But he never hit me.
How could I explain to someone that I believed it was partly my fault, even though I was embarrassed to hear those beaten woman’s words spoken from my lips.
No one really understood. No one knew him like I did. It was my job to protect him from the truth of what he did to me. I couldn’t let them think he was a monster. I wouldn’t tell anyone. I was entirely alone. But he never hit me.
My solitude meant that I could no longer see the reflection in other people’s eyes indicating what was normal. I could only see the reflection in his eyes and began to believe what he told me about myself. I began to believe his irrational explanations despite my own heart and eyes.
I let him define reality. I became isolated. It became easier to cut off my support networks completely than to have to lie about everything. Than to face the humiliation of my reality. A part of me knew that once they knew the extent of what was happening, they would force me to get out for good. I wouldn’t be able to go back. I knew I would always need to even in the worst of times. But he never hit me.
I set a benchmark. The red line I wouldn’t cross. The minute he hit me, I would leave. But the truth is, I know I wouldn’t have left then either.
I would have rationalized that in hitting me, he would realize how out of hand things were. Everything would change now. I wouldn’t have left. By hurting me, he showed me he loved me. He cared enough to go that crazy. He cared so much that he was overwhelmed by anger or jealousy or sadness and simply couldn’t control himself.
When it was over, I wasn’t permitted to mourn him. No one could understand how love, hate, fear, and comfort could coexist simultaneously. They could not understand that in addition to my abuser, I also lost my confidant, the person to make dinner with, the person to watch movies with on a rainy Sunday, the person to laugh with, the person who knew me. I lost my companion.
How can you explain to someone that the abuse was only a part of who he was? How do you explain that to yourself?
There are still days when I remember tender moments and wonder if it really was that bad. I still struggle with reconciling how he could love me to the point of tears and yet hurt me as if I was an enemy.
Like a child, I’m learning to redefine the borders of normal behavior and to realign my expectations. I remind myself that acts of violence can never be acts of love.
For the first time, I see my own reflection in other women who have emerged from the depths of such darkness. Indescribably courageous women whom I have never met, but who have shared their stories and in doing so, saved me.
These women embraced me with their pain and unknowingly convinced me that I was not alone, that I am worthy of more. I hadn’t believed that singular truth in a very long time.
Knowing that others were there has allowed the shame to dissipate. I used to default to the trained belief that I was crazy, overly sensitive or had imagined it all because I could not reconcile the love and the abuse. I have permitted myself to accept that both existed.
You may like to read How To Stop Feeling Sorry For Toxic People
Their stories have allowed me to forgive myself. To recognize how arbitrary that red line was. Seeing myself in their eyes has allowed me to name my abuser. To name my experience as an abused woman. And then to let go.