Twenty-two days ago, I walked away from an abusive woman who controlled my every waking moment for an entire decade. The most important realization I’ve come to since I left her is that my life has shifted from a reality of absolute chaos to a spiritual quest for internal serenity. I know now that I began this blog not to write about America’s detrimental political system or even to discuss the need for the church to accept the LGBTQ community. There will be other times and places for those discussions. I was inspired to create this space for this time in my life, to reach out to victims of domestic violence in my community; other women and specifically my family in the LGBTQ community. I am not writing as one who has it all figured out. On the contrary, I am at the beginning of my journey. However, God has given me a gift to write and so, I am going to blog through this journey. This journey of starting over. In the process, I pray that other women and men who are currently suffering at the hands of an abusive spouse or intimate partner will find this blog and realize that there is hope. There is help. There is a community waiting in the wings for the moment you decide to exit stage left, or go out the front door, if you’re not a theater person. However, I will warn you that when you leave, your first instinct will probably be to seek out a new love. You’ll need it. You’ll have a million good reasons why you need love in your life after all you’ve gone through. Don’t do it. Not yet. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, you need to be alone. Well, I would advise you to find a pet. In the weeks following my break-up, I found an amazing woman who lives in another country. I told myself that because of the physical distance between us, it was safe to “court” her via social media. It wasn’t. I had inadvertently put myself in a situation where I was waiting for someone else to approve of me, to like me, to be attracted to me, in order to gain the strength to move on. I will share with you what I learned after a couple weeks of this. You will NOT be ready to enjoy a healthy relationship until you become a healthy person ALONE.
The first step in taking your life back is recognizing what you’ve just been through. Throughout the years I spent with my abuser, my life was controlled by her chaos, drama, narcissism, and anger. Her contempt and disregard for me as a human being me led to fighting, beatings, and daily verbal assaults. It didn’t take long for an overwhelming sadness to grow inside of me. Along with the sadness, I found myself in a perpetual state of confusion. I found myself constantly apologizing, but never understanding what I had done wrong. I spent half of my life defending actions that wouldn’t require defense in a normal domestic setting and pleading for forgiveness for said actions. However, the most innocent act or word could and would provoke an hours long tirade and beating so, I spent the other half of my life walking on broken glass. You may be reading this as one who has experienced it. You know this pain and I’m so sorry you do. If you haven’t, I am so happy for you but please keep reading. You may find yourself someday with a narcissistic control freak and if you see these patterns begin to develop, you’ll know to get out. Finally, you could know someone who is struggling through an abusive relationship. Keep reading, you could be the person who helps them get out.
There is an absolute, recognizable cycle of domestic abuse. Dr. Lenore Walker developed the cycle of violence theory. It has three phases, which are generally present in a violent relationship. Phase One consists of tension building. This is the “walking on eggshells” phase. To the outside world, everything is fine. This is when I would convince myself that my life was enjoyable. There are a lot of old pictures on my Facebook page of these times. In all honestly, though, there was always a shadow cast on those pretty pictures. A shadow of a dark reality. In my heart, I was just waiting. Waiting. Waiting for the trigger. There is always a trigger. In some cases it can be something as minimal as saying “and” instead of “or”, as it generally was in mine. In other cases, the abuser will become convinced that their partner is cheating on them. This was also common in my case, although I remained completely faithful throughout our 10 year relationship. In any case, there is a trigger followed by an explosion. This explosion can involve a physical beating or a psychological attack. Either one is equally detrimental to the health and well-being of the abused person. As a victim of both, I learned that the bruises healed and my hair grew back but my self-esteem, my confidence, my joy, my love of life, weren’t so quick to heal. In fact, I am prepared to face the reality that the rest of my life could be spent rebuilding what she destroyed INSIDE of me. Finally, the third phase of the cycle of violence is the Honeymoon phase, or the Reconciliation. This is what keeps the victim in the relationship. If there is one question people have asked me since I left that I wish I didn’t have to hear or answer, it would be this one: “why did you stay?” The answer for the abused party will most likely always come from the actions of the abuser during the third phase. In my case, she would convince me that I deserved the moon and the stars. She would make me dinner, she would bring me coffee in bed. She knew me, there was no doubt about that. I realize now, looking back, that she didn’t get to know me for my own sake, or because she truly loved me. She learned me, she studied me, in order to manipulate me. No matter what level of education your abuser has, there is one thing they have surely mastered and that is how to manipulate you. Don’t let their actions during the honeymoon phase fool you. It’s just another aspect of their abuse. They’re toying with you. They’re playing you for a fool. You’re NOT a fool. You’re probably a kind-hearted, beautiful human being who would give a homeless person the shirt off your back. We are generally their targets. We are unassuming, we are kind, we are naïve but not in a negative way. We love life, and people, and we see the best in everything and they see these qualities as weaknesses they can use to become masters over us and masters of manipulation toward us. However, no matter how long you’ve been in this abusive cycle there is a way out. You must reach out and tell the truth. I wish I could write a “how to get out” manual, but I’m too fresh out and everyone has a different path. My writing isn’t going to be a step-by-step guide to leaving an abusive relationship. My goal is to help people acknowledge what they’ve been through, take their lives back once they’ve left, and find themselves again.
Tomorrow I have to go to court. Yes, that’s pretty personal for a blog that’s going to be shared openly on social media but I’ve learned that transparency is the best way to help people and help myself. My abuser has filed a restraining order against me, claiming that I abused her. It’s ludicrous and I’m angry about it, but I decided that she’s dictated my life with negative emotions long enough and this is just another way for her to try to control me and steal my happiness. She’s not worth it. I’ve found a few really good friends who have helped me through this process. Remember, I said not to get in a romantic relationship. I never said you can’t have friends. Quite the opposite…surround yourself with them! You need support right now more than ever! However, for every hour you spend with friends and family, make sure you’re spending one by yourself. Depending on the length of time you spent with your abuser, you might not remember who YOU were before they came along and now is the time to find out. I’ve been doing a lot of reading. That’s my thing and I wasn’t able to do it for 10 years because she liked to watch TV. It’s time to find you again. If you don’t have a clue, start with who you were at 17 years old. What did you like? What did you do for fun? Somewhere in your distant memories, you will find clues to unlocking your identity. It is imperative that you find the real, true YOU before you find yourself with a new person. Honestly, when I first realized this I was pissed because I’ve been lonely for a decade. The last thing I want to have to do is wait even longer for true love. You know what I’ve realized though? I need to love me before I can love another person and I can’t love myself without knowing myself. Neither can you. Find you. Love you. We’ll get to the rest down the road…way down the road.
Many Blessings and Much Love!