Wendy wrote to voice a question that many of us ask ourselves at some point. Here’s her question and my reply. *
“I sometimes feel other people I’ve told about my “abusive situation” don’t believe me. Or perhaps they don’t understand, so they say glib things like “Oh well, just forgive him” or “you need to stay in the marriage for the sake of the children” etc.
Dear Wendy, I feel for you. When I was there, and had that T-shirt, I laundered it and ironed it as beautifully as I possibly could, wore the damned thing day in and day out – and nobody bothered to take the time to read what was written on it. In the end, I threw it away… and my emotional wardrobe is much enriched by its absence.
One unspoken Law of the Universe is this: the more you want to persuade someone – anyone – to see things your way the less it’s ever going to happen. That’s human nature. When someone comes along and says: “You’ve got to see this my way”, natural contrariness kicks in, and the knee-jerk reply is: “No, thank you. I’ll see it however I please. In fact, I’ll see it anyway except your way.”
But why do you need ‘other people’ to see things your way? Are you trying to enlist their sympathy? Might you just need them to validate you?
(Notice that little ‘need’ word in there. It does strange things to people’s heads.)
That spiral of need makes you lose sight of where other people are coming from.
People don’t want to be forced to face up to things that destabilize their own little world. We tend to underestimate how defensive people feel about their way of life.
How many people do you know who act as if marital breakdown is a virus that could be catching?
You rocked their boat, Wendy. You forced them to look at their own world. You asked them to take sides, when they prefer to turn a blind eye to their own world. So, they tell you to sacrifice yourself and your right to happiness and a Life, to make their discomfort go away.
How could you upset them like that?
See, for them, even your marital breakdown is all about them – which tells you these are not true friends who care more for your wellbeing than their precious little rut.
The real problem that needs addressing is not them, but you. Whatever decision, and/or judgement you make about your relationship, you have earned your right to it. Based on your long, painful experience it is absolutely right for you.
Everyone always has a right to judge. Which means ‘everyone’ has a right to judge you – if that’s what they want to do. But here’s the thing:
They only have a right to visit that judgement on you, if you let them.
And you do, don’t you? You try to persuade them, which means you’re saying: “Please, please, please, could you be sympathetic towards me?”
And they say: “’Fraid not old chum. It feels much more powerful to sit in judgement. And I don’t always get to feel too powerful, myself.”
So, what do you think is the solution?
You might want to divide your social circle into true, loving friends, and The Rest, so you know what to expect from whom. And you might start to really validate yourself. Which means you’d stop depending on them for approval, before you can start to feel good about yourself.
Do that, and they will get the message. They will respond quite differently. Strange as it may seem, once you convey – wordlessly – to them that their opinion is unimportant, all of a sudden, they’ll start to see things your way.
How do you validate yourself?
You need to learn how to listen to and respect your own voice. You need to learn how to love and honor yourself. They’ll never be able to resolve your problems for you, so what does it matter if they think nobody should treat a hamster the way you treat your abusive partner?!!!!
It’s all about you, Wendy. You are still suffering with the old toxic wounds and beliefs that tell you ‘you don’t matter’, ‘you don’t deserve to have a voice’, ‘you’re worth-less’, and much, much more of the same ilk. Heal that old toxic baggage – and it will respond very well to the right treatment– and their threadbare, self-serving opinions won’t have any hold on you.
* There is a short answer, of course, and it goes like this: “No, people, in general, really aren’t interested in what abused women have to say. So, the more you start remembering and treating yourself as being so much more than ‘an abused woman’ – and you are so much more than ‘an abused woman’, the sooner these ‘people’ will set up and take notice.