Growing Out of an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

Growing Out of an Emotionally Abusive Relationship

Both of my parents were alcoholics and both died with many years of sobriety under their belt. After being a child of alcoholics, I became an alcoholic. But, I have not had a drink in almost 14 years. Having alcoholic parents set me up for being comfortable in abusive relationships. There are so many levels of abuse a person can be exposed to or be involved with. The main two levels are physical and emotional abuse. They both leave scars, but the emotional abuse leaves scars they are not seen in a physical sense. Mental scars can become tapes you play in your head over and over until they develop your identity.

I learned at an early age to be a caretaker. I learned to become the working thread to sew all the pieces of fabric together to make the life quilt to emerge to be whole and complete. This meant I learned to find answers within a situation where there appeared to be no solution.

I learned to make lemonade out of a sack of lemons and I would sweeten it with the love I held within the palms of my hands.

I watched my father call my mother outside of her name and hurl his personal hate at her, in the midst of his drunken rage. I watched my mother try to love him, even when he spewed foul language wrapped in bright ribbon. I vowed to never be loved like they seemed to be loving each other. My father never trusted my mother and he kept her captive with fear and intimidation. He rarely struck her, just kept her in eternal fear. His words were his best weapons of pain. His mistrust of women started with his mother and the habit became generational.

And you would have thought I knew the scenario and I would avoid finding myself in the same trappings. But in my 60’s I found myself in a relationship where there were no scars to be seen. But the mind manipulation was present, alive and well. There were the mental trappings of getting rewards for your patience, while waiting for the lover to become more humane. Thinking time and the fact that you could be loving and supportive, the lover would learn to love the beauty waiting inside. I kept waiting for the gifting, but I also knew you cannot give something you don’t have.

If you don’t have the common sense to love yourself, you cannot fully give love to someone else. Yet, I made it my goal to be an open portal of patience and compassion. I was going to fill the empty space with love and abundance because I thought I could a beacon of light. Then I started questioning, “...why do I feel anguish and fear instead of the freedom of love?”

What was it inside of me that wanted the unattainable love of another who knew nothing of loving another? Was my love necessary to heal my lover? Was I only playing with fire? And why was my love living outside of myself?

I had a false sense of attaining power by controlling someone else’s healing process. I was walking straight into a relationship of abuse. The bells and whistles were sounding and I thought it was a parade.

The tale of abuse was evident on both sides of the flipping coin. You lie to me. I pretend I believe your lies because soon they would become the truth. I lie to myself and say I am happy. You pretend you are changing. I echo your scripted drama and I buy a season ticket. I can’t get angry because I signed the contract to be present. You are silently angry because you know you are living a lie. Both of us know the relationship resembles “Days of Our Lives” and we keep watching the installments daily.

And the day comes I cannot ignore the repetition of the lies and deceit, the cruelty of your lies. I can’t ignore the pity I secretly I have for you and I begin to undermine the foundation of the relationship. I wake up bleeding from lack each morning, but I jump at your call.

Then I know the power of change lies within me. The emptiness I feel it is too familiar. It is the same emptiness I witnessed from my parent’s relationship at its worst. Two people caught up in the dream of love and not knowing the heart of love as a reality. At my age, I know the emptiness of feeling alone when you are with someone. It is not something I want to entertain.

So, the next morning, I called and told you in a loving voice, “...we are no longer in a committed relationship because I don’t feel the results of a commitment.” And there was silence. You threw accusations and emotional barbs at me. I listened and slowly responded, ‘I needed to leave to save my sense of self.”  You were again silent and muttered, “I guess that it is over…”

And then I could finally breathe deeply and clear, one more time again. I walked away during the afternoon with my love intact, the sun was shining and I felt as whole as a compassionate person should feel, because I had not shamed you.

This post previously appeared on The Good Men Project.


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