The first time it happened I don’t even think it settled in for a day or so. We were in a fight about something when suddenly his hands were wrapped tightly around my neck and I was pinned up against the wall. He didn’t hit me. There was never striking by hand. Most of the time I was shoved and pushed into walls or furniture, shoved up against a wall and pinned against it beyond my will. Thrown head first into a headboard, resulting in a bloody nose. One time in the middle of a fight the shotgun was suddenly taken down off the wall. There is nothing like seeing your partner grab a gun during a fight.
Those were the physical things. The verbal attacks were about as damaging. “You’ll never amount to anything.” Or “If it wasn’t for your long hair you wouldn’t even be remotely attractive. Don’t ever cut it, or you’ll be nothing.” Or “Gee, looks like you’ve lost some weight, I think your ass seems less wide than normal.”
Fear, control, manipulation and threats were a part of my daily life. Combine all that joy with late nights out drinking and you may wonder why I didn’t go running for the door – right? What’s wrong with women (or men) who stay in these relationships anyway? (Domestic abuse victims are approximately 85% women and 15% men.)
Nothing. Well, nothing at the start other than a good heart, a bent towards forgiveness and searching for love in the wrong place. At the end of enduring this type of relationship for any length of time a lot of damage has been done. Over 38 million women will find themselves the victim of abuse at the hands of their intimate partner at some time during their life. See this link for even more sobering facts.
Here are some insights about abusive relationships from someone that’s been there. Even if you don’t want to admit it, if you are in an abusive relationship then these are truths for you also, as painful as they may be to admit.
1. You are worth more
What starts off as well intentioned forgiveness turns into forfeiting your life for someone who is never going to be capable of being a truly healthy partner. Controlling, abusive partners need help. You are worth more in this life than waiting for their sickness to get better. You are worth a partner that respects you exactly as you are. You are worthy of a partner that does not control you or force you to hide parts of who you are.
What if you even had a partner that was there to be a catalyst – even to your own personal growth in a healthy way? Imagine how far you could go in your life by shedding what is dragging you down. The longer you stay, the more difficult you will find the truth something you believe. Experiencing abuse will eventually rob you of your self-worth.
2. It won’t get better
After every fight you hear promise after promise of how it will get better, and how sorry they are. It won’t get better. Your abusive partner has already shown a lack of respect for you, and that will not improve by putting up with being treated with abuse. Better exists, but not inside this relationship. It took years for them to learn to deal with people in this abusive, controlling, manipulative way. It will take a lifetime for them to unlearn it, and that is only if they want to do the difficult work required with help.
Back to point one: you are worth more than forfeiting your life. The next time you want to fill yourself with false hope that this could change, please read these facts about your future staying with your abuser.
3. This is not your problem to fix
Being the victim in these relationships can cause you to think, “If only I had dressed better, or cleaned the house better, or been more affectionate… then maybe the fight wouldn’t have started.”
You should never think this way. If you had done everything perfectly the fight still would have started. The abuse still would have happened. Your partner is fighting something in themselves not of you, but taken out upon you. Nothing you do or don’t do can fix them or prevent this from happening again. You are not in control of this situation no matter how wonderful you are to them.
4. There is no prize for who survives the worst
Ask yourself, “Why am I hanging on to this?” What do you have to gain? There is no award at the end of years of long abusive relationships except a heart full of regret. Just because you love this person does not give you to right to forfeit the gift of your life.
You are worthy of wonderful, healthy, loving blessings. You are not serving your life’s purpose by putting yourself in this jail, wasting your gifts from being shared with the world, under this person’s control and abuse. Fast forward your life to age seventy. What will you regret most?
5. You can help others
Abuse of all sorts is still hidden in our society and not talked about openly. Victims shield their abusers from judgement by staying quiet and not reaching out to others. It is common to stay silent to even your closest family or friends about abuse because of point 2, above – you are still in denial that it will get better. As victims we dream of the day the pain will end and they will see our worth, so we decide not to tell our family and friends. We fear judgement of our partner, our choices and ourselves.
If you believe everything happens for a reason, then maybe the reason this has happened was for you to overcome this struggle and grow from it so you can help others. My situation was not something I often talked about unless I met someone I recognized as possibly in the same situation. In those cases I always shared my story in private and encouraged them to reach out. There are ways to overcome and transcend this part of life.
No, getting out of an abusive, controlling relationship isn’t easy. It’s scary, difficult and at times you will want to retreat. I personally remember about six months of being in fear for my safety in every way. But staying and giving your life up to this person who has zero value for you is not the answer. Reach out to someone you trust. For more resources about what steps to consider to actually get out this is a great link with a helpline link near the bottom of the article.
Even though my experience with this happened over twenty years ago, it’s still a part of who I am. The experience changed me in a way nothing else could. The most difficult part of the entire thing wasn’t actually the abuse. The most difficult part was letting myself down for not walking away sooner. The most difficult part was forgiving myself for putting up with far less than I deserved. Forgiving myself took far longer than forgiving him.
Remember that when you think about just treading water and just waiting a bit longer to see what happens. Give yourself a chance at life. You are worth so much more!
If you are in, or know someone who is in an abusive relationship, consider checking this link.
If you are in the United States then you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224