When her make-up fades and this best foot drags; when bliss and sparkles turn to ashes; when Princess Perfect turns Bipolar Babe, and sweet Prince Charming’s calmness crashes; when what once was dreamy fantasy becomes thin ice and gashes; will it ever change, will it go away, from your tear the answer splashes …
After years of rage, hatred, and abuse; after just as many broken promises; she tells you she is sorry and it will never happen again. Being a die-hard idealist or bleeding heart caregiver, you want to believe her. How many times has the same, or a similar thing happened; and how many times has she responded this way? What is different now? What would keep this from happening again in the future? Does she identify the truth and take responsibility for what happened, or does she blame you and then play the victim? Do you sometimes fall for this because you love her, are an optimist, or want to keep the peace? What is the truth, and how can you find it?
*I chose a woman as my example because men are usually portrayed in this role, when it occurs on both sides of the blurry gender line.
If you are in an abusive relationship, if you have been in it for years, if things have been essentially the same or have worsened; and if you are now experiencing a period within which things seem miraculously better; be careful with your heart and with your life. Have you ever believed that things were miraculously better before? Were they? Here are four things to consider before accepting that what is happening is some amazing change for the better.
1. Past Performance
How many times has this happened? How many times has he/she exploded into abusive rage and hatred, directed it at you, and then tried to blame you for what he/she did? How many times have you bought this recycled bullshit? If an apology did eventually occur, and if your idealism or codependence sucked you into believing it; how long was it before the same thing happened again? In matters of abuse, the past is the best predictor of the future.
2. Taking Your Time
Don’t believe that your treasure-turned-troll is any different until they have maintained the apparent transformation for at least six months. Although miracles do happen, so does manipulation. For perpetrators inhabiting the cycle of abuse, manipulation is standard issue. They typically lie better than honest people tell the truth. When we enter a relationship with someone like this, we usually extend to them the level of trust, acceptance, and grace we give ourselves. If we are idealistic, optimistic, or codependent; then we may have a much harder time recognizing just what is really going on. We may get sucked into the swirling mind trap, and actually begin believing that we are responsible for their abusive behavior. We are not. If we are not in eminent physical danger, and if we can deal with it for this long; give the alleged miracle a full six months and see what happens. Maybe lightning struck in just the right place for you, but it probably didn’t. If it doesn’t last for at least six months, then the change did not occur.
3. Actions Speak Louder than Words
When it comes to abuse, we need to pay attention to what happens. Anyone can say anything, but what do they actually do? Are their words lip service designed to create hope in you, when their only intention is protecting their interests (getting what they want)? When they no longer fear losing you, and when they get comfortable again in the relationship; what happens? Do they go back to the same old same old? Remember, it will take at least six months to know if a lasting change has occurred.
Be honest with yourself. If you notice that you are always making excuses for them, to explain away the abuse, or even blame it on yourself; give yourself the gift of truth and light today. To cite what for me is a somewhat irritating phrase, “it is what it is.” When you rip the candy coating off what used to be your sweetheart, what remains? Truth, not illusion, will answer this question.
How do you find the truth, and hold on to it through the spinning thoughts, swirling emotions, and slanted perceptions of day-to-day life while living in an abusive relationship? Great question. Keep a journal of the facts of each day. Be careful not to subjectify your entries. Just write down what really happens. You could include in your written context the truth about the history, how long the apparent changes last, and whether or not the promises are being kept. If you have a trusted confidante, someone you respect and believe is capable of remaining neutral, someone who loves you and has your best interest in mind; then share with them what is happening, and use them as an accountability partner to help you stay on track.
Although most abuse situations are not this extreme, here is a music video portraying what can happen when people remain in abusive relationships. Please watch the entire video, as the stats and resources are presented near the end. This is one of my original songs, written based on a true story. When the shot rings out, it is the woman grabbing the gun from her husband and shooting him, just before he was going to shoot her. The song is entitled “Don’t Feel Like Heaven Anymore” (you may watch it on youtube). It is extremely graphic, so if you are a survivor, it could be a trauma trigger for you.
Photo Credit: ™ Pacheco via Flickr