I was at a seminar awhile ago where the speaker quoted from Gavin deBecker’s book, The Gift of Fear. deBecker writes that the first time someone hits you, you’re a victim. The second time, you knew what he was capable of yet chose to stay. The speaker went on to talk about how in life we always have a choice. We can choose to stay with a man who has proven himself capable of hitting or lying or cheating, or, we can chose to do the thing we fear, leave. Walk out the door and don’t look back. It is always our choice.
A woman in the audience put up her hand and said, “So, you’re blaming the victim. If she chooses to stay, it’s her fault.”
“No,” the speaker responded. “She is never responsible for his behaviour. She is responsible for the choices she makes.”
I stayed in a relationship for four years, nine months, seven days, two hours, thirty-two minutes and seven seconds. – Okay, so I don’t really know the exact length of time to the second – but I do know that every second counted in bringing me down to the pit of despair, to destroying my will to live.
I don’t know the exact moment when I knew he was lying, or felt the pinprick of doubt as to his intentions. I do know there were moments, early on in the relationship, when I was so blinded by what I wanted to believe was true and really happening (he loves me, he really, really loves me) that I chose to ignore the facts of what he was doing and saying, and bought into the myth of his love everlasting.
I do know that every second I stayed after the first time I questioned ‘the truth’ of something he’d said or done that made me doubt his sincerity or made my spidey senses tingle with concern, made a difference in my ability to stand up and walk away when I knew he was lying.
With every second I stayed I became more and more poisoned by his lies. And with every drop of poison I consumed, I became more and more fixated on my need to prove I wasn’t a fool taken in by his lies, because, well, he wasn’t really lying, cheating, manipulating because if he was, I wouldn’t have stayed! I’m not that stupid.
Ah, the sticky webs we weave when first we try to deceive ourselves into believing being the woman of his dreams will make all our dreams come true.
I could never be the woman of his dreams. His dreams are the nightmare into which I fell when I turned my back on ‘the truth’ of who I am and accepted his lies as the only truth I’d ever need to be the woman of his dreams.
With every moment I stayed stuck in the quagmire of his deceit, I became more and more convinced he was all I deserved. In accepting he was all I deserved, I had to accept I really was stupid because what was happening to me felt so wrong. To make the wrong right, I had to give up on looking for my truth away from him and accept I was as helpless as he told me. He told me there was nothing I could do to stop him, to leave him, or to change my life. I chose to believe him because to not believe him meant having to do something different. And I was too scared to do anything different. His lies became the truth I breathed and ate and consumed. His lies consumed me and I had to keep believing him in order to keep myself from facing the truth of his lies.
He told me he was all I deserved and only he, and he alone, was capable of giving me all that I wanted. As I fell under the lure of believing he was all I deserved, I became less and less capable of accessing my power to take positive action away from the lies that were robbing me of my sanity and killing my will to live.
Somewhere I once read that, when the pain of where we’re at grows greater than the fear of where we want to be, we will take action.
In that relationship, the pain of where I was at robbed me of finding the courage to walk away. Now, there were a whole bunch of reasons why and how that happened. From Stockholm Syndrome to Learned Helplessness to Intermittent Reinforcement, he practiced his craft of human manipulation. Why wouldn’t he? He’d spent his lifetime becoming a subject matter expert at his craft. And I was his willing victim. He knew I was the perfect victim after the first time he tested the boundaries of my principles, and I compromised in some small way to accept a lie he told as truth.
I was his target. And his source. I was the perfect woman – just as he said I was. Only, in my lexicon, perfect woman meant his one true love, his soul mate, the Venus completing his de Milo. I didn’t stop to think that he might have a different frame of reference. I didn’t stop to compare his actions against his words, my feelings of worthlessness against his machinations to make me feel worthless.
I didn’t stop to think.
And in not stopping to think about what he was doing, I made room for him to keep doing what he was doing in my life.
I was a victim. At least the first time I bought his lie and accepted it as truth. But, when I started to question whether or not he was telling the truth, and then kept looking for my answers in his lies, I became a volunteer to his manipulations. I became so consumed in thinking about him, in thinking about all the things I’d heard him say about me, in trying to first prove him right; I was the perfect woman. And then to prove him wrong; I wasn’t out to destroy him, hurt him, blame him for everything that was wrong. I was just out to love him and in my willful desire to love the lie, I let go of my power, I let go of my right to take care of me, to be accountable for me, to love me for all I’m worth.
These characters do not come with a sign on their foreheads marking them as predators. And we do not walk around with big red target signs on ours.
What they do is test the waters of our resistance to their bull. They keep testing until we either laugh at them and walk away, or give into their manipulations. One lie at a time.
We always have a choice. One lie at a time.
They just wait for us to make the choice that keeps us in their path for another minute, another second too long for us to collect our thoughts and right our thinking so that we can get away before the next lie hits us and we are brought down by our fear of facing the truth of their lies.
The difference for me today is, I acknowledge there are Ps and Ss and Ns and ABCs out there. In knowing they’re out there, I know that I will encounter them from time to time. And in those encounters I know it’s what I do that makes the difference in my life. Will I believe their fairy tale of how wonderful I am, or will I accept my truth and know, I’m a woman of worth. I don’t need someone else to tell me my truth. I don’t need to become the apple of someone’s eye by making myself fit a design that doesn’t suit me. My truth is, I stand confidently in the substance of who I am when I am free of looking for my worth in someone else’s eyes.
I chose once to stay the victim after hearing a lie I couldn’t believe was true. I believed I was the perfect woman of his dreams. I believed he could make all my dreams come true.
Today I know the truth. I am responsible for me. I am responsible for making all my dreams come true. Today, I love myself enough to spend every minute, every second of every day proving it. And when I treat myself to the truth, the world around me responds with limitless opportunities to be the woman I’ve always dreamt of being.