If it’s going to be, it’s up to me. I hate that saying. But, it’s true. People who love us can help, but it’s our job to change our lives for the better.
When we leave a violent relationship, the terror of how our partner will react shrouds our life and colors our future. Safety for ourselves and children takes center stage. Meanwhile, we struggle with where to live, finding a job (one that will pay enough to support ourselves and children) and explaining to the kids why we left. These are just a few of the many issues that leaves us feel confused and unsettled.
We may also wrestle with the Stockholm syndrome. Like kidnapped victims, a woman living with domestic abuse over a period of time often begins to side with her captor. It’s a survival mechanism. She quickly learns what triggers his violence and how to avoid those triggers to remain safe. If she can just behave “right,” everything will be okay. Small acts of kindness on his part, are a welcome oasis in her terrifying world. As a result, her reasoning becomes skewed and she feels he, in a sense, is her protector as well as the object of her fear. He holds the power over her life and death.
During that time, our partners have imprinted false beliefs, rules and demands designed to keep us off balance and vigilant to their every need. Through constant brainwashing, we come to believe we are as incompetent and stupid as our partners say. How can we survive without them? They’ve also set themselves up to be the center of our worlds. Our job has been to care for their every need. It’s not surprising that when we leave, many of us still feel responsible to care for them. I felt guilty every time I cooked dinner, believing that I should send a meal to my ex. I didn’t do it. I knew that doing so would say to him that there was a chance I’d return. The relationship was over, it seemed more compassionate to hold the line than to give him false hope.
One of the biggest struggles for victims, is to replace the distorted thinking with healthy, “normal” thinking. In support groups, seminars, and one on one, women said -- “I don’t know what normal thinking is anymore.” That’s why I wrote But He’ll Change. I, too, had wondered that same thing.
In the next few entries of my blog, let’s talk about those thoughts that jerk us around and how we can change them.