Sunday, November 18, 2012

It's Ugly but It's not What It Looks Like

Lately, I have been reflecting on where I was a year ago (as many do when the year comes to an end)and I am starting to see where I was a year ago in ways that I didn't recognize at the time. I knew that I was in an abusive relationship when the physical violence started, what I didn't recognize was that it was abusive long before it ever became physical. We all know the textbook definition of abuse and I knew that abuse wasn't just a physical thing. What I didn't understand was that it's not always a conscious thing either. Before, my idea of an abusive man was someone with a mental check list that went something like this: Today, mock her endlessly for the way she does her hair Tomorrow, do my best to make her feel guilty for spilling water and the next day, literally beat her over the head with the Bible while telling her that her religious beliefs are cult like. And because I thought that abuse was a conscious choice, I felt guilty for not being able to recognize the malicious plan this man had to tear down everything he could, and I hated that I was the "type" of woman that would let a man do that to me. And even after the relationship ended, I was (and still am on some level) tormented with the idea and belief that there is something wrong with me,that because I didn't recognize what was abuse that I let it happen. Granted, even after I realized and recognized abuse, I stayed in the relationship longer than I should. What I am trying to say is that I didn't realize that it was abusive, that I was being mentally, and emotionally abused long before he ever raised a hand against me. It's a slow process, from my experience on both sides of the relationship. It didn't start with him immediately belittling the way I dressed, and it didn't immediately start with me accepting every jeer he threw my way. As the violence of his abusive behavior escalated, so did my level of toleration and willingness to look the other way. I didn't want to write this because I wanted every one to throw a pity party for me. I am healing and being healed, the lasting effects of that relationship still creep up and I am sure they will for a long time. I don't know what my intent behind writing this is, maybe to bring healing to myself and others, or maybe to say that abuse isn't always stereotypical. I realize that what I experienced is only a fraction of what some women experience, but putting it into "perspective" was part of the problem. Even when I recognized that it was abuse, I rationalized it as well at least he doesn't hit me. Then when he did hit me, well at least he doesn't hold a gun to my head, and then when it escalated as these things do, and he did hold a gun to my head, well at least he didn't pull the trigger. (And thank God that he didn't) I'm still learning what abuse means and what it looks like but I do know that the "well she should have recognized it, or I told you all along that you should get out of that relationship" it doesn't help and it often adds guilt and shame. I am so thankful that I got out of that alive. And I am thankful for the ways the Lord is healing me. One of those ways being my wonderful husband. What a difference a year makes.