- Gender and Relationships
Are You a Statistic of Emotionally Abusive Relationships?
Famous last words?
It will never happen to you. You're much too smart for that. You are going into this thing with your eyes wide open. You've heard all the horror stories, but this isn't anything like that. Famous last words?
I'm talking about abusive relationships. And I know I'm speaking for and to millions of women and men across North America, or for that matter, the world over.
What causes us to become enmeshed so tightly in those kinds of associations? There are millions of healthy relationships. What makes it so difficult for some of us to find one? Could it be low self-esteem? Lack of love for self? Bad decisions? Genetics? Medical? Depression? A combination? I'm sure if you were to take a poll, 99% would say, "They loved me." Now there's a revelation! Did that love compensate for the physical or mental abuse (and in some cases both,) the neglect, or maybe the slights undermining your character or authority?
Different cases, same theme
The severity differs with each case, but the results are the same. Hurt, confusion, anger, depression, frustration, and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Can you picture yourself involved in a situation like the one I have described? Of course not, you say...yet every year, hundreds of men and women find themselves living similar if not worse lives.
I know you are asking yourself "Men, aren't they the problem?" No. Women do not have sole domain as spousal abuse victims. Hundreds of cases where men are the survivors of abusive relationships have become known over the last 30 years or so. There is a ‘non politically correct' term that is used to describe their situations, and because of that, men are not viewed with the same compassion except in extreme cases. Society has deemed them the stronger sex, so there is no possible way they could become embroiled in a relationship that would be classed as abusive, right. Well you would be very wrong to assume those facts are correct.
If you were to sit down and think about it for a minute, I'll be willing to bet you can remember an Uncle, Grandfather, Son, family friend, or acquaintance who meekly went along with whatever their spouses decided. Descriptive phrases like "He couldn't tie his shoes without my help" and "He doesn't have an opinion" were quite common when I was growing up. What I didn't realise was the fact that these men were trapped. Just because the majority of these associations weren't physical, does not negate the fact that they were still abusive.
At what point do we relinquish control over our individuality to become the offshoot of our partner's personality? The process can be so slow and insidious that we don't even realise we are handing over the reins until it is much too late to take them back without a fight. By that time, a lot of us are resigned to our lot in life and just don't have the strength, or are too afraid of the consequences should we try.
Now, I don't classify myself as a stupid woman, as the saying goes, I've been around the block a few times. But my past relationships fit right smack dab in the middle of the ‘horror stories'. Back then, I was young and naive, with no clue as to how healthy relationships worked. I fell into the ‘little woman' trap. I wasn't included in major decisions about my future, I was just expected to go with the flow, and after all, I just looked after the house, what did I know about finances or career moves? That position changed after I landed a job working at a local bank, but even as I revelled in my newfound financial emancipation, I was still far from being treated as an equal. It took several years of emotional abuse before my anger surfaced and I was able to walk away from the situation.
Same book different cover
Not realizing I was emotionally scarred, and believing that I was smart enough not to repeat my mistakes, I embarked on another liaison shortly after the demise of my previous one. However, I was a long way from worldly, and landed in a worse mess than the one I had just left. It just had a different cover. I don't know if I will ever achieve that lofty station, but at this stage of my life, I know what I don't want. I don't need anyone telling me I can only eat two slices of pizza, and putting the food away. (I am by no means so severely overweight that rationing my portions is necessary!) Or turning out the porch light, after promising to leave it on so my mother wouldn't injure herself climbing the stairs, just to save a few cents on the electricity bill. Losing it because pre-pasted wallpaper won't stick to the walls in an old house, (that has to be my fault, not because you have to ‘size' the walls first,) then throwing an antique chair through the living room window to emphasize the point. Giving up my pets to stop the constant nagging. Having to ensure the house was spotless, with everything in its place, to avoid the derogatory comments that targeted my backside and my thumb. Not watching TV because that was a waste of time, unless, of course, the program was either religious, or informative. Visiting outside the home, or going to a movie was frivolous. Having my friends ‘screened', not being allowed to speak to anyone for fear of reprisal. In short, being totally controlled. When is enough, enough?
After much research, I began to see an emotional pattern emerge, that is consistent with all abuse victims. Hurt follows confusion, and then frustration sets in. Anger trades top billing to depression and despondency with regularity, but for some reason, action is last on the list. Always one more ‘try', some other band aide, excuse or justification negated moving on. Breaking free is easy to preach, one of the hardest things to do, and in some cases, it seems, impossible.
Action is necessary
The major factor in all of this, I have discovered, is fear. Whether it is the fear of reprisal, starting over or of just being alone, this pseudo emotion can wreak havoc with not only your self-esteem, but strength of conviction as well. All too many times, we second-guess our initial decision to leave, and begin putting obstacles in our path...after all, we reason, things aren't that bad. At this point, we start the ‘what if' cycle. We are so used to living with the abuse, so conditioned, that we need a catastrophic event to justify our leaving the relationship.
Even though we have reached a crossroads in our lives, and are completely fed up with the situation, we still fear the forward motion our actions take. This crippling phenomenon is what keeps up locked in the loop. It takes great strength of character to break free of our fears, and take action for the wellbeing of our own lives. Many of us need the support of good friends and family in order to take the steps needed to move on, and in severe cases, there is Community Assistance. Without a support system in place, it is virtually impossible for the majority of abused life partners to make the necessary decisions to take charge of their destinies.
You may think that after the connection is severed, and you are away from the situation, the symptoms stop...but you would be wrong. The feelings can linger for years, locked away, only to resurface at the first inkling of budding intimacy.
This is not to say that the immediate relief of being away from the source of our emotional turbulence is any less powerful than it feels. The liberation can be intoxicating after being subjected to the confines of a controlling and abusive life style, especially if you have put many years into the relationship. It seems as if the weight of the world has been lifted from our shoulders, allowing us the freedom to do with our lives what we will. Watch movies, stay up late, talk to strangers, have drinks with a friend, all without reprisal. It can be very heady stuff, and hard to resist the temptation to believe that all is well, but that would be a mistake. The residual effects and scars take a long time to fade.
What does it take to eradicate the onslaught of negative emotions? For most, it's counselling of some form, whether private or group. Some seek solace in religion, and still others slog through it alone. Regardless of the methods used, the healing process takes time. You show me a person who is ‘over' the trauma in six months, and I'll show you someone who is in denial. Sometimes recovery from these types of relationships can take years, and hundreds of hours of work on your mental and emotional needs. This is not necessarily true of all cases; each individual is different, with varied backgrounds and severity levels; however the point I am making is that recovery is not a quick fix. But it is possible. There is no age limit when it comes to turning your life around and discovering the wonderful loving individual that you are. Our lives have value, and we each have something positive to offer.
Take it from someone who has ‘been there, done that, and bought the T-shirt.' It has been a long road, with my share of potholes, and I must admit a couple of deep ditches, but it was more than worth the time and effort spent.
It's time to wake up, Cinderella, take that first step that will change your life for the better. You deserve it.
Copyright Enelle Lamb 2008 - Please do not copy and paste this article, but feel free to post a link using this url: http://hubpages.com/_enelle/hub/Wake-up-Cinderella