by Quinn Pierce
“But, I don’t understand, what does he do?”
And this is usually where the conversation falls apart.
There is no easy way to describe the behavior that sends me and my children into a post-traumatic tail-spin.
How do you explain to someone that you can just feel when someone is angry or disappointed with you? Or, what it’s like when just being around someone makes you feel self-conscious, insecure…small.
Obstacles on the Healing Path
When I’m faced with this type of skepticism, I have two reactions: frustration that I have to try to convince people that the abuse, and subsequently, the post-traumatic stresses are real and jealousy that the person asking the question can remain so blissfully unaware of the evil around them.
Of course, it could be that others choose to live in denial of this evil, but that does not help my children or me heal. Regardless of the reasons for their disbelief, the outcome is the same: they are blocking my way on this healing path. If I pull over to engage in such conversations at every turn, I will inevitably suffer some damage to my mental health and well-being. So, instead, I choose to go around them and watch as other people’s opinions and uninformed advice fade in the rear-view mirror.
Over the past few years, some friends and family members have continued to profess their support of my decision and denounce my ex-husbands behaviors, but at the same time, have continued to interact with him on a social level. This was extremely confusing and hurtful to me for a long time. But I have learned that not many people are capable of taking a stance on a situation, because they do not want to be alienated or put in the uncomfortable position of letting someone know how they really feel. Sociopaths seem to know this and use it to their advantage.
Usually, I hear the excuse that I didn’t reach out to anyone, or I never talked about the situation while my ex-husband did. This tendency to remain private about my situation has been interpreted as a sign of guilt and/or remorse over my decisions. The most irritating excuse family members use is ‘doing what’s best for the children’. They don’t want my children to feel left out or upset, so they continue their relationship with my ex so that they can continue to include my boys. For some reason, the people who claim to support me feel they know what’s best for my children, even if it’s the exact opposite of what I have explained is best for my children.
For a long time, this was very confusing to my boys. They know their father is harmful, but people that I have taught them to trust are continuing to interact with him. I didn’t have the strength at first to fight so many different battles as I tried to protect my sons from their dad, but eventually, it all came into focus and I finally made a clear and final statement about what I expected and what I would allow when it came to interaction with my children. That definitive boundary-setting exercise quickly showed me who I needed to avoid on my new path. Sadly, my ‘no contact’ list grows longer every week.
Identifying Healthy Relationships
The truth is, no matter how you present yourself to the world, it will be overshadowed by how a rejected sociopathic partner presents you to the world. The trick is finding those who see through the jaded version and saying goodbye to the others, no matter how much it hurts. And it does hurt to learn you can’t rely on or trust certain people you were once very close with.
But it makes my parenting role much easier. I am no longer sending mixed signals to my children. I am teaching them it is not ok to make excuses for others; just because someone says they love you, doesn’t mean they can ignore your feelings to make themselves feel better. And most important, I am showing them how to respect themselves and not allow people into their lives who don’t respect them.
By setting this example, I am taking steps to make myself stronger, too. I should not have to explain how someone abused me. I should not have to try to convince someone that my decisions were best for my children. And I should not have to continue asking for support and respect from people who have claimed to give me both.
I didn’t realize, until recently, that the continued action of trying to explain, convince, excuse, rationalize, and all the other futile efforts to maintain relationships with my so-called supporters causes me a great deal of anxiety and attacks my self-esteem.
Taking Control of My Own Emotional Healing
I’m so very tired of feeling like I’m being dismissed from a conversation before I finish speaking. Every time I allow people to do this to me, I am giving them permission to doubt or belittle my experience and lessen my value in the relationship. So, ultimately, I am recreating abusive and unhealthy relationships all around me.
Which leads me to wonder: Why do I keep allowing this to happen?
I’m sure the answer has something to do with my own insecurity and all the practice I had during my marriage to a psychologically and emotionally abusive sociopath. And the only way I can see to make the changes I need to be healthy is to practice these new boundaries and remind myself that I want to set an example for my boys.
So, now I will use these triggers as a guide. If someone asks me to explain the situation I was in so that they can ‘understand’ why it was abusive, this is not someone who deserves my respect, because they are not respecting me. Never again will I engage in relaying the intimate details of my life for someone else’s verification or entertainment.
The Real Question
What someone does to hurt another person should not be the question from someone who cares about you.
The question should be: What can I do to support you as you heal?