Doesn’t that drive you crazy?! He is a mean S.O.B at home but, on the flip side … everyone loves him.
He’s fun to be around, even lights up the room. He’s smart, handsome (even ruggedly good looking), charismatic, and on the flip side, he hits you, threatens you, punches holes in walls and throws furniture (and you) around.
Because he presents himself as a solid guy, a pillar of the community, he may even be a pastor or minister, who is going to believe that he’s an abuser?
We protect him, hide our bruises, never speak our Truth, and pretend our marriage is normal. Who is going to believe we lived in domestic abuse for years?
Even after we left the relationship, we were afraid to speak our Truth, we chose not to tell friends or co-workers why we really left. We continue the charade.
That is our dilemma, isn’t it?
How did we get into this mess?
Well, because he is smart, handsome (even ruggedly good looking) and charismatic. He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The wolf side, the flip side, didn’t show up until we were committed to the relationship; until we were in too deep to get out.
Everyone else sees the sheep. We get the wolf.
“In too deep to get out?”, I found myself thinking. Those who have not experienced domestic abuse don’t understand what that means.
Those who have not experienced domestic abuse do not understand that we:
- loved our abuser
- cling to the sheep even though we get much more of the wolf
- believe and hope that he will change
- have a hard time admitting, even to ourselves, that abuse is our reality
- convince ourselves that if we just love him enough the abuse will stop
- believe it’s our responsibility to be the strong, centered, supportive spouse
- believe in marriage commitment and vows
- are embarrassed to have lived in abuse
- are ashamed that we allowed ourselves to be treated that way
- feel guilty for leaving, breaking the family apart
Right? I bet you are shaking your head up and down because you have thought and lived every single one of those statements.
We lived on the flip-side. Most of the time in public we spent time with the sheep, just like everyone else. We had fun. He could dance. He lit up the room. We were even proud to be by his side.
When we got home, the wolf showed up. He criticized things we said. He berated us for talking to our best friend’s husband. He pointed out that we don’t dance as well as he does, we don’t have his gregarious skills, we are absolutely not good enough … for anything.
That was our reality.
It is not an easy task, erasing and eliminating all the negativity, undermining, emotional damage and bruises our “kind and loving” husband has created.
Even years after we’ve left, we are walking wounded. Memories rush into our minds at the strangest, and most inopportune, times. We find ourselves listening to the recordings of his voice in our minds telling us we aren’t good enough.
How long are we going to allow that to happen? How long are we willing to remain walking and wounded? How long do we choose to wallow in victimhood?
I suggest that you take as long as it takes. There is no rush. Learning new ways of thinking. Taking steps out of the horror still raging in your mind, and choosing to look at your life from a different and new perspective is not simple or easy.
It can be done. You can do it. Thousands of women have.
The Key? Taking responsibility for our responses to what happens in our lives. Re-framing our past. Choosing a new perspective.
- Yes, you lived in abuse.
- Yes, you were committed to marriage and to your husband.
- Yes, you made excuse.
- Yes, you loved him.
- Yes, you thought you could love him enough that he’d love you that much, too.
- Yes, you thought you could change him.
I bet you still miss him sometimes.
Changing your perspective means that you accept all those things you endured, the good the bad and the ugly. They happened. You did not cause his anger and violence. You can’t control him. You can’t cure his problems.
Here’s a huge lesson:
- He created and caused the anger and violence. It never had anything to do with you. Except that you got the brunt of it.
- He is the only one who can control his behavior. Not you, not anyone but him. You are responsible for yourself, your behavior, your life. He is responsible for his self, his behavior, his life.
- If and when he ever admits that he has anger issues, a violent and aggressive personality and he goes to therapy and takes his med, he may be able to cure his problems. Until then, nothing changes. Odds are very good, nothing is going to change. When you left, he moved on to his next victim, didn’t he?
Changing him is his responsibility, not yours. No matter how hard you try, he has to do the work.
And so do you!
You are not responsible for living in abuse. You didn’t make the choice to live in fear, walking on eggshells, worrying about what you do, how your talk, what you said. You did not deserve that life.
You were attracted to the abuser. You saw and fell in love with the sheep. On some level you recognized the wolf. He grew up in an abusive family. He lived in foster homes. His parents were addicts and he was never loved as a child. His sad life story pulled you in.
We survivors of abuse have big hearts. We are fixers. We are strong women, until the abuser beats our strength out of us (either physically or emotionally). We love and commit very deeply. We are supporters of our friends and partners. We become help-mates. We become door-mats. We become abused spouses or girlfriends. That wasn’t our intention. We didn’t create the abuse.
We did make excuses, to friends, family and friends. We made excuses to ourselves.
To avoid being attracted to another deceptive sheep, it is our responsibility to change the programmed patterns in our brains. It is our responsibility to discover and excavate the thoughts and actions we were taught, probably as kids, that cause us to be attracted to abusers.
If you grew up in abuse, then you know why you’re attracted to abusers. That energy feels comfortable. You recognize it. Behind the charisma, charming smile, kind and helpful acts, you “feel” the wolf and it feels normal to you.
That’s not your fault. It’s how you were programmed.
I was not raised in an abusive home. I was taught as a child to make excuses for my dyslexic brothers. I was taught males could treat me poorly and I had to deal with it.
When my sheep in wolves clothing came along, he “felt normal” to me. I recognized his energy…he recognized mine. I believed it was my job to help him, to make excuses for him, to love him so much that he’s stop hurting me. He caused me to believe I deserved to be hurt because I wasn’t perfect, smart enough, or as angry as him.
I tried for 34 years. It didn’t work. It would not have worked had I stayed another 34 years. He is who he is. He’s not likely to change. Accepting that reality is hard. We don’t want to admit we can’t help.
I felt like I was stupid. I believed I had wasted 34 years of my life. I thought I was the only one who would choose to live in that hell.
I didn’t realize there are millions of women who lived, believed and felt just like me.
Seeking and speaking with women who had also escaped abuse, reading books, journaling, taking classes, attending webinars, and everything else I could find to do…I worked my way out of being the kind of women who attracts abusers.
And, that brings us to today.
Because of my past life, I am able to relate to women who share my history.
Having embraced the belief that I could change my abuser, I am on solid foundation to know that isn’t possible.
I lived in abuse, survived every cycle of the insipid lifestyle, and came out healthy and happy on the other side. I am empowered to share my story and experience. I serve as a beacon for other survivors. I share tools and lessons so others can follow my path. www.SurvivingAbuse network.com
It’s not simple and it’s not easy.
It is possible.
Remember, if we don’t change, nothing changes.