Verbal Self Defense

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An example

Ellen walked through the front door ten minutes after Jack did. He wasted no time before letting her know how he felt about that.

Where have you been? he demanded, both hands on his hips and his face set in a fierce scowl. You were supposed to be home half an hour ago, for crying out loud!

Ellen stared at him. What do you mean, where have I been? I've been at work!

Oh, don't give me that!, he snapped. You get off at five Ellen, and it's nearly six-thirty! You've been in some store haven't you?
If you you'd sit down and make a grocery list at the beginning of the week like I keep telling you to, you wouldn't run out of something every single day! If I ran my buisness the way you run this house--

If you did your share of running this house, Jack, I might listen to that! But you don't! I hold down a full-time job just like you do, and then I come home and have all the housework to do on top of it, while you stand around and complain!

Oh, come on, Ellen, Jack said, sarcasm dripping from every word, there's no comparison between my job and yours, and you know it! You sit around at the office all day reading magazines and filling your nails -- I really work! And when I get home, I expect a little hard-earned peace and relaxation! But YOU can't even get home in time to cook DINner!

Ellen was still standing in the door, still wearing her coat; sh was as white as a sheet.

Well?, he demanded. What do you have to say for yourself?

Just . . . one . . . thing! she spat at him. Thank heaven we don't have a child! At least I'm the only one around here that has to put up with your viscious mouth!

Jack caught his breath; now he was as white as she was. Oh man, he said softly. You really know hot to hurt a guy, don't you, Ellen?

What's going on here

This is combat, plain and simple. Jack and Ellen are an ordinary couple with ordinary problems, but a lot of what passes for communications at their house is the linguistic equivalent of machine gun fire and hand grenades. And it just keeps getting worse.

Ellen's Points of View

The way Ellen sees it. Jack takes pleasure in causing her pain. Nothing she does is ever good enough to deserve his praise; no mistake is ever minor enough for him to let it pass. She is convinced that he gets up in the morning and plans his day around his chances to chew her out and make her miserable. It baffles her. He claims that he's telling the truth; in other ways, he's a good and obviously caring husband. Why, then does he get so much joy out of attacking her? It hurts her so much when he starts his verbal abuse that she can't even think straight!

Jacks Point of View

The way Jack see it, Ellen is just like the people he works with. Like them, she gives him no respect, and when he tries to help, she acts as if he were stupid. What he really wants is a loving and peaceful home where he and Ellen can find companionshipand have a good life together. Be she won't help, and she acts as if he has no right even to make suggestions--she gets her feelings hurt over every little thing he says, and when she gets mad she goes out of her way to attack him where she knows he is most vulnerable. It baffles him; why can't she cooperate once in a while? Why can't they sit down together and discuss their problems--for example, how to divide up the housework--like two rational adults? It's bad enough always being low man in the pecking order at work, without coming home and getting the cold shoulder there too! Ellen claims to love him, and in lots of ways she's a wonderful wife, bit that onlyy makes it harder to understand. It's like getting cut with a knife, listening to the things she says and seeing the way she looks at him--it hurts him so much that he can't even think straight!


See Verbal Abuse