Abuse. A nasty word, where its meaning is very much indicative of the weight it carries. A word we often only associate with physical violence between a man and a woman. It is. I won’t dispute that. However, I am here to entertain the idea that abuse is another word for misuse. A misuse of trust, misuse of intelligence, misuse of common sense, misuse of passion, misuse of love.
I’ve spent a lot of time unravelling over this nasty word as it entered my world months ago when I hit a stonewall. Denial was at the forefront – he never laid a hand on me but his words…they hit differently. I cried for five consecutive days over a social media typo. Normally, I would chuckle at my own mistakes (or my clumsiness for that matter) but to hear it multiple times over from different angles from the same source dug deep into me. Was I really that weak? Why did I let an apostrophe control my mood?…What a complete misuse of my common sense! After another eye opening therapy session, we concluded that it wasn’t the typo I was upset about, rather, the person who pointed it out.
“I can’t believe you did that” – jab. “How many people viewed your story? Thank God I pointed it out to you!” – double jab. “You’re a writer, how could you make such a mistake?” – right hook. “You taught your daughter contractions all week and you still couldn’t get it right?” – uppercut. DING! DING! DING! – TKO.
When someone highlights a mistake or element about you in a negative, nonconstructive way or an attempt to mock you, even jokingly, it isn’t about said action; it highlights that person’s own weakness. The bully’s weakness where they need to feel accepted, needed, and establish dominance over you by pointing out your errors (regardless of how minor), forcing you to feel inferior when the reality is, their own inadequacy is at the source. Bottom line – it’s manipulation. This example was a calculated misuse of my intelligence and in this case, misuse of my passion because the post was for my budding online business. It was a misuse of my trust because it was disguised as ‘helping’ me out. Even though I was grateful for him calling attention to my typo, in the moment I was left speechless.
This example may not strike some of you as a big deal, he was only pointing out a grammatical error, right? WRONG. I understood after the first message directing me to the typo, it didn’t need to drag out for several conversations throughout the day and certainly did not warrant insulting my competence by stating the obvious.
So, how do we rise above it? How do we know to spot the difference between support and unflattering remarks? Is it worth addressing ignorance? It’s important for me to note that such an incident was not the first of its kind. I felt he loved me, but constantly questioned if he respected me, not because of our relationship – but as an individual. How could someone who claims to love me continuously make me feel like I was wrong, dimwitted or delusional because certain conversations and moments did not exist to them and I ‘made them all up’? I questioned my sanity to the point where I thought I was mentally ill, even made excuses for their behaviour and ignored my own intuition and heart. The selective amnesia and constant grinding ate away at me, so none the wiser, I buried my pain so deep that I couldn’t recognize it until it was too late. This was a gross misuse of my love; choosing to walk away was the single most terrifying and simultaneously liberating move of my life!
“Welcome back” were two little words out of a loved one’s mouth which made me realize how much of me was silenced and the impact it had on my external relationships. Expression has always been a big part of my personality yet somehow that disappeared and was replaced with a timid and peacekeeper mindset; it was easier for me to walk on eggshells and keep myself mind-blowingly occupied than to poke a sleeping bear. When it came time to choose my path, I treaded carefully as it wasn’t my life alone I was impacting, there was collateral damage on multiple levels, the ever present guilt, the challenge of becoming a single parent, uprooting and starting over in my late 30s and the stigma associated with cultural influences and the whispers.
Understanding how words can impact a person; content and delivery are keys to healthy connections. Had the conversations throughout the years included uplifting remarks, positive suggestions or intelligent challenges, they would have presented as less damaging within me. Agreeing and submissive ideals such as love bombing and showering someone with promises are not a part of love language, nor does it include the silent treatment, violent outbursts on furniture and walls or walking out – all examples of misusing love.
Having relearned my body, mind and soul, I armour myself with the ability to trust my gut, use facial expressions to convey a no nonsense tolerance and smart maneuvers out of a confrontation such as choosing to remain silent and flashing a smile when an encounter threatens my peace. I encourage you to reflect on your relationships with not only your significant other, but everyone in your circle as brash individuals are easy to accept when you don’t know how to spot the misuse of trust.
I recognize not many women would walk away, it’s never an easy decision but my intentions are now to educate and to use my voice and experience as a guide for understanding that all important self love and I won’t be quiet so you can be comfortable.