Wednesday, March 27, 2013

To My Family and Friends

(Note, this is not directed specifically to MY family, but to families in general of abuse survivors)

Dear Family and Friends,

I know that the past many years must be confusing for you. For me to tell you how wonderful my spouse has been, how much I love being married, all those family dinners and conversations when I never shared any of our struggles or difficulties, leading you to believe all was well and now to find out that I've left him.

I couldn't tell you what was going on then, most of the time I didn't even realize what the problem was, I always thought it was a fault in me and something I needed to work on. I thought these were issues that all married couples struggled with, that my life was normal. I now realize that it isn't. He was abusive. I know that in most people's minds, that means that he must have been hitting me, beating me, threatening me, but it doesn't start that way. See, it started with him diminishing my worth, criticizing, being extremely jealous, ignoring me, questioning me and other things like that. It got to the point where I believed that I just needed to be better for him, that I wasn't enough, that it was my fault for all our marital problems. I worked hard to repair my marriage, changing how I approached him, how I did things, how I acted, who I talked to, where I went, but nothing changed except to find out that I still wasn't enough, there was still much wrong with me. I made decisions based on his expectations and demands that separated me from you. I'm sorry for that.

How could you see this? I hid it from you. There wasn't anything you could do, because I knew better than to talk about our struggles with others, it was a private matter, I didn't want to embarrass him or make him look bad - society, especially Christian society teaches that we must always talk good about our spouse and I took that to heart.

Now that I'm out, I need some things from you. It's not difficult, but it is essential to my survival and well-being.

I need you to know that I don't blame you. I didn't end up in this abusive relationship because of my upbringing, my childhood or my relationship with you. I ended up in an abusive relationship because I was deceived, I was blinded to the abuse until it was too late. I thought love would overcome all obstacles. He broke my spirit long before he raised a hand to me. So when that finally happened, it didn't break my skin, didn't leave bruises, didn't hurt me more than my heart. I felt it shatter into a million pieces, but I still thought I deserved it because I had pushed him too far, that life was too difficult for him to handle in that moment and I was his last straw. So I stayed. And when I left, I returned because I believed he could change, that I was required to give him another chance. The children need their father, and what would I do on my own anyway?

I need to know you accept me, that you accept my story. I need to know that you are standing by my side, that you believe I was being abused, that you will help protect me during my moments of doubt and self-recrimination. You can't stand on both sides of the fence, I'm sorry to say that you can only stand by me or him, if you try to support us both, I'll feel abandoned by you and it gives him the opportunity to hurt me more.

I don't need to hear from you that I should have done more to save my marriage or that I should give him another chance. I read somewhere that sometimes giving someone a second chance is like giving them another bullet because they missed you the first time. He's had multiple chances, I can't give him another bullet, I may not survive this time.

I don't need you to help me run my life, I'm going to make mistakes, I'm going to have to learn new strategies. I'll accept your advice in love, but please don't force me to use it, or judge me if I don't. I'm on a journey, and I expect some potholes.

I need you to do your own research, to study abuse, abusers and victims. I need you to not be afraid to talk about it, to ask me questions if you want answers. If it will help you see what I've been through, I'll share it with you and if I'm not ready to talk about it yet, I'll tell you - just please don't take that to mean that I'll never share it with you or that I don't need you.

I need you to teach my nieces and nephews that abuse is never okay, teach them of the warning signs of an abusive relationship so they will escape what I have lived through.

I may need physical help, financial help. It's going to be a lot of work to get on my feet. I'm not asking for handouts, I'm not asking you to take care of me, but to help me take care of me. Healing is going to take a long time, it's a process and the more broken my heart, the longer it takes. It will take longer if I feel like I don't have you on my side.

There may be more I need from you. I'm sure there are going to be times when I need more than you can give, it's okay to suggest I talk to a counselor, to reach out for help. Sometimes I'll just need someone to be with or someone to talk to and I just need your ear or a hug. I know that our relationship has been damaged during the time I was stuck in the abuse, I want to make that better, I need you to help restore it if you can.

I love you and I want you in my life. I never wanted you out of it, despite all that happened, many of my choices were made based on my immediate circumstances and my emotional survival.

Thank you for listening. I hope this helps you to understand where I am right now, where I'm coming from and how you can help, because I know you are trying to already. I'm grateful for that.

In love,

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