It’s easy to fall asleep at the wheel on the road of life. To lose consciousness under the seeming weight of sorrows, trials and tribulations pounding you into the dirt. To forget to open your eyes to the wonders passing by. Everyday living has a numbing effect on reality. However, if you’re in relationship with someone who resembles the label of a sociopath, psychopath, narcissistic personality disordered or any other disorderly letter of the alphabet, it’s even easier to forget who you are and where you’re going. Staying awake drifts from your mind as you are drained by the numbing effect of his abuse. The deeper your drift, the further waking up races from possibility.
When we’re in an abusive relationship, we’ll do a lot to avoid waking up, including sleep walking our way through each passing day. But, sleep walking can be deadly. One day can lead to one year which can roll into a decade. Decades pass and you wind up living life on the edge of consciousness, one eye on the door waiting to see what comes in. The other eye is searching for an exit sign, hoping for an opening where it’s the right time, right day, right place to step away, step free, get going away from his abuse. If you are in a relationship where your reasons for staying revolve around slamming doors, fear rising and freedom vanishing, it’s time to wake up and ask yourself, What am I doing?
Yes, it’s hard to leave. Yes, there are 101 reasons why you can’t do it. But, whether you do it today, or do it in a year, the children who keep you there, the financial stress that holds you back, the fear that keeps you shaking, will still be there. Excuses endure. An abuser endures too.
An abuser will do everything he can to make you believe it’s all your fault. He’ll do whatever it takes to convince you that you cannot leave him. Don’t believe him. He’s lying. It’s imperative you face the truth. Prince charming has turned into the prince of darkness. It isn’t some ‘other guy’ hitting you. It’s him. The man you fell in love with. The one who promised to love you ’til death do us part.’ He just forgot to mention, he took the ‘death part’ really seriously. Remember, you didn’t create the monster raging in front of your eyes. And you are powerless to stop him being who he is. Your power lives in stopping his abuse in your life by stepping away from the source of your pain. His abuse.
To end abuse, you must wake-up to its reality
Waking up from abuse isn’t easy. But then, sleep-walking through life is no way to live free of abuse.
Being in an abusive relationship isn’t easy, either, nor is leaving. This isn’t about what’s easy. It’s about what is right. For you. For your children. For your future. It would be nice to keep believing that he has all your answers. It’s just not true. Nobody, regardless of what the abuser says, has your answers. You do. Nobody has the right to tell you where to go, when to go, where to sit, what to wear, what to say. Nobody has the right to tell you who you are. Abusers assume the right and we assume they’re right under the weight of their abuse.
Facing the truth that we have the power to change the abuse in our life, but not the abuser, can be terrifying. It puts us at the centre of our existence, and after having lived so long on the periphery of our lives, it’s frightening to wake-up and claim centre stage. Yet, it’s imperative that we wake up to the truth. It could be a decision between life and death.
Wake-up and make a difference in your life
There is a way to wake-up from the nightmare of abuse and live the life of your dreams. Here are some steps you can take to make a difference in your own life and let go of the difference abuse is making in keeping you stuck in the living nightmare of someone else’s crazy-making antics.
Step 1 No More Lies
Stop and really listen to yourself. Are you afraid? Are you repeating all the bad things he says about you again and again in your head? Are you frightened of speaking up, speaking out, standing up for yourself? If you answered yes, then it’s time to quit lying to yourself and everyone else. What he’s doing is wrong. It isn’t normal. Quit trying to justify his bad behaviour. Quit making you the reason he hits you. You’re not. Quit being the victim of his abuse. When the voices of self-doubt rise up, remind yourself, those are his words speaking, not my truth. Find your own truth. Let go of his lies.
Recently I was working with a woman who had finally left an abusive marriage after 16 years. A single mother of four children, two of them with serious health issues, she struggled with the responsibility of accepting, in staying for those 16 years, she had made choices that affected her life and her children’s lives. But I was a victim, she said.
I’m with Gavin de Becker (The Gift of Fear). The first time someone hits me, I’m a victim. The second time, I’ve made a choice to be there. With that first hit he gave me a clear indication of all that he was capable of. In staying, I chose to ignore the warning. I chose to make a decision based on escalating anger, behaviours that I knew were out of whack with ‘normal’. Behaviours that scared me. I stayed because I was too afraid to leave.
The woman and I talked about her fears of being accountable in having chosen to stay.
“But that means I asked for it,” she said.
“No.” I replied. “It means you made a choice to believe the unbelievable after he hit you once. You chose to believe, he’d never do it again, thus making it acceptable he’d done it once. At no time, however, does it mean you deserved it. No one deserves abuse. No one deserves to be hit or screamed at or called names. That behaviour is not about who we are, it’s about who they are and what we’re willing to accept. You never deserved to be hit, and you never asked for it. You chose to stay. When we accept responsibility for our choices, we empower ourselves to make different choices.”
That is the gift and power of no more lies. We quit denying our role in staying and applaud ourselves by having the courage to leave.
Step 2 Let go of someday thinking and never say never
Let go of someday thinking and never say never. There is no such time as someday and never never happens. Listen to what you’re saying. Do you think in someday terms? Do you say to yourself, “Someday I’m just going to get up, pick up the kids and walk out of here. I don’t care if I have a penny to my name, if I don’t have a job. I don’t care what the neighbours think or what he says, someday I’m not going to take this anymore.”
A woman I worked with decided one day that she had had enough. Eleven years into the relationship she woke up one morning and realized, he was never going to change. He liked things just the way they were. She packed up her twins, ran to a shelter and has never looked back.
Three years later she says, “I didn’t have any money when I was with him and I didn’t have any money when I left. Nothing was different the day I packed up except I let go of thinking about someday and did it now. My life is way better than it ever was with him. I still don’t have much money, but I’m not being abused. And without his angry outbursts and unpredictable behaviour, I am able to make plans, go back to school, get a job, take care of my twins. I have way more energy and I know I’m going to be okay. I didn’t know that when I was with him.”
He isn’t going to change. He doesn’t have to. And all the wishful thinking in the world will not make it happen someday.
Give it up. Let it go. Shake it out and quit planning on someday. Start planning on the date when you get free. Set a date. A timeline. A target. Plan. If you fear for your life in leaving, don’t tell him anything about your plans. Just do it. There is no such time as someday and never never happens.
Step 3: Find help
We suffer abuse alone – except for our children of course. They’re part of it too but we try not to think of that very often when we’re rationalizing staying for their sake. Mostly, however, we suffer abuse alone, especially in our heads.
We repeat again and again what he said, what he did, what we didn’t do. We talk about if only I had… We think about, one day, maybe. And then we suffer silently in our heads.
To leave, you need help. Get it. Don’t make excuses. Don’t say, but he’ll find out. He’ll know I’m up to something. Be as secretive and cautious as you must, but get help.
After I was released from the living hell I endured for 4 years 9 months with the abusive man who went to jail and is no longer in my life, I realized, he knew I wouldn’t lie to him. He knew I couldn’t lie to him. I believed he was omnipotent. I believed he knew everything I did and said.
He made sure to paint the picture in such a way, I believed he did. Sometimes, he’d phone and ask, “Is there something you need to tell me?”
“I love you,” I’d quickly reply.
“I’m serious. Is there something you need to tell me?”
I’d rack my brain. “No.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes,” my voice more hesitant.
“You know I hate liars. You know I need to trust you completely.”
I’d pause and look back over my day frantically searching for a transgression. Oh no! I’d had lunch with a male friend from work. How did he know? Quietly, I’d tell him the truth. And then I’d apologize. I’d hang up and wonder, how did he know?
He didn’t. He was just really good at making me feel guilty for doing nothing wrong.
I needed help. I never looked for it. Every time I thought about leaving, of contacting someone for help, I’d remind myself of all the lies he’d told me. My phones were tapped. Men were listening in. Watching me. Tailing me. Taking pictures of me unawares. I’d remember the times he phoned and told me he liked the dress I was wearing that day. How did he know? I hadn’t told him and hadn’t seen him. He didn’t have to see me. He didn’t have to know the actual dress. As long as he kept me guessing, I’d never wake up to the realization he’d never actually described the dress I was wearing, just said he’d liked it.
I never went for help. Never reached out. Never asked. I almost died. And through it all, I never gave up my magical thinking that one day, someone, somewhere would make it all stop. Make it all go away. Make him love me again. Make him be Prince Charming again. Make me okay. Maybe even, make him forgive me for having caused so much trouble in his life.
It never happened. I knew what was happening to me was wrong, but I could never face the truth. In running from the truth, I ran into his lies and believed I was the cause of his bad behaviour. I was just the recipient. I was never responsible for his lies. Just my own when I quit believing the truth of what was happening to me, and bought into the lies he told me. His bad behaviour could never stop as long as I stayed with him.
Ask for help. Get informed. Google ‘how to leave an abusive relationship’. There’s lots of ideas and help online. Make sure you look up what to do to erase your Internet footprints. Make sure you keep yourself safe. And DO IT. You have to take the steps to get free. No one else can do it for you.
Leaving him isn’t easy. Healing takes time, but healing cannot begin until you get free. Whether you do it today, tomorrow or five years down the road, healing will always take time, but it can’t begin until that moment in time when you close the door behind you and leave him and his abuse in the past.
Do it and start healing.