Part of my healing process involved learning the difference between abusive relationships and healthy ones. My counselor was an integral part of my empowerment; he helped me acquire the knowledge, confidence and tools I needed to escape and rebuild my life. I learned how to break the cycle by accepting that there was nothing I could do about the past…but, also, that I had control of my future. I realized and accepted that the abuse wasn’t my fault; I learned to recognize red flags and made a vow that I would never be in another toxic relationship. I read a number of books on the dynamics of abusive relationships so that I could better understand the mindset of someone who’s abusive and know when to walk away from any future relationships that showed similar patterns.
My abuser didn’t inspire me with romance, praise or respect. He didn’t lift me up or encourage me to be the best person I could be. He didn’t understand that contributing to a relationship is more effective than contaminating it by using control, isolation, criticism, force. He wanted me to feel too tired, weak, scared to leave him and, as an unspoken “insurance policy”, he drained every ounce of my self-esteem and shattered my spirit. He blamed me for everything I did, even when he was the cause of my pain. Even when I desperately wanted to leave, he resorted to the use of psychological abuse and scare tactics to keep me there. When I filed for divorce, I became his worst adversary because I didn’t want to stay with him; he felt a sense of entitlement to treat me the way he did and expected me to smile, in appreciation, because he was “helping” me “for my own good”.
Through my counseling and reading, I learned that he was the one with the insecurities and self-loathing. He stopped me from leaving by knocking me down to make himself feel more powerful and “better” than me. His actions were fear-driven to keep ahold of what he considered “his” possession. My counselor made me realize that I was the stronger person in the relationship because my abuser would never open himself up for counseling. I had the courage to put myself under a microscope so that I could look at my life more closely and work through the issues I had. My counselor assured me that my abuser would never do such a thing because he would be afraid to deal with what he might find out about himself. Furthermore, he had the inability to accept blame for anything that wasn’t working because he insisted on winning/being right.
Growing up with an abusive father, dysfunctional relationships were all I knew. I realized that it was up to me to re-educate myself on healthy relationships and change my attitude about relationships in general. The truth is, we’re all scared of being hurt because who wants to experience heartbreak? Our fear of someone hurting us affects how we conduct ourselves in relationships. We have choices when it comes to dealing with our fears and/or insecurities.
Using force to keep someone is wrong and doing so only makes someone stay for the wrong reasons. Relationships built on a foundation of fear and mistrust are unfulfilling to both people. When there is an imbalance of equality, when there is selfishness, when there is a lack of respect and/or support, there is no room for love or intimacy to grow or thrive.
Healthy relationships consist of two people who are happy and secure in themselves, without the need for another person to “complete” them. They trust themselves to deal with the possibility of heartbreak, knowing that they can and will survive, even if things don’t work out. They aren’t afraid to love or give their all in a relationship because, with the right person, any less than a complete effort might jeopardize a potentially awesome relationship. They know the value of the questions: “What can I do to make my partner feel happy/loved/uplifted/secure/respected/supported/calm?” and “Now that I’ve won my partner’s heart, what can I do to nurture/care for it?” They view being in a relationship as a chance to: grow with someone, have a different perspective, nurture/be nurtured, experience deep intimacy, share the ups and downs of life (knowing that the “ups” will be enhanced and the “downs” will be easier to handle, when there’s someone to share them with).
When the negatives outweigh the positives, in any relationship, there is no room for progress or growth. When one person in a relationship insists on always winning or being right, his or her partner stops making the effort to communicate or change anything. What’s the point, when there is no flexibility or willingness to compromise?
When the dynamics of a relationship change, it’s difficult to get back to the point when everything was good. From the moment one directs a derogatory name, destructive criticism, an insult, physical harm or severe anger at their partner, the relationship turns a corner. Such behavior doesn’t cause a simple veer off the path, easily recovered; it changes the direction of a relationship completely. Any behavior that results in someone else’s pain (physical, emotional, psychological), shock, degradation, humiliation, self-doubt, worthlessness, a shattered spirit is wrong and intolerable. Nobody, regardless of who they are, has the right to inflict abuse on other people. Everyone has the right to be in a healthy relationship with someone who truly appreciates what it means to love, nurture, accept, understand, uplift, support, comfort those around them.
If you recognize yourself in this ~ or any other article posted in this blog ~ remember, you have options. We are here to listen and guide you. We understand. We relate. We are survivors. We support. We have experienced what you’re experiencing. We have been where you are, felt what you feel.
And we care.