Abuse me once….

There’s an old saying; “trick me once, shame on you, trick me twice, shame on me. It is sage wisdom that holds up to the test of time. To be tricked, is to not know what is being perpetrated upon you, so it’s not your fault. Ah, but to let it happen again, that’s on you. When someone show’s you their true intentions, or lack of integrity, take notice! With verbal and emotional abuse, you need to be even more diligent because it’s not always so apparent. If a partner is abusive once, there should be no opportunity for him* to abuse you again. NONE. Because he will, and you will either make excuses, or it will become an insidious type of abuse that you don’t even really realize is happening, until you have either wasted so much time or have become trapped, or worse.

I write of what I know. I did not have many male role models in my life and the lacking somehow caused me to put men up on a pedestal. If only my father had lived to see my fourth birthday, I knew my life would have been so different. Not that my life was bad, but I had a deep aching for a male figure and the sort of love that only a father can give. As a young girl, my favorite Uncle would visit from South America. Each time he left, I was bereft down to the core. I would cry and cry. In the 1960’s, it was not common place to send a child to counseling, but I clearly needed it; just to sort out my confused ideas as well as properly grieve my father’s death, which was never really explained to me. He collapsed from a stroke and then I just never saw him again.

Upon becoming a young woman, the desire for a father figure morphed into the desire for a husband figure. I was 14 and my first boyfriend was five years my senior. We dated for 3 years and not until he was faced with the idea of losing me did he ever treat me with the kindness and respect that every young woman deserves. It’s important to know that the pattern of accepting abuse begins somewhere, so you need to stop it before it starts. For me, the worst incident was during a verbal argument in his car, he drove to a scarey state mental institution. He took me to the gates, told me that’s where I belonged and forced me out of the car. It was terrifying. There were no cell phones, it was too far to walk and it was pitch black out for God’s sake! I never told anyone about this, because I felt ashamed, like I somehow deserved it. This was the behavior of a manipulative bully. He made me feel like I had no control and left me in an unsafe position. I suppose he came back to pick me up, I don’t remember, but I do remember I continued to go out with him.

I was clearly in an inferior position; I was younger, naïve, and cared more about the relationship than he did….until I didn’t. And THAT is when I regained my power. Suddenly, I was treated like a princess, taken out and showered with gifts. This is fairly typical behavior of an abuser. When I finally cut the cord, he “escalated” humiliating me and physically attacking me. Not so bad that anyone took notice; and I will admit I hid it. He ripped my bathing suit top off of me in my front yard, as my mother lie in a hospital bed in the back room of our house. He ripped it so hard that he gave me a “rug burn.” Driving off in his hot shot car, he left me in shame to gather the strips of fabric and run inside before any of my neighbors saw what had transpired. I quietly opened that back door, slipped past my gravely ill mother and went upstairs to get dressed and wash the tears from my face.

Later standing outside my house with my best friend, he came back and threw a $20 bill at my feet. “Buy yourself a new suit,” he said, without an ounce of remorse, as if that fixed it. He drove away staring at me with venomously. As soon as he drove away, I took the bill and ripped it to shreds so he could see. He reversed the car, got out, and twisted my arm till I was on my knees, forcing me to pick up the tattered bits of currency. Once he was gone, I made a joke of it to my friend; found every last piece, taped it together, swung it in the air, and triumphantly said “Grateful Dead tickets, on me!” I never wanted my pain to be seen or appear weak. So humor was my armour.

The next boyfriend didn’t come for a year or so. He was no charm either. He was a controlling, cheater, who was “OK” as long as I played by his rules; if I didn’t, he was cruel and vengeful. (Thankfully it didn’t last long because I truly fell in love and that relationship got me away from him.) I don’t blame myself, but I accept responsibility for my part in it. That is important to me in order to heal.

This pattern would continue despite my best efforts to halt it. Some of these men went on to be, to the best of my knowledge, good husbands and fathers. Maybe it was me? So when it came time to choose a permanent life mate, I picked someone totally different. Guess what? He was the worst of all, and genuinely was a danger to women.

So, what does this have to do with you? There are many reasons people tolerate bad behavior; mine were very low self esteem as well as a lack of any healthy “couple” role models. We don’t even realize we are accepting abuse because we don’t have a healthy frame of reference. We make excuses, put other people’s feelings ahead of our own, or just start a bad pattern at a young age and never know how to fix it. I tried to fix mine, and I made it worse!!

I’ve gone to many Billy Joel concerts in my life and he ALWAYS closes the show by saying “and remember, don’t take any shit from anybody.” He has told millions of people that countless times. It’s such simple advice. If you are not treated with the respect you deserve, that is NOT love. You will just end up feeling worse and worse about yourself , till you end up with a full fledged batterer, mental abuser, or emotional terrorist. That charismatic, handsome, person who stole your heart is not going to suddenly become thoughtful, considerate, and kind if he did not start out that way. Most abusers are in fact usually quite charming and adept at gaining trust. With time, however, they subtley change and we grow to accept behavior that would make us cringe if we were to witness someone else as the recipient.

No matter what age you are, think about this. Abuse can be blatant or subtle. Learn the signs!

  1. Teasing or putting you down in front of others
  2. Caring so much about you that you feel smothered
  3. Controlling what you wear or your hairstyle
  4. Undermining your hopes and dreams (belittling you)
  5. Cutting you off from any friends or family (isolation)
  6. Making you think YOU are the one with the problem (this is called gas lighting in extreme cases)
  7. Trying to make you doubt your own perceptions (crazy making)
  8. Extreme jealousy (controlling)

Now this might all sound very obvious or benign, but it’s not. Most abusers who do not seek help, do not suddenly get better. Remember my first story? He showered me with attention and did a total 180 degrees, however, when his efforts didn’t work, he got violent. Was I fearful for my life? No, but we live in different times. Bad behavior in general has become more accepted. Domestic violence is an incredible and growing problem that is, in my opinion, not being addressed seriously enough. One in three women murdered were killed by an intimate partner. It is for this reason that we need to talk to our young girls about relationships before they start dating. Teaching them boundaries and self respect will help them to pick suitable mates as well as friends in general. Point out unacceptable behavior when the opportunities arise. Encouraging young women to seek other outlets that are as equally fulfilling as a relationship will give them much needed balance in there life, such as career, hobbies, friends, etc.

Abuse me once – you showed your hand. That’s it! – Easy for me to say, because I only see this in retrospect, with a lot of counseling, and more than “a little help from my friends.” In my golden years, I remain alone by choice and am taking the time to discover my true passions. There is no one like you! YOU deserve a happy life that includes neither pain nor abuse. Choose wisely, and when necessary walk away quickly. Trust me! It will be awful, but honestly, there is a happier ending waiting for you down the road. And it might not even involve a man. YOU get to choose the life you want. And honestly, don’t take any shit from anybody!

  • Authors note: This article was written for a site for women, but men are abused in relationships as well. If you are a victim of abuse – please reach out to a professional or a local support agency.

Reprinted by permission © 2017 scrappygirllifehacks.com  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

“A rose by an other name” – or Life Doesn’t Actually Suck.

I haven’t been writing much lately – but I have been thinking a lot. Getting older gives us the perspective of standing on the the hill of our “history” and looking at things from a different perspective.  As we get older, we definitely need a different perspective. In the immortal words of Bette Davis,”Old age ain’t no place for sissies!”

Especially in this age of full disclosure, the internet, and a new disregard for our own privacy – an onlooker of facebook or other social media might think that most people have the fairytale life. First of all, that’s a whole other post….what exactly is a fairtyale life? In my mind, growing up, it meant an intact, loving, family, a comfortable house, a security in our families, streets and leaders.  So we actually have a dichotomy here, because what we see on the news and on social media is either the perfect or the tragic. I have news for you, life is both for everyone.

I usually consider myself a very sympathetic and empathetic person, but I am human, I get caught up in my own worries and challenges, just like everyone else, and I drop the ball on peope I love the most ( I try not to) Sometimes I feel forsaken myself….but that’s just human nature. We are all struggling in what is becoming a more challenging environment to live in.

I have done a lot of soul searching and reading and listening to different opinions of all sorts of people, trying to use my time effectively while I am in an autoimmune flare. In the end it all doesn’t matter, to me anyway. I figured out that after a half a century on this planet, I’ve been right about some things and wrong about lots. Not until I stood on the hill of my own history and looked at it like a painting did I begin to understand the truth. It doesn’t matter about other people’s lives – their suffering is no more or less than yours – nor is their joy. They don’t need to look at my “art,” I do, and with a different eye.

Guide posts used to be the tragedies; “oh, that was the Christmas my Dad died.” I no longer want pain as the markers on my map. When I look back, I want to catalog life by the joy, not the sorrow, because otherwise all we begin to see and feel is pain. This is not who I am, but it was who I was becoming.  A lot of it is directly related to the pain and loneliness of living with autoimmune disease. The rest is just from being “battle weary” Life is exhausting for everyone. However, it is also exhilirating. Find the joy and focus on that; on the now, because that is truly all we have. Better to make the best of it than become bitter.

What the hell does this have to do with roses you might be asking right around now. 🙂 I’ve been bedbound quite a bit the past two years. I miss a lot of things and it frustrates me. I was speaking to my sister, who has boundless energy and the ability to push herself no matter how exhausted she is. She raised three wonderful women and at sixty works three jobs. I was telling her how I feel robbed by this illness; that there are so many simple things I want to do and can’t….for years. She replies “you’ve done a lot of things.” This annoys me for a moment from the woman who has traveled all over, been married a million years to a great guy, seen amazing shows, met incredible people. “She totally does not understand the enormous value of what she has” I think with an eyeroll.

Well, she actually gave me a huge gift, and besides that, she was right, (something which is excrutiatingly difficult for this baby sister to concede). I took out my painting/map whatever you want to call it, and started seeing all the things that I DID do. There is so much joy that I lived, that I never want to take for granted. I had blessings that I didn’t understand at the time; being sent to Brazil for 4 months when I was nine. I was excited to go, but I didn’t realize then, that those four months brought me closer to my family in Brazil, and was the beginning of a bond that would last a lifetime and beyond. Many, if not most of my joyfull moments were spent there, or with them. And those unions molded who I am today. My amazing God sent friends who have stuck by me, laughing, singing, dancing, crying through the decades; Concerts, beach days, hugs from little arms and hands, unexpected kisses, flowers popping up after a brutal winter are all blessings never to be taken for granted.

Another thing I’ve learned is, that although relationships wax and wane, they are all there to teach us something – “life is a series of hellos and good-byes” : Billy Joel. But if you peruse your own life’s painting,  you will look down and understand things in a different way. You will see unexpected deep unexpected lifelong soul connections, passing strangers who evoked something important, kindnesses from acquantances at a time you really needed them. Don’t look for the people who disappointed you – look for the people who surprised and delighted you. Suddenly you will be flooded with beautiful memories and you might even be reminded of a single rose – a memory that is so old, you don’t know how your aging brain has retrieved it. And then, thanks to the wonder of technology a “hello Charlo” will appear on your screen after ten years….(only ONE friend ever called me that). The years melt away and it’s like we talked yesterday. It makes me smile, a deep heartfelt smile, alone in the dark with my dogs.

If you are lucky you will realize that nothing is all black or all white. Life has it’s ebbs and flows, and some of them are almost too excruciating to bare.  But try to remember, when we are feeling our most alone, there is someone out there who remembers you, who’s life you touched and many more who continue to love you every single day. If we are paying attention,  we will also see that life doesn’t suck – well at least not all the time!

 

PHOTO CRED Your Own Life – great site – great article