Is Suffering Inevitable In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship?

by Annie Kaszina on January 15, 2013

Is suffering inevitable in an emotionally abusive relationship?  It may feel inevitable.  Buy let’s look at what’s really happening.

Have you come across the Buddhist saying: “Pain is inevitable: suffering is optional”?

It’s a powerful distinction.

When you get involved in an emotionally abusive relationship, you board a runaway train of pain and suffering.  No doubt about that.  You are guaranteed to experience a LOT of pain.

Stay on that train, and your emotionally abusive partner will put you through  more and more pain.  Quite deliberately. 

The hurt he inflicts on you causes a LOT of pain.

The suffering you experience – which becomes more or less constant –  relates to the the story you tell yourself about your emotionally abusive relationship..

Pain has to be got through.  There is no way around it.  Bad things happen in life, and we have to get past the pain they bring.  Suffering is all about how we deal with that pain, and what we choose to make it mean.  As an emotionally abused woman, you make it mean that you are totally unimportant.

Because if you were important, the nasty people in your life would be all sweetness and light, right?

WRONG.

An abusive man will treat you like you’re not important to him – and you treat you like you’re not important to yourself. 

Now, you’re not stupid.  You know that what is happening is wrong, that it shouldn’t happen.   But you lack the confidence to believe there is something decidedly wrong with his behavior .  You lack the confidence to believe the evidence of your own eyes.  (Annie’s Law #1 : If it acts like a jerk, it’s a jerk.)

Instead you weave a story around some of your favourite SHOULDs:

  • “He SHOULDn’t upset me like that”
  • “He SHOULDn’t speak to me like that”
  • “He SHOULDn’t behave like that”

Never underestimate the power of the story underpinning that SHOULD. 

“He SHOULDn’t upset me like that” means you imagine he agreed to take your feelings very seriously, put them at the centre of his world, and never, ever hurting you.  Did he ever commit to that?

“He SHOULDn’t speak to me like that” suggests you expect him to be the kind of man who speaks nicely, and respectfully to the world at large, women in general, and you in particular.   Has that been your experience of him from Day 1?

“He SHOULDn’t behave like that” implies that you have a very different  vision of how he should behave around you.  But did he ever tell you he was going to run his life by your preferred rules?

Now, I’m NOT saying you’re wrong and he’s right.  He’s Mr Nasty, remember?  Your abusive partner earned that title by consistent, hard work.   He earned it by his Conspicuous Services to Nastiness.

My point is this: your suffering relates to your disappointment . 

You feel horribly let down because he chose to be who he is rather than who you’d hoped he could be.

Yes, you made a horrible mistake : he is a horrible mistake.

The simple fact is that he is a horrible mistake who isn’t going to change any time (soon). 

That said, you can suffer over what he says, and does, for a month, a year, a decade… or even a lifetime.   You can suffer over it whether you are still with him, or he’s upped sticks and left – for pastures greener, or browner.

It won’t change anything.

He’s never going to morph into Mr Wonderful.

He doesn’t have the Mr Wonderful gene.

End of story.

The pain is real, sure enough.

Suffering gets you no further . It’s not going to go away of its own accord.  It’s not going to give you a gentle prod one day and say: “I say, my erstwhile constant companion, I’ve reached my shelf-life now.  So, off I toddle.  Have a nice life.”

Your suffering is pointless.

It’s up to you to get rid of it.

That may not sound easy.  Suffering will do its best to make a really good case for itself.  It’s a persuasive little critter.

And it’s a waste of your life.

Getting rid of it can be much easier than you think.   

Life is a lot more fun once you do.

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