Patricia Evans says, “Forgetting involves both denial and covert manipulation. […] Consistently forgetting interactions which have a great impact on another person is verbally abusive denial.” The key to knowing if your abuser is forgetting on purpose is to pay attention to how important the request is to you. If it is super important that they remember to bring milk home, they will forget it. But if it isn’t such a big deal if milk is at the house, but you ask them to pick it up at the store anyway, you’ll probably get your milk.
The milk example shows how the abuser purposefully attempts to upset you, no matter how small the request. However, abusive people also consistently “forget” about your office parties, kids’ birthday plans, or that you bought tickets to a Broadway show for a romantic night out. If it is highly important to you, “forget” it. Ask someone else to go with you or to give you a hand.
How My Husband Uses Forgetting
Let’s see, Will used to forget when we planned to go out with friends of “mine” or get together with my family for dinner. He’d forget we had family evenings planned at the YWCA, and he would forget that I had doctor appointments when I was pregnant. He never heard the heartbeat of our first baby.
He also “forgets” entire conversations. Important ones. He’ll forget that I have plans and writing our schedules on the family calendar doesn’t help because it isn’t his job to read the calendar.
When he purposely and regularly forgets things that are important to me, he is in effect telling me that my time, energy and health are unimportant and he cannot be held accountable for wasting it. Only his schedule is important, so that means he is in control of mine, too. Period.
How To React to Forgetting
If you don’t want to deal with your partner’s forgetting at all, stop asking them for help. Don’t plan any dates or special activities. If you’re a parent, pretend you are a single parent and do everything related to the kids’ well-being on your own. If you ever get fed up with your spouse and leave, this will be great practice for your new life.
Don’t bother scolding your abuser or letting them know how disappointed you are that they forgot something so important to you. This is what they want. They want to know how important they are to you and how your life sucks when they aren’t available or don’t stick to an agreement.
Always have a back-up plan in the event your abuser is a no show. Do what you can by yourself and learn to enjoy your own company, or break the isolation barrier and find a new friend!
Remember that these statements are to help you feel better and detach from your abuser’s antics. They do not guarantee that your abuser will stop abusing you, nor do they protect you from further abuse. You should fill out a safety plan so you know what you will do if things get out of hand.
Based on the book The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans, ISBN 1558503048, Adams Media, February 2003 and my experiences with verbal abuse.