The Cycle of Domestic Violence Abuse- (Just my experience)
One of the two most asked questions I receive when people hear my story of my experience with domestic violence is "why did you stay so long" an also "what was the shift that made you leave?"
All I can share is my experience, so that's what I'm doing. Please know this is NOT any type of "guidance" or a "sure fire way" to get thru domestic abuse.
From an outsiders perspective, it's easy to see so many of the red flags. You are seeing all of the "crazy" or maybe just hearing about it and wondering "why don't they just leave??" Sometimes it just seems so simple.
I did not get into a relationship with someone who was abusive or doing drugs. In fact- he was almost the calmest person I knew! And that's a lot of what made me want to be around him. Growing up my dad had a really explosive temper, so I craved that "peace and calm" and I wanted that for my future children too.
There were certain "signs" along the way where my ex would have explosive reactions to situations, but I didn't think too much of it. We all get angry and lose control over our emotions, right? And for the time being these reactions weren't directed at me. Then things began to shift when there was drug use involved, but if you've listened to the podcast I had no inclining that this is what was going on "behind the scenes" Call me naïve, but I had never been exposed to erratic behavior like that, much less even think to possibly put any idea together about potential drug use.
As things progressed into more frequent arguments, outbursts, etc. and I began to realize there was more going on, I had thoughts of how I could "fix" the situation. I think for a lot of people who have been in cycles of abuse, they have these same thoughts. That the person they fell in love with is STILL in there, and we can jump thru all of these hoops to get them back! There's got to be a way we can certainly save them, right? As a natural born empath my first inclination is to always want to wrap people up and save them, even if it's from themselves.
If you've listened to my story, a big part of my thought process was moving away from the source of the drugs. I figured if we MOVED we could get away from people influencing his choices. I'd simply get this plan into action, find a new circle of friends and all would be back to normal! But, that was not the case. It didn't matter where we moved, because if he was set to get drugs- he would drive to the end of the earth to get them. No one was getting in his way, especially me.
The outbursts continued, and then threats of him possibly taking the children away or even making statements to make sure I "never saw them again" would loom in my head. When you have shared custody, there is no "kidnapping". If my then husband was to just take off with the kids in the middle of the night, he had just the same rights as me. I wouldn't be able to just simply "get them back". So keeping him on my "good side" was always a thought I had. "If I can just keep him calm and go with the flow, things will be ok" .... but they never got better. The longer I stayed, the more I began to justify this life as a "normal" way to live, and the cycle just continued.
I also made it a point to not tell anyone the REAL details of what was going on either. If we had planned social events, I made sure he had his "fix" prior to these so he would be fine. I wanted to still be a happy family dynamic. After all- this was my marriage and I had two kids! I HAD to make this work, it's all I had ever known about marriage. We don't divorce as Jehovah witnesses unless it's due to adultery, and even then so many couples choose to reconcile. Even though he and I weren't necessarily practicing in the religion, these ideas had been drilled into me. A few times I had voiced issues to my parents, I got the "we told you not to marry him and now you have to deal with it" lecture. Now had I told them ALL of the details, maybe things have been different.
To this day I can't quite pinpoint if I just made it all better in my head because I was embarrassed to admit what a shit show my life had become, or if I just felt that I could still control the situation and letting others in would make my plans backfire. Whatever it was, it definitely didn't make sense and was a poor plan.
This went on for several months, and we yo-yoed with him in and out of rehab, relapses, job loss, money theft, and countless arguments and physical encounters.
Then one day- I finally had enough to be able to move away. The police had gotten involved and taken him away due to an altercation my little children witnessed and that's when I had the lightbulb go off and I made plans to leave. Even after that, we still had interactions and went "back and forth" on the potential of being together. It still took time for me to feel that I was ready to let go of the relationship as a whole. And it wasn't because I loved him that much, trust me. It was because I had painted a picture in my head that I would have a REAL family. I'd have a dad that loved these kids more than life, I'd be a fabulous wife, and we would just be everything I had ever desired out of life. I had to drop the fantasy and face reality. And reality felt so dark, hopeless, and a never ending path of just looking at more failures in my life.
It didn't help that he would tell me I gave up on us being a family, my kids would hate me when they found out, or that I was fat with two kids and no one would want me, I was the one who drove him to doing drugs, etc.... the blame game was strong. And boy did those words get into my head. But I had to keep pushing forward and realize that this was beyond just a "toxic" relationship. That continuing to be around a volatile person such as him could possibly end up with myself dead and potential harm to my children.
The threats continued all through my divorce process, and he made sure to make that as difficult as possible. Although when it all came down and he would have had his chance to "show me" in the court- he was no where to be seen. All of the talk was just that- empty threats. But there was never any way for me to know that, and if threats are made you should always take them very seriously.
As for actually having support during leaving an abusive spouse, my family did support me in moving and such. But for a mental health aspect of support, it was non existent. Reliving the situation was constant. And even to this day I hear things from certain family members about my "poor choices" or "I told you so" I can tell you those words are some of the WORST things you can say to someone who has left an abusive relationship. It's demeaning and totally unnecessary. The past is the past, and you need to celebrate the fact that your loved one made it out of a potentially life threatening situation ALIVE. And realize that they need healing! There are so many things I'll never share and choose not to just for the fact of knowing there would only be words of judgment or shame cast my way.
I'm not trying to "coddle" myself here either, I've made it very clear that I share what I feel comfortable sharing and that's mostly because peoples inherent reaction is to judge. The last thing we need is more judgment or stones thrown, especially during such a fragile transitioning stage of life.
So my two cents if you know someone who is in an abusive relationship or has recently left one- simply being a listening ear can mean so much and it may even give that person the strength that they need to know that in the end, they will really be ok. It can never be anything YOU say or DO that will make them see the light to leave, but the fact that they know they have a safe place with you could potentially make all the difference.
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**These conversations are just our experience from our perspective and do not replace medical advice in any way. This is your “trigger warning”. We will be discussing all aspects of mental health issues. The content of these podcasts is not intended to be substituted for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. Never delay seeking medical/professional help because of something you have heard on these podcasts. We are not licensed medical professionals, just two chicks on a podcast.