Denial works at the time of the abuse
Denial in abusive relationships is a coping skill. At first, denial for me was a mishearing, “did she really say that?”. But this turned into an ease as if I pretended to mishear it there would be no consequence to challenging it. Denial, therefore, became a major characteristic of the relationship.
Denial generates an addiction
My step mother was an alcoholic. And it killed her. The denial for her addiction stopped her from getting any form of treatment and it became destructive. I once suggested that she had a problem and I got the sharp side of her tongue. Her denial was pathetic as the physical signs (both to her body and the empty bottles all over the place) gave it away. But in a none-physically abusive relationship it is much easy to hide and deny.
Merry go round
During the relationship, I found that I was on a continual cycle of denial. One minute my ex was loving and reasonable, then the next she started to break the trust and promises again. As always, apologies and promises are made and I found that I accepted and believed her because I loved her and made excuses for her – it was also the easier option to take.
In my case I fed the need for affection by feeding it denial. If I allowed it to happen I would get the acceptance I desperately needed. As the affection reduced I fed it more denial and so the circle continued to a point of destruction. The irony is that as I had perfected the art of denial it had become a part of my character.
Denial is the most basic defence
Denial is the first defence that we learn as a child. I recall my son (when he was about 4 yours old) having eaten a whole packet of jaffa cakes one morning. It was a whole lot of nothing, but he vehemently denied having eaten them, even though the opened packet was still on the floor and chocolate was smeared around the edges of his mouth. It was cute and that’s why I remember it so well because it was funny. But for him it was his first line of defence – it didn’t happen so there can be no justification for a consequence.
In my case the abuse didn’t happen so still love me – it was ok to say or do that. That was wrong.
We may use denial in varying degrees:
First degree: Denial that the problem exists.
I refused to accept that there was a problem within the relationship. Like so many other men I stuck my head in the sand in the firm belief that the problems would just simply go away (see being a bloke...)
Second degree: Minimization or rationalization.
I could justify why she did what she did. She had come from a disruptive family and so she was a product of that (see abusers born to abuse). Furthermore, I’m a bloke and I can take what she was dishing out. In effect, I made excuses for her faults and rationalised the behaviours.
Third degree: Admitting it, but denying the consequences.
I came to accept that it was my duty to report in to her three times a day, or to have sex against my will and better judgement. I came to accept that if I took the easy option of doing what was required, I would not face the nasty consequences of what would happen otherwise.
Fourth degree: Unwilling to seek help for it.
This was a difficult option to justify but the easiest to carry out. Initially, I just simply refused to accept that I was being victimised by the woman I loved and who I thought loved me back. She had manipulated me so badly that I found the edges blurred and I couldn’t see the levels of abuse I had been suffering. She had taught me to accept that it was either my fault (of which I found myself apologising for) or it was a normal part of the relationship. Therefore, why would I need help when I was adamant that I was the problem? When I finally realised that things were not right (see how to recognise a toxic relationship) it came as a shock. How could I have been so stupid to have allowed this to have happened and for so long?
Box and shelve
This denial shaped so much of my characteristic. I had perfected the art of locking things away. Or as I often called it ‘boxed and shelved’ it. I dealt with things at home and left them at home. Likewise, I dealt with things at work and left them at work. I think this is what men do to cope with things in different ways. I have discussed this with other men since and it seems to be a common factor, although some never realised it.
The consequences of this was that my closest friends at work just had no idea of what was going on. Therefore, were unable to help. Under no circumstance should any shame or blame be left at anyone’s door for not seeing it. The fault was mine (although she was ultimately to blame) for being a ‘blokey bloke’ and not being prepared to admit there was a problem that I could not handle.
My denial at work, therefore, created a persona of being a reliable, hardworking (because I never wanted to go home) paramedic. I was known to have a good sense of humour because the art of denial was to either change the subject, become dismissive or to turn it into a joke and therefore, minimise the true horrors within.
Denial became an inability to trust
Denial within the relationship worked. Making excuses for what was going on became second nature and I often did it without a second thought. The problem, therefore, is further compounded with a trust of myself.
During the relationship, I made some decisions that were (and I can only see it now) wrong. I justified her behaviour and made excuses for them. So how can I be sure that the decisions I make now are right. How can I be sure that these are my true feelings if they had been caged and restricted for so long. This new freedom had a bitter taste at times because and so if I am unsure of trusting myself, how can I trust others.
Men are the worst.
Men refuse to admit that there is a problem (either as the victim or perpetrator). I can honestly admit that I have a history of refusing to accept any problems or warning signs. This is both within an emotional sense (abuse) but with physical ailments too (see why men can’t take medication). But by applying varying degrees of denial, we apply a rationale. We might deny that we have a lump; and so make ourselves believe that it’s probably a cyst; but it may have been cancer so it could be treated. Sticking our heads in the sand and denying a problem could lead to death – either physically or emotionally. Yes, this is directly aimed at physical and emotional abuse in all of its forms.