Men who are afraid to feel must keep women around to do their feeling for them while dismissing us for the same supposedly “inferior” capacity to feel deeply. — Audre Lorde
Wow, I’m doing a project with Audre Lorde quotes, so I was reading through scads of them. She has knocked my socks off so many times, with her super-smart summaries of things I’ve been rolling around in my mind for years. But this one so succinctly says something that’s been a struggle for me, my entire life.
A man who wants me to do all this emotional labor, and then blames and hates me for having feelings. I would classify that as gaslighting. A man who pretends he is not angry, attached, involved, inter-dependent, or needing anything. But he needs me so bad, to do the emotional labor, that he will stalk me later, when I try to get away!
Gaslighting is a deep expression of abusive relationships–a way to abuse, but also a way an abuser can try to manage abuse. Ouch, so powerful, how things are framed. The abuser is trying to reframe reality over and over again, that they are an ok person. Yuck!
And it’s been easy for me to believe, because I wanted to have faith that the person I loved was gifted at seeing reality, and knew reality better than I did. Old shame about my crazy has made me more susceptible to gaslighting! Doctors, parents, partners, friends, culture told me I was doing everything wrong. So I doubted myself and tried to believe others more than I believed myself. That made me too vulnerable! Glad I’m done with that.
Harm-man will not have the difficult conversation with me when I need it. But he will hunt me down later, when I’m finally free, to try to force me to talk to him.
It’s one of the most painful ironies I’ve ever experienced. I would think to this person: Ok–you’re trying to force me to talk to you, now that I have escaped your orbit. But where were you, when we were actually connected, and I needed some moments of your conversational time?
“Double standard” is such a tame term, for such a painful problem. But it’s part of a larger problem: I as a girl or woman existed to serve him, while he gave as little as possible to me. My very mind and body were at his disposal, while he blamed me as weak, if I needed a crumb from him. Starting with my dad, and countless boys and men afterward. If I tried to make a list, I would run out of paper.
My love was boundless; his was eked out with an eye dropper. I did exist, to love him–he existed to fuck around.
Every time I pulled myself out of a situation like that, it was such a triumph. Amazing, I got free! How did I do that, when my entire life was focused on the well-being of this other person, who I’d considered sacred and worth anything.
Thank you to Audre Lorde for summing it up in a brilliant way many years ago, and to all truth tellers. Love to all who have been used as gaslit emotional laborers, and good wishes for your escape.