Samantha Field over at Defeating the Dragons has just posted a new blog post, “my abusive relationship was typical”.
Samantha has written quite a bit over on her blog about an abusive relationship she was in. I highly recommend her blog as a whole, which also addresses a variety of other topics.
I was reading this new post of hers, and I could not stop thinking about how my experience in an abusive relationship was remarkably similar, so yes, she was making her point wonderfully, as unfortunate as it is. This “typical” nature for abusive relationships clearly is not even limited to a woman being in a romantic relationship with an abusive man, because the thing I was relating to was my own relationship as a child in an abusive relationship with an abusive mother.
I decided to leave a comment on the post, and then another. I was participating in a discussion, kind of, and you can certainly feel free to read my comments by going to the original blog post to which I’m referring. I say some different stuff there than I do here, below. But my thoughts started running wild and I had too much to say, so this blog post was born. 😛
Everyone is against child abuse, but it feels like everyone has this picture in their minds of a drunk man breaking a beer bottle on his three-year-old’s head and knocking them unconscious/murdering them in the process or something as extreme and obviously physically violent as humanly possible, but in reality it is not often that black-and-white, not often that obviously horrible, but it *is* horrible, even in other forms. It often is… insidious, and the culture at large doesn’t seem to realize that.
I personally felt trapped in my abusive relationship with my mother for a variety of reasons, but one of the main reasons I felt trapped was because I was trapped. There were not black eyes and broken bones, and I felt like without that kind of “proof” of a parent’s abuse, no one would have the “right” to save me from living with my mother. So I tried to convince myself the abuse wasn’t really that bad, as is common in the cycle of abuse. But if I’d truly had the freedom to walk away, the way people in abusive romantic relationships have that relative “freedom”, who knows if the cycle of abuse would apply to me in the same way? 😛 It might’ve. Fearing that no one else will love you, fearing (or knowing!) that the person will still be in your life regardless of if you break up because they go to the same school or work in the same office or whatever… (and as a side-note, the fandom-obsessed person I am can’t help but think of the character of Beiste and her domestic abuse storyline on Glee and how she actually used those words).
There are other ways people can feel (or be) just as trapped in their relationship. My mother is my mother, and I’ve actually had a religious Christian person tell me that cutting off all contact with my mother, as I have, is a violation of the Ten Commandments. She is the only person who will ever be my mother, and inherent in that is pressure from both society at large and internally to try to “work it out”, or to “forgive”, etc.
Once my brother had been freed, once we were no longer living with our mother, he still seemed to want to “give her a chance”. Samantha Field brought up some people’s common responses to when she informs them of how her abusive fiancé had ended things but then stalked her and tried to get her back.
“…why would he follow you all over campus begging to talk to you? Couldn’t it be possible that you were exaggerating how bad things really were and he’d had a change of heart? That he really did want to be with you? That he’d changed?”
And then she so eloquently responded:
“First of all: there’s a reason why the Cycle of Abuse is so damn effective, and that would be it. Women don’t start believing in the Cycle of Abuse because they’re in an abusive relationship– they already believe it before the abuse even begins. Every single time the abuser apologizes and they enter the “Honeymoon Phase,” that is exactly what the victims says to themselves. It’s not actually that bad. Look, see, he’s trying.”
To some degree, I see that in my brother’s attitude toward our mother. “She wants me to include her in my life, so okay, I’ll invite her to see this play I was in. I’ll agree to sleep over her house one weekend. I’ll try to give her a bajillionth chance to be a mother to me”.
I had said before that “there were not black eyes and broken bones”, but ironically, my younger brother (age 15 at the time) actually did end up with a broken bone before we both stopped living with her (and I was 17), and while it was only “indirectly” caused by her, it was still clearly a direct result of her abuse. (My mom was torturing me verbally/psychologically, and my brother found himself *so* frustrated after trying but failing to get her to stop that he punched a door-frame because of this – the more dangerous surface of a door-frame and not a wall because he was afraid of breaking a wall and angering our mother further.) It should not take broken bones before abuse of kids “counts”. But in the current state of the world… *sigh*.
(Yes, my mother may not have been physically abusing me at the time, but my brother realized that the psychological abuse my mother was inflicting upon me was brutal – so brutal that he broke his own hand in reaction to it. My brother and I love each other more than most people love their siblings. We must have bonded over keeping each other sane as we grew up in… a particular type of war zone.)
My dad was in an abusive domestic relationship with his wife too, but society treats women as “harmless”… and men aren’t even *allowed* to be victims. I think if my father had realized that psychological abuse was a real thing, that women can be the abusers and that women aren’t automatically intrinsically good at being mothers the way “common knowledge” would have one believe…
And if my father had realized that men are not immune from falling under a cycle of abuse…
…maybe he would have actually chosen to protect himself and his children from this toxic person. Of course, he was also *rightfully* afraid of losing contact with his children, which was probably the main factor that allowed my mother to control my father, extort money from him, etc for my entire childhood. Many people in abusive domestic partnerships where children are involved experience threats of not being able to see their children, but men often worry that they are the gender with the most to fear when it comes to how a court will likely rule when it comes to custody and visitation, and it’s hard to say if this is true or false because studies on this are rare and fraught with bias, but it might be true. So my dad perhaps was in a way “smart” to never try to get a legal divorce, to just “Work things out” with the abusive woman.
Abusive relationships are a complicated subject matter to discuss, and I’ve only touched upon them here, but this is what I have to say for today.