Gone But Not Forgotten

by Annie Kaszina on July 15, 2014

Does your emotionally abusive partner deserve your forgiveness?

bigquestionmarksmallIt’s an important question.

Emotionally abused women frequently ask me the Forgive and Forget question. It goes, approximately, like this:

“How do I forgive my emotionally abusive husband so that I can forget about what happened, reclaim my sanity, recover from emotional abuse, and move on?”

It’s a bad question.

Just look at it: it presupposes that you have to find a way to forgive him, before your situation can change.  It suggests you  have to aspire to a state of saintly acceptance.  Because if you don’t, you’ll be damned to burn in the hell of Being an Awful Person.

There’s a place for forgiveness in an emotionally abusive relationship, no doubt about it.

But if you’re going to go to the effort of forgiving, why not start with the person most deserving of your forgiveness?  That is, yourself.

Does your emotionally abusive partner deserve your forgiveness?

Er… no! He’s done little, or nothing, to deserve – or earn – it.

Conventional wisdom bangs on about how you should forgive him and/or get over it because that’s easy to say.  It, also, catapults the person who bangs on about it to a far less uncomfortable place: The Moral High Ground.

Have you noticed how most people really, really don’t like to have a window into your unsettling, emotional world?

Do they forgive everyone who does the dirty on them?

Do they model the kind of behaviour they think you ought to adopt – for their convenience and comfort?

Hmm!

Forgiving him without first forgiving yourself is a tricky thing to do for any emotionally abused woman. I’m not even sure it can be done. Sure, I’ve heard clients mouth the words. But further dialogue reveals that they are a mass of unresolved feelings. It’s as if they had popped the cherry of forgiveness on the top of a heap of unresolved feelings. They’re hoping – boy, are they hoping – that that cherry will somehow transform that compost heap into a beautiful celebration cake.

Strange to say, that just doesn’t work.  They end up feeling confused, anguished, and wrong – until I walk them past that sticking point.

I’ve spent the last two weeks moving house, together with my lovely partner.

Mr Nasty has been a regular visitor to the new home.

bad handymansmallNot in person, you understand. I wouldn’t fancy that at all – not least because Mr N’s DIY skills were seriously lacking. (His wretched bookcases were always collapsing and raining books down on my poor, unsuspecting head!)

But, as an element of comparison, Mr N has been a regular visitor to the new house.

A house move is one of those situations which need organization. Mr N. could always organize me to within an inch of my life. However difficult a question or problem, he always had an answer. Sure, it was mostly wrong, and not uncommonly downright idiotic – but he always had an answer.

He had the party line: my job was to toe it. Gratefully.

This house move hasn’t been like that, at all. My lovely partner is quite different. Instead, it’s been about working together to find the quickest, easiest, and most creative ways of solving whatever problems we face.  (And there have been a fair few!)

You see, my Mr Nasty is gone, but not forgotten.  As a yard-stick (well, he had to have some uses) he is without compare.  He remains as a symbol of how NOT to live a life.  He lives, in the under stairs cupboard of my mind, along with a load of other useful – but not thrilling – equipment, like my power drill, and the cleaning materials.  I can still remember how he behaved, but only as an element of comparison.

Have I forgiven him?

I’ve long since stopped caring.  He was as he was.

Why do I need to forgive him for being as he was?

Did I need to forgive myself for being around him?  Did I need to absolve myself of the crimes he said I was guilty of?

You bet I did.

There’s a distinction we need to make here: the learnings you get from being with an emotionally abusive partner really should stay with you for the rest of your life.  Those learnings are what will help you become an abuse-free zone.  For the rest of your life.

But should the experiences stay with you?  Absolutely not.  When you are reliving those old experiences, you are still in victim mode.  That has to change for you to have the life you deserve.

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