Not a Light, but maybe a Sign
A Minute to Myself (32)

Get Your Words Off Me: Excerpt Thirteen

The Many Uses of Language

What is so surprising is that this man, who has used words so efficiently in his career as a lawyer, uses such simple constructs to put me down. Am I not even worthy of an elegantly phrased put-down, one with drama and individuality? Apparently not. He reaches for the basic, “You’re fat.” “You’re ugly.” How can I respond to that? Should I say “No, I’m not”? That sounds weak, and besides, doesn’t that acknowledge his point? It’s not a point to discuss, and it seems to garner some validity just by alluding to it. It’s like those balanced discussions where both sides are presented even though one is overwhelmingly true and the other is held by only a handful of contrarians. You give it validity it does not deserve simply by raising it.

Still, hearing those words hurled at you by your husband is powerful; it makes you shrink within yourself, makes you feel that way—even if for a moment. But, no, not for a moment, these statements will reverberate forever, will have a hold on you forever, at moments of doubt or when eating or trying on clothes or putting on make-up. It comes back, You’re fat. You’re ugly. Yes, my size 14 pants are getting tight and I no longer want to look at myself in the mirror. I don’t really look at who I am. I have raised a protective layer, unfortunately it has merely succeeded in keeping past insults in, echoing forever.

Fat and ugly and nothing. It’s come back to this many times. Why does he say this? Why should I dwell on it? Shouldn’t I just discount it as the ravings of a madman, of a man spurned? Why can’t my mind keep off of this, why can’t I replay all of the compliments that I have received from him and others instead, and from my own perception before it was skewed? Why? Why come back to this? It’s certainly not a key to unlocking a happy future. It’s not a trigger used to release me from an unhappy past and present—it’s just a poisonous proclamation that has uncomfortably settled within me.

Does he still say it because he knows its power over me? Does it still make him feel power over me? The only purpose I can think of, now many years after that first insult and only when I have been able to think about this analytically, is that this is his way of lessening my worth in his eyes so the fact that I said I want a divorce will not be so hurtful to him. But what about before, before I said that I want to separate, before I said I want a divorce? Then his comments were aimed at controlling. Now they aim at denigrating, which makes me more certain that he is protecting himself by hurting me. It seems that he is realigning his perceptions of me so that he can hate me and see me as being unworthy of his love. Does this show that he doesn’t know how to love? Or was this his way of holding onto me when he felt me slipping away? So much to ponder, if I choose to.

* * *



In this very hard world that we live in where even strangers are willing to call you names, the person you love and hold dearest to your heart should be your best friend and champion for making you happy - he shouldn't be a name calling bully. Who needs their husband to be demeaning? NOONE!

Author Mira Kirshenbaum says that saying negative or harsh things to one's partner makes him or her feel small and it is "enormously destructive to every thread in the fabric of your relationship."

Helene Taylor
The Modern Woman's Divorce

Deborah Smith

My ex used lack of words to demean and demoralize. Silent treatments that would last a month to a month and a half. I was with him for so long I forgot what normal was. I've been away for 3 years now, with a normal, secure, loving man, and I now look back and can't believe what I put up with. I've learned a lot about passive aggressive personality disorders and how damaging it can be to the people who must live with a PAPD. I highly recommend that anyone who is living with someone who uses silence as a weapon to research this disorder. You need to know what you're up against and that it is not your fault.


In the face of all his name-calling, it was rare that I would let a nasty word rip. It was important to me that he not change who I am and how I perceive I should act. People assumed that I would hurl the nastiness back at him, but stooping to his level was just not something that I was tempted to do, and of that I am proud. As you note, it is about him and not me, and so keeping to my conventions enabled a key part of myself to remain untouched by his behavior.


According to my understanding, my mr. ex suffers from narcissism. The whole world revolving around him really does make for some charm at the beginning, but pretty tough going as the relationship attempts to mature.

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