Why I stayed with an abusive man part 2    

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For the last two weeks I’ve blogged about abuse (Why I stayed with an abusive man- part 1 & 8 reasons people stay in abusive relationships). It’s something we don’t talk about often. Maybe we are ashamed. Maybe our definition of love has become so distorted we afraid to face reality. Afraid to admit we’ve been living in a fantasy world we created to help cope with the pain. Society and Hollywood only helps with confusing us more as we attempt to figure out what love is.

We can go back to Shakespeare. Hamlet drove Ophelia to suicide and yet, at her funeral, states that 40,000 brothers could not make up the sum of how much he loved her. Othello kills his wife in a jealous rage and tells us he loved not wisely, but too well. What does this teach us today? That love and violence goes hand in hand?

Abuse can mask itself in many different ways. Here’s 7:

Guilt

Promise you’ll never leave me.

You need to adjust your behavior and make promises to cater to his upbringing, to his baggage. So your desire to initially stay with him slowly changes to staying with him out of pure guilt. You don’t want to hurt him so the only option is to stay with him.

Control

Him: Hey, you’re not going to wear that shirt out tonight are you?
Me: Why not?
Him: Because it’s way too tight. Guys were looking at your earlier…

He’ll start to make you feel uncomfortable about your decisions. Get you to start depending on him as to what decisions you should make.

Obsession

He calls every hour and expects you to answer. Do you have a life outside of him? Sometimes this behavior is masked as love, devotion, the fact that you are soul mates… He can’t stand the thought of you having fun without him.

Don’t forget to leave your phone on…

And you make sure you don’t because he will freak out on you if you don’t.

Him: Hey, I’ve been texting you. Why haven’t you answered.
Me: In class.
Him: Well leave it on silent.
Me: I don’t want the teacher to see us talking.
Him: If you love me, prove it- leave your phone on.

Disrespect

He has no respect for rules in general. Then it becomes no respect for the rules you are supposed to follow. And then no respect for you…

My dad was right. You girls get together and you talk trash about guys and tear them down. My ex was a terrible person, always trying to accuse me of stuff and make me feel bad. I thought you were different. If you don’t trust me what’s the point?

You’ll soon see this disrespect toward you is actually hate. But sometimes that’s a hard pill to swallow. It requires us to admit we were completely wrong. Not only does it make us doubt our judgment, it makes us wonder if we can trust our decisions ever again.

Self-pity

You begin to cover up for him. After he hurts you, he attempts to paint himself as the good guy, the one that should be pitied.

Him: I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
Me: Stopppp.
Him: I can’t help it, I’m scum, I don’t even deserve to breathe. I didn’t know it was coming. When you started saying that crap about me, wondering if I was telling the truth. I never thought I could hurt you. I still can’t believe I hit you. At least I know now all that messed up stuff that is inside of me because of my dad- I can watch out for that. You could have told your parents but you didn’t.
Me: I don’t understand how everything could have been so perfect…
Him: I had one bad minute, actually 2 bad seconds. It’s not like it was for no reason- you were acting all suspicious of me- you were talking about me behind my back. It hurt me so bad that you didn’t trust me. The way that I love you I’m wide open. I mean you have the power to kill me. It’s worth it for me I mean even if I get hurt sometimes. I mean don’t you feel the same way?
Me: I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I should have thought about what I was saying. I didn’t mean to make you think that I didn’t trust you. Sorry. Sorry.
Him: It’s okay- I’m not mad at you. I could never stay mad at you.

Crazy how the tables turn so quickly…

Manipulation

You begin to piece together the pieces. Maybe you have enough strength after all to leave.

Him: Why haven’t you answered? Can you sneak out? If you really want to be with me you’ll find a way.
Me: I have a lot of homework.
Him: And that’s more important than me. I’m calling you right now where’s your phone. I asked you a question.
Me: I’m breaking up with you.
Him: Are your parents listening?
Me: No. I’m serious. It’s over I’m breaking up with you.
Him: But you love me.
Me: I know but I’m still breaking up with you.
Him: Why?
Me: Because I don’t want to be scared anymore.
Him: Why are you scared? I haven’t hit you again.
Me: You call me constantly. You try to control where I go…
Him: Where is this coming from.
Me: It doesn’t matter.
Him: Well then I’m going to kill myself. I can’t live without you.

Hate

And then you cycle back to guilt. You start doubting. You start remembering the good times. And part of you wants to go back. Not because you miss him but part of losing him also consists of losing some of yourself since you’ve bound yourself so tightly to him. And sometimes we go back. We dug ourselves in a hole and we feel that we can’t get out. Do we really deserve something better? At least we know what his faults are… But sometimes, if we’re lucky, we may get a text so shocking that it wakes us from our trance.

You are a liar. You just want to be with some other guy. You don’t deserve to live.

This isn’t love. You don’t control, hit, kill people you love.

We aren’t stupid for falling for these guys but I think sometimes we have to be honest enough and ask ourselves- am I sure this is how I want to be treated for the rest of my life?

(Points are taken from the movie Reviving Ophelia, showcasing the subtle, calculated takeover of sweet innocence.)

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photo credit: Mitya Ku 167 via photopin (license)

Why I stayed with an abusive man- part 1

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I used to judge women who stayed with abusive men. I wish I could say I didn’t but I think I did. And then I realized how easy it is to stay. How hard it is to leave. I finally realize what Shakespeare meant when he said “the prince of darkness is a gentleman.” Because with all the bad, deep and hurtful experiences, there are also great, wonderful and amazing times. And this mind game twists our brains, our hearts, into an uncomfortable delusion.

His manners made everyone think he was a southern gentleman. Looking back, instead of respecting boundaries, his pursuit made me feel loved, wanted. He was slowly worming his way into every area of my life. It was control masked as care. He would discuss our futures together, each word igniting hope for our happily ever after. The mind manipulation, the passive aggressiveness, the guilt began to eat at me. I was frantic to save what I didn’t even want.

Him: You made plans for Friday night without even talking to me?
Me: I’ve been ignoring my friends for a month.
Him: So have I but that’s because you’re the most important thing in my life. I guess that was pretty stupid to think that you felt the same way about me.
Me: I do feel the same way.
Him: No you don’t. Otherwise you wouldn’t be putting me in second place. I never realized how self centered you are…

And there I am. Left wondering, left thinking is he right and am I the one in the wrong? I didn’t realize he was telling me how I felt when he didn’t know me yet. But that’s what control does. He was working to control my behavior by responding in a negative way. A way that would make me not dare to act the way I did ever again. We do this to children when they are little to teach them right and wrong. Only we typically do it out of concern, not control. And I wasn’t his child.

But the mind control continues and leaves you second-guessing even further. He comes back apologizing and encouraging me to do what I initially wanted.

I love you way too much to stay mad at you. I know you didn’t mean to hurt me and I know you aren’t going to make plans anymore without talking to me first.

The last part of that sentence says it all. We get excited at the thought of a love that’s “way too much” only to be left feeling beat down, feeling like we did something wrong when we didn’t. I was so focused on the good, that I didn’t realize he was telling me what to do. How often we think about the good in order to drown out the bad.

The ideas above are all too real. Points are taken from the movie Reviving Ophelia, showcasing the subtle, calculated takeover of sweet innocence. Check back next week or subscribe with your email to be notified as we pick up next week with part two. For more signs of abuse, check out last week’s post 8 reasons people stay in abusive relationships

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8 reasons people stay in abusive relationships

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I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched women stay in a relationship with an abusive man. My words of “leave” “press charges” or “come with me” seem to have always fallen on deaf ears. And I never knew why she couldn’t see what I saw. Is it possible to get in so deep, we’ve lost all sense of reality? Have we distorted the meaning of love into some definition that fits our circumstances because we don’t see anything better? We don’t see a way out?

It is so easy to fall into this trap and not even realize it. Here are eight reasons why we choose to stay when we know we should leave.

  1. We excuse or justify their behavior. They are only acting this way (insert something from their past or circumstances here). Our pasts help us to understand where each other is coming from; they are not an excuse to treat the ones you love poorly.
  1. When they are nice, they are really nice. They make you feel so loved by the things they do for you and the things they get you. We have to understand that motives here are everything. We enjoy the nice things but we have to be mindful of the strings that may be attached. If you think someone loves you because of their nice behavior, what does their cruel behavior tell you?
  1. We blame ourselves for their behavior. We know we aren’t perfect so we start to rationalize. If I was a better boyfriend or girlfriend, they wouldn’t have reacted that way. He/She wouldn’t have gotten mad if I didn’t do that. I really could have said that nicer. The truth is sometimes we all mess up and act in ways we shouldn’t. But we should never blame ourselves for someone else’s decisions.
  1. We take responsibility for their life. This one is closely related to the one above but instead of taking responsibility for the way they treat us, we take responsibility for the way they treat themselves. We don’t want to hurt them. We don’t want to cause them pain and we blame ourselves when they call crying. They say the pain is too much if we were to leave them and they may even threaten suicide. If this is the case, they are manipulating you or they need professional help. It is not healthy to stay with someone because of fear.
  1. The jealousy is cute at first. We like the attention. We like someone fighting for us. And we justify it because at least they care. But oftentimes this jealousy can become obsessive and possessive. And then they start to blame us if someone else flirts with us. It’s nice for someone to care about us; it’s not nice be afraid of how much they “care.”
  1. We think they will change. We believe the best. They just don’t realize how much we love them yet. Maybe when they are more secure. They apologize and say sorry so at least they know it’s wrong. They felt really bad. So we hold out for another day. Another week. Another month. Another year. Waiting. Hoping. Praying. Sometimes people do change. But sometimes they just mask their behavior temporarily until it’s safe again. See if they change for themselves or see if they change for you. Know the difference.
  1. They give us ultimatums. They threaten that you don’t really love them if you don’t do something they want you to do. They want you to prove your love to them by doing certain things. They play subtle mind games in an attempt to control you and your behavior. No one who really loves you should ever threaten you or make you feel less than because you do or do not act the way they think you should.
  1. We become dependent on them. This is probably the scariest of them all. They slowly remove everyone and everything from your life and make it so they are the only good thing in your life. You don’t even realize it because you become so caught up in what you think is love. You look around and you realize you have nothing else. And you don’t want to lose the one thing you have left.

These are so so powerful. They slowly strip away every ounce of our self-confidence until we forget who we really are. But I think there is a way we can see more clear. A way for us to be above this trap. And that is total and complete dependency on God. I think sometimes we make people an idol and don’t even realize it. It’s during those times we are able to be controlled and manipulated because we found something other than God to bring us what we feel would make us happy. It’s our attempt to better our lives, we lose them. But God tells us, whoever will lose their life for His sake, will find it. I pray we are humble enough and strong enough to let God take over and never ever fall into this lethal trap.

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Confidence over comparing- my boyfriend’s ex

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Few things I hate more than comparing. Nothing steals joy quicker. Nothing deceives us more. We are tempted to compare in so many aspects of our lives- is she prettier, is she more successful, does she make more money, why does everyone seem to like her? The list is endless; the devil knows our insecurities and hits us where it hurts most.

One area he gets ahold of us is when we start comparing ourselves to our boyfriend’s exes. It’s hard to enjoy the love, the excitement, the closeness if you are constantly comparing or dwelling on an ex. We compare the gifts, the time, the places, the experiences, the laughter, and most importantly the place she may still have in his heart. All leading up to the question we desire to know most:

Does he love me more than he loved her?

And we begin to seek validation through his actions and his words. So instead of enjoying them, instead of appreciating them, we often compare them. Slowly chipping away any confidence we have. Is that what he called her? Did he take her here before? I wonder if this is as nice as what he got her? Comparing is a strong temptation and society doesn’t make it any easier for us.

But the one thing we seem to forget is that love is love and there is no cap. Love doesn’t expire. It doesn’t run out. And it certainly isn’t all dried up by the time he meets you. If anything, the capacity for love is greater. His past love for her has no bearing on the depth of his love for you now.

The other thing we seem to forget is he is with you and not her. He chose to be with you. The two of you are together for a reason. Whatever that reason may be, God knows. There will always be good memories with exes; at one point in time we liked them, maybe even loved them. But there are also bad memories. Memories bad enough to end things. Memories he may have even forgotten but ones that make him appreciate you even more, that make him value you more than you’ll ever know.

So while we are left comparing in our minds, he isn’t. He’s with you. He’s with you because he loves you so enjoy it. Choose confidence over comparing. He’s with you because you are whom his soul loves.

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The greatest love I’ve ever known, the greatest love I’ve found

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It’s only fitting to finish the love month of blog posts by sharing with you about the best love I’ve found. I was listening to the radio the other day and they shared a little bit of the history of Valentine’s Day. One version, at least. But it struck me and reminded me of just one of the reasons I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day; it’s another excuse to show those around you how much you love them. Some argue you can do that any day and I agree but why not include this day, as well?

So apparently Saint Valentine was a priest in Rome who was imprisoned for helping Christians. A Roman Emperor tried to convert him to Roman paganism; if he converted, his life would be spared. Not only did Saint Valentine refuse to convert but he was actually executed for trying to convert the Emperor to Christianity. But before his execution, he would send messages about Christ’s love out, signing them Your Valentine. Love letters about God’s love.

I love my boyfriend. I love him more than I loved any other guy. But let me tell you why. The best thing about him is the love he has for Christ. It’s that love, that respect for God that manifests itself in ways that make me feel so unbelievably loved. And I’ve learned the only way someone can love this deeply is if they have Christ’s love. Because I know his love for me doesn’t depend on my behavior, whether good or bad in that moment, but in who he is in Christ.

1 John 4:19 says “We love because He first loved us.” It’s that love that pours out in an abundance showing signs of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, patience, not envious, not boastful, not proud, not dishonoring, not self-seeking, not easily angered, not keeping a record of wrong, not delighting in evil, rejoicing in truth, protecting, trusting, hopeful, and persevering (Galatians and 1 Corinthians ). Wow. You see, I’m not talking about attraction here. Infatuation. Similar personalities or success. I’m talking about something that reaches so much deeper. Something we don’t often talk about it.

Jesus was our prime example of this love. Humbling himself- not prideful, not focusing on what he felt he deserved. So full of grace, mercy, forgiveness. This is the greatest love I’ve found. When I was at my worst, He loved me evermore. This is the love that never fails because Jesus never fails. This is the love that endures because Jesus is always with us. This is the love that is eternal because Jesus is with us to the end of time. When you find that love, you desire nothing more than to share it with others. I pray you feel His love more than ever.

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*Special shout out to Wikipedia and my wonderful boyfriend with their help with this post:)

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Real love doesn’t let go

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“If you love somebody, let them go.” Isn’t that how the saying goes? It’s this nonchalant, somewhat lazy attitude that drives people down a loveless path, a life seeking to justify selfish acts. I can’t stress this enough- true love never gives up. It can’t. It’s impossible.

I’m probably one of Nicholas Sparks’ biggest fans. I’ve seen most, if not all of his movies. A tradition I started long ago with my mom. One of my favorite movies he wrote was The Choice. Life is full of little choices that lead us down the lives we live. Every little thing making more of an impact than we realize. Some choices end in benefits lasting a lifetime, others end with consequences hopefully only lasting but a moment. But it’s foolish to believe these simple choices don’t have the potential to reap some of the most life-changing results.

So what is love? 1 Corinthians shows us a snippet of what it is: “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends…”

I bolded what I hope to focus on here. The movie The Choice was full of so many truths, little acts revealing how real love reacts, how true love responds. Gabby and Ryan were by the world’s standards the ideal couple. Ryan, a successful, good looking doctor; Gabby, a beautiful woman in medical school. They appear to be in love. They appear perfect for each other. Travis comes into the picture and his feisty, no nonsense demeanor creates tension between Gabby and him like no other. Gabby is conflicted, unsure of who she is meant to be with, who her soul desires. Through a whirlwind of choices, Travis ends up stealing her heart. Who knows if she made the right decision? The choices we are faced with- how do we know who truly loves us and who simply desires us and what we have to offer?

Gabby ends up getting into an accident and is put on life support. What are the chances that Ryan would be the doctor in charge? After months on life support, Ryan presents Travis with Gabby’s odds of surviving. They aren’t good and suggests pulling the plug. I wonder how many times we look for a reason to justify not really loving. Because that’s what it comes down to. At what percentage is it appropriate to give up? Maybe it has nothing to do with being appropriate but everything to do with the amount of love we have for that person.

Ryan presenting logical reasoning of odds to justify a finite decision, Travis looking at his love to say he can’t do it. He can’t pull the plug. And he can’t give up. Love endures. Love hopes. Love never ends. She made the right choice. She woke up. But even if she didn’t, I think this is something we should think about. Maybe this is the question we should all be asking ourselves- How far would you go to keep the hope of love alive?

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After 15 years of mediocre Valentines, I now have the perfect one

I don’t know what it is but I could never master one of my favorite holidays. Oh, how I desired love so badly. Maybe this year would be my year as I recalled all of the fights, the pain, and the loveless dates year after year. Hanging onto broken relationships. Going out with complete strangers. Would I ever experience true love?

Last night I went out with my boyfriend to celebrate our first Valentines together. The first time I ever felt truly at peace, truly at home. If you would have asked me last year that I could feel this way, I would have probably rolled my eyes and said you’re crazy. But I hope to give you hope. That maybe you can look at my life and see. See that it’s not always easy, not always perfect. But God is paving a way for something so much better than your wildest dreams. Looking back, I am so glad I didn’t settle something less, for something no where near what I have today.

Age 17: I baby-sat my niece. Try to contain your jealousy.

Age 18: A guy I just wanted to be friends with was ruining things with a new guy I started hanging out with.

 Age 19: So I ended up dating the new guy I started hanging out with. He was my first official boyfriend. It started as just wanting to hang out and quickly progressed, as he was 8 years older. We were in another fight. But somehow I let the flowers and candy left on my doorstep, with sidewalk-chalked hearts drawn all over my driveway and sidewalk, get to me. It’s funny how we equate these gestures to love. And then watch how that feeling of love seems to somehow makes things okay temporarily. If only it actually lasted permanently.

Age 20: A guy I had been flirting with wrote back to me “I have a girlfriend, by the way.”

Age 21: An excerpt from my journal- “There is nobody I like right now. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to find someone that can love as much as I do.”

Age 22: After an awkward friendship/love triangle, I ended up going out with a guy I thought I liked. When we actually tried to date, it didn’t work. Besides, he actually hated Valentine’s Day. So while the idea was nice, I couldn’t really enjoy the reality as much.

Age 23: A new guy ends up coming into the picture. This ends up being the most serious relationship to date. Unfortunately, also a very volatile one. We actually end up going to dinner the day after Valentine’s Day because we were fighting. This marks the beginning of the end.

Age 24: An excerpt from my journal- “Things are going okay (with the same guy I was dating).” At least they were at this point. We would soon break up.

Age 25: Same guy wants to see me later. But I’ve already moved on. I can’t go back to that.

Age 26: I had a secret admirer this year- a huge card, flowers, and candy left outside my house. To this day, I still have no clue who it was.

Age 27: I had been going back and forth with one of the worst manipulators I’ve seen. At this point he wanted to know if we’d be just friends or friends with the potential for more. Life does not have to be this complicated. This was the worst emotional roller coaster I had been on.

Age 28: An excerpt from my journal- “All I did was watch chick flicks and get fat lol.”

Age 29: I went on a first date with a guy. Yes, you read correctly- first date. First time ever really talking and first time meeting in person. We had a bunch of mutual friends in common and thought why not?! We had a nice time. But we both knew nothing would come of it. We’ve never communicated since that night.

Age 30: An excerpt from the journal- “I have no desire to be with someone I really don’t want to be with. #mature”

Age 31: And here I am. Celebrating this special day with the one my soul loves. Maybe I had finally gotten it all out my system. Maybe I finally reached the point where I was fully and completely content with the life God had given me. Done searching for love and choosing to trust God more. Instead of trying to force love with the wrong guys, freeing my time to allow God to bring the right one in. All I can say is wait. Don’t settle. I look back and see all the times I almost did, wanting to make it work because I didn’t know any better. But someone will come along. And they will make you realize exactly why it never felt right with anyone else.

Happy Valentine’s Day! May you feel God’s love more than ever!<3

jamessarahvday

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