“Jeez, he was a jerk!”

by Annie Kaszina on August 31, 2011

Lana was a dear friend of mine for 10 years, before the light finally dawned and she – and I – realized my husband was emotionally abusive.

Strange to say, we both discovered what was ‘hidden in plain view’ around the same time.

Lana knew my husband quite well. She was someone he felt the need to impress. So, for quite a while, he showed her his best side – the one I hadn’t seen in years.

That all changed the day Lana needed to use his professional skills…

Abusers tend to fall into two categories: monogamous, or womanizing. My husband was monogamous. He never found Lana physically attractive, but he recognised she had certain professional skills that would be helpful to him. So, for quite a while he was charming, engaging, even funny when he was with her.

(It’s true, any conversation they had was always at least 80% about him, but Lana is a very giving, people-pleaser, so she was used to that.)

Lana wasn’t looking for a monster and, not surprisingly, she didn’t see one. She was the child of very happily married parents, she mixed, largely, with nice people, and – like most people – she judged the world in terms of her own experience and values.

On that fateful day when Lana needed his help, the mask finally slipped.

It was okay for him to make demands on her – and he’d done that shamelessly, for years. She’d written his curriculum vitae (resumé), and advised him on how best to manage his many professional difficulties. (And of course, there were many, because he treated his workplace, as an extension of his domestic Abusive Kingdom.)

However, it was not okay for my friend to have needs. I use the word “needs” advisedly; she is far too nice a person to place demands on anyone.

In any normal relationship, this is the point at which reciprocity – or, if you prefer, mutuality – would kick in.

But abusers loathe the idea of reciprocity. To them, it means being beholden, being weak, losing control of the situation.

So what did the then husband do?

You already know from experience – even if you are struggling to formulate it in words.

He kicked her, as hard as he could, when she was down.

Only metaphorically, you understand.

But let’s not underestimate the power of a good hard psychological kick delivered to your weakest place.

At that point, she severed her relationship with him.

As I was still with him, she was very inclined to end her relationship with me, also. Amazingly, I had the good sense to dissociate myself from him. I realized how precious my friend is to me. So, I apologised for the distress he had caused her, and said that I absolutely deplored his behaviour and his attitude.

We rebuilt our relationship.

To say she was happy for me when I left him is an understatement.

Hindsight, as we all know, is a very precise science.

After he dealt her that frightful kick, the scales fell from her eyes. She revisited her view of my husband, and she did not like what she saw. She realized he had a – very sizeable – dark, destructive side. She saw how he enjoyed hurting and humiliating people, how he homed in on their greatest vulnerability and used it against them.

My friend dislikes very few people. But she heartily loathes my ex, to this day.

Both of us are facing enormous challenges right now. Yesterday, we talked about them, and reviewed how we’d both changed and grown over the years. I mentioned my beloved partner, and how we are facing his health issues together, lovingly and honestly.

And it still happens…

I still find myself comparing Now with Then, my beloved partner with my ex-husband. Every time I do it, I rejoice in the comparison.

How would an abusive partner cope with health difficulties?

Somehow, they would make it your fault, and punish you.

They’d dress it up a bit, naturally. They might lead you down the path of illusory “togetherness”. But then “You’d do something wrong”. You’d say the wrong thing, or use the wrong tone of voice, or make a decision without consulting them, or you’d be “selfish” in some way.

You know their script as well as I do.

You would in some way, have “lit the blue touch paper” (as they used to say in English comic books) and the explosion would follow, in very short order.

I mentioned that, and said: “Jeez, that man was a jerk”,

My friend said: “That sounds like a good epitaph for him. Can you imagine it written on his tomb: “Jeez, that man was a jerk.”

(Now that’s something I could be temped to start saving my pennies for, right away!!)

If you’re feeling in a charitable mood, you might be saying to yourself: “It’s not fair to make that kind of judgement. People can always change. For all Annie knows, her ex might be a reformed character.”

Your sentiment does you credit.

Abusers always can change. Change is as available to them as it is to anyone else.

But will they?

99 times out of 100 they will not.

In the case of my ex, there is enough proof to show that he is still exactly as foul as he ever was.

And, most likely, so is your abuser.

People behave towards you in nasty, destructive ways, because they choose to give free reign to their nasty, destructive persona.

That doesn’t mean they don’t have the same – or nearly the same – capacity to be a decent human being that you have.

They’re just not going to develop it any time soon.

What’s more, their vileness is not your problem. It’s who they choose to be.

It’s not your fault.

If you knew that your abusive partner, like mine, might well end up with the richly deserved, State funded inscription: “Jeez, he was a jerk” on his tomb, how would you feel?

If you would be delighted to think of his awfulness being publicly, and conclusively, acknowledged, that means you already know exactly how he really is – whatever denial you practise with yourself and the world.

“Jeez, he has been – and most likely, still is – a jerk to you.” Maybe he is to your children also. Whether or not you are still officially with him.

That’s him.

It’s not you.

When will you stop making it about you?

You once loved a jerk. That’s unfortunate. But people make mistakes and can learn from them.

He is a jerk. That’s a serious problem that is his, and his alone, to resolve.

Or not….

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