In abusive relationships, the devil you know seems better than the devil you don't. We go back and forth over leaving our abusive mate, wobbling between fear of them and fear of the unknown. It's a tricky balancing act, especially when our partner seems to know just when to put on their nice mask. The sweet phases of an abusive relationship add to the confusion and indecision about just what kind of devil we know. What kind of devil can be so sweet one minute and so nasty the next? And why can they act kind for long stretches and then turn back into monsters over meaningless situations or words? Why do they hurt us? Why do we stay? Will this relationship hurt the children? Can this relationship last? Should I stay to see if it gets better? Should I run and not look back? Unfortunately, I am incapable of giving you those answers. And honestly, the longer you take contemplating what those answers could be, the longer you'll be stuck with the devil you know.
Verbal Abuse in Relationships
So many people beat themselves up over the question "Why can't I just leave?" You want the easy answer? You aren't ready to leave yet. You haven't been convinced that the abuse warrants you leaving, or you lack financial resources, or you're in business with your abuser, or the kids are too small, or the kids are almost out of school, or the abuser needs you, or fill in your reason here. Notice I said fill in your reason here. These are not excuses. The reasons you stay may sound like excuses to someone else, but don't let anyone belittle your decision to stay. I really want to end that sentence with "to stay for now" but truth is that you may never leave. You could be 70 years old and wondering how your spouse is managing to exceed life expectancy, them being so miserable and nasty and all (lots of people are doing this right now). I want you to be okay with choosing to stay, because making decisions is empowering. Staying is a choice you can make.
Last year, I did a top ten list of the most viewed Verbal Abuse in Relationships blog posts, so I thought I'd do something different this time. The posts on this list earned the largest percentage of comments per times viewed. If you missed them, perhaps you want to add your two cents. Readers tell me all the time they get as much from the comments as they get from the post, so share your experience so we can ALL benefit!
Surviving abuse feels like a miracle. Over all, surviving my abusive marriage has been a wonderful, empowering experience. However, my recovery from domestic abuse hasn't gone exactly as I thought it would. Some things have been downright crappy. This year, the happiness of surviving abuse is diminishing. The crappy is beginning to outweigh the happy. Surviving abuse is a beautiful accomplishment. Surviving recovery . . . well that's what this story is about.
I tried to write this post earlier today, but evidently there were some comments and stories I needed to read first. Stories from addicts, ministers and other abuse survivors reminded me of how much I used to fight my abuser. I fought with my ex-husband so often that I accepted some isolation to spare myself the embarrassment of fighting in front of his friends. At the end, I think every one of the people my ex hung out with knew that I couldn't stand to look at him. No wonder they believed his stories that I was miserable and unstable. I couldn't open my mouth without something negative about my ex sliding out. My feelings for him surrounded me like a prickly heat and they made me seem like someone I was not. Ugly. Hateful. Mean. My feelings for my ex made it easy for his friends to feel sorry for him, give him a place to stay, and believe his side of whatever story he told.
Denial in abusive relationships is a coping skill abuse victims tend to overuse. I took a trip to Egypt to understand denial during my abusive relationship. You would think that now, after leaving my abuser, I would be on guard for the mighty river. And you would be wrong. Boy oh boy. Have I ever made some mistakes after leaving my abusive husband. I know that from a distance it looks like I've got my stuff together. I mean, I write this blog and give tips on how to heal from abuse and have a really good grip on the dynamics of abuse. You would think I'd be off making new kinds of mistakes, having new kinds of adventures and leaving Egypt and it's river to tend to themselves. Ha! Double ha! Oh no - now I'm really laughing at myself . . . hold on a second while I remember what I was talking about . . .
It's well known that your abuser's first order of business was to isolate you, the victim, from family, friends, and anyone else who would offer you support. Once isolated, the aloneness and loneliness can take a toll on both your self-confidence and mental health (depression, social anxiety, addiction and other mental illnesses are associated with isolation).1 So, after living in isolation during the abusive relationship, it is possible that you continue to isolate yourself out of either the habit of isolation or symptoms of mental illness. If you want to end your habit of isolation during abuse recovery, here are some ideas to consider.
During my recovery since leaving domestic abuse and violence, there have been many ups and downs. Life can be quite confusing when you use your intuition instead of relying on someone else to tell you what to do! So, I'd like to share some of the revelations and problems I've encountered since leaving domestic abuse and my abusive husband.
Can a verbal abuser change? I've heard that question so many times and it is always delivered with a longing tone. Verbal abuse victims very much want their abuser to want to change. Some verbal abusers honestly do want to change. I don't know how rare those types of abusers are, and there's no way to know if your partner wants to change by listening to what they say because it is so easy to lie.
So often, people ask me the question "Am I imagining the abuse? Is it just in my head or is there a problem with my marriage?" Sure, sometimes problems are just in our heads, and we might also make mountains out of molehills. I suppose you could be imagining problems where there are none, and you could be imagining abuse. But if outside of your relationship your judgment seems sane, then I really doubt you are imagining the abuse. More likely, the effects of abuse are messing with you.