The chicken doesn’t mean anything. I just think it’s funny.
I’m starting to think that perhaps I shouldn’t call my college relationship abusive. After all, it’s not like I was hit or anything. Also, I wasn’t exactly the best girlfriend in the world. I had a jealous streak a mile wide and wasn’t very trustworthy toward the end. Plus, there must have been *something* good to make me stay for so long. If I can think of good things about him that means it wasn’t abusive, right?
Then I remember how he wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. I remember how he once planned a fake suicide threat and panic attack to make me feel guilty for breaking up with him for someone else. I remember how he harassed the other guys who were interested in me (while we were broken up!) behind my back so he could swoop in and play the hero. Granted, I shouldn’t have fallen for his crap about wanting to be friends right after our breakup because he had an agenda. I should have known better.
I remember the surge of fear I felt when I saw a friend request from him on Facebook. I have no idea why I felt that because it’s not like he could still hurt me, but it just felt…I don’t know. I don’t want say it was a flashback because to put myself in the same category as some other people I know but my therapist says I should because “if *I* thought it was abuse, that’s what it was”. Makes sense. Anyway, I wanted to write a post on this for another site, but they thought it was “too serious”. So I’ll do it here. Here are some of the reasons people stay in abusive relationships that you usually don’t hear about. I’m not writing this to “label myself” or play the victim to get attention (as I’ve been accused of before) so much as to give some insight that might help someone else down the line. This doesn’t define who I am but it’s still something all too many people have to deal with.
-We’ve invested a lot of time in the relationship. We have a history with this person that we don’t want to be for nothing. We don’t see that by staying we’d just be wasting more time, losing more time we can’t get back.
A lot of times, I will think back to what things would have been like in college had I either not met him or stayed away from him; who I could have dated, what classes I could have taken, what “drama” and what kind of hurt I could have spared myself and other people. I wouldn’t give up my current husband and relationships for the world, but I wonder if I might be subconsciously trying to get that time back.
–We still love them. As much as you (and perhaps your mom) wish you could, you can’t turn your feelings for someone off like a light switch. It’s possible that you might stop loving someone (or, in my case, realize you weren’t in love with them to begin with), but this has to happen over time if it’s going to happen at all. And it may not. Love can evolve, which makes it really confusing when it comes to plotting your next move. It’s especially hard if you have kids together.
-We don’t know when to quit. According to my father, this is a problem of mine. Granted, he was talking about making fart noises or playing the “I’m not touching you” game in the car, but you get the point.
We don’t want to give up. We tell ourselves, if we stay just a *little* longer, things will work themselves out. We think, maybe if I marry him, he’ll treat me better. Maybe if we have a child, he’ll treat me better. He’d have to, right? Since I’d be the mother of his child. Um, no. If someone has it in them to abuse a partner they claim to love, they probably have it in them to abuse a kid too. Even if they don’t, it’s still a toxic environment to grow up in.
Even if it’s not a matter of behavior, we never know when it’s truly over because the person always tries to find a way to “rejuvenate” things just long enough for you to come back to him. After that, it goes back to the same old thing and the cycle starts all over again. We don’t realize that that this is never going to stop and that it’s time to step off of the carousel. We know when everyone else should quit, but we don’t know that for ourselves. We give advice to our friends with relationship problems, but we don’t take that advice ourselves. Perhaps we’d do well to.
You could also take “not wanting to quit” to mean that we don’t want to admit defeat. Our egos won’t allow us to do anything that could be considered “quitting” or “backing down”. We don’t realize that a relationship ending isn’t a failure on our part; If anything, it would be a victory if we were to stand up for ourselves and leave. We just don’t see that at the time.
-We think it’s normal. I’m not saying that we’re used to mind games or being insulted so much as that we think it’s just the normal “ups and downs” of a relationship-that we have to take the good with the bad, and this is the bad. There’s also the fact that things aren’t always all bad and we think the good things are worth staying for. For instance, my boyfriend’s family was incredible. If I could have dropped him and kept them, I would have. Also, it’s like I said above-he loved me in his own way. Maybe it’s worth staying for, maybe it’s not. That’s up to you.
Then again, I remember the time he told my suitemates that I’d gotten upset after a fight we had and ran off into the dark side of campus. I hadn’t; I was sitting in the parking lot and then downstairs talking to a friend. He was the one who’d stormed off like a child. Apparently this was some sort of “trick” he played on my friends. Very juvenile, but so was he. Even if it’s obvious to everyone else that our partner is abusive, we don’t see it that way. We don’t know to. We think we’re just “going with the flow”, never realizing that said “flow” is about to drag us under.
-We’re easily led and under his “spell”. If you have a submissive personality and they have a strong one-which is almost always the case-they will take advantage of you and justify pretty much any behavior by saying that you didn’t say “no”. The truth is that you usually did say no, just not in a way he’d recognize. I sure as hell did, even if it wasn’t in those words. However, I’d said “yes” too. That’s the problem-those are the only words they’ll hear and will use it against you. It might not be intercourse (it wasn’t with me), but he’ll do things the law doesn’t allow thinking it’s okay because you’ve done these things before and that gives him a “right” to ignore anything else you might say. No, it doesn’t. I don’t care how much you liked it before-you can say no any time you want. If he doesn’t listen…well, there are words for that. You know what they are.
Like a lot of phishing scammers these days, it’s not that you’re stupid or weak; they just know what to say and how to say it. For this reason, I don’t think there is a such thing as someone who “accidentally” emotionally or psychologically mistreats someone. They will often claim they didn’t know what they were doing, but I don’t believe it. I don’t see how.
-We don’t know what it means to forgive. This sounds weird, but bear with me. It’s not that we don’t forgive enough, but that we forgive too much. Like I said above, we think that what we’re dealing with is just the bad along with the good and that we’re being “hasty” in leaving. We have this idea that forgiving someone means forgetting what they did-in other words, thinking we have to put ourselves in a position to get hurt again. We have to go back to them, we have to behave as though nothing ever happened because anything else is tantamount to holding a grudge, and we all know what God thinks of that. I thought this, and boy was it my undoing. I still don’t know what Jesus meant by forgiving someone “seventy times seven” times, but I don’t see why we should put ourselves in a position to need to forgive someone that many times. I know, I know, He wasn’t giving us a literal number of times, but you get the point. We think we’re doing wrong by holding their bad behavior against them, even if it’s for our own protection. We think that “doing unto others” is more important than doing unto ourselves. As admirable as it is, this kind of selflessness can go bad really quickly if it’s wasted on the wrong people. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t try to treat others with the grace that Jesus showed us, but sometimes you have to do this from a distance.
To quote a friend of mine: “Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself; That means that you have to love yourself. Otherwise, your neighbor is screwed.” Makes sense to me.
-We don’t want to be mean. In my mother’s generation, women were often taught to be “people pleasers”-meaning that their primary purpose in life is to make other people happy. We think we’re not “allowed” to do something that upsets someone, that hurting someone’s feelings means that we’ve done something wrong and that somehow that makes us a bad person. As you can probably tell, this idea didn’t die with them. We might not be taught to be as submissive as they were, but sometimes we still get that impression, especially if our mothers are as selfless as mine was. Even if we know we should stand up for ourselves, we don’t always know how. Not without feeling mean, anyway. We have a twisted notion of what being mean is, and an abuser will eat that up. My ex certainly did. Otherwise, why would he fake a suicide threat and panic attack so bad that I had to call a couple of his friends at 5am to drag him out of my room? He made it out as though I was the one who made him have to get counseling, even though he told me he’d done that to someone else. He also had this habit of “spontaneous repentance”-he’d start rambling on about way he’d done wrong by me and other people and how sorry he is and how he’ll change his ways. Of course, I fell for it. Stupid me. *Pointing at myself* Don’t be This Girl.
We don’t see it for what it is. If it were happening to someone we love, we’d pick it out in a minute. Maybe there are positive things about your partner that people outside a relationship don’t see, but they’re usually not distracted or taken in by those things the same way we are. It’s much easier to see something for what it is when it’s not happening to you.
You could say that all these things boil down to not thinking we deserve any better, and you’d be right. I’m just talking about it this way because a lot of times people have a hard time putting their feelings into words. I do, anyway. For more information, check out http://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/.