Have you ever felt a great sense of accomplishment for completing a challenging project? When I finished my first web site, I felt that kind of pride. Maybe you got a promotion at work or taught your child their ABC’s or climbed Mount Everest! For a moment, think back to a time when you felt really good about what you did for yourself or someone else.
Now, remember what your partner said or did when you told them. Did she say, “Ummm…okay…what’s that good for?” Did he look at you blankly and say, “So? It’s natural for kids to learn the alphabet?” If your partner took away from your good and deserved feeling of accomplishment, then your partner “trivialized” your success.
In The Verbally Abusive Relationship, Patricia Evans defines trivializing as “abusive behavior that makes light of your work, your efforts, your interests, or your concerns. It is done very covertly, often with feigned innocence.” If you’ve ever felt a feeling of accomplishment ripped away by your partner, then you’ve experienced trivializing as verbal abuse.
How My Husband Uses Trivializing
My husband likes to pretend that my accomplishments are worthless. For some time, I believed he was right. I felt very insignificant and diminished – very small in comparison to all the “important” people around me. He had a lot of control over me at that time – I thought I was worthless and he was King.
One of the last times Will trivialized me was after returning home from a deployment. You see, when Will deployed, there was an accident and our van was totaled (See Domestic Violence With Children As Witnesses & Victims). I had to find a way for us to afford another car payment because Will wanted us to have two vehicles.
So I paid off three credit cards with the extra money he was earning during the deployment. I used the money we had put toward minimum payments toward a car payment instead.
When he got home, we could afford the new car and had no credit card debt, but we didn’t have as much money saved as he thought we should, and our spending budget was still tight. All he could talk about was how I wasted all the money he had earned.
How to React to Trivializing
When you feel stung and decide that your partner trivialized you, it feels good to say something in response! You may feel tempted to deliver a low-blow to your partner. But think about that for a minute…
When were you ever able to come out on top by being nasty to your partner? Didn’t the conversation digress into a shouting match or argument in which you came out the “loser” anyway?
No, the proper response to trivializing is to recover from the abuse and stand tall. You can say something like:
- “I won’t listen to you say those things to me.”
- “That’s enough from you. I’m going to call (my mom, sister, best friend).”
After you tell your partner how you feel about it, there’s no reason to stick around to explain yourself no matter what your partner says. They know full well that their comment hurt. They meant it to hurt. Leave the area and do something else.
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.