“Playful Tiff” or leaking the truth?- Charles & Nigella

This week behaviour during a “playful tiff” has become a symbol of another’s self esteem being eroded bit by bit. Well that may be a bit strong but if you read to the end you may see what I mean.

Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson have long been one of London society’s mature It couples that people aspire towards. He the successful marketing guru and art collector and she the sexy TV chef and cookery writer. Nigella has come to epitomise emancipation from diets.  She is one of the creators of the have it all generation of women, or is she?

The pictures that have been bouncing all over the internet and tabloids this week showing Charles Saatchi gripping his wife Nigella Lawson by the throat are shocking. I am not exaggerating. Each time I look at the pictures I wince as I see one of the most aggressive, border line violent and definitely controlling gestures one can make to another. It is that of the over dominant and overly aggressive dog owner seeking to instil fear into their unlucky pet.

Of course, I recognise that I am simply looking at a picture. A picture can paint a thousand words and most of them made up by the person viewing the picture. Charles Saatchi has stated that “About a week ago, we were sitting outside a restaurant having an intense debate about the children, and I held Nigella’s neck repeatedly while attempting to emphasise my point. There was no grip, it was a playful tiff. Nigella’s tears were because we both hate arguing, not because she had been hurt.”

I keep looking at the picture trying to see what he is describing. I can’t see it. The look in Nigella’s eye is entirely incongruent with play.

The term “playful tiff”  is an interesting use of language.  As a person who hates conflict even acting it out holds feelings of deep discomfort to me. In my opinion the language is that of spin. Charles Saatchi made his millions out of positioning words and images in such a way that others bought the product. Is it possible that he is using those skills to defend the indefensible? If this is happening then there is a possibility that this incident could get spun under the carpet until the press get bored and move on so that the real “tiffs” can happen in private.

The fact of the matter is that only Nigella and Charles know the truth. The rest of us, me included, can only wonder.

The fact that this kind of behaviour can break cover and happen in public by such a public figure could suggest that it has been going on in other ways behind closed doors. If this is the case Nigella could take this as a wakeup call and get out of an abusive relationship while the momentum and public spirit is behind her. In my experience, however, she is more likely to see it as a wakeup call and imagine (remember imagine is another word for making things up) that as a result of this public humiliation and near miss Charles will change his ways.

When I first started encountering the victims of domestic abuse I was struck by how low their self esteem was. I was also struck by how they managed to keep a front on for the rest of the world so they continued to perceive them to be this self possessed, confident person. As I got to know them I realised that when they went into these relationships they felt they had healthy self esteem. When the first hints of abuse started instead of taking it as a warning sign they thought that there was something wrong with their partner and instead stayed around to help “fix” them. Years later they found themselves trapped in an abusive relationship by their own low self esteem imagining that they could not survive without their partner.

Nigella Lawson looks like she has it all. She is a figure head for women who are not afraid of body image and who are successful in their own right. On the face of it she has everything. I, for one, hope she has. If, however, she is being abused then she now has a chance and no one will criticise her for taking it.

As for Charles, you may think I am going to advocate anger management. If this is the first incident and it is indeed a playful thing then anger management will help. If (only if) he is developing an abusive relationship then he needs more than anger management and he needs it now.

I will finish by emphasising that a lot of what I have written above is me interpreting events. Charles Saatchi’s version of events may be entirely true and if it is I hope he will allow me to use his high profile misfortune to help others understand issues that could be affecting them.


Julian Hall & Paula Backen are emotional resilience, stress and anger management specialists based in Derby & Birmingham. They deliver transformational behaviour changing courses.

To find out more call 07850614042 and ask for Julian 07950344658 and ask for Paula.

If you want to know more about the anger management, stress management, and emotional resilience courses run in Derby & Birmingham call the above numbers or click here


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