Are you abused because you are you a good wife/husband? A good child? A good employee? What else are you besides "good"? If you don't know, then you could be stuck in your abusive relationship for a very long time. Good wives and husbands go about fulfilling their roles as they believe a "good" person should. But guess what? If you describe yourself as good, then you must keep a counter-balance in sight - you must keep someone around you who provides the bad because good cannot exist without something bad with which to compare itself. This is problematic for both groups of abuse victims: the ones currently entrenched in the abusive relationship and the ones who escaped it. Being good keeps you glued to current bad behavior and causes you to unconsciously seek it after your escape. Why do they stay? Because they're good people. Why did he marry that type of woman? Because he's a good person.
Verbal Abuse in Relationships
What does verbal abuse sound like? The tone and content varies from abuser to abuser, but the words effect the victim in similar ways. Victims hear horrible things from their abuser and they feel small, withdrawn, angry, helpless, sad, shame, and a hundred other horrible emotions - sometimes all at once. In the beginning of my abusive relationship, I felt anger and stood up for myself which led to loud, circular verbal altercations that had no solutions. Later, after coming to believe that he was my hero, my savior and provider, I felt stupid and wanted to fix myself so he would love me. Much later, I turned away and left the house for awhile which eventually led to increased physical violence and leaving forever.
When I think of intimacy, I think of the ability to share personal insights or facts with another person who will keep them between the two of us and hold them gently. Holding my personal fears, joys, mistakes and successes gently is important to me. When my abuser would manipulate the intimate facts of me to control me, I felt he betrayed me just as if he had stood on a rooftop and blurted private facts of me into a bullhorn. And yet, although my intimacies often came back to bite me in the butt, I kept sharing them with him! Why? Because I thought that sharing brought closeness, appreciation, understanding, and love. I thought I could force him to love me the way I wanted by being completely open and honest.
Life after abuse surpasses the definition of peaceful. There is no one but me to tell me what to do or how to do it.
In the last post, I wrote about my fear that I will damage (or kill) any healthy relationships I now enjoy due to my inability to trust the ones who deserve it. I mentioned that it is much easier for me to trust a stranger than my lover, but that dilemma is, I think, easily explained: strangers on the street do not have intimate knowledge of who I am that they could use as a weapon. Strangers may use a gun, but that type of killing is not the one I fear.
Trust eludes victims of abuse during their abusive relationship. As much as I wanted to trust my ex-abuser--and told others that I could trust him--it just wasn't so (Trust Issues and Abusive Relationships). I thought if I was trustworthy and expected to be able to trust him, then he would magically become trustworthy and our relationship would spring to life. That never happened because you cannot ever trust an abuser with your heart. But you can learn to trust after your abusive relationship.
Kristen read the post comments for Abuse Victims and Abusive Anger and asked "How do you prevent creating friendships based on a power-control dynamic and how do you escape the anger that fuels them?" Wow. Kristen is headed for success in her relationships because she is asking great questions.
After leaving your abusive relationship, no one can predict your emotions exactly. But after some time of mentoring survivors, I've found many similarities between other survivors' emotional experiences and my own. Fear of the unknown is a factor in whether or not someone leaves their abuser. So I hope this post gives you a heads up about the emotions you might experience after leaving your abusive relationship.
The story I want to tell you today happened between my ex and me over two years ago when we were still together. At the time, I knew he was abusing me. I realized that there was little hope that he would change. I didn't want to leave my marriage, but I was beginning to think there was no real marriage to leave anyway. Looking back, I remember my internal struggle to find an elusive peace. I longed for a partner who loved me and would work with me through life's trials and celebrate its joys. I so wanted a normal conversation, a nice conversation without the abusive junk lurking underneath the surface. I was hoping my life away. If you see yourself in the following story, please think long and hard about whether you want to wait it out to see if your partner decides to change. Remember that the abuser finds great benefit in abusing, otherwise s/he would have changed long ago.
This morning I stepped out of bed and into the view of a mirror. I thought, "Oh my God, I'm so fat" and then threw on some clothes thinking, "Hide it. Hide." Catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror a second time stopped my self-abuse. My face struck me as sad, fearful, and ashamed. It shocked me. I don't normally think of myself as sad, fearful or ashamed, and yet there it was, evident as the written word all over my frowning face. Wow. First thing in the morning and my brain is writing horror stories. I wonder why I still feel trapped in judgment and negativity. I left my abuser almost two years ago. Will this cycle of hating/liking myself ever end?