Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Abuse is not...An anger issue

Abusers often have a temper. They often seem angry and completely out of control.

They’re not.

This was a biggie for me. I truly believed my husband had problems with self control. He did lots of work around anger management with his various counsellors and therapists over the years, he bought books on it and devoured them. All to no avail. Why?

Because he wasn’t angry.

Some of my friends and family were ‘privileged’ enough to witness him simmering and even the occasional outburst (albeit nothing compared to the outbursts when they weren’t there) when I tell them that I have come to realise he didn’t have an anger problem they look at me in utter disbelief. He convinced everyone that he was a decent guy deep down who had problems controlling his anger. And even though many people are well aware that he’s not ‘decent’ that he is devious, manipulative and abusive it’s still difficult to shift the notion of him being out of control, because he does just flip.

So how do I know?

There’s a couple of giveaways. First is the fact that he only ever ‘lost the plot’ to the extent that I witnessed when there was nobody else there. Yes he would snap and simmer, he’d create an atmosphere and happily shout at me and the children in front of others, but nothing, absolutely nothing like the terrifying rages he’d get into in the privacy of our home. If someone is out of control the existence of an audience won’t make a blind bit of difference. If he could control himself in front of our pastor, his customers and my dad he could control himself all the time.  I’ll give you three examples of many incidents I can recall that demonstrate that he was well aware of what he was doing and had drawn certain lines he was perfectly capable of keeping within.

1- He was a strangler. He was very fond of grabbing me by the throat and putting me in a choke hold. He wouldn’t let go and I could feel my head getting lighter and the world going dimmer as I struggled, scared for my life. Yet he always let go at the same point; when my body relaxed and went all floppy. Towards the end I stopped struggling as I knew he wasn’t going to let go until I was about to pass out, I would just relax to get it over and done with as soon as possible and hope he didn’t mis-judge it. A man who is out of control, who has no idea what he is doing doesn’t have the ability to stop at the same point every time. He had drawn the line at the point I passed out- in his mind choking your wife until she passes out is unacceptable, that’s what abusers do. So he didn’t cross the line.  That’s control.

2. I remember the last time his mental health worker came to visit us. About five mins before he was due to arrive my husband had got ‘angry’ about something and had pushed me into the corner of the sofa .He was astride me screaming in my face so much he was spitting. As I looked at him I saw a man so out of control he was foaming at the mouth. By this point I had ceased to care about what he might do to me and I remember thinking to myself “good (mental health worker) might see just how crazy he is now and do something to help him.” However, literally a minute before the arrival time he suddenly stopped screaming and went upstairs saying “you can talk to …. when he gets here” a few seconds later there was a knock on the door. My husband strode down the stairs like nothing had happened, sat and chatted to his mental health worker, calm as a daisy while I sat shaken in the corner. When he left the shouting resumed. How could someone so out of control calm down for the time a professional arrived?

3. Most of the physical violence came from being shoved up against doors and tables or in the form of choke holds, but on one occasion he decided to completely beat me black and blue. I cowered in the corner of the bathroom while he shouted abuse and rained down punches on me, blow after blow, before he just stopped and left. He later told me he sort of ‘blacked out’ that one minute he was running towards me and the next I was lying on the floor and he realised he’d beat me up. He tells me he didn’t know what he was doing, he wasn’t in control, he wasn’t even there. Yet every single blow hit me round the legs and buttocks. The only tiny mark to my forehead was from where I fell. He was careful not to bruise me where it would show. Not only this but despite the fact that he’s a 22 stone powerlifter he managed not to break any bones or cause any injuries that would need medical attention- that would draw attention to what he’d done. That’s amazing considering our size difference. He was so in control when he beat me up. Again he didn’t cross certain lines he had clearly drawn in his own mind.

I would be willing to bet that every woman who has come out of an abusive relationship can tell similar tales, I could give you loads more. And I bet that many women who are living with ‘angry men’ if they thought about it would find their partners are not as out of control as they have led them to believe.

Abuse is about power and control. Anger is not, it’s the opposite, it’s about a loss of control. An abusers goal is to control you, and his seeming anger is just a tool by which to do this. He’s not angry, he’s choosing to be abusive.

Please check out the rest of the Abuse is not series by clicking on the tab at the top of this post


  1. Hi, I'm so glad I came across your blog. Do you correspond with anyone privately?

  2. I can do. ;o) If you want to you can find me on twitter @alwayshopesally


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