The Weight of Abuse

When I was growing up, I was always adamant about one thing: I would never let a man mistreat me. Grand talks of a game of grit-ball, break-ups, and world domination was all you would get out of me if you mentioned a man’s mistreatment.

Then I grew up. Then a man I dearly loved and trusted mistreated me. Can I say it was necessarily in malice? No, because thankfully I am not in his head. But his mistreatment was real, and I am still coming to terms with the consequences.

I stepped out of divorce lacking self-esteem, feeling afraid and alone, with the ways my husband spoke to me and treated me ringing in my mind.

But then I went to therapy. My inner voice was different. I was confident and happy again. I even started dating casually, and found no ill effects. I thought I had successfully dodged the bullet of emotional abuse and its scars.

Wrong.

My current boyfriend is in many ways who I wished my ex-husband could have been. Funny, kind, God-fearing, ambitious, and on an endless journey to be better and communicate effectively. While wonderful, the level of intensity and honesty his personality demands has made me quite aware of just how scarred I am.

I don’t make decisions because I am so used to being judged for my own.

I have moments where I feel I am unattractive, or that my looks are the only part of me that matters.

When I am emotional I feel like I am being “too much” and should just go and handle those feelings on my own. Crying in front of my ex-husband was practically a sin.

I walked on eggshells for years around my ex-husband. I find myself doing the same at times with my boyfriend. Being cautious and insecure where I am normally wild and confident. Feeling the weight of being perfect rather than human.

I had felt that confidence with the men I had dated casually, and thought it would carry over to serious relationships. It hasn’t. I had confidence because all that mattered was how I looked, and if I could fit their mold of a girl they want to be around for a period of time.

Not my boyfriend. He digs into my soul like no one has in a very long time. He has shown me more about myself than many others. He has made me keenly aware of the weight of grief, the trauma responses that can arise after abusive treatment, and get my wheels turning on how to fix it.

He has given me a safe space to be vulnerable and imperfect. All I need to do is beat it into my head that when I feel like I am being “too much”, or that he would never stay, that it is not my voice that is actually in my head. It is the voice of a man who has no right to hold any opinion of me. The voice of a man so small that he had to attack his own wife to feel important and in control.

I hope that one day soon my brain will relearn patterns of behavior. I will know that disagreement doesn’t mean punishment, emotions are valid and should be shared, and that the right person will love me just for who I am. In the meantime, I pray for patience, peace, and for the hearts of those around me as I learn to trust.

Right now it can still feel like the world is full of wolves, but I know in reality this isn’t true. The people who have never done anything to break my trust do not deserve to be treated like they had. I pray every day that I learn to not hold a sentence of distrust over an innocent persons head.

In all, I just want to be enough. I want someone to look at me and see that I am imperfect, that parts of me are downright destroyed; and yet still want me. I want to be genuinely loved, because while I thought I knew what that was like, I can see now I truly didn’t. I want to be enough.

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