Help! I Still Love My Abuser!
In a recent email, a reader asked the following question:
"Why do I continue to feel love for this person that abused me? I DON'T miss the abuse, but I do miss the good times we had... I still cry sometimes because I miss what I thought we had. Is this normal?"
Yes, it is very "normal." In fact, most people leaving abusive relationships feel the same way. Many, at least initially, have a hard time staying away from a person they know has hurt them. What is going on?
Loss of a Relationship
When you give up a partner, you give up a lifestyle as well. You give up shared friends, shared activities, as well give up the comfort of being half of a couple. You knew there was someone around; maybe you saw each other or chatted daily. You knew you would have something to do or someone to be with on Saturday night. Even if you stayed home alone on Saturday night, you knew someone was there. You had a partner. Your life changes when you break up with your partner. All of this takes some getting used to. It takes time to regroup and rebuild.
Saturday night...what's a person to do? Not only will you mourn the loss of partner status with its shared friends and activities, but you are also likely to experience the void of the Back-to-Square-One Syndrome. Got to start all over again with the trials and tribulations most partnership-ready singles dread: meeting new people via singles bars, blind dates, email; not meeting new people; dating, dating and more endless dating...
When you do finally meet a prospective partner, you must go through the initial motions again: the getting to know each other phase: do they like me? Do I like them? Do they want a relationship? What about sex? If you get past the third date, you can look forward to the initial misunderstandings, the not knowing whether things will work out; introductions to friends and family; meeting friends and family. Knowing you don't know, you wonder whether you will go through this initial relationship stuff again and again. Unless you are a professional dater who is allergic to commitment, dating gets old fast.
The loss of a relationship is unsettling. When you lose an abusive relationship, you must deal with all of the ordinary losses as well as some specifically related to abuse.
Losses in an Abusive Relationship
Low self-esteem. Your self-esteem will be at a low point. You are coming out of a relationship where you have been riding an emotional roller coaster powered by your partner's deft ability to give with one hand and take away with the other. This is not the time to look to any love interests to bolster you.
Spend some time alone, some time with good friends and family. This is the time to be good to yourself and to love yourself in a constructive way. For example, start an exercise program. Get that jacket you've been admiring. Constructive self-caring is about moderation. Moderation is the difference between pampering yourself with a purchase and a destructive spending spree.
So very, very good; so very, very bad. Your partner knew how to cut you to the quick with a look, and how build you up higher than high. You are likely to miss how extraordinarily good your partner made you feel. Don't forget, they had to - to make up for all of the bad! The good we remember, the bad we forget. Don't make this mistake. Every time you sadly recall a wonderful memory, think of one that hurt. Better yet, think of two.
Actions speak louder than words. Your partner knew exactly what you wanted to hear and said or implied it. Think: this person claimed to love you. Did he or she behave lovingly over time? Do you behave like your partner towards people you love?
Promises, promises. Your partner may be back and may promise you the world. He or she really, really means it! He or she means it for as long as long as it takes to regain your trust. As soon as you become comfortable in the relationship, your partner will do something to mess things up. They can't help it. As much as they crave closeness, they fear it more. There is absolutely nothing you can do about this, but save yourself from it.
Loss of Reality or Fantasy? Did you lose something you really had? Or did you lose a promise that never quite materialized? Did you lose a happy life, or the prospect of a happy life? How much of the time were you really happy? It is likely you are mourning the dream of what could be as opposed to the reality of what was. Check it out.
Advice. Do what you can to get through the first few days or weeks, or however long it takes you. Listen to your instincts - especially when you don't like what you have to say! Heed your advice. Don't give in! Taking your own advice will help you rebuild your self-esteem. An antidepressant often helps you stay on track and do what you have to do during this tough time.
If you know that a relationship is not good for you, stick to your guns. No matter what promises are made, they will be broken. Don't let your wishful thinking, your guilt, your sorrow or your empathy lead you down another dead end path. People don't change overnight. Unless you've learned some new skills, or your partner has been really working the program in therapy, if you go back with your abusive partner, it is only a matter of time before the relationship goes right back to where it was, or becomes worse. Know that you will wake up one day and find yourself in the same hole you are in today, but deeper. If you run your life with your head instead of your heart, you will emerge stronger, wiser, and more self-confidant.
Now is the time to learn from your mistakes. Above all, learn to listen to yourself and take your own good advice.
Courtesy of Dr. Irene Matiatos, Copyright© 1999. The material on this website may be distributed freely for non-commercial or educational purposes provided that author credit is given.