Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Please Talk to Someone

I am a very lucky person, in many ways.  Among the most important is my amazingly supportive partner, the Nerd.  He cooks delicious and nutritious meals on the weekends when we are together, and has been nothing but supportive of my quest to become more healthy, even to the point of encouraging me to go on walks with him on weekends.  Even more positive - - he is enjoying the trickle down benefits of cooking healthy meals, because he has begun to lose weight as well!

But not everyone has it so lucky, I know.  In fact, many people have it much, much worse. 

Take my mom, for example.  She is diabetic and is also working out to lose weight and become more healthy.  No matter what she can eat, however, she still makes gourmet meals for my stepfather.  When she makes extra so she can eat with my stepfather, things can happen.  Last week my mom and my stepfather were going to enjoy a dinner of black cod together, and mom got an extra big piece just for the occasion.  Being an insulin dependent diabetic, my mom needs to eat at certain times to cover her insulin, or else risk having a reaction.  7pm turned to 8pm turned to the time my stepfather arrived home for dinner, my mother had been forced to eat (something other than black cod) hours earlier.  So they put aside one of the pieces of black cod for her to enjoy later.  That is, until the next evening when my stepfather ate it.  And I don't think it even occurred to him that my mom may have been saving that piece of fish for her own consumption.  She had been looking forward to eating it, and he ate her dinner without even thinking.

My mother is also in the unenviable position of having to cook delicious, non-diet foods for her spouse, yet not being able to eat the same food herself.  My stepfather will order pizza or pasta on Fridays (food my mother has not been able to eat for years because of the carbs), and then eat it in front of her.  Anyone who has been in that situation knows that it is torture.

But I have also met other women on my travels who have partners who are less than supportive.  Like the man who says he is not attracted to his wife because she was heavy (and it's not only husbands who are guilty of this lack of empathy - - I had that happen to me, with a previous ex-boyfriend). 

Or the man who demands that his wife cook fattening food for him and who buys junk food and brings it into the house because "he's not fat", and can eat such food without repercussion, while knowing that his wife is struggling to keep her healthy eating habits when surrounded by junk food. 

Or the husband who does not want his wife to exercise after work because "that's his time".   

Or the husband who tells his wife that he doesn't know why she is going to all that effort to work out, since "you're not going to succeed anyway, you never do". 

Do any of these sound familiar?  If so, and if they form part of a pattern of behaviour of control, you may be experiencing a form of emotional abuse.  32% of all callers to the Assaulted Women's Helpline last year identified as experiencing some form of emotional abuse - - that's 1 in 3 callers. The examples I mentioned above can qualify as emotional abuse in some circumstances, especially when combined with a pattern of behaviour suggestive of abuse.

Many people will say "my husband is not abusive - - he never hits me".  But they are afraid to make their husband angry because it may prompt an explosive argument.  Or they are limited in their options during the day because their husband controls all the money and gives them only a small spending allowance each week.  Or they may be unable to say no to their husband when it comes to sex, whether or not they are interested.  Guess what - - those are all patterns of abuse. 

Emotional abuse in particular is insidious, and it eats away at our self esteem and ability to take ownership of our lives.  If you think that you or someone you love may be a victim of emotional abuse, or even physical abuse, sexual abuse, or economic abuse (such as having funds withheld by a partner), please talk to someone. 

In Ontario, women can access the Assaulted Women's Helpline at <> or 1-866-863-0511.  See your local yellow pages or check the internet for resources near you if you live outside of Ontario. 

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