In this season of hope, I think of how victims of DV live with both hopefulness and hopelessness. No one is more hopeful than a victim of abuse. It’s one of the main reasons victims stay, believing that their partner will change at any moment and everything will be okay. We have to think that way because our perception is that there is no way out of the relationship. Since he controls the relationship, we know that only he has the power to change things.
It’s interesting that both hope and hopelessness can co-exist within us. In that twilight zone juncture, pondering “do I stay or do I leave,” these two emotions become all consuming. If we leave, hope keeps us questioning and doubting our decision. Having been taught not to trust our own judgement feeds into that dilemma. “But he can be so wonderful.” “If I hadn’t [insert partner’s favorite reason why you ruined things] everything would be okay.” Though we understand that our partner will always find fault with us, we continue to hope that we can be better, good enough. And, we hope that we can find the magic solution to heal/fix/cure our partner. When we face the fact that we cannot change anyone but ourselves, hopelessness overwhelms us.
Our partners promise to change. They cry, plead, and beg us to stay or return. If that doesn’t work, they pour on the guilt. They needs us, we’re taking their children from them, causing them to lose their job, ruining their reputations. (Notice nothing’s said about how they’ve destroyed our lives.) If that doesn’t work, it’s on to threats. They’ll kill themselves, us, the children, our families. All the time ramping up the pressure on us to stay or return. Worn and exhausted hopelessness sets in.
Some partners say that they hate what they are doing to us. That indicates that they know what they are doing is wrong and should not be repeated. Anyone who knows what they are doing can stop doing it -- if they really want to.
We beg God to change our partner. Since God has given mankind choice, God does not change anyone without his or her consent and cooperation, he or she has to do the work. That means an abuser has to take steps to stop the behavior. The first step -- go into batterer’s treatment. Second step -- do the work and complete the program. Third step -- do whatever is needed to stay on the right track. Any effort less than that means there will be no change.
Another thing we struggle with in this twilight zone, is that all the effort we’ve put into the relationship will be lost if we leave. “Wonder if he does change?” “Someone else will reap the benefits of my work and I’ll have to start over with someone else.” If he hasn’t gone into treatment serious about changing, he’s not going to change. His behavior isn’t about who we are, it’s about who they are. The victims are interchangeable.
This is the season of hope. I know it can be hard to face the holidays when you're alone, recovering from abuse. Everything around you can remind you of lost dreams and hopes. Everything seems to reek of love and family closeness, sending you into a tailspin of hopelessness and depression. Suddenly you’re remembering the good times and discounting the bad ones. This is when you need to hold strong. If you haven’t made a list of what you love about him and what you’d change, now’s the time. Write down the truth of how you’ve been treated. If you stay or return all those bad behaviors will continue.
To get to a better life you will have to be uncomfortable for a time, just for a time. Let me assure you that you can have hope -- hope that your future will hold a better life for you and your children. The path is not easy, but hang in there. This Christmas celebrate how far you’ve come. Do your best to focus on the blessings in your life. Try to concentrate only on today and trust that the future will take care of itself. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, meet the challenges of each day and you will walk out of the darkness. All of us who have been there are standing with you, holding you in prayer.
May the grace of this season touch your heart and peace surround you with it’s comforting and joyous glow.