It was slow and insidious at first. I didn’t realize what he was setting me up for. I thought he loved me, but he didn’t. Instead, to him, I was something he owned. I became an extension of him, like his arm or his leg. He did not know how to deal with his own emotions so he set up a cycle where he released his feelings through abusing me. This was my life. This was my marriage.
At first his friends warned me that he had a temper. I told them that I could handle it. I figured that if I loved him enough his anger would go away. He had had so many people leave him, his dad had died, his mom ignored him and the rest of his family was distant too. I felt sorry for him. I resolved that I would love him like no one else. What I didn’t know was that they saw his temper. They saw his violence and they didn’t know what to do about it, so they kept him at an arms length. What I also didn’t know was his temper had put a kid in the hospital when he was 16. A fellow teen ended up in intensive care and he had a restraining order against him. He spent a lot of his time in and out of the police station. It was an issue. An issue I didn’t want to see. I only wanted to see the quiet, tall, dark and handsome man that I had fallen in love with.
A victim of abuse will live in a level of denial. You fall in love, you think he or she is all you ever wanted and then you start to see a dark side. A side that snaps at you or yells at you. Maybe he or she breaks something when they are angry. All red flags if you look at any “Are you being abused?” documentation, but as a victim you just don’t want to see it. You want to live your fairy tale. You want to believe that he or she loves you and is just a troubled person who needs more understanding than most. You don’t want to go through a break up so you hold on through the bad times and cheer during the good times. Over time the bad times happen more and more and before you know it there is barely a good second in your life. I lived in that denial. I lived in that denial for almost 15 years. Then I woke up.
A moment will happen in a victims life that will jolt them “awake”. They will no longer be able to live in denial and they will see what is happening in their life is abuse. They will see that the man or woman they love has abused them in many different ways. It will shatter them and they will not know, at first, how to pick up the pieces. Everything they thought they knew will be questioned. Many fall into depression or they may become suicidal. It can become a very scary time for a victim or as I like to call them, a Survivor. I know that when I “woke” up my world was rocked to the core. I no longer trusted the world around me. My waking moment was when I saw him physically abuse our toddler son. He thought I had turned my back but out of my peripheral vision I saw him push our toddler son on the stairs so that he fell forward and smacked his head on the laminate flooring. I screamed, “What are you doing?” and ran forward to grab my screaming son. My now exes response was, “I didn’t push him that hard.” No apology, no concern. It was in that moment that I saw who my husband was; a cold uncaring man who was out to hurt his family. I knew in that moment that I had to start protecting myself and my young children.
Every Survivor’s moment is different. You, as a bystander, may already know that their partner is abusing them. There realization may come as no surprise to you, but please understand that to them their world is falling apart. They need love, understanding, patience and just someone to “be” with. Someone who will listen as they sort our this mess. It won’t be easy as a bystander to watch any of this. You will worry about them, you will watch them cry and you may even watch them go back. It plan out sucks to watch. All I can say is please try to hang on. They need you. They are full of self doubt, little or no self worth and they need someone who is just there, loving them through it all.
If you are the Survivor having your “waking” moment let me say that I know it hurts. I know that this is horrible and is totally not what you wanted. I know you wanted what you see other people having, love and caring from a special person, but let me tell you abuse is NOT love. Never, ever is it love. You deserve so much more than they are giving you and you are not any of the worthless things they may have told you , you are. I know that breaking this denial, making these changes is hard, but I do believe that you can do them. I didn’t think I could. I figured I would be stuck in my abusive marriage forever. I would never be able to afford to leave and wouldn’t I be a horrible mother splitting up my family? Then I realized that he had already split up our family when he started abusing us. We were already broken. By leaving I was just doing what needed to be done to protect myself and my children from further pain. I was doing the right thing. Yes there have been hurdles, but I faced each one head on and was determined to survive. You too can survive. You too can do it! I truly believe in you. So break the denial, see the ugly for what it is, hold on, pray, reach out for support and reach for a better life where you are valued and loved.
PS. If you are thinking about leaving your abusive relationship please know that your priority needs to be your safety. Do not tell your abuser that you are planning to leave as the abuse will often escalate. The most dangerous time for a Survivor of abuse is when they plan to leave or have just left. To help you plan a safe escape I encourage you to create a Safety Plan. Please follow the link below and scroll to the bottom of the page that comes up to download a Safety Plan for free.