Loving Fairly After Abuse, The Art of Giving and Accepting Love, by Melissa Littles
The path of healing..
I remember him saying to me..."you have choices, you can either let me love you for the rest of my life or punish yourself by being scared of love for the rest of your life, make a decision". That seemed ridiculously easy for him to say, yet it honestly summed it all up in one very poignant sentence. He was right, and that's why I finally had to admit. I was in love.
It's amazing how the human mind and spirit works. How is it that I somehow found the strength to fight my way out of a two year nightmare, not only due to a will to survive, but also because I longed for peace, and I knew I was deserving of a happy, healthy, relationship. So, how could I fight so hard to be rid of such a negative entity in my life and somehow seemingly fight just as hard to keep anything positive from entering my life after the fact?
In the process of this internal research so to speak, I have come to a conclusion. When the heart thinks before the head, decisions can be made in haste, blurred with clouded judgment made before all the facts known to the head can lead the heart. However, when the head thinks before the heart, it is much easier to dismiss the emotionally based heart felt decisions. This seems like the logical, educated way of thinking, and for the most part, I would agree, with one exception. Domestic abuse. Many victims of domestic abuse feel a sense of guilt for allowing their hearts to lead their heads from the very beginning. Although we may feel a sense of satisfaction and victory when we find our way out of the abuse, the feelings of guilt, shame, embarrassment, anger and lack of confidence can still remain. We have a tendency to know in our head that it was not our fault but feel in our heart that our own bad decisions led our hearts to become involved from the get go. This is why the healing process is so important for victims of domestic abuse before any attempt at entering into a new relationship should be entertained.
Feelings common to survivors of abusive relationships include:
- Shame and/or embarrassment
- loss of self confidence and self esteem
- loss of trust, even in those who have proven to be trustworthy
- emotionally secluding oneself from family or friends and new relationships
- anger at self, which can manifest in self punishing behaviors
- cynicism, a feeling that nothing is really going to work out so why bother
- anxiety and/or depression
Sometimes the hardest part to begin the path of recovery and healing is simply allowing yourself to love yourself. As cliché as that sounds, it is a key component to the healing process, one of which you may need to seek outside help to conquer.
I remember when I first started dating my now husband, the simplest gesture of kindness or affection would become twisted inside my mind. Survival mode. The promise so many survivors of abuse make to themselves..."if I ever get out of this situation I promise to never make the same mistake again". That promise which led in part to your escape, can be the same promise which leaves you a prisoner of a different kind. While we justify our behavior as protecting ourselves, when it comes to genuinely wanting to move forward with our lives, and doing so in the way we told ourselves we deserve, you cannot do so with self punishing behavior. And to stop this cycle, we must heal ourselves.
I cannot remember how many times while in my abusive relationship I thought to myself, "this isn't fair, why am I being blamed for someone elses mistakes?" "Why does he always say I'm just like the rest of them"? It's a hard pill to swallow when a loving, supporting man comes into your life, consistently shows his good character and yet you find yourself thinking "he was nice in the beginning too. They're all nice in the beginning. He said he loved me too. He said he would never hurt me. I've heard all this before". Back to the head versus the heart theory, only in reverse. Now my head is telling me that this is a good man and I am smarter and wiser and know this is different but my heart is warning my head to keep the walls up. Protect yourself. I knew early on I was not ready to love again and I absolutely knew this good man deserved better.
Remember your mother telling you "if something is meant to be, it will be"? I don't know if I exactly believe that as it's spoken but what I do know is this; God has the map, he knows the route, and for me personally, he was waiting for a girl to stop thinking just with her head and her heart. He was waiting for her to start listening. It took a long time for me to let go. It took even longer for me to acknowledge that the hard part was over and I could have peace and happiness and give and receive love again, but only if I allowed it of myself. I had to stop waiting for the other shoe to drop or for the proverbial rug to be ripped from beneath me. I do associate one of my mother's phrases with the healing experience...."why don't you use some of that energy being mad and go clean your room". My focus was off balance. I was spending so much time and energy keeping my walls up, protecting myself from the past and preventing anything bad from reoccurring that I was missing the point of the misery it was truly causing me. I had to allow myself to admit that I was preventing my own happiness. I needed to use that energy to clean my own house.
Survivors of abusive relationships need to find ways to help themselves progress down the path of healing. In addition to professional counseling there are many resources available to those who need some help and direction down the road ahead. There are self help books, online forums, survivor groups and church organizations. Use your personal support system of friends and family to help you maintain a positive outlook.
Points to remember:
- Love yourself first. Allow yourself the things you said you deserved when trying to get out of the abuse; Respect, kindness, peaceful thoughts, pleasure, happiness. Be proud of your accomplishments.
- When remembering the past, find the positive in the fact you left it behind, do not create a negative environment by relating it to your future.
- Stop the blame game. Any new relationship will be doomed from the start if you are still blaming yourself for falling victim to an abusive relationship. You cannot move forward as long as you continue to focus on the past and continue to inflict self punishment for any lapse in judgment, bad decision or mistakes you feel contributed to you being in an abusing relationship. It was not your fault. What's done is done.
- Love fairly. When entering into new relationships do not impose your abusers past behavior onto new relationships in your life. Allowing yourself to receive love and affection with no comparisons to past negatives is key in building a healthy, loving relationship. Remember, that was then, this is now. Your new partner deserves to be treated just as you desire to be treated. Build a partnership of mutual love, trust and respect.
- Do not shut your loved ones out. Resist the urge to keep your walls up and your moat filled. Let your guard down, allow those who are genuine and kind to be there for you.
- Forgiveness is key. Forgive yourself for any perception you have that you were to blame. Forgive your abuser for the pain and emotional damage inflicted upon you. You will never forget, but you can work towards forgiveness. Use that energy to focus on a positive. You cannot move forward or heal while harboring ill will, anger or resentment from the past. You must let it go.
The road to healing and recovery has not been an easy one for me. To say I was my own worst enemy at times is fair. To say that I am very blessed that I finally made the choice to let go of the past and "clean my room" would be an understatement. God's plan for me has been there from the start, I don't believe God does things for you. As my wonderful husband said back then, "You have choices". I chose to listen...to God, to my head and to my heart. I am blessed to be able to have learned from the past, and in turn, I am allowing myself to enjoy the love I have to give, and all the love that my husband and family brings me each day. I don't dwell on what was, I have learned to put it to a positive use. Most importantly, I have no regrets. Everything happens for a reason. I do not think I would have the appreciation for my life today had it not been for everything my past has taught me. Lessons learned in time to live another day, now almost skipping down the path of bliss in progress.
If you are being abused or know someone being abused, call the National Domestic Violence hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE, or call your local Department of Women and Children’s Family Services. There are resources available to victims of domestic violence and professionals who can help you or a loved one with information needed to implement a plan to get out safely.
The Joyful Heart Foundation, for Survivors of Abuse
Domestic Violence Meetup Group
- Domestic Violence Meetup Groups - Domestic Violence Meetups
Helps groups of people with shared interests plan meetings and form offline clubs in local communities around the world about Domestic Violence
Great Book, Voices of Women Who Broke Free
- Surviving Domestic Violence: Voices of Women... by Elaine Weiss
Summary, Quotes, Characters, and more from Surviving Domestic Violence: Voices of Women Who Broke Free, by Elaine Weiss.