Oh, how we laughed my daughter and I as we read the text messages over and over. The message of “I love you and I wish you well with your anger issues”, “I will be waiting for a relationship with you when you learn to control yourself” and then the zinger, “you stole from me, bring back the can opener!” Mind you this is not a fancy schmancy can opener, laden with gilded gold or a cherished family heirloom passed down from his mother, it is a $1.29 can opener from the grocery store. The messages are not from an angry, scorned lover but from her father.
Let me dissect the situation for those not familiar with abuse, specifically emotional abuse. It is very cyclical, without a starting and stopping point. For clarity we will start with the big fight. Sadly, it is not limited to or defined by a huge screaming match with broken items or physical abuse. Before you know, your boundaries are broken, your physical safe zone (mine was my closet) intruded upon, and you yourself are engaging in the negative behavior. This is exactly what the abuser wants because when the fight is over, you will be made to feel guilty for your poor behavior and somehow you will be apologizing to them. If you didn’t behave that way……
So hence, the first text, “I love you and I wish you well with your anger issues”. Feel guilty my daughter. You are bad, angry and need help.
The next spoke of the emotional abuse wheel is the message that the abuser will help you with your emotional issues. There is no one else as you have alienated our family and friends. You are, after all, unlovable and no one likes you. You have anger issues. Ping! The next message arrives, “I will be waiting for a relationship with you when you learn to control yourself.” This seething message of I love you so much and I find you loveable, despite your issues. I can help you be a better person.
As you are reeling from these psychological games, trying to make sense, feeling shame, and not responding, which by the way is the worst thing you can do to a controlling person is not respond, the next button is pushed. The ante is upped
and now you are called a thief. It could be anything that sends a message that the abuser is in control, you are nothing without them. In this case, nothing without them, you are a thief and you are lucky I love you or you would be in jail. And most importantly, I can take everything away from you whenever I want.
This was the third can opener my daughter had purchased and each time she left his home, he demanded the can opener. Why this object? Simple. She has nothing, her diet is minimal (starving student diet). Taking the can opener sends another message that without me you cannot even feed yourself and I can take it away at any time. You will respond to me, or else!
It’s scary when you take the messages apart and really put them into the context of your life, your relationship. They seem so innocuous. Some might say no big deal because their life is not based on lies. Life with an abuser is all about control and everything is based on lies, even stupid things (see gaslighting). The lies are meant to keep you off balance and they do.
We were finally able to laugh at these frightening text messages because healing has begun. She is starting to break free from the drama/trauma of emotional abuse. She is accepting her self-worth, her voice, and understanding that she cannot change him. She recognizes that she is not the problem, she does not have the “issues”, she is a by-product. She is merely a young woman who wants the love, respect, and acknowledgment that she has what it takes to be independent.
Love and Stockholm Syndrome: The Mystery of Loving an Abuser by Joseph M. Carver, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist
11 Signs of Gaslighting in a Relationship