- Don’t expect 20/20 vision from the victim, they are way more used to hiding it than talking about it. Way more used to denying it and brushing it under the rug than facing it for what it is. They will blame themselves, deny, minimize, and become completely desensitized to it from doing it so often. They may not even be willing to or want to see it.
- Tap experts – There are some great and experienced resources to access by phone, for advice and support: national abuse hotline will always take your call and they have loads of valuable training and experience – TOLL-FREE 1.866.863.0511
- Go beyond the stereotypes – Physical violence is usually the exception or the late-coming form of abuse, but is also the most socially agreed upon form of abuse. No bruises means some people won’t consider it ‘real abuse’. Verbal and psychological abuse are harder to identify, start earlier in the relationship, and tend to be misunderstood because they don’t leave a mark. But they do cause psychological impairment and physiological distress.
- Be open and honest, but don’t expect them to be open and honest Abusive situations put victims in “Fight or flight” – making survivors oversensitive and likely to withdraw. It actually makes it harder for these women to LEAN on friends, EXPRESS what’s going on, or SEEK out people to trust for support. This self-perpetuating cycle leaves them alone and desperate more often than they’ll ever admit.
- Be Patient Separation/exit from these situations is extremely difficult. Heightened emotions, raised stakes, and losing love, stability, and family are all a part of what will be lost along with the abuse. It’s worth it, but it’s needs to get to a breaking point.
- Counter-act the blame game – Victims will almost always believe the abuse or the situation is somewhat or fully their fault. Most are made to feel that way. Tell them it’s not. See it clearly for them. After my situation I made a list of 10 things that were the opposite of what he told me I was. I still look at that list.
- Understand that it’s not black and white. Victims often still love their abuser and will hope beyond hope that it ‘goes away.’ They hope this last time was the very last time. Leaving, and the fight ahead, takes a degree of inner strength and resolve that abuse victims gave up a long time ago. They need to regain that strength before making a change.
- Throw logic out, work on building back their reality, confidence, and inner strength – Abuse isn’t rational. It’s explosive, disproportionate, and non-sensical. Verbal abuse and harassment is confusing and embarrassing. You can’t use logic to fix it or to fight it. Yet most victims and ‘normal people’ will naturally try to rationalize either the behavior or what to do about it. It won’t work.
- Expect problematic behaviors, from here on in – Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common side effect of battered woman syndrome, meaning that the relationship causes shock and trauma to the brain enough to impair or reduce cognitive function. This is why recovery may include: relapse, paralysis, poor judgement, difficulty making decisions – ongoing.
- Trust your instincts, and be clear about right from wrong – Women in this situation are TRAINED to smile through it, brush it off, minimize it. If you see clearly that someone you love (or yourself) is being abused, mistreated, repeatedly disrespected – and that person is suffering – the best thing you can do is be a supportive, forgiving, understanding, and well-informed ally.
Hello, old friends. Long time! I’ve missed you… while I’ve been busy finding me ; )
As I write this, I’m sitting in the most beautiful room that ever was, feeling the most peaceful I have ever felt, because it is mine – As Virginia Woolf famously called it, ‘A Room of One’s Own,’ – I have my own place, with my daughter. We’ve settled it, and it is absolutely amazing….
J and I separated 8 months ago. It’s strange to think there was a time when I couldn’t imagine life without him, when now all I remember is the abuse.
In June it will be official – and I am so very ok with June coming.
Sometimes I think I’ve found a nice memory – like the special tea he used to make me when I was sick, or the amazing vacations we took to Cuba, Paris, Mexico. But no sooner have I thought about the nice thing and the bad part comes rushing in with it. The way he yelled at me for not appreciating the tea, or the way he treated me during his fits on every one of those vacations….. Horribly. Even on the Honeymoon and ‘babymoon.’
I’ve thought about the many women (and men) who suffer verbal abuse for years and years with no escape and no name for it. I want to do something about it, but not sure what I could do. It’s such a slippery little topic. So hard to define. And the attitudes you face: Did he hit you though? No… So it’s not ‘actual’ abuse then….
Patricia Evans’ definition set me free last summer, while I was recovering: Verbal abuse is a lie told to you about you.
Yep. You are not any of those horrible names/descriptors. And how liberating to be free of those lies.
Back then, and for many months before that, I was blogging pretty regularly. I was going through a huge change from not drinking alcohol and kind of rediscovering myself. But for the past 8 months – barely a word huh?! I hope you are all doing well on your amazing journeys.
I’m quite happy to report that I am dating an old friend turned new flame… somebody who always liked me and I always liked but we were never single at the same time. It’s a total breath of fresh air… and while I am not moving fast I am enjoying it so incredibly much. This delicious new love.
I know that many of the bloggers I read are quite religious. I am not, but am spiritual… and I just have to say… I am so positively sure that God has been watching over me, and I am so grateful for the guiding light that has led me through all this insanity, into the beauty of a healthy new life.
THIS WAS WRITTEN IN EARLY JUNE, BEFORE ALL THIS SH*T WENT DOWN.
If you are tempted to surf that luxurious wave of self-forgetting, take my word and don’t try it. Don’t drink yourself into love. Don’t sacrifice your soul for love. Don’t give up on you because you like him better.
You will have the time of your life until you figure out what the price was – when you realize that you have been forgotten, and you are the only one who remembers you. But the memory is vague. And suddenly it dawns – it is not possible to live life while holding a pillow over the mouth of your soul.
A person of character, once. A kind soul. A student of life.
You remember something faint, that potential, that spark, your disproportionate zest for life that made no sense, considering the cards life had handed you.
At some point, you decided it was ok to settle for the life of a sea shell; empty, hardened, hollow — if it meant holding on to that man.
Because he comes to you. And those blue eyes. And the smell of him; You are repulsed and drawn in at the same time.
And he’s here isn’t he? He’s not in some other woman’s apartment. He’s here. He married ME. Put aside the degrading, the name-calling, the temper for a second….. YOU HAVE A SHINY, GOOD LOOKING, TALL AND HANDSOME HUSBAND!! DO YOU KNOW HOW HARD THOSE ARE TO COME BY?
**TROUBLING THOUGHTS. Bad logic.**
Where does the story actually begin?
It begins when you close your eyes and jump. Headlong, into your own life. Out of misery.
Not swallowing anymore. There’s a shriek inside of you though and though it’s small, it’s loud for how small it is, because it’s desperate. Because it’s dying. And the fight against death is fierce in every creature.
You start when things are hard. You start when you are weakened. You start when all you want to do is crawl westward, toward some horizon that holds the promise of comfort. Family. Home. Things you never really had.
Somebody, save me. I can’t do this. The familiar voice says. But the one inside is stronger. And it says…… YES, YOU CAN AND YOU WILL.
I believed he loved me because he said he did. I believed love was enough because he said it was. But he also said I was useless. You would think it was simple; doesn’t sound very complicated. A person who finds no use for you should obviously not be made your best friend and closest confidant. That does seem obvious, right? It’s not like I had to dig deep beyond the meaning of his words to get that. It was right there, from the time I was pregnant at least.
We’re told that holding on tight is a virtue. We’re told that long marriages are more valuable than whole human beings.
We’re taught that good men are hard to come by. . Without a man, you are a singleton, a reject, an eccentric, a weirdo, a broken human being. Nobody wants that. We all want to be accepted and loved.
LOVED, all caps.
You know what? Fuck what we’re told.
Found this list in my notes today.
10 ways to make J mad enough to curse me out and go drinking:
1. Ask if he’d like a tomato.
2. Make brunch plans
3. Suggest going to a patio instead of grocery shopping
4. As if you can watch something on tv later
5. If you’re stuck in traffic, suggest not going to the destination that’s far and hard to get to.
6. Ask him to let you know when he’s not stuck on the subway anymore.
7. Make cranberry sauce without giving advance notice
8. Offer him a breakfast sandwich more than once
9. Be skeptical about a startup opportunity
10. Ask if he felt bad watching SNL without me.
It wasn’t until I realized my flaws were ‘the flavor of the month’ that I woke up to the reality: I was not perfect, but I was not at fault.
This is one of those “don’t forget, don’t look back” posts… to remind myself, and others. There will be a follow up post to this that is brimming with positivity and corrective measures, I promise!! Right now I’m just feeling the need to recount… in order to heal from it.
It was probably about a month ago, maybe more, that I left the house in tears, desperate crazy flowing tears, to drive myself off a cliff, or into a wall, or into the lake…. (I didn’t, obviously, but that feeling was getting all too familiar.)
I was constantly feeling so trapped, so miserable, so hurt, so brutalized, so assassinated – that I was losing my will to live. J would be raging, and usually have brought or daughter into it somehow so that is was them vs. me (in his mind). I thought if I exited, she might be saved, because I was the problem.
A while before that, probably a few months, I had brought a belt down to the basement and tried to figure out how to hang myself.
Thankfully, I couldn’t figure it out, but that re-enforced my feeling of being a total and complete failure, as he told me many times that I was. I was a worthless piece of shit. Couldn’t even figure out how to off myself. He’d even have to figure that out for me……. I was that useless.
As I look back on it, I wonder what was it about the situation that made me want to die? Not leave town (couldn’t, daughter), not drink (been there done that), not run to the arms of another man (no thank you). I wanted desperately to die. To kill the pain. It was the result of MANY, MANY red flags compounded and ignored over the years.
———— Brutal! And guys, let me just temper this with a little character explanation…. I have never been a suicidal person AT ALL. There was this one time in high school that I slept with my window open in winter because I was so upset about something I just hoped the winter wind would ‘take me’ — LOL — that was as close as I had ever come to feeling suicidal. *comic relief?? takes deep breath*
So how on earth, many years later, did I end up with a man who valued me so little, and de-valued me so actively that I wanted to kill myself?
I know that people who have been in marriages like mine will identify with that feeling of losing themselves…. it’s the slow transformation from reality as you knew it to this other state – almost constant bewilderment and confusion. Self-doubt. An utterly crumpled sense of self – and a vague memory of who you used to be – or thought you were.
I felt crippled, up until a few weeks ago. When he was taken away.
I’m still working through how I got to that terrible place. And I’ve only had one therapy session which is about 24 shy of how many I probably need right now!!!
But my early sense of it is this – and please let it be a warning to anyone in a similar position. It is a mix of things that I did and he did, resulting in a terrible, terrible state of affairs:
10 Telltale sign of (my) Abusive Marriage
1. He called me names like useless, selfish, black hole, and regularly reminded me what a worthless person I was. He openly disregarded my feelings, including when I lost a close family member last year. He would say things like “poor you” to mock how I felt. RED FLAG
2. I allowed huge violations of myself by apologizing, rationalizing, placating, forgetting, absolving, and otherwise loving him after treating me like garbage.
3. He demonstrated no remorse for having hurt me, ever.
4. I did not stand up for things that were a part of me; friendships, music, movies, experiences.
5. He made no effort to improve himself or the relationship, but actively complained about me and my character. For years. Our old therapist called his behaviour ‘constructive dismissal’ – a form of termination by hostility.
6. I ignored my own instincts in favour of excuses. He was stressed, he was depressed…. it would get better….
7. He escalated fights in his own mind, and would come back to things after a rest angrier. Sometimes months and years later, he would still be able to jump right in to previous fights with no sign of calming/forgiving/forgetting…. If a topic came up in a restaurant, he would yell at me in the restaurant. It happened many times.
8. I used deflection and defence instead of assertiveness, most of the time. My poor attempts to say ‘not ok’ fell on deaf, angry ears.
9. He was consistently attracted to me and loyal to me, but not respectful of me. Major mind fuckage territory.
10. I regularly felt suicidal. Because together, with my permission and his behaviour, we were complicit in the slow and purposeful assassination of me. Myself and my soul. And PEOPLE – anyone still suffering – there is nobody in the whole wide world who can stop that but you. You are yours, and you are the only steward of your own ship. Steer it well. Take care. There is life after toxic love. Real life, real love….. shouldn’t hurt at all, nevermind hurt so bad you want to die.
Dearest YOU, Blogger Community…. Thank You For Following!
I never could have imagined that an anonymous blog could be so cathartic… and healing… and rewarding. It means so much to me! (Like, maybe too much? LOL)
Fellow bloggers – you are AWESOME!!!! 100 Followers strong and every single follow has brought me more strength and more courage.
Through you I am able to feel confident, where all my confidence had been lost.
Through you I am connected, where before I was feeling so isolated.
Through you I remember who I am and see the beauty of being-true-to-oneself through reading about who you are.
Through you I believe that a ‘better life’ is possible, if I believe.
Because of you I feel even more able to stand on my own two feet for the first time in my whole entire life. As long as I can be me, and you can be you – nothing can really go wrong.
I started this blog because I was quitting drinking in an effort to save my marriage. I was also going through the process of publishing my book (still am). And to top it all off, I was adjusting to a new life in luxury travel marketing at a pretty swanky organization (still adjusting, it’s a pretty intimidating world! We have yacht sized conference room tables! ).
But a few weeks ago, my life changed massively and permanently, and don’t think I would have been able to escape my situation without this blog in the background, and all of you somehow rooting for me? I have felt secure somehow, in this nest of non-judgemental bloggers who all have their own human struggles!
I have not regretted. I have barely cried. I have barely stopped mind you!! But I know I am moving in the direction of becoming a healthier, saner, more balanced person – and mother – who will be better equipped to give something back to the world for having gone through it.
In honour of you all I am going to start sharing some of the strength I have been gathering… tonight I’ve decided that I’m going to start volunteering at a women’s shelter. Through all of this, I have been aware that having a great job is a MAJOR difference between what happens to me next and what happens to women without financial security. I pledge to share this strength with others…. and help empower more people to say no to suffering, say yes to life…. and become the beautiful people they were born be.
It doesn’t really matter who you choose to love and love you, what matters is what you believe love is and isn’t, because you will explore that boundary. Love pushes you there.
Life pushes you there.
Once J and I had set our sights on each other, it was a done deal. We were the most in love, the wildest and craziest truest romance.
We watched True Romance on the plane ride home from our wedding in Mexico. We’re like that, we thought. Meant to be. I had found my Clarence Worley; dangerous, brave and all.
The first line of my wedding vow? (Don’t barf). I never dreamed I’d meet my perfect prince. But here you are. Standing before me in all your kindness and brilliance and strength……
(Did you barf?)
It’s ironic how many people get married without talking to each other about what love means to them, where the boundaries are, and what nurtures them vs. destroys them.
It’s even more ironic how many people get married knowing full well that something feels wrong, smells wrong, or just plain is wrong – but they can’t run, because it’s like a drug.
For me it was, anyway. On our first vacation together I was so HIGH on HIM that I thought he was slipping roofies into my margaritas. I felt so strange that whole trip. He barely noticed. He sort of glossed over me………. when I wasn’t drinking with him or gallivanting with him, I was extraneous. It was always his world, but his world mattered with me in it. That’s how he made me feel anyway. He showed me things and told me things and made me feel things I’d never even dreamed of.
I couldn’t believe that this handsome, six-foot, blue eyed, beautiful man had chosen me. And yes, he was a little ‘off’ in some ways, not everybody’s cup of tea, but I had a shine for him. Ah yes, the soft spot of having met your perfect match… the person who brings just the right lessons to your life.. those really complex parables that childhood has branded you with.
For me, it was the desire for love and protection from an alpha male. (Let’s say it together now… DADDY ISSUES… har har har… yes I know….)
Before J, my ex boyfriend was a very sweet, very neurotic man, we’re still good friends…. he was not the least bit alpha, and not the least bit capable of offering me any sort of ‘protection.’ His approval was nice, his friendship and companionship was very nice, when he wasn’t depressed, but something in me wanted that brute of a man. Indomitable, a force, someone who made me feel whisked off my feet.
Boy did J ever whisk.
When I left my ex for him, it was such a joke of a scene, now that I think about it. I was an idiot. I packed up a suitcase from the house that I owned with my ex and took it on the subway to some random station, and texted J – “Where are you Superman?”
Can I go back and smack myself??? I learned NOTHING from that break up.
I remember praying so hard that he would come and pick me up and my feet would never touch the ground again. We were in love. He was a whirlwind of a good time. We would drink and talk and drink and talk for hours. This was love. This was drunk love.
He never responded to my text that day. I ended up going to my parents with my suitcase. But later that day, I moved in with him.
D’oh! Why’d you go and do something like that Georgey??
I have never been very good at standing on my own two feet. Always flailing from this to that, not really being strong enough to be alone. Until now. Right now it’s all I want. And when all of this blows over, stabilizes, is all said and done……. I am going to publish my book finally, and then a second and a third… until my own two feet are the best gig in town. Imagine that. I must. I must imagine that.
strong brave new Georgey.