Strategies For Helping Yourself If You Are In A Misogynistic Relationship, Part I
You Can Only Change Yourself
You cannot chance anyone else's behavior, only your own. The good news is that once you begin to change your responses to your partner's behavior, the relationship itself must change with you. With this in mind, Dr. Forward, asks that we throw away contemporary buzzwords like communication and with them all the techniques for letting the other person know how you feel. They don't apply to misogynistic relationships. There is no magic phrase that will unlock our partner's ability to see what he has been doing. He doesn't wnt to see, and he doesn't want ot communicate. He wants it his way. He hears your expresson of hurt feelings as an attack on him, which means he will counterattack. Therefore, trying to communicate with a misogynist is fruitless. It's a lot like trying to teach a bull to sing. It does not work, and it irritates the bull. What this all boils down to is that you are the one who has to learn to do things differently. But before one can beging to do things differently, we must get some control over how we are feeling. The following strategies are designed by Dr. Forward to help us do just that.
Step One: Choose To Continue To Behave Exactly As You Have Been.
Dr. Forward explains that many of her clients act surprised that she does not ask them to change their behavior at this point. Instead, she asks them to do exactly what they have been doing, with one crucial difference: recognize that the choice to behave as they do is now theirs. Once you choose to do something, it is no longer automatic or reflexive. It becomes conscious, planned and within your control. You become active instead of reactive. Interestingly, a behavior done out of fear and intimidation feels terrible, while that same behavior done out of choice feels significantly better. Although this may seem like a minor strategy, it is in fact a big step. Choosing the way in which you react will help you to desensitize your feelings of powerlessness in your relationship.
Step Two: Write Down All The Names Your Partner Has Used Against You.
Make up as many labels as you need to cover every name your partner has called you. Then paste them down on a sheet
of paper entitled What He Says I Am. Examples of what he says I am might be: selfish, stupid, lazy, fat, ugly, demanding, bitchy, a child and inefficient. To help couneract these negative labels, make up a second group of labels. These will be positive qualities you know you possess. If you find yourself a little short on positive qualities, include good things other people have said about you. Head a second sheet of paper entitled, What I Really Am, and paste down all the positive labels you can come up with; for example:
This exercise will help us to begin reguilding our self-confidence. Dont rush through it. Take time to think about these labels. Let the contrast between your partner's negative names and your real attributes become clear and distinct.
Step Three: Picture Your Partner Behaving At His Worst With Someone Else.
Dr. Forward explains that part of this exercise involves visualizing our partner screaming, criticizing, shifting blame - or whatever he does when he's attacking you - but picture him doing it with another woman. Dr. Forward explains that she tells her clients to make that other woman someone they care about, such as a sister, daughter or good friend. When we visualize our partner behaving badly with another woman, it can make us aware of two things:
First: His behavior is not okay. Second: His behavior has very little to do with us as a person.
Step Four: Change The Way You See Your Partner.
In this exercise, Dr. Forward recommends that we picture our partners behaving irrationally, then ask yourself the following questions:
Would any reasonable person get so upset over such minor incident?
Is constant criticism, picking, and blameshifting part of a loving relationship?
Is he looking for an excuse to attack me?
Is he blaming me for all those things he doesn't want to take responsibility for himself?
Does anyone have the right to treat another human being the way he's treating me?
This exercise will validate yoru inner perceptions of what is going on now; or if you were once in a relationship with a misogynist but no longer are, it will help you to pay closer attention to the same behavioral clues with other men in the future.
More of Dr. Forward's strategies on the next page.