“Not all wounds are visible.” — quoted on HealthyPlace.com
Why did you stay?
Why did you put up with it?
Why did you go back?
If you let someone treat you like that, then you got what you deserved.
If you stayed, then you let it happen.
These are all things that people I love and care about said to me or asked me following my final ousting of my ex in Sept 2014. And this attitude is exactly why I kept things a secret for so many months in the first place. These are the exact ideas that make it so easy for psychological abusers to maintain the grip on the mind of the person they are abusing — because even society makes them think that this is all their fault. Those who are abused already feel it is their fault, and these types of attitudes from others in their lives validate those feelings, and in many cases, drive them back to their abusers. I mean, if you are getting negative attention anyway, why not just stay with the person who has been inflicting it for so long, right?
So, what is psychological abuse? Here is a semi-textbook definition:
Emotional abuse, mental abuse A form of mistreatment in which there is intent to cause mental or emotional pain or injury; PA includes verbal aggression, statements intended to humiliate or infantilize, insults, threats of abandonment or institutionalization; PA results in stress, social withdrawal, long-term or recalcitrant depression, anxiety
This morning, I am a bitch and a whore. He’s insulted my weight. He’s threatened to break my television and smash my laptop so he can teach me a lesson — because I need to learn. He has threatened to choke me out and black both of my eyes.Why?Because a thunderstorm rolled in at 3:30am, and it began raining in our open window. I closed the downstairs window and woke him to close the window upstairs because my knees are bad and the stairs are steep. Instead of coming back downstairs and going back to sleep, he spent the next hour insulting me, threatening me and talking about what an “inconsiderate fuck” I am because I didn’t take care of it myself.This is my fault. Why didn’t I just go upstairs and shut the window myself? He’s told me over and over not to wake him up. Why am I so stupid?
I am strong, independent woman. And yet, in the confines of that relationship, I believed that I was weak. I believed that I was always wrong, whether I showed it or not. And, I believed that I wasn’t being abused. Do you know why? Because he never hit me. Reut Amit wrote a great piece about this phenomenon in her article, “He Never Hit Me.” Amit talks about all of the things that she went through with her partner who never hit her. But does that mean he never abused her? Of course not.
I have heard the same thing. I have been told that my abuser was not abusive because he had never hit a woman, and he never would. But he would punch holes in the walls when he got angry. But he would throw things in my direction. But he would call me a bitch, a fat ass and a C U Next Tuesday. But he would tell me how it was all my fault that he acted that way.
I believed him. I believed for a very long time that if I just walked on egg shells, didn’t bother him when he was sleeping, let him sleep until noon, didn’t bother him about being gone all the time with his friends, etc — then everything would be fine. I could fix this…I could fix him, and it would be better. I was just too sensitive. I was just too fragile. Everyone fought like this…not just us. For a long time, I didn’t tell my friends or family what was going on, because I didn’t want them to hate him. Then, when he left the first time, I told them everything, and he did hate him…and then I went back to him.
The cycle was pretty simple — he would leave for a month, and then we would start to talk, and he would come back for a week, promising me the moon and the stars. Within 4-5 days, the promises were over and the abuse continued like it had never stopped. So, I would throw him out again. Each time, it would be a financial strain on me, and usually, it would be in the form of funding his trips to move back to NC or needing to fix things he broke. My friends and family would embrace me when he left, and stand in disbelief when I let him come back. It put a strain on my relationships with everyone, especially my kids, who didn’t know what to think about the entire situation.
Now, I am finally out of that cycle. I have moved on. It has been a month and a half since he left, and there is no chance that he is coming back. I sold my wedding dress and my wedding rings. I’ve started filling out the paperwork for the divorce. It is really happening this time. And, I am starting to find my strength again. I am starting to enjoy work again. I am starting to write again.
Do I love him? Yes. But, I love myself more now. I know I can’t save him, and I know that I can’t save myself when I’m with him. That is why he had to go.
But, in his eyes, this is all my fault. He was never abusive. If he were abusive, where are my scars and bruises? That is how he sees it. He thinks that his actions are normal, that they are okay…because he never hit me.