Updated: Jan 29, 2021
Several weeks ago, we added a horse to our farm for the first time. We've had goats, chickens, rabbits, ducks, guinea pigs and even a hedgehog...but never a horse. The excitement upon his arrival was palpable.
After a couple of weeks of having our new family member, Patch, I noticed every time I would walk up to him, he'd turn his butt to me. At first, being a new horse owner for the first time and not having a clue as to what we were getting ourselves in to, it didn't bother me. I minimized it. No big deal. If he turned, I would just turn with him. I could roll with it. Right?
But then, I got educated.
I started watching "Horse Behavior 101" type DVD's, and I began to observe Patch more closely. In other words, I became aware. I was more attentive to his body language. I would watch his ears, his eyes, his mouth, his nostrils, his neck. and even his tail. And yup, you guessed it, I watched his butt. And once I became aware, our relationship changed.
So the question is...who or what changed in our relationship?
Before educating myself on horse behavior, I thought Patch was just wanting to chew a different area of grass, or move his legs a bit to stretch. After educating myself, I realized Patch was showing me dominance. His butt-angling was his non-verbal way of saying, "Hmph...who's really in charge here?" And of course, not knowing better, I let him take the lead, even if it meant he wasn't doing what I needed or wanted him to do. What a subtle language of dominance these butt cheeks were! Lo and behold, I was being manipulated!
Is your spouse like Patch? Sometimes addict-mode behavior is very overt. They yell, call you awful names, physically abuse you, intimidate you, and so on. But how many of us are married to "butt-facers"? Abuse can be very covert, too. The abuse can be silent looks of disapproval, clenched jaws, harsh eyes, sighs, and tense shoulders. Their actions and non-verbal cues speak for them. But abusers and addicts love two things the most: power and control.
Covert abuse is very difficult to see, which is why education and professional help is always recommended. If it weren't for the horse experts, I would still be turning circles with Patch, and he would still be turning his butt cheeks to me every time. Round and round we'd go on the crazy cycle.
Education about our circumstances is powerful. When we begin to learn how to recognize abuse, such as minimizing, denial, gaslighting, and blame-shifting, it is a game changer. It puts you in charge of yourself, your healing, and your responses. When you begin to find your voice, it puts responsibility right back on the person who is responsible. Take the reins. You got this.