The Explaining Trap
[August 6, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
When having a conversation with an abuser, the abuser often tries to get you to fall into the explaining trap. It is a trap because no matter how much you explain things to the abuser, the abuser will pretend to not understand or not accept your explanations. And he will keep challenging and criticizing your explanations, to get you to give more explanations.
The important thing to bear in mind is that this a trap. The abuser doesn’t really need explanations. The abuser doesn’t really WANT explanations. The abuser pretends to want explanations, but what the abuser really wants is to bamboozle you, put you on the back foot, and keep you interacting with him.
The longer the abuser can keep you interacting with him, the more chances he has to reshape the things you said into bullets he can fire back at you pretty soon….or in the months and years to come. The abuser retains a very clear memory of all you said and stores it up in case it becomes useful ammo in his arsenal.
For example, if you are setting a boundary of not speaking to your abuser and the abuser says, “Why don’t you talk to me?” and you respond by pointing out the abuse he has done to you, and he says, “How is that abuse?” thus enticing you to fall in the explaining trap, what do you do? How might you wisely respond?
You could answer his question by saying something like: “It is abuse because it disrespects my personhood, my legitimate rights as an image-bearer of God and my human dignity. You know that very well. Stop pretending that you don’t know it!
And if the abuser persists in asking another curve ball question, or telling you that you are wrong, you can simply say “Stop it!” And then walk away.
Or you could choose to not respond verbally to the abuser’s question, but eyeball the abuser with your spine strong and you neck like brass and show him through your eyes that you will not put up with his cr*****. And then walk away.
But of course, you know your abuser and your situation better than I do. In many situations it is not safe to say or do the above. As a victim you have become highly attuned at knowing what will be likely to put you at higher risk from the abuser. So I honor each and every victim for all the creative and prudent ways they resist the abuse. And many of the ways victims resist are hidden in the privacy of their own mind and heart, which may be the only safe place to keep them at the moment.
….but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God. (1 Cor 4:5 NASB1995)
Here are some posts about the Explaining Trap:
[August 6, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to August 6, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to August 6, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to August 6, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (August 6, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]