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As a Man: Stopping abuse from becoming normal

Published:Saturday | April 9, 2016 | 4:10 PMMel Ciooke

It is often only when mistreatment becomes public, that it is easy for those who witnessed it to determine that a relationship between a man and a woman is abusive.

However the bettering, be it physical, mental, verbal emotional or any combination thereof (or any additional one -- having someone spend critical life years hanging on to hopes in a relationship which the other person knows will never materialise is abuse as well) hardly ever starts when others are around.

Plus, of course, there are many relationships which looks like a fairy-tale in public, but is a nightmare for one partner behind closed doors.

Abuse tends to be the perfect example of the boiling frog syndrome. Put a frog in a frying pan of boiling water and it will immediately hop out. Put it in a frying pan of water at room temperature, heat gradually to a boil and the frog will sit there happily and cook. (Did someone say spring chicken on the menu?) It is a matter of gradually getting accustomed to hurt until it is the norm and the abused person explains it away by saying "a just so she stay."

And I deliberately use 'she' because many men are abused and sticks around.

Identifying signals of an abusive personality before entering (or being entered into) a relationship is a separate issue. This is about those moments which the person who is being abused looks back and says, "I should have known."

Here, as a man, are the general indications, based on what I have seen and experienced.

1. The deliberate infliction of hurt comes with laughter or apparent affection. Scenario #1. A man looks at a woman he has been with for a while, who is putting on a little weight, and says "babes, you know say car can talk? Yeah man, when you sit down in the front seat the left shocks say 'ease up nuh?' Har de hair de hair de hair, his smile is fixed and his eyes are hard -- very funny. Very deliberately hurtful. When he calls her a slob at a dinner party a few years later she can look back at that moment as where it all began.

Scenario #2 -- woman is having a pillow fight with a man, introduces a hairbrush into the exchange, corks him in the head and says 'honey I am so sorry', hugging him as he tries to do the macho thing and not bawl out. When she goes at him with a knife five years down the road he can look back at that 'fun' moment.

An early sign of abuse is that it is alternated with supposed kindness. Abuse is rarely a dish served back to back. It is fist them flowers, hit then hickey, nastiness then niceness. Eventually the recipient who stays resigns themselves to the situation with "him have him time dem, but him no so bad.'

But one of the greatest early indications of abuse is that the person can do the nasty stuff to you and it should be OK, but you can't with them. If that is the case, is not 'so dem stay'. It is 'so dem stay wid you'.

Melville.cooke@gleanerjm.com