Abusive Relationships/Emotional Abuse & Trying to Understand Myself
After being in therapy, I had the strength to leave an emotionally abusive 17-year marriage in 2011. The abuse was very covert & subtle--no name calling or yelling, but a gradual eroding of my self-esteem through criticism, disapproval, controlling behavior, etc. I began dating again, and found a really fantastic guy. There were some minor signs that he could be an emotional abuser too, but after being married to one, I thought I might still be "seeing abuse everywhere" and decided to give the relationship a chance. Our good times are wonderful, but over time, I have realized that we are in the typical cycle of emotional abuse. To make a long story short, my friends think that he treats me badly and that I am putting up with emotional abuse again, and even though I think they are probably right, and even after therapy and learning to see clearly, I still keep letting him call me and take me out, etc. He has brought me a great deal of emotional pain--so why don't I end the relationship? I tell my friends what he does and says so that they can keep me real and grounded, but no matter what they say, I can't seem to tell him not to call. I love talking with him and love being with him, but then he says something unfathomably hurtful, and I decide I can't go on like this. Then he acts like it never happened, and I go along with him after a day or two. No one would believe this (except all his ex-girlfriends) if they weren't hearing it straight from me. He is a good-looking, happy, upbeat guy who goes to church and is popular and hard-working, all of which is why I fell for him when he asked me out. We have shared times of real closeness. We have dated only each other for 2 1/2 years. I guess my question is this: I have "better judgment." Why do I keep going against it? Thanks.
Thank you for writing and reaching out for ideas of what is going on. Being in an emotionally abusive marriage that long can take years to recover from and learning self-care and ways to protect yourself can take even more time. Learning the red flags and walking away from those who don’t treat you right can be a challenge because of trying to accept character flaws which we all have instead of accepting behavior that is truly abusive.
Your question of why do you go against your better judgment and the answer is because of wanting more than there is in a relationship. Your better judgment is not the problem—it is your need of “wanting” a relationship to be “different” and this is what keeps you attached. You enjoy the good times and closeness you have at times and you crave those elements which can override your “better judgment” of being treated poorly. Being treated poorly or abusive behavior can be a serious character flaw and will NEVER change in some people without extensive counseling. Learning to accept this fact will help you see people for who and what they are and help you “let go” of wanting people to be something they are not.
You mentioned that this guy is good-looking, happy, upbeat, goes to church and is popular which are all the things you like about him but there is no mention of him treating you well. I would suggest that you move being “treated well” to the top of the list when meeting new people and if that doesn’t happen then walk away with no questions asked because all that other stuff doesn’t matter if you are not being treated well.
Continuing to learn self-care and believing that you deserve to be treated well will help you walk away from those who don’t treat you well. Making this your first priority instead of getting sweep away with all of the other attributes will help keep you safe and in better company.
Thank you for writing and please continue to ask these important questions as you continue on your journey of self-discovery and self-love. Just remember, you deserve the very best in life and giving yourself the love and respect you desire will teach you to be around others who do the same.
Much peace to you,
Cathy Backlund, Life Coach Specializing in Abusive Relationships and Domestic Violence Education