(This post is meant for her, who knows who she is, and the rest of you, who know who you are. My use of “he” is for purposes of convenience; women, too, are capable of the behaviors and attitudes described. Copyright © 2009 by Steve Becker, LCSW)
It wasn’t you. It was him. I know you’re not a black and white person (like he was). But sometimes it is black and white. And so this is the deal: It wasn’t you.
He wanted you to think it was you, when all along it was him. And you didn’t fully want to believe it was him, either. Even now, perhaps in a corner of your heart, although it may conflict with your rational healing self, you may still not be entirely ready to believe that it wasn’t you.
It was comforting, after all, on some level, to believe it was you. Because if it was you, you had some control. You could fix yourself. You could make yourself better, more attractive; less frustrating, more gratifying. If it was you, you could improve yourself; make yourself more perfect.
You could become something more that he needed more of; something better than you were (and that he demanded). And this left you with hope: with hope that it was possible, with enough patience, tolerance, searching and self-improvement, to stumble upon the formula that would finally earn his love and respect (and affirm your merit to be loved and respected).
And in some ways he made it easy to hope. To begin with, as we’ve noted, he could be quite covincing in the validity of his blame. And we’ve also noted that you half-wanted (on some levels, perhaps badly wanted) to be persuaded that, as exploitative, selfish and indisputably abusive as he was, maybe he was right! Maybe, in the end, he was right to finger you as the underlying problem.
Sure, he had an anger problem, but never to this extent, until he got involved with you! Maybe he drank, but not until he met you, and had to endure your constant nagging, demands and general insatiability, did his drinking escalate!
Maybe he was a cheat, but what normal guy wouldn’t have strayed having to put up with your constant crap? Besides, there were plenty of prior relationships, he’ll take pleasure in reminding you, in which (allegedly) he didn’t cheat, never even had the urge to cheat, thereby testifying to his capacity for fidelity!
And as painful as this abusive drivel (in its manifold variations) always was to hear, yet at the same it protracted your hope. And so you never completely lost hope as long as, on some level, you bought into—in a sense colluded with—his warped framing of his exploitation of you as having arisen, somehow, from your lack, your deficiency.
And so you cut him some slack, and then some more slack; and you made this concession, and this accomodation, and that concession and that accomodation; and you forgave him this, and forgave him that.
And now and then, just enough to powerfully reinforce your enabling behavior that, of course, he found so wonderfully convenient, he rewarded you with a few bones of his “love,” affection, appreciation and “sensitivity.” He could convey these “emotions” selectively—that is, when it suited his interests.
And, of course, it was so tempting to believe (if not convince yourself) that just because he could “be sensitive,” he fundamantally was; just because he could be affectionate, appreciative and thoughtful, he fundamentally was these things.
It was so tempting to believe that “these things” reflected who he really was; who he was really meant to be. If only…if only you could decode that magic formula that would, in effect, liberate the underlying mensch from the cad.
And so, in order to cling to the hope that you desperately needed, you accepted the absolutely necessary, yet futile, proposition that you were responsible to satisfy him when, all along he, not you, was insatiable.
And you assumed the equally necessary, yet futile, proposition that it was your job to compel what his personality disorder precluded his ever genuinely giving you—his respect, loyalty and love.
And now you are strong enough, finally, to face this; to come entirely to grips with these truths. You are ready to relinquish, truly and finally, that last bit of hope (as insistent as it’s been for a long time).
You can now release every last vestige of that old hope that all along was false; that, all along, was based on the pathological premise that it was you.
When it never was. When it was him. Always.