# 2 Six of one & half a dozen of the other

A phrase that often refers to same, similar or equal.

‘It’s a toxic relationship’
‘There’s no smoke without fire

‘She presses his buttons

When you are in an abusive relationship, there is no equality & often your sense of self can become completely distorted.

Your abuser has intentionally manipulated you & created a world where you blame yourself, for their behaviour.

You may have to completely devote yourself to their demands to keep yourself safe.

But for some, an opportunity to cling onto some moments of control will feel like a moment of triumph & empowerment.

As you read the story below ask yourself theses questions. 

  • Consider why Mary is trying to gain some control of her situation? 
  • How would Mary’s  behaviour be perceived by professionals & those around her? 

Mary is a fictional woman in her 60’s. She married John in mid life, after the death of her 1st husband.

Mary was bereft with grief for several years, they’d had a happy married & she was extremely lonely.

Mary focussed her energy on work, was highly successful & regarded as an expert in her field, amongst her colleagues.

A decade later, Mary met John, he swept her off her feet, she felt overwhelmed & lucky that she had a 2nd chance at love in her 50’s.

They moved in together very quickly, a cottage chosen by John in the countryside with lots of land. Their life together felt idyllic and they became inseparable.

John had some ‘odd’ routines, but Mary didn’t mind and saw them as just John’s funny ways. They would laugh about his need for everything to be positioned at a right angle, cutlery at mealtimes to be used in a certain way that Mary had never seen before, and the house to be kept at a specific temperature.


John was very affectionate & made Mary feel desired. It sometimes felt intoxicating how much he loved her.

Sometimes she felt his intimate requests were too demanding, especially when she’d had a long day at work, but the phrase ‘a man has needs’ and ‘he’ll find it elsewhere’ echoed in her mind.

She would relent for a quiet life, to keep him happy.

Gradually, this became a pattern. If Mary didn’t adhere, John would look her deep into her eyes, smile and wrap his hands around Mary’s throat until she lost consciousness. Waking a few minutes later to silence, with a deep sense of fear & confusion.

Surely she had imagined it? 

Over the years Mary was able to spot a pattern, this consequence wasn’t now related to John’s routines & rituals, as Mary ensured she always obeyed these.

It would happen after they had visited his parents. On those days, Mary knew at some point that evening, she would inevitably be raped & strangled.

It would feel like a storm brewing, the tension building throughout the day, never knowing when HE WOULD DECIDE when he would inflict the act, that unspoken message of ‘I can kill you with my bare hands’ was coming.

Mary knew how to trigger this, how to get it done & dusted.

It was her only sense of control.

She would add too much salt to his dinner, refuse his demands or ignore him on the journey home.

This would start an argument.

Instead of her usual apology & appeal for forgiveness, Mary would argue back, she might even throw his dinner on the floor in an act of defiance, spilling, pouring her fear & rage out.

Bringing the storm on, when SHE DECIDED.

She knew this would ‘push his buttons’ sooner & bring on the abuse.

And afterwards the self blame would creep in.

She would convince herself it was indeed six of one & half a dozen of the other.

And she knew too well, that’s exactly what her friends, her colleagues, even her family would think if they ever knew. 

For an audio version of this story, narrated by Carrie 


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