“My problem is different because…”

by Annie Kaszina on November 11, 2014

“My problem is different because…” is something emotionally abused women tell me, all the time.

One woman explained, recently, that her problem was different – and quite possibly not emotional abuse…because her partner loved her so much.  He didn’t say the hurtful things that most emotionally abusive men say.   However he did makes her feel worthless.

Go figure!

Then there was the lady whose situation was different because her husband of decades needed a carer.  She’d been his carer for a lot of years, and he’d consistently been vile to her but,hey, he couldn’t manage on his own…

Actually, every situation is different.  There are always reasons why it is hard to walk away – and overlook the fact that it’s excruciatingly painful to stay.  But here’s the thing: you cannot hope to recover from emotional abuse while you are telling yourself a story about how it is different for you.

The fact is, when you focus on what’s different, you distance yourself from your sisters in suffering.  You say: “it is not for me as it is for them…  Therefore, I cannot be expected to walk that difficult path to freedom and happiness.  I have reasons for staying right where I am.  The tragedy of my situation disempowers me. 

Clearly,  we can’t explore every scenario in one short post.  So, let’s focus on the two cases already mentioned.  Woman 1 – let’s call her Lena the Loved – was absolutely insistent that her experience was different from that of  other emotionally abused women, because she was loved. 

Now, for me, there is toxic love and healthy love.  (As I see it, love exists on a continuum from toxic to healthy and life-affirming.)  Healthy love wants your best, for you. Toxic love does not.  The only kind of love you’re ever going to get in an emotionally abusive relationship is toxic love.

I grew up with two parents who ‘wanted the best for me’: their best – which had nothing at all to do with my best.  They were determined that I should live their preferred life.  They never stopped to consider the possible cost to me.  A love like that is definitely nudging towards the toxic end of the love continuum.

Lena the Loved’s husband demanded that she be in his life, his way, with no concessions to her hopes, dreams, or happiness.  That was crushing the life out of her…  But he was okay with that.  Her hopes, dreams, and happiness didn’t matter to him: all that mattered was that he loved her/needed her around.  She was his favorite toy/pet pony/surrogate mother; whatever you care to call it.  That was all that mattered to him.  A ‘love’like that is definitely toxic.

A healthy love is one where the lover asks, in all sincerity: “How can I walk beside you, support you and help you to further your hopes and dreams, and enjoy happiness in your life.”

A healthy love is one in which both parties have all the space they need.

Understandably, Lena was in no rush to join the ranks of all us who have had to admit we struggled on in a relationship of codependency – which we naively confused with love. 

Of course, there was more as well.  Lena’s insistence on being loved served to prove that she was loveable.

Not that she felt loveable…  But his love proved she was. That was good enough for her.  

And that brings us to the heart of the matter: you fall into an emotionally abusive relationship, and stay in an emotionally abusive relationship, because you dont feel lovable.

Instead, you have a load of icky feelings where your self-love should be.

When your emotionally abusive partner appears on his white nag, part of the unspoken deal is that he will save you the trouble of having to address those uncomfortable feelings about yourself.

Sadly, you soon learn that he speaks with forked tongue.

Actually, your lovability was never his problem to resolve.  It’s yours.  It always has been, and always will be.

When I challenged Lena the Loved on it, she bravely ‘fessed up’, saying:

“You’re absolutely right.  I’d never realized.  How do I learn to love myself?  I never thought it was allowed.”

Loving yourself is definitely NOT allowed in the Abusive Kingdom.  (Nor is it encouraged in various religions because it is equated with extreme self-centredness, when it is nothing of the sort.)

Learning to yourself is a crucial part of your life’s journey. When you can love yourself, it changes the dynamic of all your relationships.  See, when you don’t love yourself, you spent your life running on empty, constantly looking for someone to refill your love tank.

Which is why Mr Nasty often masquerades as the only love gas pump in the entire country.

Because you don’t know how to love yourself, you mistake fakery for the real thing.

Mr Vile’s wife transformed her life when she was prepared to say to herself: “Hey, tough as this is.  I matter.  My happiness matters.  I deserve more, and Im committing to giving myself more: more life, more care, and more love.”

She stopped focusing on what was different about her situation.  Committing to that decision, and learning how to love herself changed everything.

 

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