What is Said and What is Heard

She means business when she decides to snow.He said:  Your face looks full with that haircut.

She heard:  Your face looks fat; I hate your haircut.


She said:  That looks pretty good, but you should have done it this way.

He heard:  That looks pretty good, BUT …


They said:  Are you sure it’s a good idea to homeschool the kids?

She heard:  You’re going to ruin them for life.


He said:  I can’t live like this anymore.

She heard:  Do things my way or I’m out of here.


He said:  I don’t care what we do, you decide.

She heard:  I don’t enjoy spending time with you enough to make the effort to decide.


She said:  I don’t care what we do, you decide.

He heard:  It’s okay if you spend the evening with friends; I won’t be mad if you don’t come home.


He said:  That’s okay, bud, I’ll have the shop wax my skis.

He heard:  You aren’t capable of waxing my skis.


He said:  Maybe you shouldn’t be so sensitive.

She heard:  If you didn’t get your feelings hurt so easily, I wouldn’t have to be careful about what I say.


They said:  You should write blog posts that are this long, on this many days with these kinds of headings.

She heard:  You are doing it all wrong.


He said:  I like it better when you do it this way.

She heard:  I don’t like you the way you are.


She said:  I heard you, but we are doing it my way.

He heard:  Don’t bother telling me what you want because I’m not listening anyway.



She said:  Pack your bags, we’re going to stay at grandma’s.

They heard:  We are going to live with people who let us be who we are.


They said:  Love you.

She heard:  Love you.

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  1. I”m not sure if I’m off track here, but the title of this story is very relevant right now… nothing new, but he’s just completely misinterpreted something I said casually, in an almost friendly conversation after a period of unpleasantness, sent me email ‘confirmation’ of what I’d supposedly said (a massive leap from the reality) and used it to a) goad me and b) try to use it to achieve his agenda of having our son an extra night this weekend. GRRRR! Deep breaths.

    I’m happy to negotiate changes to arrangements that are respectful of my son’s needs and wants, he wants to bring them in by stealth and manipulation.

    I suppose it’s “normal” to feel completely sick at the anticipation of any email from him in my inbox – and massive relief when it’s innocuous, almost friendly? And gradual relief when there isn’t an email at all, after a few days?

    After 6 years of this you’d think I’d be used to it but it still distresses me deeply. Despite counselling, doing mindfulness exercises, yoga, etc etc. Though it’s noticeably improved from when I couldn’t eat or sleep due to the distress, up to maybe 2 years ago.

  2. Bea,

    Hello there. Yeah, I’ll take a deep breath with ya.

    Narcissists are nothing if they aren’t incredibly creative in their attempts at manipulation – even if it means distorting your own words to get at what they want.

    From my perspective, be very careful of the innocuous sounding emails – that usually is an indication of setting a trap. They love to see us relaxed and at ease so they can enjoy pulling the rug out from under us.

    And yes, focus on the small improvements – being able to eat and sleep – that’s huge. One day at a time…

    But I wish I could tell you how to stop feeling distressed. If you figure it out, please share.

  3. One less xanax (ha), one more smile…you will get there! I have to be careful sometimes because the ridiculousness of the N makes me laugh and the court doesn’t like anyone to think it is a joke. :S

    That doesn’t mean that the next email or absurd behavior won’t tie my stomach in knots.

    We understand you completely.

  4. Yeah, I find being able to laugh at the ridiculous things, the pomposity, etc is very helpful. I’m not sure if we’ll get to the court stage because I’m going to indicate to him that it will be a very ‘revealing’ process (for both of us, of course) and I think that might scare him. He has an image to uphold, and is a lawyer himself (though his complete ignorance of family law is hilarious). though with a lot of enemies, due to his behaviour in the many, many firms he’s worked in til now, where he works for himself. (And screams vile abuse at his one staffer, in front of our son).

  5. Bea,

    Nice…. so he leaves a toxic wave wherever he goes.

  6. Yes, that’s a very apt image Jesse. This morning he’s really unleashed with all guns firing … deep breaths again, and I’m practicing not responding at all until I’m calmer and can do so in a way that doesn’t add to escalation.

    Might go and have a quiet cry before my lunchtime yoga class (I’m in Australia, if the timing seems odd!)

  7. I always wondered how my ex was at work. It took me a long time to conclude that after we moved, he never told anyone he was married with kids. His emergency contacts were his parents.

  8. Bea,

    I remember holding my responses up to this benchmark: If what I want to say is akin to squirting lighter fluid on a campfire, then I’d better keep my mouth shut. There were so many times I had to fight the urge to ignite things. Better to say those things here and keep the kids out of harm’s way…

    I hope, as of this posting, that you’ve safely moved through another episode.

  9. Z,

    That’s just creepy.

  10. It all makes sense in the end. If you have an image to uphold and you use work trips to hook up with random women all over the world while portraying yourself to your work colleagues as a master player, a wife and kids makes you a dirtbag instead.

    Bea, I am sorry you are in the depths of it. I will send some positive vibes of strength and peace. xx

  11. Z,

    Yes, of course. Upholding their image would always come before wife and kids.

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