggle of friends and laughed throughout the entire proceeding. I gave her the only advice I could after she received some more threatening texts from him: "Don't respond. Forward it to your attorney and go get a massage."
I took my own advice about six months ago. Rob's attorney contacted my attorney to ask if Rob could start contacting me directly with things having to do with our vacation property. His attorney said it would be easier if we could just communicate directly on that one issue rather than going through legal counsel. My response was, "Is he serious? The answer is not only no, but HELL NO." And then I went and got a massage. It felt so peaceful. Taking sanity back and going silent works!
Silence is golden, especially in an abusive relationship.