Ditch That Jerk: Dealing with Men Who Control and Abuse Womenby Pamela Jayne
Neither weighed down by research nor weightless with airy promises, Ditch That Jerk is a gritty, honest, and most of all experienced view of physical and emotional abusers and their effect on victims. Engagingly written, it shows women how to assess their partners and relationships for potential abuse, and for potential change - or not. Author Pamela Wiseman uses
Neither weighed down by research nor weightless with airy promises, Ditch That Jerk is a gritty, honest, and most of all experienced view of physical and emotional abusers and their effect on victims. Engagingly written, it shows women how to assess their partners and relationships for potential abuse, and for potential change - or not. Author Pamela Wiseman uses examples from counseling sessions to illustrate how the mind of an abusive man works and how to identify the patterns. She details the tricks used by such men to keep women in line and discusses warning signs, alcohol and drugs, and the excuses people use to explain abuse. Optimistic and empowering without candy-coating a difficult topic, this book gives women the tools to make clear-headed decisions about damaging relationships.
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Ditch That JerkDealing with Men Who Control and Hurt Women
By Pamela Jayne
Hunter House Inc., PublishersCopyright © 2000 Pamela Jayne
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Good, the Bad, and the Utterly Hopeless
It goes without saying that it's best to avoid getting involved with a man who will try to control you, or worse. If you're already involved with an abusive or potentially abusive man, then the question becomes, Should you stay or should you leave? Lots of women would choose to stay, if only their mate would stop behaving badly. The good news is that some men do change. But how can you tell which ones? How can you know whether or not your man is one of them? In this chapter, we'll look at the traits of abusive men and at what kind of men change and what kind don't. We'll also look at the warning signs, indications that a man is or will be abusive, because way before we start asking whether or not a man can change, we need to ask whether he is someone to get involved with in the first place. Finally, we'll see why abusive men fool so many women and learn how not to become one of them.
The hours I have spent working with hundreds of men have taught me two things that I hope to convey to you. The first is that some controlling, abusive men do want better, nonviolent relationships, and they are willing to change to have them. The second is that some men don't want to change. They don't see their abuse and control of women as problems and will never be any different-no matter what anybody says or does.
Women often hope for miraculous changes when their partners start counseling or show other signs of wanting to improve the relationship. Many women hope, and perhaps you are one of them, that it will be the one thing that finally makes a difference, and sometimes it is. But sometimes women are only fooling themselves and waiting for a change that will never come. After all, there are really three kinds of abusive men: those who will change; those who might change; and those who never will. What matters is that a woman knows how to tell the difference.
What Is Abuse?
What are we really talking about here? What exactly is abuse? If you have been on the receiving end of abusive behavior, you probably don't need a list of examples to tell you that you got hurt. But sometimes people just get used to being treated badly, and so they don't recognize abuse when it happens to them. In those cases, hearing from someone that a person's actions toward you were, in fact, abusive might help you to understand better what was going on and why you felt the way you did.
Some people think that anything someone does to them that makes them feel bad is abusive behavior. Not so. I can forget someone's birthday and hurt that person, but that doesn't mean that I am abusive. Abuse is always on purpose; it is never an accident. Abusive behavior is used to degrade another, or to control her-to deprive her of the freedom to make decisions about her life, or to cause damage, whether it be physical, mental, or emotional.
Unfortunately, the terms controlling and abusive have been way overused. People constantly accuse one another of being controlling or abusive, when in fact they're just being what humans sometimes are: selfish, petty, unreasonable, stubborn, or disagreeable. When we use these words too much and apply them to people and cases where they really don't apply, they tend to lose their meaning. If almost any behavior that we don't like can count as abuse, then why should we take it seriously? After all, it's pretty normal, right? Many abusive men know and understand that one way to minimize abuse is to trivialize it by making it seem almost normal, or "natural." To justify their own behavior, these men can and do rattle off a list a mile long of actions taken against them by their partners, all of which they call abuse. Here are some of the things I've heard them describe as abusive:
My wife wouldn't let me go out drinking the other night.
She told me that we were not buying a new car.
She refuses to speak to me for a whole day sometimes.
She threw all my stuff on the lawn because I was a little late getting home.
A woman telling her husband that he can't go out drinking is not the same as an abusive man telling his partner that she is not going anywhere and then backing up the statement with the threat of force. Getting mad at someone and not speaking to him or her for a whole day, while not very mature, doesn't qualify as abuse. There is bad behavior (and we are all guilty as charged of that), and then there is abuse. They are two different things. I don't want to label men as abusers who aren't. It's better to save that label for those who really deserve it. And you'll meet more than a few of those deserving people in the pages that follow.
Everyone pretty much knows what we are talking about when we use the term physical abuse. It can mean slapping, kicking, or punching. It also mean things far more horrendous. But the fact is that physical abuse is almost always preceded in some way by mental and emotional abuse. It is exceedingly rare to find a man who has attacked his wife but who had been a really great guy up until that point. I'm not saying that it cannot happen, because it sometimes does-but not too often.
I want to spend a moment on the distinction between mental and physical abuse. In one respect there is an obvious difference. Physical abuse is about causing physical harm by hitting, kicking, throwing someone down the stairs or up against a wall, and a host of other actions too numerous to list. Mental or emotional abuse is about doing mental or emotional harm by name-calling, threatening, and controlling. Again, the list is long. However, the motivation behind both kinds of abuse is the same: to hurt, humiliate, or keep power and control over someone. And the effects are similar, too: the eventual erosion of a person's will and spirit. For example, slapping someone in the face might, in the end, not be any more harmful than constantly scaring her or putting her down, day in and day out, until she is completely destroyed emotionally.
Physical abuse can of course be fatal, and so we worry a lot about it. But emotional abuse, which can take all of the joy out of life, is potentially life threatening too. Many people who are subjected to this kind of unrelenting abuse just seem to give up and give in, which is, after all, what the abusive person wanted all along, because when people give up or give in, he gets his way. He doesn't have to bother with pesky compromises or negotiations and he doesn't have to explain himself or justify why he wants or doesn't want something. He gets what he wants, when he wants it, and without a lot of trouble. Here are a few examples:
Max kept his wife under surveillance all the time-at home, at work, and in her car. He taped her phone calls. He checked her car every night for clues that she might have been with another man. He eventually refused to give her the car keys (to her own car). When she chased him around the room to get them, she slipped and fell. When she grabbed for the keys, he kicked her in the face and felt justified in doing it because she, after all, had been chasing him.
André physically examined his wife after she had been at a party to reassure himself that she had been faithful. He, on the other hand, had frequent affairs and would expect his wife to wash his girlfriend's clothes, which always wound up in the hamper.
Malcolm refused to allow products from one major discount store into his home, because he said that they were bad for the environment. His girlfriend, not aware of his feelings, had lots of stuff from that store in her house. He sneered at her and accused her of not caring about anything except cheap material goods. He threw away some of her things and forbid her to go to that store again. Malcolm's goal was to make her feel small, petty, and stupid. In the next group meeting following this incident he said, "We both agree that it isn't the right thing to do to help out those crooks. I didn't want to get so firm with her, but she needed to understand what's going on out in the real world. You can stick your head in the sand for only so long." (He had better hope that she keeps her head in the sand. Otherwise, she might finally see what a jerk he actually is.)
When Ron got married, his wife moved into his house. But he wouldn't let her move anything around or bring any of her own things in, saying she had no taste. He reminded her of that frequently and eventually she couldn't help but agree. She would say to people, "I let Ron do all the decorating. Most of my stuff was old and I'm so bad at that stuff anyhow, right, Ron?" As a result, everything in the house was his and just the way he wanted it to be. It was as if she didn't live there at all.
Although mental abuse, such as that described above, can and often does lead to physical abuse, sometimes it doesn't, because the abusive man is able to control his partner just fine using nonphysical means.
Let's return to the question at hand: What exactly is abuse? Throughout this book, you will find examples of all kinds of abusive behavior. It's hard, in fact impossible, to produce a complete list of what kinds of actions are abusive and what kinds aren't. So there are several ways to answer that question. The first is to look at how a person's behavior makes you feel. Next-and this is really important-you should look at his motivation. What (you can ask yourself or him) is he trying to accomplish with his behavior?
Remember that controlling and abusive behavior, physical or mental, is intentional. There is no such thing as an accidental abuser-though many would like you to believe that there is. Abusive men know full well that it is hard to hold a person responsible for something that he didn't mean to do. So lots of guys will tell us that the injuries they caused someone else were an accident. One man said that he was trying to move all the stuff from the table so that he and his wife could talk. The coffee pot accidentally fell over, and she got burned. I wonder how the coffee pot "accidentally" wound up on the other side of the room. Abusive men do the things they do for a reason. Here are just a few possibilities for you to consider:
to humiliate or embarrass you
to isolate you from other people and increase your dependence on him
to make you feel rotten about yourself
to make the point that he is in charge and in control
to scare you so that you don't get out of line
to get you to blame yourself for his behavior so that he can continue behaving the same way
Remember that most people act in their own self-interest even if some (like the men who say that they have to beat up their partners "for their own good") claim otherwise. One man said, "She was getting hysterical. I was afraid she'd hurt herself, so I had to restrain her and throw her down." Oh, well. Good thing she didn't hurt herself, huh?
You might consider making a list of things your mate has done that have really made you feel bad. Next to the actions, list the possible reasons for his doing them. Ask yourself what he might be getting out of those behaviors. How does he benefit from what he does to you? You can also turn to Chapter Four, where I discuss the costs and benefits to a man of his abusive behavior.
In general, regardless of what abusive men actually do or what they say their immediate intent is, what these guys want is one or more of four things:
to be powerful
to look good
to be in control
to be right
Throughout this book, we'll return to these four motives as we discuss examples of abusive behavior. At the end of each chapter, where you'll find what I have called the Jerk Test, you'll have the chance to consider these motives when evaluating an abusive man. What you discover may surprise you. Remember that abusive behavior is a method of control and is not likely to just stop; rather, it is quite likely to get worse. In the end, you'll decide for yourself what behavior you can and cannot accept, regardless of what kind of label you put on it.
Early Warning Signs
Rather than wondering whether a man can change (or whether you can change him), you might start by asking yourself whether you ought to get involved with him in the first place. There are some early warning signs, which to the untrained eye might not seem that obvious. So let's get some training now.
The following are not the only signs that someone may become abusive, but they are a pretty good start. If just one or two of these apply to the person in question, it may not indicate that he will be abusive. But a combination of a number of these factors will increase the risk. Therefore, the more yes answers you come up with, the higher the risk.
Has he ever hit someone with whom he was involved?
He will no doubt not admit to hitting anyone, so if you know about it, it is probably because somebody else told you. In any case, does he seem to have a rehearsed answer about why he did it-about how dumb, lazy, mean, or crazy those other women were? How they were drug addicts, mentally unstable, disliked men, slept around, or in some other way were unworthy of respect and deserved the abuse they got. He may tell you that you are different and therefore you shouldn't worry about it happening to you (what he doesn't say is, unless, of course, you start behaving like those other women). The fact is, if a man has ever abused anyone else, he'll do it again or try to do it again unless he has worked hard to change his behavior. If he hurts you, physically or emotionally, he'll say it's your fault, because you've changed and now you're just like all of the rest of those awful women who came before you. He's told this story many times and probably has it down pat. He won't need to rehearse it much before telling the same story about you to someone else.
Has he been in lots of fights with people with whom he is not involved, like guys at a bar?
The man who gets into fights and violent arguments with people either within or outside of his family is someone to be wary of. He probably sees violence as a way to solve problems, and so he is likely to eventually use it with you too. O.J. Simpson claimed that he "only beat up dudes who deserved it, at least once a week, usually on Friday or Saturday night. If there wasn't no fight," he said, "there wasn't no weekend."
Some men who are generally violent say things like, "Well, I wouldn't hit a woman because that isn't a fair fight. Men are too strong." Maybe he'll mean that, and maybe he won't. In either case, this man is accustomed to using some kind of force (whether physical or mental) to get what he wants. He may call you names, withdraw from you, order you around, humiliate you, or otherwise punish you in the effort to keep you in line. Just because he doesn't use physical violence doesn't mean that he isn't abusive.
Some men do grow out of this tendency to be violent. It's up to you, of course, to decide whether or not to wait and for how long. The frequently violent man is a bad risk. Perhaps, in a rare instance, a man may be different at home than he is elsewhere-respectful and noncontrolling-but this doesn't happen often enough to warrant your taking the risk.
Has he ever abused an animal?
I know one man who said that when his girlfriend left the house when he didn't want her to, he threw her cats against the wall and smacked them around because he knew she loved the cats and that hurting them would hurt her. A man who enjoys running over animals in his car or otherwise torturing them, especially if this behavior started at a young age, is not a good bet. He is probably coldhearted (a sure sign of a hopeless jerk), even if on the surface he might seem all right. There is a strong connection between animal abuse and abuse of people: many men who abuse women also abuse and often kill family pets. The abuse of animals is a strong and clear warning signal. Most of our country's most notorious killers abused animals as young boys. If the man you're dating has done this, under no circumstances ought you to convince yourself that he is an OK guy. He isn't, and he isn't going to be.
Excerpted from Ditch That Jerk by Pamela Jayne Copyright © 2000 by Pamela Jayne. Excerpted by permission.
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