“You just don’t understand…”

by Annie Kaszina on April 17, 2012

One of my abusive ex-husband’s favorite sayings in the whole world was: “You don’t understand.  You just don’t understand…”  It was delivered with a shake of the head, and an expression of either anger or disappointment, depending on my crime or misdemeanour.

My inability to understand was one of the great disappointments of his life – either that, or it was a ploy he used all the time to claim the moral high ground for himself.  (How that man  loved the moral high ground!!) 

Sometimes, I “didn’t understand him” because of my gross insensitivity to his oh-so-sensitive feelings.  Sometimes, I didn’t understand because I was just too stupid, and selfish.  Allegedly.

In a way, he was right.  There was quite a lot I did understand about him, but- and it really is a big but – I couldn’t make sense of the obvious: he  was an abusive, controlling, cold, hurtful man.

Actually, that takes a lot of accepting.  When you love someone, you really want to believe the very best of them.  It goes with the territory. Every woman I’ve ever worked with wants, at some level, to believe their abusive partner is a better person than is truly the case.

It’s an interesting phenomenon, really.  Abused women struggle to believe the very best of their horrid partner.  Abusive men would struggle NOT to believe the very worst of their long-suffering partner.  They get a thrill out of demonizing you.  The blacker they can paint you, the whiter they imagine they look.  Last week I blogged about actor Dennis Waterman who had the gall to blame wife #3 (actor Rula Lenska) for being a strong, intelligent woman.

I’m wondering what that says about poor Dennis that he can’t spot a strong, intelligent woman until he marries her.  But, as we all know, Dennis W is not alone in this.  He shares a boat with every other abusive man, everywhere (and what a fun-filled boat that must be!).  The poor poppets commit to a relationship with you believing you’re just a two-legged Spaniel, and then you turn into a flesh and blood woman on them.   With your own thoughts, feelings, and  opinions.  Which is just too, too horrible!! 

Joking apart, we don’t understand, do we?  We really don’t understand why we’re blamed for our strengths, just as much as our weaknesses.  You could be blamed for being too fat and too lazy.  But, equally, you could be blamed for being too slim and too energetic.

An abuser’s world divides so neatly into Black and White.  On the White side stands Mr Nasty, complete with all his bad behaviors, character flaws, distasteful habits, verbal abuse.  Your place, as you well know, is on the Black side.

But the thing you don’t get – and I didn’t get, for the longest time – is that you’re never going to be able to make the transition from the Black side to the White side.  Nor is he ever going to say: “Let’s meet in the middle.  Let’s both inhabit a grey middle ground together.  Respectfully.”

There are certain words that aren’t a true part of an abusive man”s vocabulary, like “respect”, and “consideration”.  And there are certain behaviors that an abuser can’t quite manage like putting your wishes right up there alongside his own, or being genuinely helpful – without demanding that you notify the Nobel Prize committee to tell them all about his exceptional services to womankind.

My  abusive ex-husband wasn’t often right. But when he said: “You don’t understand” meaning: “You don’t understand me”, he was absolutely, uncharacteristically, spot on.  You’ve spent too long trying to understand your abusive partner, when you should have been listening to your feelings more carefully.  Your feelings told you, time and time again, what he was truly like, and how much he was hurting you. 

The only thing you need to understand is this: that’s his job description.

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