• Andrea Eriks

Jaws and Emotional Abuse

For some, there is this space that exists between the dream of what one thinks could be and the harsh reality of what actually is. How does a person even begin to reconcile something they never expected to exist in the first place? I understand why people keep holding onto their dreams and their hopes when relationships start going badly. To let go of the dream is like dropping a precious last glass of water. And the fear is that when that glass shatters and the last drop is gone, there will only be thirst and your tears will deplete what little hydration is left within.

You see, I don’t think emotional abuse is black and white or cut and dry. If someone gets punched in the face and the result is a black eye, the evidence is before me. That may have been a singular incident and it most definitely may be confusing, but the abuse speaks for itself.

But not emotional abuse. Emotional abuse is the theme song to “Jaws”. It’s unclear, murky water that on the surface looks void of danger and leads people to assume one is crazy if they proclaim “SHARK!” And if someone is told that they don’t see what they think they see enough times by enough people, they themselves may begin to believe that their fear is unfounded and they, indeed, are the crazy one. Yet still, those two notes play, taunting them to keep questioning “What is in that darn water?”

If you’re here today because you are feeling very confused about a relationship you’re in, you are probably in the right place. Emotional abuse can happen under many circumstances. Indeed we’ll explore those to a greater length later, but for the sake of a manageable blog post I need to simplify. Currently we’re going to explore emotional abuse within a marriage. This is extremely complicated emotional abuse and admittedly I am going to have to take time to sort out the layers to try and present a decent blog series on the topic. In blog form I just can’t give you too much depth, but what I can do is start to help you springboard your journey to clarity and hopefully healing.

So if you feel like you might be one who suspects a shark, but everyone keeps looking at you like you’re crazy or those you confide in continue to redirect you toward what they believe is true or need to believe is true, then you are in the right place. We’ll work together to unpack what you believe you’re seeing. I’m not going to promise you that you won’t still feel confused, but I will do my best to help you navigate your situation to uncover the truth.

Let’s begin simply and start knocking out a few pieces that may be holding you back from acknowledging you are experiencing emotional abuse. Believe it or not, people who are caught up in emotionally abusive situations often begin their journey assuming the blame is on their self.

I think one of the reasons people start with self-blame is because the assumption is, “if it is my fault, then I can also fix the issue.” You take on the mission of self-blame assuming surely you have done something or many things to create this cloud of confusion and if you can just get your act together, then you can lead your family on a path of healthier patterns and deeper intimacy.

I wish I could tell you that’s exactly what is going to happen and that your marriage is going to heal through your martyrdom. I can’t do that. I suppose I feel safe telling you it is possible that could work but in a case of emotional abuse it is highly unlikely that such a drastic shift will solely occur on your actions alone.

You cannot do anything to “fix” another person’s issue. But you can start believing that you have the ability to take initiative and change your own life. You’ve only been taught(through manipulation) you can’t or you’re not allowed.

So here’s the deal:

You are going to have to be your greatest advocate on this journey. I am sure this task is not an easy one. The reason I’m sure of that is because people who really are caught up in emotional abuse have been taught repeatedly that they cannot trust their judgment. Whether it’s the emotional abuser him/herself or a “well-meaning” individual trying to help you navigate your situation, you have probably heard comments to the effect of:

From Acquaintances:

“Have you been considering what you could be doing to make the situation better?”

“Maybe he has a lot going on right now.”

“You knew what you signed up for when you married him.”

From your Partner:

“I’m so sorry, baby, I will work on this and I’ll never do it again.” (To no avail)

“What do you mean talking to her is inappropriate? We weren’t doing anything. That just shows how much you don’t trust me.”

“What did you do all day while you were at home?” (In a demeaning tone)

Beyond the comments, if you are experiencing EA, there are undoubtedly other subtle but cumulative micro-movements that are telling you there’s a shark in your midst. But these underpinnings are seemingly so minute or excusable on their own that they never hold enough merit to yell out “SHARK!” Don’t worry. We’ll talk specifically about these micro-movements!

With you as your biggest advocate, I am here to tell you today that when drastic change needs to happen, disciplined action must be implemented. Though you need to start taking initiative, do not assume this is a quick journey. For most people, this is a slow, calculated process that involves a lot of self-reflection and intentional observation. You must slow yourself down and become confident in your thoughts.

In other words, GET READY. You are going to have to start unpacking those little pieces that lead you to believe there is something lurking in the water. (I recommend a journal so you can refer back to your thoughts).

Believe it or not, when trying to uncover whether or not you are actually caught up in emotional abuse, I recommend you bust out the old 1970s classic “Jaws” itself and have a look. No, no, I don’t think it’s necessary that you watch a shark chomping human flesh to know if you’re in a bad situation, but I think there’s something to be said about main character Chief Brody and his journey from being a well-respected, confident man to having full on break down because he was fighting to uncover a truth that everyone in his town kept telling him wasn’t there.

We’ll talk more about this in my next post. Until then, I hope that this post truly began provoking you to think deeper about this concept of emotional abuse. Over the next few weeks, I hope to post once a week as we start a conversation about a seemingly controversial topic.

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