“Hey, you with the sad face…”

by Annie Kaszina on June 12, 2012

Hey, you with the sad face, how did it happen?  How did you end up stuck in a lousy relationship with an abusive partner.

Every so often I come across a woman who’ll tell me that she was riding high when she met her abusive partner. While I know the woman who tells me that story honestly believes it, I don’t.  For me, what it comes down to is a lack of self-awareness. 

 If we want to be as accurate as we can, there are some women who are feeling relatively good when they meet their abusive partner.  But “relatively” is the key word here.  Like my friend Fiona (not her real name, of course).  When she met the man who would go on to make several serious attempts to kill her, she was feeling relatively good about herself.  She was the slimmest she was ever going to be, she was doing a lot of sport, her career looked set to take off in a big way…

It all sounds good, doesn’t it?  But, underlying al the positives, was a huge reservoir of hurt, rejection, and misery.  I’d like to say it was an ‘underground’ reservoir of misery.  But I don’t think it was.  Like most abused women, Fiona’s heart was sewn fast to her sleeve.  

Fiona had been through a few fairly lousy relationships, and suffered monstrous rejection from her family from early childhood on.  So, Fiona practised openness and honesty.  She wouldn’t just go the extra mile for people, in an attempt to get her love tank filled, she’d cross an entire continent for them.  And she was pretty honest about her parental experience.  Because it was her way to respond to suffering with compassion, she was naïve enough to think other people would, too.  

Life dealt Fiona any number of kickings, but still she couldn’t let go of how Life should be.  (Fiona had a bad case of Should-ism”.) 

Fiona had been financially independent from her mid-teens.  She’d had to be; her parents weren’t prepared to support her.  She’d been proud of her financial independence.  But she couldn’t get her head around the concept of emotional accountability. 

Fiona carried on waging war against the injustice of Life, without noticing that her life was made up of a series of individual encounters with people, some of whom were safer to be around than others.  Fiona invested all her prodigious energy – fruitlessly -in trying to get Life to make things right for her, instead of focusing on how she could create her own optimum experience of Life.   

Do you see what I’m saying?  Fiona believed she was doing really well – and in terms of what she had been through, in a lot of ways she was.  But – and this is a very, very big BUT – her focus on how Life should be meant she had no idea of her own vulnerability  And she didn’t have the faintest idea that there is, actually, a touch of Darwinism about the whole relationship lottery: it’s not quite as simple as only the fittest survive.  But it is certainly the case that the more you commit to your own emotional fitness and well-being the more you – and future generations – are likely to thrive. 

Too many women, like Fiona, don’t commit to their own emotional fitness, at all.  

The other main group of women – to which I belonged, also – come across as less feisty than Fiona.  Our childhood programming has been all about our place as second class citizens in the world.  Sure, it wasn’t – necessarily – expressed quite like that, but that is the bottom line.  We were taught that we didn’t matter too much, that our feelings weren’t to be taken seriously.  Our role was to serve.  In our world happiness was, at best, a luxury.  Other people  dictated the circumstances in which we were meant to be happy… or not. 

The net result was that, whatever our gifts, talents, and blessings, we lived our emotional life somewhere along the continuum from worth-less to worthless. 

The worst of it was, we were told that provided we were sweet, and self-less – and lucky –a man would come along and rescue us.  

And that’s exactly what did happen.  Sort of.  We worked very hard at our selfless, unassuming routine and… along came an Abuser in Rescuer’s clothing.  And the rest is History, so to speak.  

We got a Rescuer, the Fionas of this world get a Lovesick Swine – or Swain, as you prefer.  

Beneath the mask, the Swine and the Rescuer were dead ringers for each other.  And here’s the most interesting part, both types were pretty astute judges of women.  Unlike Cinderella’s Prince – who might have been spoilt by life in a palace  – they didn’t go around cramming feet into their cement slipper, until they found one it fitted perfectly.  They could spot us a mile off.  They could spot us by how anxious we were to please, and all the subtle ways we put ourselves down.   

Maybe the sadness in, or behind the eyes, that sprang from our unresolved hurts, was the give away.

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