In one of my previous posts, I promised to write at some point about the tricky dynamics of love and abuse, but in all truth, I haven’t wanted to revisit those feelings. I haven’t wanted to explore what I loved about him. I don’t love him anymore. At least, I don’t think I do. I don’t know if that kind of love ever goes away. I was always someone who was very invested in romantic notions of love. When I was young, I thought that I would only love once. It never occurred to me that I would love (and have my heart broken) then love (and break someone else’s heart) then love (and have my heart broken again) in a pattern that would begin to feel endless. When I married my husband, I thought I was breaking that pattern. I thought that I would never have to live through heartbreak again.
I recently published this essay It Will Look Like A Sunset at Guernica Magazine. The essay has been read and shared many times. Truthfully, the response has been quite overwhelming. So many women have reached out to me, to share their own stories with me, and to thank me for putting a voice to their stories. I have felt quite cared for in the past few weeks, and I have not felt alone in my struggle for one of the first times, but it is difficult to realize how not alone I am. I have seen my blog’s views grow by the thousands, and it breaks my heart to think that many of those views are coming from women who have been battered, or who are currently being battered. I wish there was some way for me to reach through the Internet and hug every one of them. And to protect them. More than anything, I wish I could protect them.
A discussion about my essay was started at the website MetaFilter. As I read through the hundreds of comments. I was startled by how familiar these comments were, how so many of these women struggled with the same feelings of love and ambivalence about leaving their abusive partners. One woman wrote quite beautifully:
Her writing is so lucid that many of us (myself included) hear our own voices in hers. To me, it’s not only an effort to share what happened (maybe perhaps someone will see warning signs they didn’t recognize before) but also…to not be alone. Because when the abuse starts, we are alone with a monster–even in public, we are alone. So maybe to discover “it’s not just me” and think “you too?” the crushing weight of solitude is lifted a little, and we can figure out how to escape from under the rock someone dropped on us.
She’s right. This is why I have been writing so much about what happened. I have been writing to escape that feeling of solitude. Of isolation. Of living a lie. Of living a life where, even in public, I feel alone because no one really knows, or could possibly understand (I think), what I am experiencing.
Another writer articulated very well how hard it is to leave:
It’s so hard to move on, because all that re-wiring in your brain just stays with you. Not to mention, I’ve always thought that abusers had to be extra talented at romancing. They have to get you to stay somehow, so of course the highs are higher than with anyone else. You HAVE to have the most amazing time and the most amazing memories with them, because that’s what will get you to stay with them the other times. I know I didn’t escape because I’m special or because my Nope Cortex is special.
I know I escaped because I was lucky. There was a tiny little window of time where the stars aligned and I jumped through that window so hard. The aftermath is harder sometimes. The people who can’t understand why you wouldn’t tell them it was happening, because of course they would have been there for you! And now I just think about the friends that I know know know are in abusive situations, and I can’t help. I can’t. All I can do is keep being a steady friend. Ready for them when they walk away. I wish with everything I have that I could help them get out sooner, but the magic window will appear when it does. It can’t be hurried.
She, too, is right. My magic window appeared when the police knocked on the door. I wasn’t ready yet to jump, and I didn’t jump for two more days. I spent two days helping my ex-husband find a lawyer, trying to figure out how we were going to get his charges dismissed, and hoping that our marriage would change. He was arrested on Monday. On Wednesday, I lied and told him I was going to grade papers, but my mom had made me promise I would go to the domestic violence shelter. I went and sat with a counselor, and she showed me the cycle of violence. It broke through the clutter. I realized, for the first time, that we were in a pattern that would not change. I went home and my husband had whiled away the morning hours looking at porn while I had tried to figure out our future. I remember looking at him and a chill went through my body. It was like my blood was turning thick into ice. My fingers tingled. I knew I needed to leave.
And I jumped. I jumped so hard.
I spoke with a friend recently who is in an unhealthy relationship. That moment seems to have arrived for her. Her window has opened, but she doesn’t want that window to be open. No one ever wants that window to be open. We want to keep loving the person we once loved. We don’t want to jump. The landing is hard. It is so hard. It is not an easy jump where we magically grow wings and fly. Sometimes, parts of us are broken in the process, but we still need to jump.
Women who have been abused are not very good at self-care. We are not great at recognizing what our needs are, but we can still love other people and recognize what’s good for them. I knew that she couldn’t hear me if I said “You need to jump. You will be glad if you jump.” So, instead, I said, “Aren’t you glad I jumped?”
And to you, dear readers, if you have come by this blog because it’s time for you to jump, then I say this to you.
Aren’t you glad I jumped?