I wish I could bring something therapeutically beneficial to the table this morning. What I can do is let you take a peek inside the therapeutic process of a “domestic abuse victim”. That’s what my therapist called me yesterday. Well, that’s very real, isn’t it?
It gets very real when your therapist mentions the Domestic Abuse Project. “Have you heard of it?”
Domestic violence is a slippery subject. It is very slippery for me because the question to be asked and answered is this: Am I married to an abuser or a man who, at times, abuses? It all sounds like semantic hairsplitting, and one might ask if there is even a difference. Yes, there is a difference. An abuser knows what they are doing, and they abuse with malicious intent. Perhaps with premeditation. That’s a simple definition. A person who engages in abusive behavior does not plan their abuse. They have a reactionary nature most likely precipitated by a mental illness diagnosis like PTSD, an anxiety disorder, a personality disorder, or even substance abuse issues like alcoholism. In other words, you are often interfacing with their disorder when they abuse rather than their person. The latter is my situation. I am married to a disorder and know his disorder intimately. I don’t think I know him very well at all.
This is not an excuse or a justification for any sort of abuse. It is merely an explanation.
It occurred to me a few weeks ago that I didn’t want to be in the marriage anymore. My therapist asked me what clicked.
“My hip. It hurts all the time. It’s damp now, and it aches every moment of the day. I have to be careful when I sit, when I stand, when I sleep, when I get in and out of the car, when I walk…It might ache for the rest of my life. It will always be a reminder to me of what he did to me. How do I get past that?”
I don’t think I’ve ever written it anywhere, but he was the reason behind my hip injury. I had hip surgery last August. It was a brutal recovery. I had to learn to walk again. It took four months of painful rehabilitation. When my therapist asked me how he behaved during my recovery, I told him. He drove me to all my PT appointments. He made sure I had what I needed. “To expiate his guilt?” Yes. And now? “Well, he asks if I need anything when I’m unwell. Like tea.”
“Like a roommate. You do understand that he treats you like a roommate. Anyone who lives with you ought to do the same.”
Yes, we live as roommates.
“What you describe is not how a husband treats his wife.”
What I can tell you is that it is far easier to recover from physical abuse than emotional abuse. I know this first hand. But, it is a lot easier to justify wanting out of a relationship when you have surgical scars, scars, and a person to point at while saying, “You put these here.” This is the slippery slope of domestic abuse. Gaslighting is so hard to combat. Feeling crazy all the time becomes such a part of your inner thought life that you become an easy target for the physical abuse. I felt so responsible for him, his disorder, and his actions after years of crazymaking behaviors that I didn’t even realize initially that what he did to my hip wasn’t my fault! It was only after a bit of time passed that I realized he had done something wrong. Then, more time passed. I was finally able to say to him, “You hurt me.” Only now can I call it abuse.
Why now? You have to be able to tell the truth and be ready to hear the truth. This is a big part of the therapeutic process. Truth. Revealing yourself. I hate it. It requires courage and hope even when it seems hopeless. I have had many a hopeless day and night. I felt like I was living in a nightmare a few days ago. The important thing to remember in difficult and desolate times is that you have a future worth fighting for, and you are the one person who can exercise control over what that future will look like–even if you feel like you have the least amount of influence in your life.
Alas, you keep going. You must because there is no turning back now. You see it through. Until darkness becomes day.
“Even darkness must pass.” Samwise Gamgee
I was dating my abuser, not married to him. It was college. We didn’t live together, I think that is what helped me finally be able to see our relationship wasn’t healthy, those periods of time apart. And being saturated with all these other couplings that looked and felt different. It wasn’t until years after we split that I was able to name the dynamic between us as abusive. He was an abuser. I was a victim. Again. Sure, I left, but the maladaptive behaviors and beliefs followed me into my marriage until I finally named them and worked damn hard to
Naming the behavior opens doors that can’t be open prior. Keep fighting, my friend.
I’m in the ring. I’m fighting.
I’m at your back.
For which I am so thankful.