What My Husband Taught Me About Domestic Violence
The anxiety and shame a person involved in an abusive relationship will experience can be life-altering. The denial and self-deception can run deep.
I didn't fully realize what a truly healthy relationship could be like until I met my current husband. With him, I finally realize what it's like to have a friend and partner.
There's no fear, guilt, or shame in my relationship with my current husband. This has led me to a higher understanding of how functional relationships should operate and a desire to share my own past experiences with the hope of helping women out there who may be trapped in an abusive relationship.
My current husband has taught me that there are men in the world capable of being responsible, thinking, rational, human beings who can move on from their troubles in a dignified and positive way.
"If a man is so jealous of you having contact with any other man that he flies into a rage or prevents you from making your own choices in any way, that isn't love and it isn't loyalty."
In the past, I've been with men who were not only threatened by my intelligence but jealous of it. Jealous of my ability to function socially, to have friends, laugh and enjoy life. I realize now that this was because they were so entrenched in their own misery that they resented my joy.
The same thing about me that attracted abusive men to me in the first place was what they wanted to punish me for, in the end. Really, they were just too afraid to confront themselves, so they confronted me instead.
Jealousy, possessiveness, and secrecy are the symptoms of a sick relationship. The physical abuse may or may not be there but a person you're in a relationship with who is isolating you from your friends or family, expressing jealousy over your conversations with others, telling you how to dress, calling you constantly to see where you are, or saying hurtful things time and again is not normal behavior.
It is unlikely that person who is treating you in this manner will ever be able to provide you with a healthy, functional partnership long-term, and is most certainly not able to be a responsible parent for your potential children or children you may already have.
Many girls and women fall into the false impression that the intense possessiveness and isolation an abuser might smother them with is just a flattering way to express devotion and admiration. It's not. This is one of the first things I am going to teach my daughter.
If a man is so jealous of you having contact with any other man that he flies into a rage or prevents you from making your own choices in any way, this isn't love and it isn't loyalty. It doesn't mean he thinks you're so beautiful that he can't allow you to walk down the street or talk to others. It means he has a mental or emotional problem that he needs help for.
So many young (and older women!) wrap their entire self-esteem up in the opinion of an abuser that they will do almost anything to please them or gain their trust. Unfortunately, there will never be trust, and that type of person will never be pleased with you or happy with you in any way. It's not about you. It's about their sickness.
An abuser will never be happy with themselves either, especially if they never get help for their issues. And help is something an abusive person needs to seek on their own. No one else can fix them. No one.
"This is the problem with young girls who get wrapped up in the romantic love of a man who may be less than desirable to everyone on the outside. They are so blind in lust, or what they believe to be love that they will not listen to anyone."
As I get older, I find my perspective changes as to what happened in the past. As my life now becomes more fulfilled and happy, I cannot believe what I allowed to happen in my other relationships.
This is the problem with young girls who get wrapped up in the romantic love of a man who may be less than desirable to everyone on the outside. They are so blind in lust, or what they believe to be love that they will not listen to anyone. Having a daughter myself now, I see how terrifying it can be for parents to watch such relationships play out.
I now look back on that young woman that I was and just shake my head. Truly, that young woman I used to be, is probably fortunate to be alive and well today. There were many close calls, many life-threatening situations I had put myself in without even realizing there was any danger. It was all drama and romance. For whatever reason, I assumed it was all normal.
That's the thing about youth. There is rarely caution where there should be, but it's that hunger for adventure that drives young people to go out on their own and experience life, which is a healthy thing.
Unfortunately, it's a double-edged sword, because the very thrill-seeking behavior many young people possess, can obviously lead them down dangerous roads and into toxic relationships. If you are a parent, it's a palpable worry.
There is also an issue I have touched on in my writings before, which is the fact that our society and pop culture both promote and advertise domestic violence as the norm. I'm not sure if that is the intent.
I see overly aggressive men being possessive, threatening, and disrespectful all over the place - at the grocery store, at high schools, at the mall.
Those who work tirelessly to educate and advocate for victims of domestic abuse have their work cut out for them, even still in this modern day and age.
But what is at the root of all this aggressive, violent behavior in relationships today? Is it just modeled behavior passed down through generations? Is it media and film? Is it young women's unrealistic expectations of what a romantic relationship looks like?
One of the most amazing things I have realized since I met my current husband is that not all romantic relationships have to be filled with jealousy or violence.
My husband is an amazing person, father, and friend. He's not perfect, as are none of us.
He doesn't think twice about me going out on my own anywhere, or out with friends because he trusts me and doesn't feel threatened.
Even if my husband ever does have insecurities, he doesn't take them out on me, he just deals with it on his own and moves on - like a mature human being.
This is a key point. Many men (and also women) who become abusive to their partners are just insecure, angry people who can't control their own emotions. More importantly, abusers who don't control their emotions feel it's never their fault.
This is the most critical thing I have learned in my journey. An abuser almost never believes their actions are their fault. It's always their mother's fault, or their father, or their ex, or even their current victim. It's always a blame game, and the level of accountability is nonexistent.
"Those who work tirelessly to educate and advocate for victims of domestic abuse have their work cut out for them, even still in this modern day and age."
This is why I feel it's so important to teach children about accountability.
They need to have supportive adults around that they can speak to, and learn that no matter what "bad" things may happen to them in their lives, it's not okay to take their anger out on other people.
If they do, they must be held accountable for their own actions.
If a child is abused, they must be helped to heal, but they must also learn to take responsibility for themselves as they grow into adults, because if not, they may repeat the pattern of abuse in their future relationships.
Every abuser I have ever dealt with had that chip on their shoulder from something that happened to them in their childhood. They carried that chip with them as if it were a way to validate the abuse they, themselves, were perpetrating.
One of the Sobering Videos Used to Help Bring Awareness to Domestic Violence
One of the main things that have motivated me to write this piece is to spread hope. I am a survivor, and I have come out alive. My life got one thousand times better after I healed from the past and decided to love myself. My heart got broken several times.
Eventually, I healed and moved on to bigger and better things. As a victim and survivor, you just have to get to the point where you can make that choice for yourself.
Just because someone abuses you mentally, physically, or emotionally, it doesn't mean you can't love them. Many victims are afraid to admit that out of shame. It's okay to love someone who doesn't treat you with dignity. But it's not okay to stay in that relationship. They are two separate things.
Also, the term, "victim" could imply to some women that they are weak or helpless. It's not that. It just means you trusted, and that person was not worthy or your trust.
Sometimes, the admission that they are being abused is more than many women, or even men sometimes can bear. This is very true for proud, independent women who have careers and families, and who may appear on the outside to have their lives completely in order.
Often times, a woman cannot even admit to herself that what she's experiencing is abuse because to do so would mean she has to walk away from everything she has invested in, whether it's her marriage, a house, or even a job.
"...if there is any kind of abuse going on in your relationship where you feel threatened, controlled, afraid, anxious, depressed, or hopeless, things will not get better in time, and there is no way to fix the problem besides getting yourself out."
Just keep in mind, once again, that if there is any kind of abuse going on in your relationship where you feel threatened, controlled, afraid, anxious, depressed, or hopeless, things will not get better in time, and there is no way to fix the problem besides getting yourself out.
There are many resources available these days to help if you have the strength to make that first step and reach out. More than likely you already have friends and family who are worried about you and will help you immediately if asked.
Take charge of the rest of your life, because if you do, I can tell you, it only gets better. It may not be an amazing new man and relationship that awaits you, but it's going to be freedom, life, and finding that version of yourself that you were always meant to be.
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© 2015 Michelle Zunter