Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Emotional Justice: Standing Up

The end in the beginning-I packed my things and let Wes know I had to get out.  He packed a bag too and came with me.

I like conversation.  Sure we can talk about it.  We can both take turns and say what we think and how we feel.  We can listen to each other.  We can agree to disagree.  We can do all of those things at normal volumes and without theatrics or an audience.

I don't like confrontation.  To clarify, I don't like ugly, unnecessary confrontation.  What I like is dealing with issues as directly and as calmly as possible.  Why do we have to get loud, call each other names, belittle, and attempt to publicly shame one another?  Why do we have to be so ugly and disrespectful? 

In my last post in what has become a series, I wrote about a situation where I felt the need to exercise emotional justice for myself in response to a gaslighting attempt.
First, AFFIRM YOURSELF.  I am not crazy.  This is what happened.  This is why it is wrong.  This is why it makes me feel this way. 
Let it marinate.  I digested the conversation for a day or so.  I did this for myself but also because I knew I wanted to talk to my husband about it. 
Talk about it.  I was able to express what happened and how it made me feel.  Taking the time to process and think helped me clearly articulate my thoughts.  By the time we talked I was also calm enough to listen which meant Wes and I could have a real discussion.  If you do want to talk about it, talk about it with someone you trust or find an impartial party. 
Assess your options.  Think about what you want to happen-how can you proceed to meet those ends?  Maybe you can limit contact with this person.  Maybe you can choose to alter how you engage with them.  Our choices are limited right now and in a very real sense, the best we can do if we want to remain together is to wait it out and move as soon as possible. 
Decide on coping strategies.  If you can't escape your situation completely, think about how you want to cope.  Waiting it out sucks, but in the meantime we are adapting by ensuring that we both spend as little time in the house as possible and we do our best to keep separate meal times.  Additionally, I no longer engage in conversation with him.   
My coping strategy of disengagement became the lever that caused the situation to escalate.  My decision to no longer engage in conversation with one individual was noticed and disapproved of.  I should clarify and add that beyond saying "good morning", "good bye", or "good night", I generally had nothing to say to my husband's father.  He was not content with leaving it there.  He insisted that we have a "family conversation" involving himself, me, my husband, and my husband's mother as the so-called mediator.  This "conversation" quickly escalated into a confrontation that only he participated in.  During this confrontation, he refused to let me speak or complete a sentence without intervention from his wife and he responded with anger whenever I pointed out flaws in his logic.  He lied, he accused, he called me names, he tried to yell, he made angry gestures in my direction, and he insulted me, my upbringing, and my family.  He repeatedly addressed my husband instead of me and when Wes made it clear that he was on my side, refused to allow him to speak either. 

During this theater piece, the "moderator" repeatedly stated that "we just all have to get along."  She also insisted that I spend more time in the house and stop going into the city with my husband everyday.  Additionally, she insisted that I not spend all the time in the house in my husband's room.  She and her husband insisted on family mealtimes as well.

Essentially, my safety nets were being removed.  

These things were said in the face of my assertions that no, I was not happy living with them and no, I was not going to pretend to be.  I'm not happy because it is not a situation where I should be happy. I'm an adult-I don't want to live with my own parents, let alone anyone else's.  No, I will not abide by those demands.  When his father called me childish and a spoiled brat, I pointed out that he was the only one calling anyone names.  When he tried to lecture me on how families deal with problems, I pointed out that the entire exercise was pointless because he was the only one talking and that it would have been better for him to say what he had to say to just me and that audiences were unnecessary.

In short, I stood up for myself.  

It wasn't easy.  As I said, I don't like confrontation.  Besides all the ugliness, I always have the sense that the person forcing the issue is doing so for their own benefit and enjoyment and I hate playing those kinds of games.  It was masturbatory for him, he really enjoyed it and in fact, was downright giddy the next morning.  Added to that, I got the very real impression that he was trying to frighten me. It seemed that what he really wanted was for me to feel afraid, threatened, and chastised.  

In that sense, he succeeded.  I did feel threatened.  I never felt safe or at ease in that household and that confrontation ensured that I never would.  During the confrontation, I took his pounding on the table, raised voice, and pointed fingers for what they were-and I was afraid.  I didn't think he would hurt me physically, but I knew he was trying to hurt me mentally.  I knew he was trying to shame me and make me believe things about myself and about what happened that weren't true.  I knew I was under attack.  

Wes stood up for me and I stood up for myself.  It wasn't easy for either of us.  We were afraid and angry and sick.  

I was shaking and i wanted to cry.  

I didn't.  We didn't.

We stood our ground.

Whatever else happens, we have that moment.

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