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Poking, Pushing, Hitting, and Threats

When you are trying to make sense of something upsetting that your husband or wife does, I always suggest you first Assume Love. In other words, try setting aside your fears about the possible reasons for what happened for a moment to see if there is any explanation for a good man or woman who loves you completely doing this same thing.

But there is no need to even try on this notion if you've just been poked, pushed, hit with a hand, fist, or object, or threatened with any of these by your husband or wife. There is an easy way to tell if you are loved or not. Ask yourself if he or she also does these things to others when upset: a good friend, a police officer, a nurse, a parent.

Yes? Then you are living with someone who needs mental health care or, if they are young and healthy, perhaps anger management training. You cannot provide either of these, and you are the only one who can protect yourself, your children, and your relationship.

No? Then none of those professions of love between threats or assaults is real. Really. Anyone who deliberately makes sure you fear doing the things that matter to you, seeing the people that matter to you, leaving the house when you feel like leaving the house, or letting a chore go undone does not love you. He or she may put on a show of being crazy angry or crazy drunk while doing these things, but if the show ends abruptly when the police show up or he can get crazy drunk with friends without intimidating them, all the sweet things said while not angry or drunk are also a deliberate part of the scheme to have a partner without loving anyone.

Some take the scheme a step further. Fearing jail time or loss of a financially important reputation, some poke with words alone. They get to know all your vulnerabilities and then poke at them with words to create that same fear of being your own person and making your own choices.

You don't need to Assume Love when you recognize you're being controlled and manipulated through a mix of fear-inducing and fake loving behavior. You don't need to weigh the bad against the good. You won't benefit from marriage counseling. You need help from the legal system or a spouse abuse program to get your spouse into a long-term (like a year or two) abuse program before you can begin to improve your relationship or your children's relationship with such a spouse.

I always suggest we'll be happier with fewer expectations of what our partners will or won't do, but there is one expectation that should always remain: Expect Love. Controlling you through fear comes from a place of arrogance, self-centeredness, and unjustified entitlement that shuts off the ability to love another. There are no small fixes to this and no do-it-yourself ones.

Here is a really helpful book for anyone being poked, pushed, hit, or threatened by a spouse or life partner: Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft, Berkley Books, 2003. He also has a new book of Daily Wisdom for those trying to use what they learned from this book.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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