We so many times create a narrative about our lives that enables us to make sense of what has or is happening. I see now mine was not at all the serendipitous love story I had created of being romanced and wooed. I now know his behavior was predatory. It is sad to accept my married life was a lie and that I was little more than a target. He chose me. All batterers do.
He knew I was vulnerable from a recent break up, he studied me for months before he saw the opportunity to insert himself into my life. Gifts and flowers and trips and lavished attention from a charming handsome man made me feel like I was very special to him. For months I resisted his advances, at once feeling flattered by his attention but also uncomfortable and unsettled by it. I sensed something not quite right at the beginning but I loved the whirlwind-ness of it, the romance and thrill of it.
It was not until I was squarely in that I would learn for every gift, there was a sacrifice expected. Every compliment, criticisms threefold would follow, that the attention he gave he demanded back exclusively, finally that he would became the only person capable of mending my pain, he who was inflicting it.
In the relationship I did not see he was the same person in the peaceful periods as he was during the attacks on me. I reveled in the quiet times thinking we were on track again and it felt like love, but more likely it was relief. I did not understand at the time he was simply gathering information to attack me with later. A week, a month six months later, but later.
I have taken additional time in therapy beyond the trauma to assess how this happened to me. I do believe unknowingly I very much contributed to the perpetuation of the abuse. Not overtly, certainly. Truly I was groomed to react as I did. It began by not challenging his thinking and actions as he tested me with small things, each time pushing me just a little further with bigger and bigger things to see when I would push back, draw the line, and in doing so little by little he reset the boundaries. It ended with a loss of my self, my needs; entirely vulnerable without the protection of personal boundaries.
Early on he accused me of being terribly selfish, and he consistently reminded me of that selfishness. He’d frequently assert ‘it’s all about you’. Only now can I see in fact it was all about him. At the time I did just as he suspected I would which is take it on and try to prove him wrong by centering my attention on him. Soothing his wounded ego, being the good wife and partner he demanded, trying to prove I was truly worthy of HIS attention.
A certain degree of selfishness is necessary to care for ourselves. In many ways I gave my husband the power to destroy me by being so in love with him. In the end we are, none of us, selfless nor is it a healthy state. Coming from this skewed relationship history I need to be aware when I feel I am leaving my needs and wants and desires in exchange for a friend’s or potential partner’s. Unbalanced relationships with those who seem unwilling to meet me in the middle need to be evaluated.
I have great capacity to love and I will love with total abandon in the future but never again will I love someone else more than I love myself, nor be willing to sacrifice my needs for someone else’s. This is my gift to me this Valentine’s day.