I was at a large self-improvement conference last weekend with over 500 attendees. The facilitator asked for people to share breakthroughs they experienced while at the conference. A man in his mid-thirties waved excitedly his hand and was eventually called on.
He started out to share about how amazing the conference was then proceeded to explain that he was struggling in his relationship with his wife. He launched into elaborate detail of all the work he had to do to convince his wife to come with him. Finally she saw the light and came.
People applauded and the facilitator asked if she was in the room. “Yes, she’s right here.” The man gestured to his left. In the sea of participants all I could see was a brunette head lowered.
The man now gaining momentum continued with his story. “As my wife and I were talking about your material, we had a long discussion. We’ve been having a lot of problems in our marriage and I was thinking about leaving her. I was getting more upset about her not getting what she was doing wrong in our relationship when this morning she admitted what she was doing wrong. I just wanted to say thank you for helping her see her faults.”
Then he sat down.
I was appalled at the shift of blame and responsibility this man had just done. First, he had brow beat this woman to come to a conference she didn’t want to be at. Second, he had spent his time making sure she saw where she was wrong. Thirdly, he disrespected her by publicly announcing what he judged to be her personal flaws without her permission. Thirdly, he tried to rally the group to be on his side to convince his wife of his truth, not letting us know what it was, but using the public forum and the fact he spoke as proof he was right.
Waiting for the facilitator reaction, I hoped he’d call this husband on the inappropriateness of this behavior. The facilitator asked the wife to stand and state her feeling.
The woman stood, shoulders hunched and muttered how she thought that they would not always be in this negative environment and she can change that around.
Instead of supporting the wife against the peer pressure the husband was trying to lobby against his wife, the facilitator launched into a teaching mode of the woman’s use of language and ended it at that.
What a missed opportunity for the seminar community to surround a person who was being victimized into doing what the husband was trying to manipulate her into doing. The way it was left the man was reinforced in his effort to push his wife down. He could easily go home and suggest to his wife a room full of 500 participants saw it his way because they all clapped for him and didn’t call him on his stuff.
It is abusive for one person in a relationship to reveal embarrassing personal information about their partner in a public forum without permission. It’s even more manipulative to do this in a way to try to get your partner to change. The woman seemed so shocked at what her husband had done she was at a loss for words. This is a classic example of the way some abusers like to use public pressure to manipulate. The key elements to this manipulation include:
1) The abuser tells his story in public.
2) The abuser acts like he is caring for the victim.
3) The abuser doesn’t tell the entire story. The way he carefully lays out the details makes him look like he is the hard done by person and the victim is unreasonable.
4) The abuser makes a public plea that the victim either a) stay on their new course they just got on or b) that the victim get on a course of reform.
5) The abuser does this public commentary without giving the victim any advance warning.
I wish I could have found that woman and given her some support. Since I couldn’t find her, I am requesting my readers that if you see an abuser using public pressure to get his way to recognize it for what it is and if possible to discreetly show support to the victim of the public pressure.