I sometimes imagine the opportunity to sit down with my abuser, and articulate all the things I have wanted to say, but never could for fear of the repercussions. It’s not that I think that he would listen or feel remorse. It’s not that I want justification for his actions. It’s because I believe that the release would cleanse my spirit and help to gain closure, which is necessary for my healing.
Everyone who has experienced abuse has something specific that they would say to their abusers, based on the dynamics of the relationship. I have thought about the things I would say, for many years, but I can only write what I would say in a letter that he will never see, because he passed away over a year ago. In the time since his death, I have experienced some very mixed emotions, ranging from disbelief (his death was sudden) to anger (because he left me to deal with the issues my daughter now has, due to the abuse she suffered at his hands) to relief (because he can’t cause any more pain for us) to sadness (because of the way things turned out for him, in the end, even knowing that he brought it all on himself). Grieving over an abusive ex is a very strange thing; I had to work through all the negativity and sort out how I really felt about him. The truth is, he was never the person I wanted him to be. Our relationship was devoid of pure love, respect, trust, communication, security, emotional support/availability, affection and anything else that’s considered “healthy”; my feelings for him diminished, as did the resentment, contempt and, yes, the hatred, as time went on. I realized that negative emotions did me no good and feeling them meant that he still had power over me. And that leads me to what I would say in my letter:
“I am taking my power back. You cannot control me anymore. You can’t cause any further pain. I am taking my identity back. You have no right to define me, dictate what I think, how I feel, what I believe, how I live my life, what choices I make because those are things I decide for myself. I am taking my voice back. You cannot silence me anymore or force me to hide what you’ve done to me. What has happened to me during our relationship is mine to own and share.
Everyone looked at us and saw the illusion of a happy family. People came up to me, all the time, and told me how “lucky” I was to have a husband like you. You had them fooled; they were oblivious to the reality of our situation…and that you insulted every one of them behind their backs. Although success means different things to different people, YOU were not a successful man. A successful man doesn’t make his partner feel completely worthless. Or set her up for failure. Or isolate her from family and friends. A successful man doesn’t alienate his children from their mother. Or undermine her authority, tolerate disrespect towards her or encourage defiance. A successful man doesn’t resort to using threats, physical force or intimidation to keep his partner from leaving. Or use cruel criticism, insults, ridicule to break her spirit. Or relish the sight of her cowering in fear. A successful man doesn’t create tension in his household. Or attempt to divide and conquer. Or keep score on who does what. A successful man does not consider his partner an enemy when she decides she’s had enough of the abuse and wants to leave. Or defer blame for his actions. A successful man doesn’t put his own wants, needs, desires above everyone else’s.
I was not your possession or your verbal punching bag. I am not stupid, repulsive, useless, clueless, ugly, dumb, idiotic, or retarded. You didn’t truly know me because you were too busy stripping me of my identity, trying to mold me into someone who didn’t argue with you or challenge your beliefs or actions. You didn’t listen to me when I spoke, instead choosing to twist my words or hear what you wanted to hear. You always accused me of creating “drama” (when I tried to tell you when something bothered me), when it was YOU who continued to inflict pain and expected me to take it without question.
The day I moved away from the dysfunction you perpetuated was the day I took back my freedom. The very fact that I could lock you OUT of MY space filled me with a relief I can’t put into words. I cherish that feeling to this day. I am responsible for my life and I answer to nobody. I deserve someone who treats me with love, respect, gentleness, affection and appreciates who I am. I deserve someone who enhances my life without seeking to control or contaminate it.
Finally, there are things that I must thank you for. Yes, THANK YOU for. I want to thank you for teaching me how to recognize abuse and red flags in future relationships. Because of you, I will never suffer abuse again because I have learned to walk away from any relationship that doesn’t feel right. Thank you for making me a stronger, wiser, articulate person. Because of you, I found such a profound inner strength which has allowed me to survive, overcome and face anything in my future with confidence and my head held high. Thank you for giving me the experiences I need to share with other women in similar situations. Because of you, I can teach other women how to recognize the abuse they’re experiencing and give them the tools they need to survive, escape and rebuild. Thank you for showing me how men shouldn’t behave. Because of you, I am able to educate my son about how NOT to treat his future partners and our daughter about how she should be treated by her future partners. Thank you for giving me desire to turn my negatives into something positive. Because of you, I want to help other women change their lives into something positive, too.”
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