I don’t want to talk about the situation. Sometimes, I don’t even want to think it existed. I didn’t know what was happening for the longest time, and when I figured it out, I had the type of epiphany that causes your face to lose blood. I didn’t use them. She used me. It was such a paradigm shift that I had to think about it for almost a year before I was truly ready to face the truth. The thoughts I was having were making me so ill with co-dependency and withdrawal from it that it felt like the physical part of the first few days of rehab. It makes sense, really. Enablers (the people who have been chosen as recipients of abuse) are addicted to the emotions of others, because they are taught early on that they can’t trust themselves. They can’t make their own opinions because opinions have been programmed out of them. It is a learned behavior that can be corrected, but if you are in the throes of abuse, recognizing it is so difficult… because they love you.
I say this facetiously because abusers do love. They love quite a bit, actually. It’s just that for whatever reason, they have no idea that what they’re doing in a relationship is abnormal. The scary part, though, is that some people do know. Some people do know how much power they have, and they’ve harnessed it. It’s a two-sided coin, and you may never know which kind you’ve got- I differentiate between them with one question: “I know this person very well. Is he or she doing this maliciously, or are they even aware of it?” I haven’t met a complete sample of abused people to know if my suspicion is correct, but it seems to me that if the intent of the abuse was malicious enough, it probably started in childhood.
I’ve told this story before, but my ex-wife and one of my childhood friends were both abused in the most insidious way of all… violated sexually before they were even old enough to know what was really going on by adults they trusted. I became enablers to both of them, trying at all costs to keep both of them happy when really, they were just pouring their abuse into myself hoping that it would make them happy enough that they would both start to treat me with some respect. Surely they would see all I had done for them. Surely there was a light at the end of the tunnel. I raged with injustice that I’d given up everything while they’d given up nothing in return.
In response, every relationship after that was modeled on them. I didn’t feel happy in a relationship until I was doggedly subservient because that was my role. I was used to it. In time, there was no fight in me at all. I was trying to love both women as if to say to them, “I love you so much that I’m willing to take on your pain if you’ll just do stuff to make it all worth it.” But that’s what a normal relationship is like. The vicious cycle of abuse is that you absolutely live in the hope that they’ll change. And because they’ve engineered it that way, even if you cut off contact, you’ll still be wired to think about that person’s welfare. You don’t know what to do with the time you have now that you’re not constantly wrapped up in someone else.
That’s where I am now. I have been in the eddy of verbal abuse and now I am finished with it. I am struggling with both the handcuffs and the ring. Because that’s what abusers do. They get down on one knee with seduction and propose. You are the object of their affection and the apple of their eye, until your personality fades to black.
Getting better has, for me, involved integrating the two parts of my personality. There’s a part of me that will love my abuser in a love that will last the ages. And then there’s another part of me that wants to kill her for what she’s done. In no way am I serious about this. I mean it as the revenge fantasy trip you never take because not only would it be a hell of a lot more trouble than it’s worth, you’re destroying the moment you hope for in the end. That your abuser will come back whole and healthy, having realized just how foolish they’ve been.
The moment a part of me died was when I realized I had to give up to save my own life, because I was losing it. I didn’t want to go down the road of complete insanity. I was doing just fine at “a little bit,” and I didn’t want to find out how deep the waters got.
I called in reinforcements immediately when I realized what was going on. I’m married now, and one of the things I know about marriage is that if you dump something this heavy on them, they care about you so much that it can actually cause them to stop functioning, too. In that way, we both desperately needed help.
As I began to get better, I realized that it was because I was finally learning to integrate the two aspects of my experience with an abuser. I was seduced with sunshine and cast out in chill. Binding it into one narrative allowed me to forgive more fully than I could have ever before. Finally, I understood both the negative and the positive in both my own behavior and in theirs. I cried with compassion at the abuse my abuser must have faced in order for her view of a healthy relationship to fracture.
I understood as a child what most people never do. In some ways, it was worth it.
There’s a reason people are suckered into abuse. Sunshine takes all different forms. Sometimes it’s sex, sometimes it’s drugs, and the most terrifying to me- sometimes it’s just words.
The reason verbal abuse is so scary is that most of the time, you cannot see it’s happening. Verbal abuse is written off most of the time, and people are horrible to each other. Just a few conversations will lead to incredibly intimate details and you’ll walk toward your abuser with open arms, because they’ve engineered it. Now they are desirable, and they know they are. They’ve set it up where you have to chase.
Relax. You can’t ever fucking catch them.