Sometimes it’s as simple as wearing a smile on your face, and being so, so careful about how much you say and to whom, so that no one knows how bad it really is.
Sometimes it’s more grandiose, a kind of overcompensation meant to distract from what’s happening behind the magician’s curtain. Think sleight of hand.
For the abuser, the latter is intentional. He loves fooling people, and his victim. His game is gaslighting and he wants to win.
For the victim, it’s subconscious. She is caught up in his lies and manipulations, as is true with all the other abuses, and is conditioned to believe his bullshit narratives and follow the hype.
[Until she wakes up, that is. Until she knows better and won’t be fooled any longer.]
Impression management is the way abusers and their victims cloak the existence of toxic behavior around friends and family, and for an audience on social media.
They might seem too good to be true. Maybe it feels forced.
Maybe they come off a little syrupy. Too lovey. Soooo romantic.
They somehow never fight or share their challenges, rather, they couldn’t get along more perfectly.
I’m not talking about the people who never air their dirty laundry, or who are emotionally mature enough to communicate through their disagreements.
I’m talking about the people who act as if they don’t have any—dirty laundry, or fights.
To be sure, this isn’t a full portrait of impression management. It’s just a snapshot. And I’m not suggesting you start investigating every couple you know who seems to have it all together.
I’m just saying you need to be willing to look deeper than face value.
Because when 1 in 3 women experiences domestic violence — or 1 in 4, depending on which source is referenced — we’re all witness to impression management.
Some of us are even participating.