Remembering the Abuse
Photo by Randysonofrobert; creative commons license
It’s a perfect example of the Law of Attraction in action, but I tend to draw to me people who are or have been abuse victims. This was highlighted for me by The Elemental Muse (hi, Bev!) this week and through an intense EFT (tapping) session with AngelSu when I was having chest pains and migraines yesterday.
I often write about how much I enjoy being single and independent, but actually, it’s the not being abused that I enjoy. Being single again and independent were part of my escape process and I often equate them with being abuse-free. It’s been a long time since I’ve written much about my previous situation, and my ex and I are now quite civil to one another in a keep-your-distance-and-interact-only-for-the-sake-of-the-kids kind of way. After talking to a repairman this week who used to see me in my old life with a polite smile plastered over my sad face and realizing that he never had any idea of what life was like for me, it’s time to talk about it again.
I was in a long-term abusive relationship, I allowed myself to be abused and dominated, and I left it, finally. Leaving it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and the most rewarding thing I could do for myself and my children.
Most people think of abuse as closed-fist beatings. It can be, yes, or it can be more insidious, something that’s often referred to as verbal abuse, and often neither the abuser nor the abused realizes what it is because they can’t link it to a physical bruise. I see this with submissive men who are seeking a dominant woman and find a domineering one instead. I see this with spiritual women who will do anything to keep the family together and take on the task of self-sacrifice, absorbing the brunt of cruel words so their children won’t have to, even though their children experience the abuse through their mothers. I see it in loving, strong people who turn into doormats just to keep the peace and lose themselves in what amounts to a suicide of the personality as who they really are is completed eradicated from the planet in order to please their master/mistress.
If you have no idea what type of abuse I’m speaking of, then here are a few from my own history. Do you recognize yourself? Anyone you know? No one who knew my ex through work or as a casual acquaintance–or even fairly close friend–would ever have suspected what was really going on between us. A facade is hard to keep up all the time, and when you’re married to someone, they can usually relax and let the real self shine through.
He constantly criticized me, all of which was for my own good, of course. For a long time, I believed him.
I was a different person in his presence. My friends noted this. Even my children noted this. I changed from a vibrant, fun, independent person into a shell of myself, rushing to placate him about most everything so he wouldn’t be sharp-tongued with me or give me that withering glare.
I was put on a short leash. He had to know where I was, what I was doing, who I was with every moment of the day. The reverse was not true, but he had the need to dictate my free time and fill it how he wanted. As our relationship deteriorated, this just got worse until I felt I was suffocating. I could not go anywhere without him with me and if he didn’t want to go there, he behaved badly or sulked until I gave in. If I did got anywhere or spent time with anyone else, including my pre-teen daughters in a private girl-stuff conversation, then he accused me of excluding him, and one again I was the bad guy.
He frequently told me that our problem was that I didn’t communicate more, yet he talked over me when I did or told me what I was saying was stupid or worthless.
Almost any decision I made without his complete approval was subject to criticism. If I thought of it, then it was inadequate. Some good stock market decisions come to mind. No matter how much research I had to back up my decision or my suggestion, it was never good enough. Like what type of dog would be non-allergenic for Aislinn…which is why we didn’t get a dog until after I filed divorce papers.
He supposedly supported my religion and often said he did to others, but then ridiculed me for my beliefs, both privately and in front of our children.
I was told how much of a burden my family members were, even when his assistance was minimal or just normal good stuff that any friend would do for a friend with a family medical emergency.
Whatever happened between us that made me unhappy, I was told that I had wanted it fiercely and needed to keep it, whether I had or not, and even when many times I’d said it was something I didn’t want. That included being in a job I hated and desperately want to leave and the Mercedes I drove but hated because I preferred a pickup truck and he liked the image of a Mercedes-driving wife.
I could never do anything well enough. Even if it was something that I excelled at and my employer appreciated that particular skill because I was one of the best at what I did, well, for my abuser, it was never good enough. In fact, with little or no knowledge of how I handled the situation in my daily job, he always thought he could do it better and would give me instructions on how to do it as if I were a small child. The Stupid Treatment was administered in regular doses.
I was frequently told that I expected too much in regard to small things that happy couples always had. I was told that my yearning for a romantic connection or a long conversation was unrealistic.
I never knew what mood he would be in when he came home or answered the phone. Everyone has different moods throughout the day, but I would get knots in my stomach when he came home because I didn’t know if he’d be smiling or yelling.
He would unexpected fly off the handle at me, then be fine and happy, then angry at me for being upset or skittish.
Every other sentence was a guilt-trip. He later admitted to me, during the divorce, that he knew just what my buttons were and how to push them to get what he wanted.
I was told in front of my daughters that I was “weird.” I was told to my face, on a regular basis, that my dreams for my life were silly and that no one would want anything I had to offer except him, so I should be grateful for what I had.
I could never do anything quickly enough. Even if the normal process took months, he’d be upset if I couldn’t accomplish it with superhuman speed. Even if I had to rely on others who took too much time, it was still my fault.
He would “thank” me for something in the most sarcastic voice he could. Or I might get the silent treatment for weeks at a time. He had the ability to turn off and on like a light switch, so that he would be loving and happy and then–boom!–no interaction for weeks and then–poof!–talking happily again and demanding to know what’s wrong with me that I’ve withdrawn.
He punished me (for decisions I made without him, for my opinions, for no reason) by withdrawing his affections. I’ve never been lonelier than in the same room with him.
He would give me delicious crumbs, just enough that I knew he could be loving and responsive, just enough that there was always the promise of a banquet, and I was seduced into staying, hoping for banquet eventually, but it never came.
He let me know he had achieved all his dreams, but my dreams didn’t matter. For me to have my dreams, it would be a step down in our affluent lifestyle and it wasn’t “right” for me reduce his lifestyle in order for me to have my heart’s desire.
There were times when I wished he’d change back into the person I knew he could be and had seemed to be, and I kept hoping he would. For years.
These are a few of the ways I lived my life back then. These things only got worse over time. They never got better, except for a few weeks when I was filing for divorce and he was scared, but even that didn’t last). Abuse never gets better. It may take a day’s break here and there but it’s only a quick plateau before it escalates yet again. The only way we got along was if I tried to be something I wasn’t, and that made me even more miserable. I was not loved for who I was but for what I was supposed to be, and being that person was the same as suicide to me. I no longer existed except as an extension of him.
But I stayed for my girls…and then I left for my girls, and for me.
The best advice I can give to anyone who recognizes himself or herself in some of what I’ve said is to take a vacation from them. A few weeks or months if possible. If not, even a few days. My ex did not want me away from him for any length of time and especially not out of his range of his cell phone. This was his best way of controlling me. I could not get “out of his energy” long enough to think things through. That was a valid concern on his part because once I did have a few days away, I could look at everything objectively and start to see what was really going on in our relationship and how I was being manipulated. For this reason, he refused to move out and give me some space to work through things when I was still open to a reconciliation. Even though the marriage counselor advised it.
An abuser knows that the moment you stop focusing everything on him or her, then you might actually focus on yourself and do the right thing for you, and that translates into being able to do the right thing for your children, too.
I meant to comment on this when you first posted it, but alas, time sometimes flies by without notice. I find it amazing on how much we are alike, and how much we align in our experiences.
“There were times when I wished heâ€™d change back into the person I knew he could be and had seemed to be, and I kept hoping he would. For years.” I found myself uttering those same words for seven years. I would put myself into denial of any trouble and danger, until one day, it literally hit me across the head. I found myself having panic attacks at his touch, trying to find ways to delay going home, and then refusing to take another day of it.
I know that Papa would be proud of us, the youngest grandchildren from his own, for standing up for ourselves and taking control.
You are absolutely right. I felt Granddaddy’s presence quite a bit during my divorce.
If he’d been alive, I’m quite sure Granddaddy/Papa would have been polishing up his guns to take care of things for us.