A Half-shot Latte

by Annie Kaszina on March 15, 2010

Can your abusive (ex-)partner do a Jekyll and Hyde
routine?  

Can he sometimes switch from Mr Nasty to Mr Nice Guy? 

And does Mr Nice Guy appear when has got the message that
he really has gone too far this time?  

Not because he feels genuine remorse – much as you might
like to think he does – but because he knows that he needs to do something to
reel you back in.  Because, if he
doesn’t reel you back in, and you go off and finally end the relationship, it
is bound to cause him some inconvenience, at some level. 

The bottom line is that he will lose someone he uses, in
various ways, to make himself feel good. 
And it will cost him more time and trouble to mold a new partner than it
does to play his games with you. 

From your point of view, of course, it looks very
different.  When you have invested – a
lot – in an abusive husband or partner, you want to believe there is a tipping point; you
hang on hoping that, with enough input and education from you, Mr Nice Guy will
become the fixture.  In your fantasy, your
abusive partner will understand how much he has hurt you, and how much you love
him, and need him to change, and… 

There is a fundamental flaw in every abused woman’s
thinking here, and it lies in the gulf between the way she thinks she
has been educating her partner, and the message that he receives.  

She thinks that he hears her statement – that he must not
treat her that way, because it is painful to her.  

What he actually hears is that she is asking him, from a
place of powerlessness, whether he would, please, be kind enough to
change.  And he wouldn’t.   

He will play act, to the best of his ability, for as long
as he needs to.  But he will do no more
than that.  

This week, I’ve been working with an abused woman whose sometime
partner is Mr Nasty having a Mr Nice Guy moment.  But that’s not what she sees. 
She sees that he is being ‘really loving and caring’.  Her fantasy is that, finally, the tipping
point has been reached.  

I doubt this somehow. 
I’ve no doubt he is saying at least some of the right things, and doing enough
of the right things for her hungry heart to swallow his bait unquestioningly.  Even though she has enough experience to
know exactly how it will end; in another abusive explosion.

Contrast that scenario with a story I heard in the same
week from another woman who, after many years with an abusive partner, now has
a truly loving partner.  This woman,
Dee, could not help but share the story of a half-shot latte. 

Briefly, what happened was this: Dee’s partner lives in
another town, but spends as much time with her as he can.  One Monday morning, he went to the bank in
her town, before returning to his home. 
He invited her to go with him and have a latte – Dee just loves a
half-shot latte.  She had to refuse
because of an early appointment.  The
partner did his business, and went 10 minutes out of his way to drop off a
half-shot latte (and sugar sachets) to her, before driving home. 

Is one half-shot latte a big deal? 

Yes, it is, in reality. 
For a number of reasons, including: 

  • He
    went out of his way to make a small, loving, unnecessary gesture.  He wasn’t trying to buy, impress or
    manipulate her with a $2 latte.
  • He
    expected no thanks; he knew she was busy and couldn’t spend any time with
    him, but he did know she wanted that latte.
  • He
    was focusing on what she wanted, and what he could give her;
    not what he wanted from her.
  • A
    person who is consistently loving in small ways is much more likely to
    truly invest in the relationship, than someone who thinks they are ‘above’
    such details. 

If you think about your abusive relationship, you probably
hear the word ‘love’ bandied about a lot – quite often to tell you where you
are going wrong, by not behaving lovingly enough.  Abused women often speak about their abusive partner's mythical loving interludes – these are, actually, the interludes when he is behaving less badly than usual.  Period.

Your abusive partner has very clear ideas about everything
that you should be doing for him.  How
much time does he spend thinking about what he could do to brighten your day? 

Did that question raise a wry smile, I wonder? 

Once, after he had been particularly vile, my then husband
felt he had to make a big gesture to reel me back in.  As I have a long-term love affair with Italy, and we live in the
UK, he decided he would take me to Italy for a weekend.  He informed me that my favourite city is
Milan.  Now, I’m passionate about
Venice, Rome, Florence, and a few other cities also, but Milan, which I’d
recently visited with him
, is my least favourite Italian city.  

It wasn’t important enough for him to even register that. 

How much of what is important to you does even a long-term
abusive partner bother to discover?  

Does he know your favourite book, film, colour, music,
restaurant, café, city or beach?    

More to the point, does he care? 

If not, why not? 

And, if he doesn’t, can you see how you have educated him
to believe that what matters to you is not that important? 

Maybe he doesn’t have to care about the things that you
care about.  But if he is not prepared
to respect what you care about, simply because you care about it, it is a
clear sign that he doesn’t care about – and respect – you.   

That’s what made that latte so precious to Dee.  A $2 latte showed her that her partner was
prepared to care about her in a way that mattered to her.  

You
don’t see an abusive man doing that.

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