I can’t believe I haven’t written a post for this before. It was such a characteristic, frequently occurring part of my relationship.
The Freeze Out. A punishing silence that communicates more than words ever could that “You have displeased me.”
I’ve mentioned a couple of these episodes, the wedding misdemeanor when I embarrassed him in front of friends and family by speaking to a male friend of his for too long and the one where I lightly dared to warn him not to go all Alpha Turk in front of my student.
But there were so many more of them, even, before I had done anything actually wrong and our relationship was in its first 11 months before he went away.
For anyone not in the possession of an emotionally abusive and controlling partner, the Freeze Out happens like this. Events are otherwise normal. Then, you transgress in some way, perhaps minor, perhaps unnoticed by you. You become aware that responses from your loved one have vanished. A frosty atmosphere pervades. You attempt a couple of conversation starters or physical gestures to check it’s not just in your imagination. Responses to those are curt. This is definitely happening. Again.
It can last any amount of time which gives you chance to go over everything you have done or said in the immediate time before the Freeze descended and work out how you offended. After a few of these, precedent equips you with the analytical tools to spot the triggers from the otherwise harmless things you might say and do. Sometimes, you’re at a loss but explanation does arrive at some point if you really can’t work it out. By then, pathetically, you’re often in tears and whatever nice thing you had been doing is ruined.
By the time he came back in the summer of his army time, I had got somewhat anesthetised to them, just ignored the chill and left him to it. That state took me about one year and nine months to reach and was aided by the fact my mum used to do the same thing and it had worn thin when I was a teenager.
The first stands out and must have been in the early months. On his day off, we used to spend the whole day together until I had to go to work in the evening and he went to play football. One day we went for lunch and on the way back to the ferry, I had one of those momentary, stomach clenching moments when you think you’ve lost your wallet. I looked in the pocket of my bag where it normally was, couldn’t see it and verbally retraced my steps with it as I tried to think what I had done with it when we had been paying for lunch. “We came out, I gave it to you, then I…” I didn’t remember what I had done with it after that but I never said “You must have lost it.” I was still trying to trace events back. Then I found it and was relieved. I think I had even just overlooked it the first time going through my bag. All fine again.
Except it wasn’t.
I realised he wasn’t speaking to me. The Freeze Out happened as described. My crime? By insinuating that he had lost my wallet, I was highlighting that I didn’t trust his capability and competence. The unspoken assertion here was that the stupid one was me, not him, he would never lose something. My protests that I had been thinking nothing of the sort (in fact even if he had lost it, I don’t suppose I would have been angry, just upset at the loss) fell on frozen ears.
Another time, after I had begun acting somewhat sneakily in order to be able to do certain things I knew I wouldn’t be allowed to if I asked, I had gone to the islands for a day at the beach with my French male friend. I hadn’t told him I was going, he was working. When I was on the way back, on the ferry across the Bosphorus from the Islands port, he called and invited me to dinner with his customers who wanted to take him to a very fancy restaurant. I think I just said I was on the way home and needed however long to get ready and meet them. During dinner the family asked me something and I mentioned what I had been doing that day. He made a joke of it in front of them and I thought I’d got away with it. This is another characteristic of the abusive partner, by the way, behaving one way in public and another in private. On the way home, he remembered, literally mid conversation, and the tone of the evening fell. He now had on his side the fact I had hidden what I was doing from him.
Another day off together, we’d walked to the city centre and he was paying some money into his account. The queue was long and I was wondering why he didn’t just pay it into the machine like I did and I made fun of him a bit for his pre-technology mistrust of a machine. Of course, as luck would have it, the machine messed up, maybe because he was putting quite a chunk of notes into the slot, and the money got half stuck and then taken but without a proper acknowledgement. The security guard said it would be fine, I’m not sure if we then queued up and were reassured, we must have done.
In the same situation, I would have been very anxious too and wittered over it until the next day when the bank could confirm everything was accounted for. I knew full well they have a way to work this out as otherwise they’d be relying on customers to tell them accurately how much money was in the machine and clearly they wouldn’t do that. But I wouldn’t have ended up in a mood with the person who’d encouraged my to pay it in that way.
He didn’t directly blame me but the niceness of the rest of the hours we would normally have spent before I went to class dissipated. He said somehow I was mixed up in the bad event and that it was better if I went home. You can imagine how horrible my day became when I went home and worried about it.
After he’d gone away, we saw each other when I was able to go up for the weekend. Those were intense and really lovely visits where we spent most of the time in bed. On one of the ones before Christmas, when he’d been away about three months we had, reacquainted ourselves with each other four times on the Saturday and I couldn’t manage the second time on the Sunday. My body just wasn’t responsive after all that sex. I wouldn’t have turned him down in any mean or big deal way, I think I just protested my obvious inability to be turned on for a sixth time in about 24 hours. I had turned him down once before (again not nastily) during our first year together and learned then that it was a very unpopular thing to do. Generally speaking we had no problems like that – I was always able to match him in that regard s it wasn’t like there was reason to have a problem with me.
It was just before he was due to go back to the base which is possibly why I missed the change in atmosphere or maybe he hid it better, mindful of the fact I had done a 10 hour bus ride to get there and was about to do the return part. Then a couple of weeks later, he was off base again, I was in the UK and we coincided on msn, probably planned since those were relatively rare occurrences. Somehow the chat got onto the topic of that weekend and what was uppermost in his memory of it was not the five times we’d had sex, but the sixth time that I’d refused. I was hurt that a memory I’d had of a good time was actually not the time he’d been having. I expect that feeling, of yet again, not having performed correctly, added to the cut off I felt at New Year that I mentioned here.
The summer he came back from the army for an extended trip, we were with his friends and there was talk of going bowling and/or going back to their house, the girl and I making dinner (of course) and the two guys watching football. I didn’t fancy it. I’d already spent part of the day in the always effortful environment of another language I didn’t speak well and the thought of then having the whole evening of it plus the sidelined boredom of making dinner while they watched sport was so much less appealing than what the planned evening was – him going to meet his parents at the airport and then have dinner at home and me going to the cinema. So I said no.
And then I became aware, very quickly as I’d got used to this by then, that he was no longer being physically affectionate (we were in the back of their car). I understood a lot of Turkish by then, more than anyone could realise from what I was able to say, and so listened in on what he was saying to them which made it clear he was indeed annoyed because I had spoiled the new plan.
By this stage, I had got so used to the pattern, it had started to have less effect. On the tram after leaving them, I ignored him ignoring me and then just said a cheery goodbye when our journey home separated. The Freeze Out was losing its power, possibly aided by the fact I had developed some kind of flirtation with my ex-student by then. Chicken and the egg over that one. I am sure I would have been less open to that distraction if it weren’t possible to meet someone who made me feel less in the wrong.
At the tail end of that summer visit, he put a foot wrong. It was only the second time that had happened so I revelled in it a bit. He had taken my bike to get it fixed and returned it to my flat. When I found it, it had been locked up on a pipe that was pulling away from the wall and I didn’t have the key. I genuinely thought it could be a gas or water pipe and that an accident might happen or my landlord, who lived in the building, would see it and I’d be in trouble. I called him and said he’d better be nearby and be able to come and sort it out. (I was kind of rude about it because he spoke to me like that so I felt justified in doing the same because , for once, he was in the wrong).
I was kind of angry but enjoying it and when he got there he said the landlord had said it was OK and I made some comment about the landlord clearly having no brain either.
I would never have spoken to someone like that before. But you start using the language someone uses with you. At that wedding before he went away when I had had such a horrible, lonely, misfit evening I had been saying something about a girl in front of her boyfriend and my boyfriend assumed I was going to end a sentence a certain way (I had in fact been about to say something else) and he cut me off and said “Are you stupid or what?” – in front of someone else. Let’s compare that with “Then he clearly has no brain either” when we were alone and I thought he had almost caused a burst pipe.
Anyway, he was offended and was going to leave in a mood. To his credit, and for the first time ever, he stayed and tried to talk out the bad mood. It worked and I had recently read something about kissing for six seconds at the end of an argument as a more effective, bonding alternative to the usual sleep on it advice. So it was good again. Later, when things were hideous, he constantly brought that argument and my insult up as evidence I was comparing him with the other guy and had deliberately started it because of that. He never accepted the real comparison, if thigs are ever that simple, that the other guy (and even the slimy crocodile) thought of me as intelligent and never belittled me.
By the time we were in nightmare mode, the silences and moods came like rainstorms in rainy season. I couldn’t enjoy any nice moments because one might come at any time, either because he would remember what I had done or some behaviour of mine would trigger one. One day he had been texting me or calling me from work with something sweet and had been coming home excited to see me. I saw him from the window and waved and then he rang the doorbell, which I buzzed and then watched through the peephole for him and he let another guy go first to test whether I would open the door to someone else (something I was under repeated instruction never to do for safety). I didn’t check properly, it was a tall dark guy and I had seen my boyfriend arriving, so opened the door. Big mistake. Bad mood instantly applied.
I got so adept at spotting the Freeze, it was like tuning into radio signal. I knew instantly even when other people were around and he was in conversation mainly with them. Once we had a run of 9 days without one and I thought maybe we’d passed the worst of it and were going to be OK. Doubly stupid really since he was never going to get over my “dishonour” and because the behaviour pattern was very well established in our first year. Even if he had got over it, he had a justification forever to treat me however he felt I had deserved.