I’m not sure about you, but my Facebook feed is always inundated with quotes from my female, and sometimes male, friends regarding relationships, abuse and everything in between. When I see a good one, I’ve even shared it. I always think these are so true…but as a woman who’s been in abusive relationships, I have to say…it’s not easy to believe.
Most abusive relationships don’t begin that way. In fact, they often feel “right” or meant to be. You spend a large portion in that rose colored glasses phase, and it isn’t until you become content with what appears to be the status quo, that things change. Whether it be an actual mountain or a molehill, something tips the scales.
The first time abuse occurs, whether physical, verbal or emotional, the victim tries to come to terms with it, rationalizing the abusers actions to make sense of it all. There must be a reason this happened. The memories of the beginning of the relationship come flooding back. It’s all proof that what happened couldn’t possibly be who your partner is. You know them to be different. So many victims internalize the actions of their abusers to the point that they feel they did something to cause it. It really was their fault. S/he would never do this on their own. I must have provoked it.
This is the most dangerous time for the victim. It’s the moment when you decide what’s most important, your well being or the feeling you get from the other person when things are good. You feel loved and understood. You feel whole almost. It’s a dangerous feeling, and it can be hard to give up. The moment you make an excuse for the behavior, internalize it, is the moment when you decide to put yourself last. After all, haven’t we all been told that is what you do for someone you love? You put them first. This is normal.
Many abuse victims have a hard time coming to terms with being exactly that, a victim. It’s not exactly something you could ever expect. How could you? But a large part is also that not all abuse is so easily identified. Sure, physical abuse is “easy”….you can physically see the signs of it. It’s much harder to excuse away. But the verbal and emotional….they are other monsters.
When he starts being disrespectful or name calling, it’s always somehow your fault. He was having a bad day, you should cut him some slack. You reacted to emotionally or you are expecting too much, so of course you’re a bitch. He freaked out over something small; you’re stressing him out. You didn’t take him or his feelings into consideration. Your clothes weren’t right for the dinner he didn’t take you to; you should have researched the restaurant rather than expect that information from him.
When you finally feel like you need to speak up, you’ve always imagined these things. They never happened that way. You’re remembering wrong. You’re taking things too seriously…. Suddenly, you’re battling your own perception of reality. Something hurt you, but apparently it was your own fault. He got defensive and lashed out, or may be it was just sarcasm? You’re suddenly second guessing your own thought process. It’s truly a whirlwind. The images you see say it’s not your fault, that you aren’t the one causing this. But nothing explains his/her behavior. Nothing gives you that satisfaction of knowing it wasn’t you.
The last straw has fallen and you finally leave (for the umpteenth time). There is still no explanation, and you still second guess. You still wonder…was it me? Did I cause this? Did I just fuck up something amazing? Should I try to reconcile? You wonder and obsess.
You want that explanation. You want that closure or reasoning, but there is none. That is the hardest part of loving someone who hurts you. You never know why. You never really know what happened or changed. You just know it did, and when all else fails, you blame yourself. Your need for answers focuses internally as it’s the only thing it has.