“Why did you let him treat you that way?”
I get this question a lot when people ask me about various relationships I have had. People don’t understand why I would not put up more of a fight on things like where we go on vacations or what color the wedding invitations were or whether we spent the tax return on a new couch or put it in savings.
I was thinking about that this weekend. I am in the process of painting and organizing my house. There are areas of the house, especially in the kitchen, that I have no idea about. My ex-husband organized the kitchen and basically never let me in there, so there are cupboards I have never opened full of things I have never seen.
One thing I decided to do was get rid of his plates and mugs. He had a set of plates and mugs that preceded the marriage. He left them here when he moved out. While he was packing he told me that he decided to leave those here and take a set that we bought our first year of marriage and the set that we got for the wedding.
I refused to let him take the wedding set.
The wedding set is a set of Asian-style square plates. It was one of the only things I absolutely insisted must be on the wedding registry. He told me he hated them because they were purple and he didn’t want a bunch of girly things clogging up his kitchen.
A dear friend of my family bought us the only set we got. The entire time we were married those plates were shoved onto a high shelf and were only used when we had company.
I asked him if he wanted his plates. He asked which ones, because he would take the purple ones but not the ones he made us use for nearly six years. That was when I realized why I let him treat me that way.
Until recently, I have been at a loss as to explain it. Usually those decisions were meaningless to me and I would let the person who cared more make the decision.
I also made an erroneous assumption that if I gave in on something I didn’t really care about that the other person cared very deeply about that it would go both ways. I figured that things would be equitable and that if I gave in on something that he would give in on something too.
I found out too late that it doesn’t work that way.
Every time I gave in on something, it was either immediately forgotten or it sent the wrong idea that I would give in on everything if enough pressure and bullying was applied. When I would stand up for myself, I would be viciously argued with. Either it would be too difficult for me to continue arguing and I would give in, or it would be so draining that it would take me a long to time recover in order to have another argument like that again.
This lead people to think I could be controlled. Yell at me and make my life miserable enough and I would give up and forget about whatever it was I was asking for or arguing about. These people felt they could bully me and always win because I would stop fighting.
What they didn’t know was that I was keeping score.
I was keeping track of every single time they lied to me or forced me to do something I didn’t want to do and didn’t treat me like a human being.
My ex-husband ignored my requests for a divorce for over a year. I physically moved out of the house and filed for divorce and only came back when he promised to go to therapy with me. But like so many other things in our marriage, he thought that if he ignored this it would go away.
I remembered every early thing I gave into in our marriage. I kept track of every lie he told me and every favor that he forgot the moment it was over.
I kept track of every time he blamed me for the quality of his life. Every time he purposely yelled at me to force me to cry to make himself feel better. Every time he put someone else ahead of me and assumed I wouldn’t make a fuss about it because I would just take it because that is what I do.
I will never be this person again. I am working very hard to be more assertive and to take more of a stand on things because I don’t want to train another person into thinking that I am a doormat.
If you’re involved in some kind of relationship with someone that you constantly steamroll because they always eventually give in, keep in mind that this person is also keeping score. This person remembers every single act of aggression you have placed upon them. And they are waiting.