If you don’t like it now, you won’t like it later

Red and white hanging towel, with pattern and yarn.

I was thinking about this today, because I’ve ripped back the colorwork section three times now.  I’m still working on the Knit Picks Squeaky Clean Kitchen Set, this time on the red and white hanging towel.  This was actually the first project in the set that I started.  The first time, I got to the colorwork section – which is slip-stitch colorwork – got lost somewhere, and decided to rip back to the solid color.  I put it down, knit the dish scrubber and the blue and yellow hanging towel, and then picked the red and white one back up again.

These towels are largely one color (white, in this case) with a 24-row checked stripe across the bottom, and then another checked section on the strap.  I’d knitted about six rows in when I did… something.  I’m still not quite sure what. But it didn’t look right.  “Oh, well,” I thought, “I can probably block it out.”

Those of you who are knitters (or who know knitters) are laughing, I’m sure.

I keep looking at the row that’s not right, and it’s still not right, and I plow ahead anyway.  20 rows into the stripe, I finally decide to see if I can shift the stitches so they look right.

Of course, this doesn’t work.

So I rip back to the row that doesn’t look right, and knit four rows.  This still doesn’t fix the problem, (I still can’t figure out what the problem *was,* either) so I rip back four rows, then four rows more, slide the needles back in, and knit again.  This seems to have corrected whatever it was, and it looks fine now.

The lesson I’ve learned from this is that universal knitting truth, “If you don’t like it now, you won’t like it later.”

This is a philosophy that works just as well in relationships as it does in knitting.

I’ve talked off and on about “relationship red flags.”  These red flags point to potentially abusive behavior.  If you’ve never been in an abusive relationship – or you didn’t realize you were in an abusive relationship – you probably wonder how people end up in them, or why they stay.  Before Isabel, I wondered the same thing.  “I would never put up with anyone hitting me,” I declared.  “I’m not going to stay in a relationship like that.”

My abusive relationship didn’t start with hitting, though, and by the time she got to the point where she was hitting me, I was already brainwashed enough to accept it and blame myself for it.

I got to that point, though, because I ignored the red flags.  I didn’t like where I was, but I thought it would get better.

A glaring error in your knitting isn’t going to go away just because you’re not looking at it, and a red flag in a relationship isn’t going to stop just because you give it more time.  “Familiarity breeds contempt,” is particularly true in abusive relationships.  If your partner fails to treat you with respect today, and you let them get away with it, they’re not going to offer you more respect tomorrow.

I don’t remember if I’ve described this particular head game of Isabel’s.  The next section contains a detailed description of emotional abuse. If this will upset you, please skip to the bolded sentence below.

Isabel claimed to be a compassionate person with a high degree of empathy.  Somehow, though, this didn’t translate to treating me in the same way.  My feelings would be ignored, over and over again.  A particular thing she liked to do was to ask for my opinion and then do the exact opposite.  “What do you want for dinner?” she’d ask me.  “Oh, I don’t know,” because you didn’t state firm opinions in Isabel’s household, “Maybe pasta? Something besides teriyaki chicken, because I’m not in the mood for it.”  So dinner that night would be teriyaki chicken.  (That sounds so petty when I write it down, but… with emotional abuse, it’s the little things. It’s systematic, insidious, and part of the reason it’s so difficult to talk about is that individual instances do sound so petty. I mean – I had to eat teriyaki chicken when I didn’t want to? How hard could that be?  Well, hard enough that I still can’t eat teriyaki chicken, and it’s been two years.)  Little, petty things like that, but if your feelings are ignored every time they should be consulted… it adds up.

When she wasn’t ignoring my feelings, she was dictating them.  I wasn’t allowed to be angry or upset. Even if something got her angry or upset, I couldn’t get upset on her behalf – but if I didn’t respond at all, it was because I didn’t care.  (Emotional abuse: all about the catch-22.)

I would bottle it up, in part because the individual instances were so petty.  Eventually, of course, it would spill out.  “I’m not allowed to have my own emotions,” I cried to her, on more than one occasion.  (If you keep having the same arguments and never come to any sort of resolution? It’s not a red flag for abuse, but you might want to consider couples’ counseling.)  Isabel would turn my argument around and insist that I was the one denying her emotions; worse, that I was stealing her feelings and claiming them as my own.  In other words, I wasn’t upset because I had the right to be upset, she was upset, and I was claiming to be upset in order to be the wronged party and distract from her legitimate pain.  I still can’t make that argument make any sense in my head.

Okay, kids, it’s safe to come back now.

Emotional abuse is about the small, daily indignities. You ignore it, you brush it off, because it seems so petty at the surface. You question yourself – “Why am I even complaining about this?”  But it adds up.  If you miss two hours of sleep one night, it’s not a big deal.  Maybe you’re tired the next day, but it doesn’t really affect you in the long term.  If you miss two hours of sleep every night for a week, it’s irritating but tolerable. You drink more coffee.  You think about taking a nap.  But what if you miss two hours of sleep every night for a month?  Eventually your body will adjust, but it will never be as healthy and happy and productive as it could be if you got that additional two hours of sleep.  In an emotionally abusive relationship, you’re missing two hours of sleep every night – plus, sometimes you get woken up in the middle of the night, too.  Or you miss four hours of sleep every few weeks, but not in a predictable pattern.

I’m sure I’m putting everyone to sleep at this point.

To return to my original point.

If someone in your life treats you in a way you don’t like, and you let them, they aren’t going to stop. There’s not any reason to, after all, because they know that you’ll let them get away with it. It doesn’t even have to be abusive – if it’s your partner’s turn to clean the kitchen, and they do a lousy job, and all you do is sigh and clean it the rest of the way, they don’t have an incentive to do a better job next time, because if you were unhappy about it, wouldn’t you have said something?  (Men are competent to clean things! If you just clean it yourself instead of making him do it right, he now has zero incentive to help you in the future.)

If it makes you unhappy, speak up. If speaking up doesn’t help, leave. Because it’s not going to get any better until you fix the mistake.

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~ by Amber on June 6, 2011.

2 Responses to “If you don’t like it now, you won’t like it later”

  1. I don’t have time to leave a detailed comment. But I know how you feel. With Isabel, I can see how little things would add up. (You know of all the times I ate with you guys I only had something that wasn’t teriyaki chicken probably 1/3 of the time? /random statistics)

    I’ve had relationships like that, too, where it seems so silly to complain about little things. But they add up and add up. :\

  2. […] found out that Isabel had discovered my blog.  Specifically, she found it immediately after I made this post.  The very astute of you may recognize that as the last post where I talked about Isabel in […]

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