This is a kind of companion to the entries Lis makes as a part of her story. We want to help people healing in a relationship, like us. I won't REPLACE INTO this very often, but I will when I need to say something. Hopefully something in my rambles can help someone else.
July 6th, 2:30 AM
Tonight I sat in bed with Lis, and while holding her I tried to help her work through more of The Courage to Heal. She asked me earlier in the day if I would answer the questions with her, to help her feel less alone while she did it. It's one of the harder things I think she's ever had to do, so of course, I said yes.
I suffer from a form of manic-depression, mostly a kind of impulsive and violent form of self-injury. I've been in-and-out of therapy for the last six months, and when Lis and I broke up two months ago, it was because of the problems I have.
Tonight, after I broke down and then became very withdrawn and scared, Lis told me that she thought it would be better if she did the book by herself. She was crying and terrified because her boyfriend was into this violence that she simply couldn't handle, that was made even worse because she was trying so hard to make it through a book that brought to the surface so much fear of exactly that.
So I sat there, trying to calm myself at the same time that I tried to console her. Everything crashed down, and she lay mute for a long time, unable to talk to me at all. I left to get tea (which, like Lis says, is a wonderful thing to have when you need to overcome anxiety). When I came back, she recoiled at my touch, and all I could do was to cover her with the blanket and watch her fall asleep, tear-streaked and shaking. Now I'm alone downstairs, typing this.
Imagine what it feels like to hurt someone simply because of the kind of person you are. Because of something you can barely control, much less change. I've been in Cohasset with Lis for a month, and since the first few nights, I've helped her to trust me again and to trust me with her feelings about the rape again. I'm not writing about what happened tonight to lament my reality, but to show what it can be like for someone who loves a survivor; it can be hard, and maybe I can help someone reading this to understand why things are difficult with their boyfriend or girlfriend. Because with Lis and myself, it isn't just about learning to be physically comfortable again or helping her to overcome her fear of this place. I have to do so much to help her find trust and support in me because I know in my heart that I can hurt her simply by being myself.
And this is where this late-night ramble gets important. It would be easy to sit down here and let myself become more-and-more frustrated at how hard it is for us. I could blame myself, my condition. I could blame this town, the heat, maybe even our relationship itself. I could get angry and let go, hurt myself, lose control...
But I won't.
I start by telling myself that this isn't easy, what we're trying to do. It's going to get easier with time, but for now, it's incredibly hard. I won't expect Lis to heal at anything but her own pace. I won't force her to talk, or to listen. But I will respect her enough to ask if she needs me, to ask if she wants to talk and to ask if she will listen to me about what's going on inside of me. This is why this is so hard, sometimes; there are two of us at work here, not just one.
When you love someone - a friend, a family member, or a lover - and they entrust you with something as terrifying and personal as rape, you want more than anything to make that hurt go away. And if the person who has trusted you wants your help in their healing, then you want to make it go away even more.
I feel this terrible longing inside for Lis' happiness. I want to give her peace and keep her from living with the rape every day and every night. And that's important, that kind of devotion and love. It just isn't everything. You have to be careful and you have to work together, or all of the good intentions in the world won't keep you from falling apart.
I know that I can help Lis more than anyone. Now I need to teach myself to help without forcing the issue. And more importantly, I have to learn to trust her with myself. This is what I mean by saying that it's hard for two people to do this. It's hard to work together to help one person, but it's even harder to work together and blend two people's healing, which is what a relationship like ours needs.
Tonight, I threw an incredible amount of anger and violence at her, and I expected to feel better right away. Why? I think I expected that because I had been able to help her so much for the past month, I would have the same results simply by choosing to talk to her when I finally felt so bad that I couldn't hold it back any longer. I've made a dangerous mistake, even though I know in my heart that things will be okay. I can learn from things like this, and as long as that happens, I have faith in the two of us.
What I wanted so badly to express with this is the idea that two people in a relationship like ours need to trust each other as much as possible and as often as possible. Lis is struggling to tell me when she feels threatened, scared, or any one of a hundred bad feelings that haunt her when she's in this place. She tries to talk on her own, and I do my best to help her to talk by gently offering to listen.
Now I know that I also need to talk to her about my own feelings and accept her help when she offers to listen herself. That doesn't mean that the two of us should speak every thought and ask every few minutes if the other one is okay. It just means that holding back can be dangerous, and I want to do everything I can to help both of us keep from doing that.
I think that when one person has been hurt as badly as Lis was when she was assaulted, a close relationship is more difficult than a lot of other people's relationships might be. It takes work, and it takes being very aware of what's happening in the relationship. But now I want to say something very important to me, something I believe completely: even though the difference between a relationship where the two people seem functional and normal and your own relationship, where words like rape and abuse seem to make things so hard and you spend 30 minutes drinking tea to keep yourself from self-injury, might make you think you're weird, or sick, or something else equally untrue, you need to keep something in mind.
"Normal" relationships don't exist. The prom king and queen (with apologies to anybody out there who was a prom king or queen) might be perfect on the outside, and they may never spend a night holding each other and crying, but without that two people have a hard time bonding and becoming honestly close. Everyone has barriers, and almost everyone has something or some things that stay hidden, that hurt, and that only come up with someone they can trust completely.
I know that I have a lot to deal with and so does Lis. But because she can open up to me and I can open up to her, we are stronger than our problems, and that makes us stronger than anything we could possibly talk about. That's why letting myself get frustrated is a waste of energy. That's why letting a night like tonight, where things seemed so out of control, come between us - well, I hope that will never happen.
When I go upstairs after I finish this, I'll look at Lis sleeping and I'll know that nothing will stop me from loving that girl for the rest of my life. Not just loving her but helping her; holding her, talking to her, listening to her, taking her out, playing games with her, watching movies, and then talking and listening some more. No matter what happened in the past, no matter what makes things so hard for us now, no matter what anyone says or thinks, we will be fine.
I guess I wanted to let anyone who reads this know that no matter how hopeless you feel about a relationship, if you love the person and they love you, and you both are willing to work through both of your feelings about whatever the issue is, you should be okay. It's harder than that to talk, and it's harder than anything else to keep an open dialogue about something as personal and painful as rape, or abuse, or manic-depression. But it can be done. You just have to decide that nothing will keep you from thinking things through. No frustration, no anger, no pain or sorrow. Those things will come, I guess, no matter what, but you can't let it stop you from growing stronger. That's my promise to Lis, from now until forever: I will stay by her, and we will grow stronger as we work through everything.
Past Journal Entries
One of the things I've had to learn is that I don't always have to talk. You might feel like you have to rush into every silent moment and reassure her or tell her that you love her, or try and help her talk, but that's not always the case. It's good to reassure her, and to let her know that you love her. Love and support are the most important things to have. But she has to be the one who controls how and when she talks about the assault. If she's quiet, then just being there to hold her and giving her the time and space she needs will help more than trying to force her to talk. I used to freak out if Lis was too quiet, and then I would push harder and harder to get her talk. It would lead to a fight because she couldn't talk to me when she did need me. I put everything in terms of our relationship, and if she was angry or distant, I blamed myself and felt the need to fix the problem right away. You have to respect her and have faith in both her and your relationship with her because her pain isn't about the two of you. It's something she's going to be reluctant to talk about, no matter how strong your relationship is.
I let Lis know that she isn't alone, though. I know that every day is full of thoughts about the assault, things that she can't always tell me. Sometimes we'll be in a room and someone will say the word "rape," and so I catch her eyes and remind her that she's not alone in the room, that she has me there. I try to let her come to me when she needs to talk, but if she needs me to help her bring something up, I do. It takes a lot of time to understand when you have to talk and when you have to listen, but that faith comes with talking and listening.
The best thing I've ever done with Lis is to focus on the friendship that makes us so strong together. I think that our relationship succeeds because we're more than just committed to each other and in love with each other. She's my best friend, and because I treat her like that, it's with more respect and honesty than any other way. The important thing is that you have to be very aware of how the two of you work together. As Lis and I have gotten closer and fallen more and more in love, we've also paid more attention to our relationship. That's the thing. If you're committed, and you want to help someone heal, you can't without doing it together. I never forget that she is a wonderful friend to me, and that I trust and respect her completely. We can talk about rape, or about anything else, because these isn't anything we can't talk about. Coming to anyone about an assault, even a boyfriend or fiance or husband, is hard, but it's easier if she knows that she can trust you with it. That trust means that you won't judge, doubt, or pity her. When you see the person you love in pain, you could easily pity them and want to coddle and protect them. Pity is never okay, and I have never pitied Lis. I respect her, especially with this, because she's not a china doll that I think may break. She's the strongest person I've ever known, and as hard as the healing has been, I see that strength every single day.
Not judging her, and having respect and love enough to give both of those things back to her, was more important than anything on a couple of occasions. The hardest thing to understand has been how Lis deals with other guys since she was raped. She told me a few days ago that she uses her sexuality to control men she deals with, which is something I knew but that we had never talked about. The part of me that's her boyfriend felt like bursting into tears because I felt betrayed. But I trust her, and I realized immediately that this isn't about cheating on me. It isn't about me at all. A lot of men in a relationship with a woman who's been raped may find out that sex became a weapon before she met him, and may feel betrayed somehow. I know that Lis loves me, and I trust her, and I listened to her talk about this control and knew that she was taking back what she'd lost in the only way she could. After she'd talked to me, she regretted it, because she knew what she was saying could hurt me. I let her know right away that I love her and respect her, and more than that, I understand.
It's hard to know how to handle yourself sometimes, when the person you love is blaming themselves for what happened. Some of the things I've heard from Lis about her past have caused her incredible guilt and shame, and what I do is to show her that she isn't to blame for the assault or what happened after it. If you're the first relationship where the two people have worked to heal together, then she may be unsure and need to know that everything is okay from you. This might be the first relationship since the rape or assault where she can trust the man, and that can be scary and intimidating, too. I never stop letting Lis know that she won't ever lose me and that we have a wonderful relationship. I don't hide my feelings and that way she sees how much I respect and admire her. It helps her to start seeing the same wonderful qualities in herself, and when she sees someone she respects and loves returning those feelings, not blaming her, and treating her wonderfully, then she starts to look at herself in a better way.
Not long after we started dating, I went on-line with Lis to look at survivor sites. I'd done a report on date rape before I met her, and so I knew a lot about the resources available. I remember thinking that it might help to see some of the sites I'd been to, and so we did it together. Helping her start that part of her healing, and being with her through every step of it, brought us closer and helped her come to me about how she feels. It would have kept our relationship from being this strong if the rape was kept separate from it. Because we visited those sites together, and because we do everything like that together, our relationship is open and honest. Lis knows that she can come to me about a book on rape that she's reading and ask me to read it after she's done, and then we can talk, two best friends, and she's not alone.
Staff, H. (2008, November 17). Marcus' Page, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, August 2 from https://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/articles/marcus2