I’m weird in a sense because I find the term ‘victim’ liberating. To me it gives the validation I once desperately sought. I have been victimised by someone. Someone else did that to me. On purpose. Premeditated.
‘Survivor’ makes me think of catastrophes like tsunamis and that to me muddies the waters. As if something that happened was just some quirk of fate and there’s nothing anyone could’ve done to prevent it. Just wrong place at a wrong time.
And that’s not true is it?
People who have been in abusive relationships are in a constant high-strung state of alarm. Their antennas are constantly out, analysing every syllable and the slightest change in tone. Like hypersensitive geological machines that forewarn of an approaching earthquake. The slightest anomaly is enough to set the sirens off and begin evacuation.
It’s exhausting but this is how they survived.
I haven’t been in a relationship since I broke up with my abusive ex. I’ve realised that having a normal, loving relationship with someone is almost an unimaginable concept. It’s something that happens to other people, not me.
You see, you get used to it. I lived in a constant panic mode for two years, analysing the slightest sign of trouble in another person in order to smooth things over before it would lead to yet another argument. At some point I just started thinking that this just happens to be my part in life.
Still despite my best efforts the success rate wasn’t very high. He was very unpredictable. The fact that something had worked in the past should’ve given me some leverage in theory but in practise it meant nothing.
I was like a gambler who likes to build up theories and probabilities in order to make sure they win when in reality the slot machine chooses at random. A sense of control that doesn’t really exist. In reality it’s a toss of a coin, fifty-fifty. And if he was determined to have an argument, the whole coin could be tossed out the window altogether.
There was a time when I would’ve given anything that my ex would’ve hit me. It sounds sick but at least that would’ve been clear enough. You did this to me. It would’ve been something that would’ve left a mark. I could’ve looked at it, shown that to someone. He did this.
How do you begin to tell anyone that the person who you are in a relationship with says horrible things to you and makes you feel worthless while telling you that everything happening is your fault?
Words don’t leave a physical mark, and your only mirror is from a fun fair that distorts everything. Also if you get told something over and over again, you will believe it eventually.
When I got together with my ex, there was a big campaign about abuse in relationships. The adverts on youtube and spotify would feature a couple, where either the girl or the boy was acting abusive towards the other while they watch the scene unravel from the sidelines, horrified. The tagline was ‘if you could see the abuse, would you stop it?’
Those adverts played out when we first got together. We would have a laugh because they would drag the mood down momentarily but now I can’t help but think that unbeknown to us those adverts told the story of our then budding relationship.
I once referred to them in a middle of an argument.
“If you could see yourself right now, you would be horrified by how you’re treating me”, I said.
His response was ‘I don’t know.’
That’s what I mean about the unpredictability. You could never really trust things to go in a certain way, and without predictability life gets exhausting. We need stability in our lives, a framework to follow and plan our days by. Without that all that’s left is chaos.
So I stopped expecting. If you don’t expect anything, at least you don’t get disappointed when it doesn’t materialise.
In a way it makes things both easier and more difficult. I have zero problem completely cutting people out of my life. If a date doesn’t go well I just delete the person’s number and think nothing of it. For a person who supposedly expects nothing I have ridiculously high standards on people. One wrong word and it’s over.
It’s merciless but it’s also a defence mechanism. I hold insanely high standards towards others because I made a mistake once and let a person who ended up hurting me to get close to me. I’ll never let it happen again.
And once the moment comes, one ill-chosen word or gesture, I immediately close the case file and bin it without disappointment. I knew this was going to happen.
To me dating isn’t this harmless, fun activity. There’s nothing fun about it, it’s incredibly serious. Incredibly dangerous. I look at my friends and other young women of my age in social media and on television and to me it’s like watching a news broadcast from another planet.
How can this be so easy for you? How can it be so much fun?
Being respected and treated like a human being are not high standards to uphold but when you haven’t been awarded even that, things get tricky. In your rational head you know all the right things. Not everyone is the same and you don’t need to earn the right to be respected because it’s self-evident but at the back of your mind you’re making preparations for the possibility that you don’t.
That’s the true dating challenge for someone who has been in a bad relationship in the past. Finding someone who is so predictable in treating you well that slowly, carefully over time the antennas can be folded away and the machines turned off.
This is why I hate it when you’re watching telly and someone makes the following statement, in different expressions with the same message: “I don’t understand why you would stay with someone who treats you badly.”
I don’t either. But if you look at the above you can hopefully see that it has very little to do with sense.