He was good. Good in the sense that his intricate web of lies aligned just enough with my self-doubt that he had me hooked. He had me just where he wanted me, until he didn’t.
Domestic violence is just that – intricate. I have heard so many people debate the simplicity of the matter. People think getting away from an abuser is simple. They think you just leave. But what they don’t realize is that not leaving doesn’t make you weak. It is the very thing that makes you strong.
I can’t describe to you the exact way I felt the first time my boyfriend wrapped his hands around my throat and tried to strangle me. It was surreal really. I was in disbelief that his hands, the ones I used to so graciously hold, were now wrapped around my neck cutting off my air supply.
What was even harder to imagine was still loving someone with purity after that. Forgiveness is a funny thing, because it often comes with expectations. That is, expecting the person not to repeat the same act that led to such pain and disappointment. And that is the very thing that abusers are so good with. Making the same mistakes over and over again and convincing you somehow that every time is different.
That ferocious man – the one that on numerous occasions deemed it acceptable to put his hands on me – also came in the form of a very amicable man capable of love. And I loved that man with every single part of me. What I couldn’t accept for a very long time was that loving that amicable man also meant loving the ferocious one. And the truth is: you can’t do both.
My abuser did everything to drown me and then everything to keep me afloat. Clarity was always lacking when I tried to figure out his intentions. I was his soul mate, but then I was a fat whore. I was the love of his life, but then the stupid bitch who knows nothing. And after months of trying to figure out which one he meant more, I realized that who I am would never be for him to decide.
Even though those words – his filthy collaboration of belittling phrases – still remain unsettling, I am at peace knowing that they are of no value. I have realized that the only way to truly love someone is to respect them, and respect was infinitely lacking when it came to my abuser. Most importantly, I have realized that everything he did had everything to do with him, and absolutely nothing to do with me. Perhaps that is the most profound.
You see, abusers thrive off of their incessant need to control you. They turn truths into doubts, and perpetually tell you that everything is a direct response to your faults. And after months or even years of replaying this concept to yourself, it is only when you are out that you can see the true invalidity of it.
So even though some days are plagued by memories of him, there is much more sunshine on the outside than there ever could have been on the inside. I refuse to let this situation victimize me, but I do highlight the strengths that have become pronounced as a result of it. As Maya Angelou once wrote, “I may be changed by what happens to me, but I will not be reduced by it.”