A ranty, funny, dead-serious intersectional feminist blog.

Posts tagged “Relationships

An Open Letter to B

Dear B,

Today will be a crying day. I can’t always tell when I wake up, but when I wake up and burst into tears and cry until snot runs down my face, that’s a sure sign. Last night I fell asleep acknowledging that there’s a part of me still waiting for her baby to come back, and this morning I dreamed that I followed you and your girlfriend around like K did when we were first together, trying to give you gifts and be affectionate while you mostly ignored me.

Waking up my first thought as the tears came was “But I don’t want to.” I’m still trying to work out what that means. Don’t want to be over you? Don’t want to walk away like I did at the end of my dream? None of this makes sense because what I want more than almost anything in the world is to not feel anything where you’re concerned. Anger protected me for a lot of last year but as it subsided—as my brain started forgetting to hate you—I began to remember who you used to be to me: not a villain but the man I loved.

You’ve done a lot of crappy things. First there is the original betrayal—it seems so wrong that I can sum it up in three words like that when a) it went on for so long and piled betrayal upon betrayal and b) it has left me more broken than anything that came before including rapes and beatings I wasn’t sure I’d survive. Telling me over and over again via email about your new love and your bullshit philosophical “types of love” and how I fit into this one box over here, but that one didn’t really count, and your wishes for multiple lovers in the future and your hope that she would accept that, as though that information could possibly help me heal. Then ignoring me on our anniversary after I told you how hard just the days leading up to it were and how I dreaded it. Then promising to leave me alone about the house for six months and then sic’ing your lawyers on me after only three. These are the bigger ones, but once in a while I realize that some part of me still feels that your worst crime was not loving me—not loving us—enough to stay and try to fix it. The absolute worst thing about this for me is that you don’t love me.

For the past 14 months I have been in a state of illness. For several weeks I could barely get off the couch. It was four months before I felt ready to move back to our bedroom and since I did, I’ve barely left it. I am unable to earn a living because depression keeps me from working more than a few hours a day for a few weeks at a time (which means I can get through a book editing project, but a full-time job feels out of the question). I am fighting a constant, uphill battle just to get back to the level of depression I occupied when you were still here. For the past six months I have been largely unable to blog. It’s like I’ve run out of things to say and confidence in my ability to say them.

J told me that you said your actions were hurtful. They weren’t just hurtful—they were harmful. Nothing in my life has ever left me this broken. She said you mourn the loss of your friend. My first thought, and what I said to her, was this:

“He killed his friend. And he killed mine. I will never, ever be the same person I was when I met him. I will never start a relationship with that trust. 8 years ago today I met the man who would murder the person I was that day.”

I know you’ve read things I’ve written before and come away thinking that I hated you. I have tried to, but I don’t. The honest truth—and the most excruciating thing I have to accept on days like this—is that I still love you. And accepting that, it takes everything I have not to hate myself. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned this past year it’s to be gentle with me because I have been on the edge and I know what it feels like to want to slip over and lose myself. I can’t let that happen.

Now you see where I still am 14 months after you left and a year and ten days after we last spoke. I am still crying over you. I am still dreaming about you. I am still waiting for you to come back to me. And I am still agonizing over all of these things and trying not to despise myself. The best thing my anger did was to protect me from that hope and I really wish I still had it. Since I don’t, I’m just trying to get through the time it will take for the hope and love to fade away. I really thought a year would be enough.

I painted this for you back in the early days. For me it expressed what I thought was happening between us: something so big and important that it threatened to burst out of the confines of this mortal existence.

Art by Rosie

Art by Rosie

Now I realize that it was big and important, just not in the way I thought. Now I see the flaws in a painting I once thought beautiful and I look for meaning in them. Where is the line that shows you falling out of love? Where is the one that predicts your betrayal? Which lines represent not love but pain? Which ones are the signs I should have seen that would have allowed me to prevent us from falling apart?

So, this is the state of things. These are some of the things you need to know before you make any attempt at another apology. I wish I could tell you everything. I wish that I could make you experience what I have experienced this past year. I want you to know what it is to be the one left behind instead of the one always leaving and leaving destroyed lives behind you. I wish I could communicate the sadness I’ve felt watching friends and even my family members choose to remain in contact with you even when they know how much it hurts me. I want you to feel what I have felt and know the pain that your choices—and complete lack of empathy for me—have caused. And I want to understand, I think, but maybe I don’t because every time you’ve tried to explain you’ve only caused me more pain. What I really want is for things to be ok, and on days like this it’s hard to believe they ever will be again.

Sincerely,

Me


How to Treat a Broken Heart

brokenheartSomeone I care about has been going through a rough time recently, and talking to her reminded me of a time not very long ago when I felt much as she has been feeling. It was one of the worst periods of my life and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy*, so seeing a friend going through it made me wish I had a magic wand to make the pain go away. But I don’t, and we have to live through these things in order to get to the other side of them, so…

I thought back to the things that helped me through the hardest weeks of that time for me, and this is what I came up with: Not a cure, but a reminder that when the world treats us cruelly, that is the time when it’s most important to treat ourselves gently.

To treat a broken heart:

  • 2 cups of water (taken often—to rehydrate your powdered soul)
  • 1 cup of warmth (applied constantly as long as required)
  • 1 cup of family and friends (as needed)
  • 6 heaping tablespoons of forgiveness (for yourself first and others second—keep the jar handy)
  • 1 truckload of sleep (and another truckload as soon as you need it—repeat as necessary)
  • Breathe. Even when it hurts.

Wishing you all love and joy and freedom from pain.

Love,

Rosie

*Almost. I can almost say this honestly.


It’s Not a “Mistake” If You Plan It

Sad woman

(original image via fotolia.com)

I’m still thinking about cheating and how we, as a society, accept it as just something that happens. I think this is a huge problem for a number of reasons, not least because it gives the perpetrators a pass for their damaging behavior and leaves survivors feeling as though the crime committed against them—though it leaves them as broken and requires as much healing as many other types of abuse*—just doesn’t count.

Today I imagined, as I have been a lot lately, what might happen if I ran into the ex in a public place. I imagined a dialog wherein I told him to leave and he refused, telling me that he’d made a mistake but that didn’t give me a right to…whatever, that’s as far as I got before the following list began forming in my mind. It’s a response to the ghost of the ex and anyone else who wants to write this behavior off as a simple “mistake” to be forgiven and forgotten.

  • A mistake is typing “ass” instead of “ask.”
  • A mistake is putting your shoes on the wrong feet.
  • A mistake is getting into a car accident when you did everything you could to prevent it.
  • A mistake is an impulsive kiss or even a one-night stand.
  • A mistake is something you do by accident in a moment of distraction or thoughtlessness or passion and then you stop and say, “Whoa. That was wrong. I’m not going to do that again.”
  • When you are in a committed relationship and you purposely seek out a person outside the relationship for sex unbeknownst to your partner, that is not an accident. That’s not an impulsive action that takes place in an instant. That’s not a “mistake.”
  • When you set out to deceive your partner on a daily basis, lying to her multiple times a day for months about where you are, making up elaborate stories about searching all over town for the right “surprise” when you’re actually having sex with your secret lover, that’s not a regretful misstep. That’s not just something that happens. That’s not a “mistake.”

This was not a mistake. This was a campaign of deception and betrayal.

Let me tell you about mistakes I’ve made:

  • Spending seven years with someone because you believe what they tell you is true: that was a mistake.
  • Wanting so badly to believe that someone loved me that I ignored the signs that he was not capable of it: that was a mistake.
  • Trying to remain friends with the man who perpetrated what I have come to think of as abuse* against me: that was a mistake.
  • Believing that he was even capable of being my friend after not only what he did, but the way he continued to treat me after the fact: that was a mistake.
  • Believing that he would figure out how badly he’d fucked up and come back and do the work to make things right: that was a mistake.

These last few are mistakes because they held me back from healing. Who knows where I’d be now if I’d written him off in December, when I first tried to, rather than in February when I finally felt ready to?

Yeah, I know, it is what it is. But I’ve made my point: mistakes are not things you plan and execute like a serial killer. Mistakes are forgivable. Crimes like the ones this man perpetrated require more than forgiveness: they require redemption, and redemption requires sacrifice from the one hoping to be redeemed. It’s not something I can offer him—it’s something he has to want and work for and make happen for himself.

And maybe that’s one reason I’m having such a hard time with forgiveness—maybe it can’t happen without redemption. Or maybe I’m just not ready.

Maybe I never will be.


*I know, my use of the “A” word is a sticky issue for some. I am a survivor of many types of abuse and I don’t use the term lightly. I’m going to be writing more about it soon, but in the meantime, if it’s bothering you, ask yourself why. Ask yourself about power relationships and intent and consequences and damage. For some background, read this. We’ll talk more soon.


Related:

Unexpected Bullshit

And everything here.


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


Violations and Villains and Apologists. Oh My.

Image via morgueFile.

Image via morgueFile.

“Violation” is a word that keeps coming up for me around dealing with betrayal. When you secretly bring a third person into a committed two-person relationship, you violate not only loyalty and trust, but you eliminate informed consent. Would I have consented to sex with my ex if I’d known he was having sex with someone else? Absolutely not.

My ex created a situation where any intimacy between us happened essentially without my informed consent. I consented to intimacy with a person who had committed to a monogamous relationship with me. I did not consent to share my body with someone who was sharing his body with another person while pretending I was the only one. So, in effect, he did not have my consent. He removed my ability to consent.

Not that we were having much sex. As I’ve said before, he told me he lacked drive. I got complacent. He went out and got laid. But at the time I learned of the affair he’d been having for months, he was actively trying to “work on our intimacy” which means he was actively working on having more sex with me while he was having sex with someone else in secret. The sex we were having, then, was not entirely consensual, was it?

So yeah, the more time passes, the more grave his crimes seem to me, and the less able I feel to forgive him. The more I process, the more I realize that what he did—that what people do when they perpetrate this violation upon one another—was abuse. To me, he is a villain. And that means that when I encounter people who tell me that they want to be my friend, but that want to be his friend too, and they hope I understand, I don’t. I just can’t.

I’ve tried. I really, truly have. I’ve done my best not to feel resentful, but the resentment is there and I’m starting to realize it’s there for a reason.

When I was raped at 12 years old, my neighborhood split down the middle. There was the “Me” camp: the people who believed me when I said I’d been raped, and there was the “him” camp: the people who just couldn’t believe that a guy they considered a friend could possibly be a rapist.

When an ex beat the crap out of me and I ran away to my dad’s place halfway across the country, my dad joked that I’d probably pissed him off and when the guy called, he put me on the phone so I could, you know, face the music and resolve things. A few days later—before I really knew what happened—I was back with my abuser.

A while back Sid wrote a story about how it felt when one of our friends dropped my ex from Facebook while maintaining a friendship with her abuser–a guy whose abuse had never turned physical and so even she hesitated to use the “A” word.

Here’s an “A” word for you: Apologism. It’s what half my neighborhood engaged in when I was raped. It’s how my dad dealt with the fact that the guy who beat me up was a lot like him. It’s what our friend did when she told Sid her abuser wasn’t really like that.

It’s what people do when they decide that a person who abuses other people is essentially just a good guy who made a mistake (or a series of them—hey, he had a tough childhood) and let him off the hook for bad behavior. And more and more often I find myself asking why it is that people insist on apologizing for my ex simply by reminding me that they feel they must maintain friendships with both of us.

Of course, I have no way of knowing what sort of consequences my ex may have been subjected to at the hands of our mutual friends. But I do know that I’m aware of no consequences dire enough to satisfy me, and he has certainly made no amends where I’m concerned (except to throw some money at the situation). And some of our friends were his friends first–I know that some will feel the need to maintain loyalty to him, and I totally understand if that’s the choice they need to make. (I recently took the liberty of unfriending his whole family on Facebook, not because I don’t love them, but because I know they are unwaveringly loyal to him and it hurt me too much to see them there.)

sandI also know that I need my close friends–the people I hang out with–to be people who do not feel the need to maintain a friendship with my abuser. I don’t have the energy to deal with the strain of spending time with people knowing they probably just hung out with him last week.

So, I guess this is just to say that I’m working on my boundaries. Some people in my life might notice that I’m a little quieter, a little less likely to socialize. Or maybe they won’t. But I will be spending my limited energies not on people whose choices say that my abuse doesn’t really count but on those who bolster and uplift me and remind me that I am truly loved.


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


The “Friend Zone” is Total Fucking Bullshit

b03I know, I’m late to the party, but it’s my turn to chime in on the ubiquitous Friend Zone conversation/debate/debacle. And like many other sensible people, I’m here to tell you that this is a non-issue invented by dudes who don’t understand how attraction works and believe if a woman likes them well enough to be friends, that ought to be enough foundation for True Love to bloom. They believe that time spent with a woman is an investment, and when that investment doesn’t pay off, you’re not only in the Friend Zone, but you were obviously not man enough for the job.

As Erin Riordan points out in her post, The Friend Zone is a Sexist Myth, the movie Just Friends contains a scene that sums up the Friend Zone perfectly. It also does a great job of illustrating what some men believe it means to be (or not to be) friends with a woman:

Chris: What about Sheila? You making any headway?

Ray: We’ll see. I’m taking her to lunch today.

Chris: Oh, whoa, whoa whoa. Don’t – don’t do that. Okay? Don’t do lunch.

Ray: Why?

Chris: That’s like the express lane to the friend zone.

Ray: What the hell’s the friend zone?

Chris: See when a girl decides that you’re her friend, you’re no longer a dating option. You become this complete non-sexual entity in her eyes, like her brother, or a lamp.

Ray: I don’t want to be a lamp.

Chris: Yea well then don’t be her friend, okay? Take that guy for example…

[points to a clumsy guy and a gorgeous girl skating together]

Ray: You mean that couple?

Chris: No, I mean the guy that *wishes* they were a couple.

Ray: What is your point?

Chris: My point is – Call Sheila, Ray. Call her right now. Move your day date to tonight. Play the entire thing aloof and no matter what you do, kiss her at the end. ‘Cause friends don’t kiss.

Dude is confused.

Dude is confused.

See, dudes who think like this are confused. They think that there’s this window of opportunity with a woman, and that if they miss it, FRIENDSHIP will set in like an infection and all hope is lost. There are so many things wrong with this philosophy. For one, it assumes that once a man and woman are friends, there is no longer potential for sexual attraction. That is patently false: I know from (repeated) personal experience an attraction can spring up at any time between people for whom it just didn’t exist before. And because of its ignorance of this, it also ignores the fact that some of the best relationships start as friendships. It paints friendship between a man and a woman as a sad, pathetic thing and implies that the man wasn’t man enough to make it something more than that. (This, my friends, is one of the ways that patriarchy hurts us all.)

And that brings me to my next point: Choice. Let’s talk about the mistaken idea that a woman a) can choose to be sexually attracted to a person whom, for whatever reason, she currently isn’t, and b) that a woman should somehow be obligated to “choose” a man based on how much time he’s spent with her, how many favors he’s done for her, or any other such perceived “investment.” The former is about chemistry; the latter is about entitlement.

More on entitlement later. Let’s start with a science lesson, shall we?

Pretty chemicals!

You see, “attraction” and “liking” someone are two completely different things. I like my postal carrier, but I’m not attracted to him. Attraction is a physical thing that happens within people, and at the heart of it, it’s a chemical process. Person A’s chemicals and Person B’s chemicals are either compatible at any given time or they aren’t. No, I’m not a scientist, but I understand the basics and I think I’m right about this. The only thing I can figure is that the people who believe in the Friend Zone have never once had someone crush on them and not feel the same way back. (That or, sadly, they have never been in a relationship where attraction was reciprocal.)

Yes, I have been “guilty” of not being attracted to men who were attracted to me and really wanted me to return their feelings. And believe it or not, I (and many other women) have wished fervently for that attraction for a friend who meets so many other criteria. Sometimes we’ve even given in to the idea that you don’t have to feel an attraction for someone in order to be happy with them, and then we have learned the hard way that for many of us, that’s just not true. And ultimately, we’ve had to walk away not only from those relationships with people who were once friends, but from the friendships as well.

Though there seems to be some controversy over the actual meaning of the song “Everything You Want” by Vertical Horizon, for me it has always spoken to those times when a close friendship had everything but physical chemistry:

He’s everything you want
He’s everything you need
He’s everything inside of you
That you wish you could be
He says all the right things
At exactly the right time
But he means nothing to you
And you don’t know why

And I have been in the place they call the Friend Zone. I have been crazy about people who didn’t return my feelings. But it never once occurred to me to say “Guys only like women who mistreat them and do X, Y, and Z for them, and there’s no winning, waaaaa.” Because other times in my life, the attraction has been mutual. (And again, I’m sorry for anyone who hasn’t experienced that. But it doesn’t mean women are evil bitches who want rich bad boys who treat them like shit.) For the times it wasn’t, the second chorus of the above song was me all over:

I am everything you want
I am everything you need
I am everything inside of you
That you wish you could be
I say all the right things
At exactly the right time
But I mean nothing to you and I don’t know why…

Now let’s talk about entitlement.

People who believe in the Friend Zone seem to think that if a guy is nice enough to a woman for long enough, he’s entitled to something. (Spoiler: He’s not.) Again, this assumes an awful lot about a woman’s right to choose who the fuck she has a relationship with and pretty much anything else–in fact, it actually removes that right to choose and transforms it into the man’s right to be her boyfriend. In other words, a dude is entitled to a woman once he’s made a sufficient investment in her. If she disagrees, and heaven forbid if she’s interested in someone else, she’s a bitch–or worse, a slut.

Can you even imagine the situation in reverse?

jstfrnds

Chris: So, how’s it going with Sheila? Any progress?

Ray: She’s really nice, and I love hanging out with her. We’ve got a ton in common. But I’m just not attracted to her, you know? I like her as a friend.

Chris: But you’d still do her, right?

Ray: If I was a total asshole, yeah, sure, but I’m not, so…

Chris: Ok, glad we got that out of the way. Next question: you’ve been hanging out with her a lot, right?

Ray: Yeah…

Chris: And she made you dinner that one time, right?

Ray: Lasagna. It was really good. From scratch.

Chris: And she picked you up at the airport what, three times?

Ray: Four.

Chris: Dude. You’re in the Boyfriend Zone.

Ray: What? But I don’t want to be her boyfriend. I’m cool with things how they are. I mean, I wish there was something more there, but…

Chris: Doesn’t matter. She’s been super nice to you. You owe her.

Ray: I what? No I don’t. I just don’t feel that way about her. I wish I did, but I don’t. Besides, I met this other girl I really like. Lisa. I’m attracted to her. We’ve got a lot in common, too, and we’re going out tonight.

Chris: You can’t do that. If you do that, you’re a slut.

Ray: I’m a…WTF?

Chris: Sorry, dude. I don’t make the rules.

Poor Ray! He’s stuck in the BOYFRIEND ZONE. Now he has to have a relationship with someone he’s not attracted to (though he really does like her) just because she was nice to him! It doesn’t seem fair, does it?

But what about this poor guy, Rosie? And all the guys like him?

Sigh. Deep breath…

Yes, there are women who take advantage of good men just like there are men who take advantage of good women, so if you’re this guy and she doesn’t have a sprained ankle or something? Yeah, she’s not very nice and you’re not being very nice to yourself by letting her do that to you. But that’s about individuals with low self-esteem and inconsiderate assholes who take advantage of them, not some global phenomenon of women mistreating men.

The Friend Zone as described by the dudes who whine about it doesn’t exist. In reality, it’s just the place each and every one of us finds ourself when we get our hearts broken. And broken hearts are a global phenomenon. They’re the reason poetry gets written and songs get sung–or one of the big ones anyway. If you’ve got a broken heart, I feel for you. I really do.

But seriously? Quit with the Friend Zone bullshit.


Related:

We Need to Talk About the Friend Zone (Feminists-at-Large)

The Friend Zone is a Sexist Myth (Hello)

There’s No Such thing as Being “Friend-Zoned.” She Was Just Never Attracted to You. Get Over it. (People Are Dumb)


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


I Found Your Old Wallet.

ImageIt was empty except for two things: a photo of me and one of us together.

You asshole.

Really, I ought to capitalize that: Asshole. Because that’s my name for you now. Used to be, when you popped into my head, I thought words like “love” and “sweetie” and “baby” and “honey.” Now, without even thinking about it and without my permission, I think–and say out loud every single time–“Asshole.” Or “Fucking Asshole.” Or “What a Fucking Asshole.”

I can’t believe I ever thought you were one of the Good Guys. That I ever thought you were my friend. I’m so sorry that I trusted you–that I didn’t retain some modicum of protection that might allow me to see you for who and what you really are. I can’t believe I let you hurt me–that you still have the power to hurt me.

I once told you I’d forgiven you. I really wanted that to be true. But it’s not. I can’t forgive you. I don’t know how. I know how to say the words, but not how to make them true. The last time I talked to you I told you how hard the week of our anniversary was for me, and you responded by ignoring me on that very day. Ignoring every attempt at communication and then claiming paralysis, and THEN whining about the unfairness of it all when I told you what an asshole you were. You just kept piling hurt upon hurt, but really, it didn’t matter. You had already done the unforgivable by doing everything you did and then leaving me alone to deal with it all by myself.

I truly hope you get better and cease to cause pain to every woman foolish enough to become involved with you. But my experience has taught me this:

You are a narcissist. You are a serial monogamist. You are a sex addict. You are a man who pretends to be good and then lies and cheats and hurts women over and over again. You are a man who believes you are entitled to have your needs met at the expense of other people. You are a man who has learned what he needs to say after he destroys a life (or several) that will make people see him as a good guy who just makes mistakes and never meant to hurt anyone even though you set out every single day for several months fully intending to lie to me, betray my trust in you, and fuck another woman behind my back in downtown hotel rooms while wondering aloud at home where all our money went. You are a liar and a cheater and you don’t know how to be a friend or a partner or even a good human being.

You are an Asshole.


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


Bree’s Story

Guest post by Bree

Painting by Georges de La Tour

Painting by Georges de La Tour

When I used to imagine what rape would be, I’d think of a masked man taking you into a back alley and beating you senseless to get what he wanted. As scary as that is by itself, it was scarier for me to realize that rape could come from someone you already knew…perhaps even someone you were dating already. That’s what it was in my case.

I started dating a boy when I was 13. It’s not shocking to say that at that age a boy would already be pushing for sex, and certainly not shocking to say that at that age I didn’t want to. At first It was mostly pressure, him touching, me pushing away and saying no, after a small fight it was stop and later resume again thus causing a bigger fight. But things kept getting progressively worse, he became more aggressive, the fights getting worse after I said no, him being more physical, then it started actually happening. After all the “no’s”…it no longer became worth the effort to fight anymore. This happened for years, getting worse progressively. It began happening in front of his friends, they would watch, not saying anything, then practically high five him afterwards.

I wouldn’t admit it to myself back then. I didn’t tell anyone about it or talk about it at all. He told me I was obligated to do those things because I was his girlfriend, and that’s what girlfriends do, whether we want to or not. It wasn’t until years later when I met someone who tried (and did) eventually save me from this that I was able to admit the dreaded “r” word and realize what it was that really happened to me. I still live with PTSD, I live with the flashbacks and mental scars while I am sure he is somewhere playing his xbox right now with a smile on his face. When I finally left he told his friends I “cheated” so no one would believe my story of the abuse from the boy on the pedestal.

After I started healing I got back into my writing poetry, and then I went on to spoken word. Anything to talk about my story and get it out of my system. I worry about the other girls out there who are in my situation…dating their rapist, and thinking its justified and not rape because they are dating…it’s not true ladies, the sooner you realize that, the sooner you bloom as well.

It gets better–you just have to fight for it.

1-800-656-HOPE


Bree is a poet/spoken-word artist. Visit her website for more of her work.

If you need a safe place to share your story, please visit my Facebook page and contact me via the Message button. ~Rosie


Updates:

Here’s a short film by Jodi Martinez featuring Bree and her story:


Related:

On MMAS:

A Brief History (the Bad Parts version)
I Am Jane Doe
Letter from Another Jane Doe

From the blogosphere:

She Was Asking For It
Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


Victim Blaming by Any Other Name

30%

Guest post by Sid

domestic-violence-400x258I have had five full-blown relationships in my adult life.

Three of those relationships were abusive.

Guy one (G1) was fine in this regard, as was guy five (G5). They each had their own issues, of course, but they weren’t abusive.

Guy number two (G2) choked me one day. We had been together for well over a year, closing in on a year and a half. Some months later, he dragged me with his car for about twenty feet. Any time I tried to break up with him, he sobbed and sobbed, berating himself until I recanted. He yelled at me if I disagreed with him, prayed before a meal, or called him out on one of dozens of pathological lies.

Guy number three (G3) also choked me, but it was much softer. It was as though he didn’t intend to actually hurt me, but wanted to remind me what being choked was like (because of course he knew G2 had done it) and wanted to show me he could do it just as easily. To my mind, this is just as bad. It was more threat than act, but it amounted to the same. Some months later, he was holding my hand while angry and crushed it. It hurt for several days.

Stop_Domestic_Violence-150x150Guy number four (G4), though…he’s the tricky one. He didn’t choke me. He didn’t drag me with a car or crush my hand. His thing was all about how much I wasn’t listening to him. He was also quite tall, so when he felt I wasn’t listening to him, he would bring himself up to his full height and grab me by the arms—tightly, so that I couldn’t get away. He would then push his face into mine so that my head went back, and he would scream at me.

I struggled away whenever I could, but often I was backed up against a wall or into a corner and had nowhere to go.

I would scream back, of course, because I felt trapped and threatened, and I was trying to understand what was happening. Any time we had an argument, if I tried to step away from it to calm down and sort my thoughts, he would follow me after just a few minutes. In one of our homes, as soon as I closed the bedroom door behind me, I would sneak out the sliding glass door and walk down the street so I could get some peace. It wasn’t long before he figured that out, though, and ran down the street after me. A couple times, when I’d gotten far enough that he couldn’t see me, he came after me in his car, window rolled down and sobbing for me to get in.

Honestly, I just wanted thirty minutes to be alone. I couldn’t get five.

When we moved, my office didn’t have a sliding glass door (or a window on the first floor), but that’s still where I went when I wanted space. When he still wouldn’t respect my request to be alone, I started sitting in front of the door. It didn’t have a lock.

abusealoneThis worked for about ten minutes, at which point he panicked and forced himself into the room. This happened so many times, I couldn’t even tell you how many. I often ended up hurt because the door would throw me into the wall or would hit me, or he would step on me on accident because I was right there on the floor. Once he was in the room, he would start calm, but would eventually escalate, sobbing about how we had to work this out right now and no I couldn’t take any time to work through the problem on my own. Often, it would take us back to him grabbing me by the arms and pushing his face into mine, and screaming.

Like I said, my office didn’t have a lock. But the bathroom did. Once I locked myself in there with my back against the door. He used a credit card and forced his way in. I got hurt this time because I was leveraging myself against the door by pushing against the toilet with my feet, and eventually my knees gave out.

I started leaving the apartment when we argued. But I would literally need to run, because he would be after me in about two minutes. It was kind of amazing, actually. The first time I went to leave, he looked at me and said, “Really? You really think you have to leave the apartment?” He was aghast at my lack of trust—after all, he’d agreed to give me time to think in my office. Again. Two minutes later, he was behind me on the street, begging me to come back with him.

Finally, I started heading for the stairs instead of the elevator—but I went upstairs instead of down. That was the one thing he never figured out. I finally had some time and space to think—about being a grown woman who was hiding on the floor above her own just to escape her boyfriend who literally made a habit of chasing her.

This relationship did not last.

Now, was I an angel in this relationship? Good God, no. I mean, I tried. The good times were so good that we were engaged, and we both thought our relationship was fine. (I didn’t notice the pattern, see. Not at first. Not for a long time.) At the end of the day, though, I was not my best in this relationship, as much as I wanted to be. As much as I tried to be. But that doesn’t mean—and will never mean—that I deserved what I got.

1-800-799-SAFEWhat makes him tricky, though, isn’t that he never choked me or took a direct swing. What makes him tricky is how entwined he was with so many of my other friends. They had become our friends, and it didn’t seem right to air all our dirty laundry to them. I told two of my very closest friends, though, which was difficult because they were also very close to him. And then one of my friends said something I didn’t expect.

“Well, you know, I think a lot of it came down to you two just not being right for each other. I mean, I don’t think that’s his real personality.”

I could have the very specifics of the words wrong—it was a few years ago now—but the sentiment is dead-on. And I was confused. I had been trying to attach the word “abusive” to this relationship as I sorted through the wreckage (I say “trying” because, as with many things, it is difficult for a victim to call out what is true), and this reaction made me feel all the more like I shouldn’t attach that word. It made me feel even more strongly that the problem wasn’t him—the problem was that I evoked the reaction.

I fought with myself for a long time on this one, and honestly I don’t know when in the last three years I settled on the word “abusive,” but I know it was more recent than not. Maybe it was when I heard this same friend say that she couldn’t imagine what goes through people’s heads when they defend a friend of theirs who was called out for assaulting another friend. “How can you look someone in the face and say that he wouldn’t do that? That it was just a misunderstanding?”

I don’t know. How can you?

Or maybe it was just this last week when I stood two feet away as she hugged Rosie and said, “I unfriended that guy because I couldn’t stand to hear him say on Facebook how he was…” something. I didn’t hear the end of the sentence. I was too far inside my own head trying to figure out how it was that B was so despicable she couldn’t stand to be friends with him on Facebook, yet she had managed to remain very close friends with my abuser since I left him.

Abuser. That’s such a strong word. I look at it even now and think, “Come on now, Sid. Surely that’s not the right word. He didn’t even hit you.” Honestly. That’s the thought: “He didn’t even hit you.” I know better than that, and still.

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The thing with a lot of victim blaming, I think, is that it comes from a place not of malice but of pleading. When you say, “You must have misinterpreted the situation,” you’re not really saying, “You’re a liar and I don’t believe you.” At least not most of the time. Sure, there are people who outright say that, but I think even they are really saying, “Don’t let this be true. Please, just leave me any margin for error so I can continue to hang out with my friend who has never shown this horrible side to me.”

It works like this, I think:

  1. You acknowledge the accusation is horrible.
  2. If the accusation is true, then you feel you can no longer be friends with the accused.
  3. You have never seen the accused display any behavior like this; in fact, you would declare the accused to be one of the nicest fellows you know.
  4. As a result of (3), you choose to believe that it couldn’t have been as bad as it sounds. Your natural inclination is to assume there was a misunderstanding.
  5. You report this to the accusing party.

Voilà.

You aren’t trying to disregard your friend’s feelings—in truth, you’re just trying to protect your own—but what you’ve done here is opened the door for second-guessing. Second-guessing something that was probably hard to talk about in the first place. Without even intending to, you have silenced her.

Victim blaming isn’t something any friend sets out to do. (Anyone who does so openly and candidly is honestly not a friend—I have stories about that, too.) Victim blaming is something so subtle it can slip by us without so much as a glance.

PosterHeartAfter my first two abusive relationships (G2 and G3), I was re-applying for a job as a dispatcher. During one of the interviews, the abuse came up in conversation. My interviewers informed me that these relationships proved I had poor decision-making skills and denied me the job. (Before you jump into legality, I can’t prove that was the reason. It was, though.)

It took me several years to get over the shame and the self-blame of those first two, but now I won’t apologize when I tell you that I have been abused. I won’t shrink away and say, “I…I know I should have gotten out sooner, but…” I notice the signs now, and I avoid them. In the case of G4, it took a while to notice the pattern, but when I did—and I realized it was slowly getting worse and worse—I got out, six months before the wedding.

Getting out isn’t as easy as it sounds, and I won’t look down on anyone going through a similar experience. Women in these situations need help and encouragement—not shame, not blame, not doubt. Strength.

My roommate once asked me what my biggest regret was, and I said I didn’t have any. “None at all?” “Nope. Because it’s all important. Our pasts make up who we are, and I like who I am. I wouldn’t be who I am without everything that’s brought me to this point. It’s all important.”

It’s a part of my history. I can’t change it, and honestly, I don’t know that I would given the chance. Not changing your past doesn’t mean you have to relive it, after all. I love and appreciate every lesson I’ve learned, however hard it was.

I don’t make billboards about my abusive relationships, but I don’t make any effort to hide them. And sometimes people still try to shame me—whether it’s with words, body language, or a sudden, superior attitude. It doesn’t work, though. Here’s a quick tip: you can’t shame me about my life, my choices, my hobbies, my aspirations, my friends, or my past. It’s pointless trying.

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You can’t shame me because I am not ashamed.


Read Sid’s previous MMAS articles in Sid’s Stuff. Follow her at @SeeSidWrite.


Back to the Future

back to the futureWe interrupt this story-in-progress to bring you an update from the future. Ok, now that you’re here, it’s the present. Welcome back!

I ran out of words a few days ago. Words about my current life, that is. I started a new freelance gig, and all my words are currently going there. It’s a welcome distraction from reality and gives me a sense of forward motion. It restores some of my confidence. It reminds me that I’m ok on my own.

B and I are on speaking–even friendly–terms following a series of talks. I unloaded a lot of anger on him in person –which I very much needed to do–when he came to move his stuff. Then we talked as friends and cried together a bit. (I did most of the crying–B never has been able to really let loose in that department, and I think he needs to learn how. I told him that the other day.) That was two weeks to the day after he left, and it was a very, very hard day. We’ve talked twice since then and kept in touch via email and text.

I had my first therapy appointment today. It was good. I wish I could have gone sooner, but my crisis happened right when everyone else was having theirs, and vacations and all that. Going back weekly. Also have an appointment with B and a couples counselor Tuesday. I don’t know what to hope for at this point.

Now and then it hits me all over again, but in between I have found some peace. I am getting stronger every day.

Never fear–I’ll get back to publishing regular stuff on a more regular basis just as soon as possible. Right now it’s all I can do to juggle one ball at a time.

Love,

Rosie


“Let Someone Love You”

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“broken girl” by Adnagaporp on deviantart.

After I wrote the previous post about loving someone “warts and all” and feeling like I didn’t get the same in return, I ran across this quote:

“Let someone love you just the way you are – as flawed as you might be, as unattractive as you sometimes feel, and as unaccomplished as you think you are. To believe that you must hide all the parts of you that are broken, out of fear that someone else is incapable of loving what is less than perfect, is to believe that sunlight is incapable of entering a broken window and illuminating a dark room.” — Marc Hack

It’s lovely, isn’t it? It reminds us to let love in–to let a person truly know you. To be honest with them about the broken parts of yourself and to trust that they’ll love you anyway. The problem is, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes those broken parts of you are the exact things the person you love, who supposedly loves you, can’t handle. How many times can we allow ourselves to trust so completely that we reveal those broken places only to be ultimately rejected on the basis of their existence and the “issues” that result? I did it exactly once in 50 years, and the result has not been what I would call a success.

I thought I could tell him when my body wasn’t responding. I thought that meant we’d work together to figure out how to help it respond. But ultimately it meant that he gave up on trying to please me and focused on pleasing himself, and later, someone else. In the past when sex didn’t work, I just pretended. He made me promise early on never to pretend with him. So I told him the truth, and he turned away from me.

I know I’ll be struggling with a lot of questions as time goes by. You’ve watched me juggle many of them here–try to make some sense out of what’s happening by telling myself (and you) the same story in different words. This morning my question is this:

How can I trust someone with my body and my bruised and battered psyche ever again? How can I ever again not hide the parts of me that are broken?