Today, I got my divorce finalized. It is a happy day, and probably this post is most appropriate on this day, to reflect again on just what I went through.
As I have made the truth about what has happened to me and what has been going on in my life more known, one thing I hear quite often besides people wondering “how” or “why” I put up with it for so long, was this question…
“What Were You Thinking?”
Now, mostly, this question isn’t being asked with a condescending tone, so don’t read it as if it’s being said snottily (like “oh my gosh, what were you thinking…”). Mostly, this gets asked of me in a tone that means more “what was my thought process during all this”, or that is to say, how did I deal with staying so long, and why didn’t I see my way clear sooner?
From any woman (or man) who’s been abused, I can assure you, that we all want to tell you, that to be asked this question is teeth-grittingly frustrating.
It is very easy for someone who does not know what it is like to endure an abusive relationship to simply shake their head and ask these questions as if the answer was so simple. To the abused person, the answer is far from simple, and it pains the heart to the very bottom of its core.
So, what was I thinking?
I have previously stated that I had doubts and regrets before I had ever even gotten married. While I was still engaged and I was being hurt, controlled, and abused, I second guessed my intentions to marry this person, and still told everyone who told me I shouldn’t marry him that they were “‘wrong'” about him.
I think mostly the sum of what I was thinking throughout 12 years of abuse was:
It will get better
I know I opened myself up to abuse because of a condition called “co-dependency”. Co-dependency goes something like this…..
You want to go see a movie. He wants to stay in and watch sports. You decide that you really just want to please him, and if he doesn’t want to go see a movie, then you’re fine with just staying in to see sports that you don’t really want to see, but since he does, you just want him to be happy.
We’ve all been there, and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that scenario at all. In a relationship, we all want to please our partner, and sometimes that means changing up what we envision in order to accommodate the other person enough to make them happy. To some degree, every one of us is co-dependent. We can’t be happy unless we know we’re making the other person happy, even at the risk of sacrificing your wants/needs/desires.
Now, the above scenario is pretty harmless, right? I mean, in the greater scheme of things, does it really matter if you go out to see a movie? Maybe you’ll see it tomorrow. Maybe you’ll both decide that you never really wanted to see it in the first place. It’s a pretty harmless thing.
However, when those small, harmless, “loving” accommodations occur regularly – multiple times a day, multiple times a week – and you realize they are solely one sided (one partner always sacrificing for the other and not vice-versa), you are co-dependent.
And the biggest thing a co-dependent person does is convince themselves that it’s OK to forfeit the things they love/desire to appease the other person because one day you “know it will get better”.
You figure that one day that person is “JUST” (there’s that word again – the JUST TRAP) going “see” your sacrifices and start to give in to you a bit to see you be as happy as you are clearly trying to make your partner.
You go on telling yourself that maybe next year you’ll do that thing you’ve wanted to do. Maybe you’ll just catch the movie on Netflix in 8 months. Maybe you really don’t think taking that trip was really that important.
Maybe he will “just see” how much it means to you and he will try to “accommodate” you. Maybe he will try to deal with it, and put up with “your demands” if you just work harder/try more/appease him greater. Maybe you know if you perform action A, you might stand a good chance of eliciting response B. And you convince yourself for a while that you’re finally getting through to your partner, because sometimes (just enough to keep you on the hook), your partner gives in to you if you meet enough stipulations. And you convince yourself for a while that this is how it should be until it gets better.
And suddenly, you look back on more than a decade of your life and realize you’ve been saying “maybe next year” for a whole lot of years…..
Coming to grips with realizing that “maybe it WON’T GET BETTER” is an extremely hard thing to do, especially after you’ve had your entire self-identity torn away piece by piece. Especially when you think you’re a “good person” and they should be a good person too, so you try extra hard to be “even better” in the hopes of eliciting some iota of a desirable response from your partner.
Ultimately, you get berated and demeaned for trying too hard to bring out the person you “THINK” is in there, and eventually you begin to think that you can just get by without. You think about being cursed at or yelled or hit or who knows what else happens in that cycle of abuse you endure if you “try” to step over (or out of) the line that has been drawn around you that you can’t ever cross.
Eventually, that all leads to you thinking that you can’t ever get free. It leads you to thinking you don’t deserve to get free. It leads you thinking you are gone. You are lost. You don’t matter.
That, to all those wondering – is what I was thinking while I watched the core of myself as a person be stripped away and abused for 12 years.
Now, what am I thinking?
I am thinking about moving forward! I am thinking about taking that trip that was too far, too expensive, too much “work”. I am thinking about watching the sun rise tomorrow and thinking about savoring life as it should be savored. I am thinking about living, as the song says, like I’m dying.