BY CAROLE SAWO
How to know if your new date could one day abuse, beat, or even kill you.
What would you do, if, on your first or second date with a new mate, they suddenly reached over the table with a cheeky grin on their face, stole a chip from your plate, and shoved it in their mouth?
I’ve asked this question to many people. Worryingly, most of the women asked replied with feeble answers. Most responded that they would say ‘oi, don’t’, and make hand motions to suggest swiping his hand away or move their plate. Others suggested equally frail protests of dissatisfaction but none of them gave the appropriate response. All of these women were at risk of ‘falling in love’ with a violent man and none of them could see it. But it was right there in front of them in the very beginning, the symbolic statement clearly invisible. The correct answer to the question is that you should stand up, put your coat on, walk out, and never see him again. Sounds rather dramatic, right? But no, because if he can take your chip on the first date, he can take your life on the 20th.
Food is primal. We need food for our survival. In a nutshell, food = life and no food = death. Taking a chip from your plate is both a psychological test and an unconscious confession. A test to see how much self-esteem you have and how powerful you are at the very deepest level of your own survival care, and an unconscious confession that they will put themselves before you whenever they want to – in food, in emotion, in behaviour, in finance and in any survival situation. In doing next to nothing about the stolen chip, a potential mate confirms they are a pushover – emotionally, intellectually and physically. They know it, you don’t.
When anyone offers you food, what they are saying at a deeply subconscious level is that they care about and want to nurture you. The reverse is also true. People who offer you food want you to live. People who take your food or prevent you from getting some, do not care if you die. Strong words over a simple chip, but there is nothing simple about the violence that takes place behind closed doors. If a woman protests strongly, the cover-up response will be to say that ‘he was only joking and she needs to lighten up’, but the intoxication has already begun.
After the chip test comes the next ‘joke’ – the, ‘can you get your money out and pay just this once con’ or ‘you women want equal rights so you can pay’ comments, both coded insults to test female resilience. Again offering a feeble protest will be responded to as ‘her being tight’, and a more forceful protest seen as ‘her being unkind’ – which doesn’t sit well in the female psyche.
Once in the relationship with an abuser, ever so subtly starts the daily psychological and emotional siphoning of self-worth, with put-downs and rubbishing comments such as, ‘what garbage are you watching’, ‘what are you wearing’ or ‘what do you think you look like? In fact, all of the choices a woman makes will be ridiculed, condemned and as the momentum builds, used as an excuse to start hitting her. A tea towel across the backside is never funny – it’s physical abuse. The hits are always below the radar, and the bruises are always under the clothes. With a totally depleted self-esteem, on some level, she will begin to believe the abuser – ‘that no-one else will want her and she is lucky to have him’. Such is the nature of a toxic addiction. And the co-dependency dynamics of emotional cocaine.
No-one enters a relationship thinking ‘oh I know, I will let them abuse me daily’ but there is a pattern that begins in the early days that everyone is strongly advised to watch out for. Abuse always starts subtly, and as in all criminal behaviour, escalates until the offender is finally stopped – often, only after a woman has been beaten or killed in the home. An occurrence that rises statistically when she tries to leave him.
The reason why women are seemingly so gullible and at risk is because some can be so easily flattered and because they readily employ excessive phantasy from the very beginning – and it doesn’t really make any difference if the reality of him is radically different. Checking what his existing or previous relationships were like is a good thing to do. Birds of a feather hang together. Check out his friends and the quality of their friendships. Pop psychology suggests checking out the relationship he has with his mother, but while there is some merit in doing so, it must be borne in mind that it is possible to move on from a toxic parental relationship, we do not choose our parents and some men grow better when they leave the already empty nest.
By far the best thing a woman can do before entering into any relationship is to examine the relationship she has with herself. If a woman does not believe she is worth anything, she will attract a mate who thinks exactly the same. And it should be said that men can be victims of domestic violence as well, attracting various versions of their deficient primary relationship. Often it is the apparently ‘tougher’ men that suffer, with a heavy dose of embarrassment and humiliation paralysing them from talking about their experience with their friends, or leaving.
A radical shift in perception is required. Being single is not the bottom of the dating ladder, being in an abusive relationship is. So the next time a new partner takes food from your plate remember it is far better to offend someone in the beginning, than risk being violently punched and beaten by them in the end. And far, far better to be alone and peaceful, than to be silently trapped and terrified.
Incidentally, in my survey, all the men I asked gave the right answers. One man said he would empty the salt cellar all over her plate. Another suggesting shoving the whole plate over to her side of the table, and embarrassingly announcing loudly ‘there you are, have it’. Every man asked gave responses to strongly indicate that if she took a chip from his plate on the first or second date, he would not tolerate it at all. So to every woman reading this, if it happens to you, stand up, go home – and don’t you.