There is evidence our subconscious minds evaluate others within seconds of meeting them, sensing and processing imperceptible signals to evaluate our safety. Based on my interactions with many survivors of intimate partner violence I believe through our intuition we receive warnings. We then proceed to rationalize, excuse, dismiss, and deny our early feelings that something is amiss. We see a flame, and in it sense danger, yet at the same time it is as though we are inextricably drawn to it and we continue towards it as if it holds some previously unrevealed secret we must know.
I believe at the beginning we are so blinded no one can stop us. We chose to ignore it, perhaps in our desire to be part of something, a part of someone, to lose ourselves in the moment, forgetting; and there begins the fantasy we create. We fine tune, constantly molding it to look like what we’ve always wanted, pinning our hopes and dreams to that one relationship. We insist on making it fit, rather than it fitting us comfortably and effortlessly.
That love was ever enough; that we could be sustained only by it. Rather it is the other million tiny little things that burn away the sugar coating, the bliss, the softness, and leave only an etching of what it used to be; what and who we loved.
At the end we chide ourselves for our foolishness at the beginning, caught up in the should-haves, could-haves, if-onlys. But you would not hear what I have to say and I am not sure it is mine to tell you, rather yours to live out, to become aware, and to choose.
Perhaps the most difficult part of supporting someone in a violent relationship is to understand it is ultimately their choice; whether out of love, loyalty, financial or safety concerns, no matter how much they do or do not know about abuse, it is their own timeline that brings them to it and out, not ours.
Opening a door by simply by asking how we can support them, rather than jumping in assuming, is perhaps all that is necessary on our part. We may plant and nurture seeds of change, offer hope through living examples of healthy, functional interactions which infer the longer they persist in that relationship the further from a satisfying relationship they remain. Provide positive and consistent support and continually help deprogram them from the skewed thinking and reactions their abuser has instilled.
It is my hope perhaps someone reading this will end it at the beginning; that my experience will be credible as a wake-up call and spare them my dangerous lesson. Listen and yield to initial gut feelings. Be confident enough to not tolerate being treated anything less than respectfully and kindly in all situations. Look to others to complement, not complete. Develop and know boundaries and don’t let others push through them. Do not be fooled that alcohol, bi-polar, medication, disease or childhood trauma are the cause. Create the life that is longing to be lived rather than just living a life that has been presented you. Above all, be kind to yourself and believe you deserve good things.
But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:25
I sit here reading your story (in “Surviving Survival” and your blog) in disbelief. Not that it happened to you or continues to happen to countless others, but just at the magnitude of it all.
It is not so much a disbelief as it is more the inability to truly grasp something so toxic. Your blog gives a glimpse of the pervasiveness and how encompassing something like your experience is. Such conflicting and horrible circumstances and how the effects never really end. That those touched by them are forever changed by them
It is unfathomable to me – what would motivate someone . . . . how could they reach the point that they could . . . . why would they do . . . . .??? The path their lives must have taken and their wrong responses all along that path. What kind of torturous route (internally as well as externally) could leave someone so utterly broken that they could be capable of such things and would actually treat others like you and others are treated?
I pray for you and your children.
Thank you for putting your story out there for others to see.
This post reminded me of what I read in this paperback book I bought at an airport bookstore while I was traveling alone. The author said something like (and I’m paraphrasing here): We humans are the only animals who often go against our gut feelings of danger, who fight against our survival instinct and try to talk ourselves out of it.
This book really amplified my respect for my “woman’s intuition” and made it more “legit” in my mind and life.
The book: “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker
He also has another book for parents: “Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane)”
Perhaps you have heard of him? The author is also a survivor of domestic violence, and has made a career out of helping other people in predicting violence and escalation.
His website also has a Domestic Violence Risk Assessment that people can take anonymously: