When The Tables Turned

Posted: June 7, 2015 in abuse, domestic violence, fear
Tags: , ,

I used to enjoy playing cards. I never gambled. Never made bets with money. I wasn’t even all that competitive and rarely put in much effort to “win”. But it was fun to get together with family or friends and just pull out a deck. We’d play Kings in the Corners, Rummy, Solitaire, Speed, Bullshit, Five Card Draw… We’d laugh and joke and try to bluff each other and read each others “tells”. We’d bet with cookies or dish duty. It was fun.

So when I was about six months pregnant and bedridden by doctors orders due to severe morning sickness that had left me weak and dehydrated, and my husband found my old deck of Spiderman playing cards in the desk, it was a great opportunity to have a fun way to pass the time. I showed him some of my favorite card tricks, taught him how to play Kings in the Corners (which he’d never heard of before), and we played a few rounds of speed and bullshit together. Then he wanted to teach me how to play actual poker. With betting.

When I told him that I’d never played with betting and I wasn’t really interested in doing so, he insisted that betting was an important part of the game and he couldn’t teach me how to play without it. He dug out his poker chips, explained how much each color was supposed to be worth and how much people typically started with. Then he dealt us both a hand and a couple “dummy” hands so he could explain the rules of poker.

We played for quite a few hands, but because I was just in it for the fun of it and not all that competitive, I was losing pretty quickly. I considered it a good lesson – to never gamble for real, because I’d lose a lot of money, FAST. But my husband seemed to be getting frustrated with my lack of aggression in the game. He felt that the reason I was losing was because I just wasn’t understanding how to strategize for the win. He proceeded in trying to explain to me that some cards have a higher likelihood of being drawn than others. That… didn’t make any sense to me.

You’ve got the same number of aces as there are twos, or any other number in the deck for that matter. The same number of spades as there are diamonds… Each card had a 1 in 52 chance of being drawn. No card was more likely than any of the others, because there weren’t any doubles in the deck. “No, no, no” he insisted. “Here, draw a hand.” He tried to show me with an example. “Look,” he said. “You’ve got a Queen, a ten, a seven, a four, and a three. Now, it’s better to give up the queen, even though she’s a face card, because you’re more likely to draw a six or a five than you are a King or Jack”.

I started shaking my head. That STILL didn’t make any sense. What he was saying was WRONG. You are NOT more likely to draw one card than you are another in a standard deck of cards. You just aren’t. “No,” he still insisted. “You are.” He tried another example, and another, and I just started getting frustrated. I told him that he was wrong. That what he was saying wasn’t statistically possible. I told him that maybe certain “sets” of cards are more likely to be drawn than other sets, making certain hands smarter to hold out for than others, but no individual card has a higher probability of being drawn than another.

I tried to show him why I was getting frustrated. I separated out the deck, putting all the twos together, all the tens, the Kings, etc. I showed him what everybody who plays with cards knows, and what I knew he was already familiar with – you’ve got sets of four for each card, one of each suit for every number. So your chances of drawing any particular number had to be the same in a full deck. If you could remember what had already been played (count cards), you could keep track of the higher statistical probability of drawing remaining cards, but most people can’t keep track of that in their heads.

Now, though, he was getting mad. “No, that’s not what I’m saying,” he insisted. “THIS is what I’m saying…” and he tried yet another example, explaining it the exact same way as he had with every other example he’d shown me. After he’d gone through it several more times, I stopped him mid-example and asked if he could just explain it a different way. That the way he was trying to explain it didn’t make any sense to me and that it still sounded like he was trying to say you were more likely to draw a ten than a Jack, which wasn’t true.

Finally, after much deliberation, he changed his wording ever so slightly and stated that one was far more likely to draw a “number” card than a “face” card. FINALLY, it made sense, but… that was exactly what I’d tried to say to him when he first started trying to give me his explanation. It was pretty basic statistics. There are 16 face cards in a deck of 52 and 36 numerical cards. So when you lump it into groups like that, YES you are more likely to draw one than another. So, statistically speaking, it’d be smarter to go for a straight that included numbers than a straight including face cards.

When I breathed a sigh of relief that we’d finally gotten through some kind of communication barrier and made a connection, my reiteration that this was exactly what *I’d* tried to say at the beginning, just… enraged him for some reason. He didn’t like me pointing out that what he was saying before and what he was saying NOW were different. “No,” he said he’d been saying the same thing the entire time and *I* was the one who was wrong. I couldn’t know more than him about this, because I didn’t even know how to play poker. I didn’t need to bring statistics into this, because statistics and “book learning” were useless and pointless compared to hands-on experience. He knew what he was talking about, because he had experience playing poker, and he kept winning against me. So my input didn’t mean anything.

I felt insulted and belittled, and I couldn’t understand why he felt so offended by my desire to point out that we were on the same page. That what he was trying to show me and teach me actually matched up with statistics, once he worded it correctly. When I asked for the cards back, to try and show him what I was talking about one more time, he flipped. Literally. His temper had been building throughout our “conversation” and it had apparently reached a breaking point. He grabbed the few cards I’d picked up out of my hand, ripped them in half, and then flipped over the desk onto the ground, spilling and scattering everything that had been on top of it and/or stored within it’s drawers.

And if I hadn’t scooted my chair back and away in time, that table would have hit me too, and knocked me onto the floor. I felt weak and vulnerable, and I couldn’t move very fast. My stomach was protruding enough to cause me to have to waddle everywhere, and I was terrified by his sudden outburst. If he decided to treat me the same way he’d treated the desk, there was no way I could maneuver well enough to get away. All I could think to do was put my back against a wall and curl into the fetal position to protect the baby growing in my uterus.

He raged for awhile, and I waited in shock for the storm to pass. I couldn’t understand how something as simple as a card game could bring out so much anger. I couldn’t understand his insistence for being right, all the time. I couldn’t understand why he felt the need to push and push and push to make a point, but when I wanted to meet him half way and explain *my* side, he wouldn’t have any of it. It just made no sense at all. He was being completely irrational. How could such a horrible outburst, that left me feeling unsafe and insecure, be prevented if I didn’t even understand what had caused it, or if the cause was so far “off the wall” there was no way I could ever see it coming?

When he finally calmed down and helped pick up the mess, he refused to apologize. Instead, he claimed that he’d acted that way on purpose. That he had calculated and planned the whole affair and that he’d been in control the entire time. He claimed to have acted the way he did to teach me a lesson. He said he wanted me to see what it felt like to not be listened to.

At that point, with that overturned desk, the tables of our relationship had turned. I became wary, vigilant, and cautious, always watching out for his next outburst. And cards… were not “fun” any more.

  1. breakingfree2015 says:

    I’ve been reading your posts…love them! I have to admit that it’s partially because I can relate to so much of what you’re saying. And, also because your writing is magnetic. I remember when I was 9 months pregnant and my husband drunk and angry over something (don’t even remember). He came at me with his fists clenched, as if he was going to hit me in the stomach. Vulnerable is a good description. When you’re pregnant and faced with potential danger like that – it becomes so painfully aware of how vulnerable you are. And, how dare a “man” play on such a vulnerability as that.


    • karrinfalk says:

      It really and truly enhances any sense of vulnerability the further along you get in pregnancy. I’ve always been a “strong” person, bent on protecting myself. Independent. And I was involved in judo, and knowledgeable of self-defense techniques. But when you’re pregnant, such knowledge doesn’t matter. Simply standing and walking is difficult. There’s no way you’re going to be doing much to defend yourself.


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