Trigger warning: domestic abuse
If you were to ask me about abusive relationships, of any kind, even just three years ago, you would have been met with a closed-minded me who believed I knew it all from the victim’s point of view, when, in fact, I knew little to nothing on the matter at all.
I might have said something along the lines of, “Those who stay in their abusive relationship are part of the problem.”
“They are asking for it by choosing to stay.”
“What do they expect if it just keeps happening?
Without consideration or personal experience, somehow I allowed myself to victim-blame without realizing it.
But now I sit in the same glass house I used to throw stones from. Only this time, the four walls of my once-perfect exterior have been shattered by the words, choices, actions and behaviors of my partner, our situation, and the coincidental aftershocks of all the wreckage.
I can humbly say I get it now.
Today, I clearly see that nobody falls in love with someone who makes them question their self-worth. And to assume otherwise is an insult to a person’s character.
I understand that, contrary to society’s belief, an abusive relationship doesn’t always start off in ruins. To be frank, that’s almost never the case. The aggressive, narcissistic, and malignant buildup of an abusive relationship is subtle. So subtle, in fact, that it’s almost unrecognizable until one finds themselves near-drowning in its trenches.
Once the red flags are visible and the abusive behavior is exposed, it’s embarrassing and intimidating to come forth and speak out. Because even within the privacy of your own mind, it’s humiliating to recognize what you have blatantly ignored and dismissed for so long — the fact that someone you love and cherish on such an intimate level could and does degrade your value without a second thought.
You deny the abuse, justify it, and stick around for it for far too long. Because for some, like me, there are many kids involved, financial burdens, and a backstory which only magnifies the complexities of the situation by ten-fold.
The transgressions from your partner slowly rip your family apart. And still, the master manipulator has a way of maintaining a hold on you with questions like, “You’re really going to break up this family?,” which leads you to question all you know in your heart and what your gut fully believes.
There are some who want to start a new life, but they lack the village that’s needed to see them through it. For others, it’s chronic pain and/or chronic illness preventing them from performing the many tasks that goes into maintaining their family without a partner. And then there are those who struggle with all of the above.
It’s awful, it’s not as black and white as the world would like to believe, and it doesn’t end there for most. Because an abusive relationship (whether it be emotional, physical or sexual abuse) leaves one feeling tugged in a million directions. In one direction, there’s a hopeful desire to stay. In the other, there is an almost audible screaming pull to leave. And surrounding all of the many other ways, there is a jumbled and powerful force of manipulated thoughts and emotions.
As much as one in a healthy relationship loves their partner fully and whole-heartedly, believe it or not, so does a person in an unhealthy relationship. This situation didn’t manifest overnight. Therefore, it can sometimes be unrealistic to assume those feelings would or could diminish come morning just because another individual with little to no experience on the matter says they ought to.
It takes courage to recognize the tainted and ugly fault in what once was beautiful, pure, and good. It takes will to pursue a new future. And sometimes, when there is no physical danger, it takes time for all the many detailed pieces to fall together and a new life to set into motion.
Friends and family on the outskirts of the situation don’t have to agree with it or even understand it. But there is no excuse for not loving someone through it. Every abusive relationship has a backstory we know nothing about. And even though it might be frustrating to understand why one would choose to stay, there’s more than just one point of view.
Those caught in an abusive relationship have been misconstrued as too tolerant, weak, and the “problem” for far too long. But when we make these assumptions, what we’re really doing is blaming the victim. And, believe me, we’ve had enough of that already.
If you’re a true friend, giving up on someone who expresses their struggles with an abusive relationship shouldn’t be an option. Because, when we speak affirming words, believe in someone, and continue to help them sift through the chaos they’ve endured for so long, we are actually helping them to see a new life beyond their current one.