“What was he thinking?”

08 Jun 2015


They both asked the same question, within minutes of meeting me – two women who had never met me, or each other before:  “What was he thinking?”

The man in question was not their emotionally abusive partner, but my lovely partner and his response to my kitchen fire of a couple of weeks ago.

What they actually meant was this: “If he wasn’t furious with you for being stupid and careless, and if he wasn’t thinking how he could punish you, what on earth was going on in his brain??

mrbigmouthsmall(I’ll admit, it didn’t take me long to imagine how my former emotionally abusive partner would have behaved.  What a field day he would have had! He’d had dredged up an “I always said…” and observations about my total incompetence as a cook – not that the wretched man could boil an egg successfully.  He would have told me, forever after that, had it not been for his heroic intervention, I would have burned the house down and destroyed 7 lives.  (On such a fateful occasion he would surely have included the dog, for dramatic effect.) 

Instead, my lovely partner dealt with the fire –  which was potentially quite serious – bravely, practically and calmly.  While he dealt with the blaze, there were plenty of thoughts going through his head, like: “the extractor hood is drawing the flames upwards”, “what’s the best way to deal with this?, “let’s make sure I have a clear exit route before I take the pan off the hob” and other practical stuff.  Once the danger was over, he moved on.  We had 4 guests in the other room who were anticipating dinner: my partner was – mildly – curious to know whether we still had a dinner to offer them, or if we’d have to create a Plan B.

Notice, there was no distancing himself from me, or racing for the emotional abuser’s Moral High Ground – also known as Sniper’s Paradise.

It’s a whole other way not just of thinking but of being.

Back in the bad old days when I truly believed Life would be perfect if I could only make my emotionally abusive partner someone he was not, we went the couples’ counselling route.

The couples’ counselling route, in case you haven’t ‘clocked’ it yet is simply two people in one place with two different –  incompatible – agendas.  In one corner, you and your desperate desire to make it work; in the other, his intention to get you to accept that you are The Problem while he, being without fault, is validated in casting not just the first stone but as many as he can gather… We were early for our first appointment. I was distraught, as usual – that was my normal state at the time. To fill the half hour or so before our appointment, I bought a paper and flicked through it. I can still see the wasband. He got out of the car and paced up and down the street, his head to one side, deep in thought, obviously working through some internal dialogue.

I read the paper trusting that I would be heard, assuming the counsellor would be an honorable referee who would guarantee fair play. The wasband, as I later realised, was preparing his case.

What a great case it was!

You can imagine it: the hardships of living with a needy, half-crazy harridan who made his life hell;  a woman who he wasn’t sure he could trust to raise his  – actually, our – child, an enormous burden weighing him down and blighting his life, for whom he’d done everything he could… But it was a thankless task. In his professional opinion, I was a total head—case.

Needless to say, I was too shocked to speak.  The counsellor (bless her!) fell for it hook, line and sinker, and darted into his corner with indecent haste.  She deferred to his professional opinion, dazzled by his ‘honesty’ and insight.

It took me a long time to realise what had really happened.  All I knew was that he’d set me up so beautifully that there was nothing I could say, or do, to change things.  The counsellor’s mind was made up: I was a screw-ball; in the interests of his sanity, he needed to cut me loose, but he was such a deeply decent guy that he was willing to keep trying…

It’s a toxic little story, and one that may well have played out in your life, too.  The point of this story is this: emotionally abusive partners do an awful lot of thinking.  We don’t give them enough credit for it. Here’s what they think about:

  • How they can come off as ‘the good guy’ in every scenario
  • How to cast you in the worst possible light
  • How they can ‘weaponize’ every situation
  • How they can use a dash of ‘candidness’ to win outsiders over
  • How they can persuade other people how much they have suffered

That’s a lot to think about.  No wonder their nasty little brains seem in danger of overheating at times.

It’s, also, quite sick.

But it persuades a lot of people – including so-called ‘professionals’ who are far more naive than they should be.

My lovely partner had none of that thinking going on. His thinking was in the moment: how to deal with the problem, enjoy time with our guests, protect me from harm, and make sure everyone had a good evening – including little Life #7.

Emotionally abused women generally start from the principle that their abusive partner isn’t thinking, and couldn’t be thinking.  That’s just not true.

Emotionally abusive partners don’t get to be who they are – and how they are – without a lot of effort and practice.  They don’t need you to ‘help’ or sort them out.  If trained counsellors mess up so badly, you don’t stand a chance.

For your own well-being, don’t waste any more time wondering what goes on inside their nasty little  heads.








Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

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