I started this site for selfish reasons. I thought I could bestow my wisdom on others, and help them through their healing process. I knew sharing survival stories and networking was an integral part of that, but I wanted to become a mentor; a guiding light to those lost on their journey.
So… in other words I’m an arrogant, egotistical bitch with a Jesus complex. Or, at least that was my shower-epiphany today.
I’ve spent an enormous amount of time trying to “fix” myself. I study personality traits and tendencies. I love trying to get inside someone else’s head, and truly feel what they’re feeling.
My search for why my abusive relationship “picked” me has led me to a desperate attempt to understand everyone. Try to understand motivations behind everything. The problem is, as soon as I discover how certain insecurities can cause rash actions, I find myself rationalizing everything.
“Well, he doesn’t respect women because his mom never stood up to his dad. So, that’s why he hits her.”
“He feels inadequate because he can’t perform, so it makes sense that his motive for rape is to prove himself wrong.”
“I want an attractive man who takes care of himself, so it makes sense that he would want an attractive woman. I’m sure calling her fat is just his way of asking her to take care of herself.”
On the surface, these rationalizations sound ridiculous. However, the more you study people, the harder it becomes to draw the line between acceptable reasons, and inacceptable excuses for human behavior.
It is especially hard for a woman who has left an abusive relationship. We spend the entire time placing ourselves in his shoes. Rationalizing his actions. Convincing ourselves that true love is seeing the man behind the mask.
The real mind games begin after we’ve left. We now see all the possible reasonings behind behavior, that we can’t possibly accept, “Bad guys do bad things.” As an explanation for all we’ve been through.
We see the chain reaction. We’ve been down the rabbit hole. And we’re not exactly saints, either! In our deep reflections on human behavior, we have become our own worst critics. Constantly assessing why we act the way we do, and justifying our depression with a bandaid of mistrust.
We become so good at seeing the pattern behind the behavior. Understanding the motive behind the man, that we feel like a fraud for choosing sides.
How can I sit here and label him the monster? Too many people gave up on him; that’s why he’s acting out.
We carry incredible guilt for leaving. Most likely, we were the only person who tried to love him unconditionally. We saw the good. We felt the sincerity in his misery. Felt his mess of an emotional puddle.
And we call ourselves the victim?
That’s why we stay. And leave. And return. And repeat.
The more we try to hate him, the more we see how much he needs to be loved. We can’t simplify it into, “he’s bad, and I’m good.”
The closer we get to understanding why we should leave, the more we convince ourselves that a good person would stay.
It’s not easy. It’s not a quick decision. It’s not a situation only stupid people fall into. An abusive relationship is one of the most complex situations a person can be a part of. It’s not about you deciding that he’s beneath you, or that you deserve better. It’s just about realizing that you’re at different places in life, and it’s a place where you both need space to heal.
If you’ve left an abusive relationship, and all your friends/family are cheering your decision, stop saddling yourself with guilt. You may feel as though their reaction means you really oversold how horrible he was. That maybe if they knew the real him, they wouldn’t label him like a “bad guy.” That maybe you were just too weak to handle “real love.”
You may feel like you’re really the horrible one. You didn’t love him when he needed it. You made him a monster to your friends. You turned people against him. Of course he acted out! You would too, if someone did that to you.
The problem is, this will never end. This path just keeps going deeper into the unknown.
That’s why this site has been silent for a few days. I’ve been wondering if helping other survivors is just a selfish way for me to help myself. When I’m surrounded by others who have had similiar situations, I feel more normal. More justified in labeling him as the guy to blame for all the problems.
I know what the books say, and what the laws say, and what my friends say. I know he was just someone I fell prey to. I know there will just be answers I will never have. I’m not trying to diminish anyone else’s newfound confidence in their own stories.
I’m just here to tell anyone else out there who’s still listening; tell your story. Stop feeling guilty for how you tell it. Stop feeling guilty for labeling him. Stop thinking everyone sees him as much worse than he really is. Stop worrying about how all of this is somehow, in some form, your fault.
It’s not. And this will always be grey. The more you understand, the muddier it becomes. It’s not a warm and fuzzy healing speech, but that is just the way it is.
And that’s why we’re here for you.