I’m not sure if abusive relationships are common or if there’s something about me that attracts people in them.
My first contact watching my friend be abused was when I was around 17 or 18. My best friend was cool as shit, and I stuck to her like glue because I thought her coolness might rub off on me. I can see now that I had been jealous of her, that I had followed her. I didn’t see that at the time. I think my pattern is to follow. I tend to form friendships with gorgeous, intelligent women, and be her less attractive slightly geeky weird friend. I don’t know if that has to do with growing up the youngest of three sisters. I don’t know.
Anywho, her boyfriend and her were locked in a soap opera style off and on relationship. Things would be off, she would tell me (us) about what he had done this time, then things would be back on again. I suppose neither of them liked the chaos, but maybe it felt normal, maybe it gave them a rush. I don’t know.
The most recent time they had broken up, I had shared with my friend that I was glad because more than once I had felt uncomfortable around her boyfriend, like he was trying it on with me. A few weeks later, they were back on again, but the latest outrage was that he had text a message to her mum, a message that was meant for his friend, about how hot he thought her mum was. Then she said “What’s next? He’s going to try it on with my best friend?”. I must have said something at this point, mentioning about the time when he had tried it on with me. Maybe my face just said it all. And she said: “No, I meant Caz” (referring to our other friend who was present).
That was it. After that conversation we never really spoke again, although I contacted her recently to congratulate her on something I had heard had happened in her life. That was the first friend I lost due to “an abusive relationship”. My sponsor now says that, in her experience, friendships break down in these sorts of situations when the friend is judging, when the person in the relationship feels judged. I get that. I’m trying not to do that anymore.
I thought if I just said something (as was my duty as a friend, wasn’t it?) that my friend would stop getting hurt. I hated hearing about all the bad stuff that was going on.
I suppose that this friendship was due to end, as I had moved away and had started a life somewhere else. I still blamed the abusive relationship though.
My next experience with abusive relationships would come 4 years later. It was actually because of the abusive relationship that I met my friend. She is awesome and we still talk. There was a time when I needed to step away from the friendship for a while, as I couldn’t bear to witness her pain, to hear about the latest horrible thing that had happened. She was able to leave him when she was ready and now she is living happily every after and loving life.
I suppose that the only relationship where I’ve come close to allowing myself to be abused was when I became addicted to a guy, between the age of 19-22. I depended on him emotionally. I thought it was love. Days when I didn’t see him were days wasted. He was witty, intelligent, the life and soul of the party. People always said I was the male version of him. We were amazing together, ying and yang, soul mates… Things ended with him moving away and never answering my calls or contacting me, and then I found out through the grapevine that he was with someone else. I pined for him, for years. No one made me laugh like he did, no one…
I could tell more details of the sordid affair, but that’s beside the point. I lay down on the floor, and he wiped his feet on me. He was one of those amazing guys, you know? He had it all. Narcissistic, a liar, cheated on his girlfriends, and (I realised later) an alcoholic, and I lapped it up. Lap lap lap. Like a little cat. There’s a lot of alcoholics in my family and seemingly every guy I fall in love with I realise (after we’ve broken up) that he’s an alcoholic/problem drinker. While we’re together I’m like “I don’t count other people’s drinks” and then a year later I’m like “woah. That’s a lot of glass in the recycling. Shit. Lucky escape there”. The point is, he wasn’t an abusive guy. But if he had been, I would have been totally trapped in that, because I was mad about him. It was a drug to me.
The most recent contact I’ve had with an abusive relationship has been my friend from high school. It was completely, spectacularly horrific, which is something she might say herself about it. Bruises. Police. Suicide threats. Him claiming to be the victim. After it had ended, she told me all the signs were there, she told me that she felt like a twat for being “one of those people” who does all “those classic things wrong”, like a horror movie where your like “don’t go in to that house alone, no, no, silly bint! Stop!”…I tried my best to be supportive but in the end it was just too painful to hear about his next escalation after the big explosion. It went on for months and months after the relationship itself had ended, her trying her best but feeling completely chopped in half, him threatening to commit suicide, and every time she told me about it (she was going there as he was a suicide risk and his parents weren’t coming to take care of him, completely palming his care off on her) I felt like someone was stabbing me in the stomach. And it wasn’t even me it was happening to.
When it first happened, I called him. I wanted him to stop hurting her. I was desperate. I listened to all his lies about her calmly, all his justifications, just praying and hoping he would stop hurting her. My first instinct is to try to rescue, to try to fix, but that does not help anyone. She said “How can you even speak to him? Stop speaking to him”. I blocked him on WhatsApp, I stepped away.
In the end, after a few months, I had to let her know that I couldn’t hear about what was happening anymore. That it was too painful. People want you to listen not to offer “solutions”. Ex boyfriend with a history of mental illness off his meds and threatening to jump out the window? Have you tried yoga?
And then, there’s the other side. My friend told me recently that she had smacked her boyfriend. I was completely shocked. She had mentioned it casually. I had often asked her if she ever wanted to hit her partner as it was something I had felt when I lived with my ex, for literally no reason. We weren’t even arguing I remember once, I was reading on the sofa. He came in and started watching something on TV, with his giant headphones, and I could literally hear everything. Every single word. And he’s there pissing himself with laughter, really enjoying this show, and I just had such an urge to belt him across the face. Of course I didn’t act on it, and I was surprised at my own dark desires, and I asked my friends who live with their boyfriends if that was normal. They told me it wasn’t. At that point I realised that if I lived with a partner again, I would need my own room, where I could close the door and no one would open it. I didn’t have a door growing up (long story) and I maybe I need a door. Maybe even a lock and a key.
But she told me she had smacked him across the face. That he had fallen asleep and that she couldn’t get in the house and…There’s a part of me that wants to talk to my friend about it. “I don’t think he remembers” she said, so alcohol was involved (Alcohol: why are you such a prick?). “Don’t do that again” I might say. Is it my place to do that? My sponsor says: “Be open. Ask open questions”.
I just don’t know what to do about life anymore. The older I get, the less the world is making sense, the more I want to go and live on an island, as if everyone else was the problem and not my own reactions. I’m starting to become convinced that men and women living together in a romantic relationship is just one option and that for me it might be better to live with a group of friends, me helping them to raise their kids, that the whole idea of the nuclear family is a product of the industrial revolution and capitalism, meaning we share less and buy more, and I just want to take a bunch of good people and go live somewhere in peace and harmony, no more pain and suffering, no more violence. Hopefully the feminist old women’s home will work out, where we can all knit sanitary towels for girls in developing countries and compare tips on vibrators while we plot to invade Poland like the feminizis that we are.
I love my friends. They are all beautiful, incredible, vivacious women, so amazing each of them that I can’t get laid when we go out as I look less attractive standing next to them (remind me to get friends that no one fancies so I have a chance in this cruel, superficial world!). I hope when my time comes to be in a relationship that is abusive, they will… well, there’s nothing they will be able to do. You can’t save anyone except yourself. Adults make choices based on the options that they have, or those they believe they have. I’m glad I have a sponsor to point out options I never would have thought of by myself. It’s usually stuff like accepting lift as it is, accepting people as they are, and choosing what is best for me where appropriate. Let’s see if I have the courage to try them.