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So today was a dreary day where I live. Lots of thunderstorms and rain, which meant staying close to home and naps, lots of naps. So I used the day to catch up on much needed rest, hanging out with my son, and watching a few videos of some of my favorite speakers. Today was Trent Shelton, he was promoting his new book in a live video and taking questions from the Rehab Family. Of course, lots of people made encouraging comments, showed gratitude for the difference he's made in their lives through his words, etc. etc. etc.
At one point, he decided to read a bit from one of the chapters of his book, discussing why it's necessary sometimes to burn bridges. These bridges of course being relationships with people in general—not just intimate ones. Work relationships, friendships, even family relationships when it's not conducive to your growth. So of course, many people began to comment about how they are currently "burning bridges," so to speak, to help themselves heal and grow.
There were a few comments that touched on abusive relationships they were trying to clear from their lives. I too have done this recently, so when I saw a reply stating how the commenter didn't understand why people stayed in those relationships for so long, I realized those not in it don't get it. So I thought tonight I would touch on this from my own personal experience.
I'd like to think of myself as a strong-willed and strong-minded individual. I'm comfortable in my skin for the most part and confident in who I am, overall. I'm loyal and trustworthy, honest and a good listener. I try to be there for my friends when they need me and help them when I can. When I'm in a relationship, I'm a good partner, supportive and encouraging, faithful and dedicated. So how on Earth did I find myself in a completely toxic relationship with a man that I was simply just drawn to over and over again?
There was this energy he possessed that I couldn't stay away from. I was married—and now divorced and a single mother—and I felt chaotic because of what happened to end my marriage. Yet, here was this man, who with a simple hug could calm all the restlessness I felt inside. When an anxiety attack began, his voice alone over the phone could calm me down and stop it dead in its tracks. Insomnia, which haunts me everyday, would lose every night the second I laid my head on his chest to fall asleep. He was saving me from drowning when I thought I couldn't swim any longer. Through all of that, he would later become the biggest cause of my pain and heartbreak.
So why did I stay three-plus years? That's a good question. Often times I think most abusive people are narcissistic, and have a way of manipulating their targets. Let's face it, that's what we are... targets. Often times they're detached and so their feelings are hardly ever real. There often develops a cycle that someone on the outside doesn't understand and so often they're train of thought is... just leave. For the person caught in the cycle, it's never that easy. There is often a pattern set in the beginning and they are gradually set in motion. These types of individuals often manipulate situations and people to their benefit; they begin to strip away their confidence. I know you hear it all the time, and you think "oh a weak woman." However, not all women are weak to begin with. Some of these women are strong, confident women to begin with—women you'd never expect to find in these situations. Mentally, these people—and it can be men too—are often broken down in this manner first, and it often accompanies an emotional break down, too. This type of "abuse" is so hard to fight because it shakes your very foundation. This was my case, he was amazing in the beginning, and then slowly he implemented his "plan."
Fast forward years into it and I found myself afraid to leave because I didn't think I could. I didn't think I could make it, and what would I be without him? I'd be free!!! So I had to take the chance and go! The thing is, I had to be ready. I had to know the risk of being alone and not knowing what I was going to do was more promising than the current situation. That's why people stay, because they have to come to the crossroads of staying in the toxic mess or venturing into an unsure future that could be full of promise and struggle.
Now, on the flip side, I had a conversation with a young man tonight about this topic. He brought is it abuse or is it becoming comfortable with being used? Who is really abusing you... the other person or yourself by accepting the behavior? Now this was an interesting point. At first, I was bothered by this because I felt like it was taking blame off the abuser and placing it on the person that is the subject of abuse. This was not the case once I pointed out that's what it seemed like. I could see what he was saying, and yes, to some degree their is fault in accepting the behavior, not being stronger, and walking away when it first happened. I allowed him to use me instead of walking away. I can accept my fault in the relationship and the time I gave to someone who wasn't deserving of it.
I think with all of this, I'm hoping I have given some answers and plenty of information to mull over. I know for myself I am definitely going to have a lot to think about. I do know I have walked away wiser and more secure in what I am willing to accept from the next man that tries to walk into my life. I know I will not allow myself to find myself in that situation again. I will protect my energy and my heart, but not be afraid to move forward.