We met the summer before I was to become a freshman in college, he was tall, cute and in my own words ‘an older man’ (four years older). But I was intrigued because he wasn’t like the boys in high school that were immature and silly, he had a real job and his own car. He would be my first everything including encounter with cheating and abuse. The first two years of our relationship were fine as we were long distance, but when he moved to live with me things took a violent turn. I can remember the first time he hit me, it came as such a shock I didn’t really know what to do, I remember it till this day, he punched me three times in the head and tried to pull my eye out of the socket. The police were called, my parents were called and I was taken to the hospital for treatment. I still did not say good bye, but after that I began to fight back and when we fought it was dirty, punches were thrown, memories destroyed and vicious words tossed around like ammunition to see who could hurt the other the most. We would find each other fighting like enemies and making up like lovers, it was a horrible debilitating cycle that many people find themselves involved in. Although the physical scars have long since healed, dealing with such hatred and negativity left many internal scars some of which are still slightly open. I’ve often wondered why I remained in that relationship for so long and have had people ask me the same. I came up with three main reasons why I and many other people remain, I’ll admit for me in essence they are all excuses for not loving myself enough to leave the situation.
Our souls agreed: My ex and I were both fractured human beings for different reasons, he grew up in a household where he saw his dad beat his mom and I had come from a home where my dad never hit me and had loving parents but dealt with other issues that wrecked my self-esteem. Because I didn’t truly love me Somewhere deep inside I agreed with treatment that told me I was unworthy of love and being handled lovingly. Beyond the insecurities I’d built up being molested as a child, years of constant bullying and a tremendous amount of self-inflicted deprecation, his words confirmed what I already felt about myself. There was always someone prettier right around the corner because I wasn’t that beautiful, my body was ugly and skinny, I could never get another man to care for me etc etc. I ate the negativity up and it only fed my unhealthy negative self image. I stayed because I didn’t think I deserved better.
There was benefit: As I said my self esteem was not the greatest, I allowed people to walk over me, say whatever they wanted and get away with taking advantage of me. I internalized a lot of pain and the only time I seemed to be able to release it was when I was angry, I didn’t have (and am still working on) the tools for communicating effectively within the boundaries of a respectful and nonaggressive confrontation or argument. In that situation I felt vindicated in venting through painful words and fighting back because he was just as aggressive as I was, it actually felt good to release the frustration and in some twisted way speak up for myself, it was a rush. Unfortunately, it’s how I continued to handle confrontation in my relationships going forward and am now paying the consequences as I continued to fight dirty verbally when angry. In addition I also received sympathy from my friends, when I would have bruises or went to the hospital. It felt good to know people cared for me and had my back but in return I easily allowed myself to play the role of the victim which is something that’s haunted me for years.
There was comfort in the pain: In addition to being comfortable with him, I also believe the torment felt familiar from the years of bullying as a child by peers. The name calling and the breaking down of me as a person that I had allowed in the past was akin to his speech when it came to me. After being with someone for years at a time many of us can become reliant on them being in our lives and that attachment, albeit healthy or not, makes it more difficult to leave the relationship. Change is scary, I didn’t want the burden of getting to know someone else’s flaws, faults and secret skeletons that lurked behind their closet doors. I reigned myself to stay with him because I thought it was love and I knew what to expect.
The reasons people remain in abusive relationships vary vastly, there is no cookie cutter clue as to why some are willing to put up with physical harm. If you or someone you know are in a destructive relationship I would take a look at this article I wrote on what to do to get out! I sincerely pray for your healing, physical and spiritual restoration and release from such a situation.