The feeling is mutual
Respect. Not just something to be sung about, drunk and happy at your local Karaoke bar.
The crux of most things, is, that without mutual respect, whatever you’re trying to achieve just won’t work. It has taken me a long, long time to work this out, and the moment I did, I felt like the past ten years or so, all the toxic friendships, and relationships and general asshattery made so much sense. Here’s the trick I’d been missing: If someone talks to you like you’re dirt, they’re not being quirky or an Honest John, they’re being insensitive, rude and disrespectful. Ain’t nobody got time for that! Whatever you were trying to pursue will crash and burn, so click your heels together and say ‘There’s no place like home’. If I sound together and sorted, I assure you I’m not, in any sense of the word.
I spotted an emotional abuser quite recently, someone I was in dialogue with. Emotional and verbal abuse is something that’s been in the media a lot over the past few weeks, and the fact that it’s being bought to the forefront of conversation can only be a positive step. I noticed the script that goes along with emotional abuse as it was happening and I thought “Wow. This again? It really is line after line, isn’t it?”. I was shocked at how predictable it all was, but I was also shocked at my ability to say ‘Not this time’ and pull myself out of it. It wasn’t that long ago that I’d have just made excuse after excuse. In this situation, it really was NOT me, and was all them. Enough is enough now. And those lines? They’re all variations of the same thing. They start off intense “You’re wonderful, too good for me” “You’re an amazing person, I just want to get to know you. I’m a good listener” and the worst one of all “You can trust me”. The majority of people who say these things do mean them, but some? Some don’t. They don’t even know what the words mean. Abusers are drawn to confident, strong people (in this case I am talking about women, but emotional abuse happens to men and women alike) with one caveat; a tiny shard of insecurity which they will needle at until it’s not a miniscule shard, but gaping hole. Then they’ll pull apart everything else about you, but they’re just trying to help you, don’t you see? “I love you to bits babe, but it’s quite annoying when x y z. I’m just telling you because I’m an open book, and I love you”. Before you know it, the gentle suggestions have given way to an all out verbal assault, as aggressive as possible. It’ll always be your fault, you’ll always be the stupid one people suffer for. It’s your fault, you need to do better, you need to change, I’m trying to help you, it’s not my fault, it’s your fault, why can’t you do better, why can’t you be like the others, why are you such a stupid fucking bitch, have you got any idea what a bunch of fucking shit you’re fucking putting me through, I should fucking get rid then you’ll see how much you need me you stupid cunt, you’re lucky to have me, you’re lucky, you’re lucky, you’re lucky. I fucking hate you. I really love you. I’m sorry.
I’ve always been attracted to the sort of partners who are, by nature, abusive. Controlling and manipulative boyfriends. They all dumped me and I always assumed it was my fault, I wasn’t good enough. I was showered with their pity, but basically told I was scum and not worth the effort. I’d been single for a long, long time before I met my final abuser.
My husband was an emotional abuser. And a verbal one. So were his family, by association. The constant remarks of how we were all so close, such a strong family, I was one of them now. But then the remarks about how other family members disliked me. My husband would tell me not to trust his family because they all thought I was incapable of doing anything. My mental health was a topic bandied around because we were all ‘so supportive, so close’ but I could have died of shame and anger. Aspects about our relationship, my health, my thought processes and my actions were made fair game. I had no say in any of it.
I loved my abuser with everything I had. I still love him, I think part of me always will. Leaving was the hardest thing I’d ever had to do, because however awful I felt, he was still in some way my ‘safe place’. I often wonder if that was an illusion too, a clever aspect of the emotional torment too. I’ll never know, and I’ve made the decision for my own mental health to stop thinking about it. It won’t do me any good. The lowest point of the past decade was filling out my divorce papers and, ah, there. Section Six, where you detail the main points about your partner that lead to the breakdown of the relationship. I found it almost impossible to commit to paper, and found myself again trying to make excuses for his appalling and destructive behaviour.
I still ask myself, have I made it all up? A mountain out of a molehill? Should I have done more, been the person he wanted me to be? Will I meet someone else and find out he was right all along, it WAS me? I am a shit person, I am merely to be tolerated? Is this the truth, the whole and undeniable truth?
I’ve seen the other end of the spectrum, I have friends that truly do respect me, who make time for me, who don’t hurt me and who protect me. Yes, I know I’m not easy to live with, and maybe I can be a bit exhausting at times. My true friends know why, and would never lash out to hurt me. Walking over Millennium Bridge with one of my best friends, talking a mile a minute and ranting about something insignificant, my companion looks at me with a wry smile. He’s heard it before, and it makes him laugh. “Have I said too much?” “Not at all. S’you innit”. Acceptance and love and understanding. For every awful person invading my thought process, there’s a tonne of others who outweigh the snide and cutting remarks. My friends who accept that sometimes I do stupid things because, I just needed to. “I know why you have to do this”. Never once a judgement made.
It’s easy for me to say cut the dead weights loose. It’s easy to say but much harder to do. It’s hard when you have taken a punt, let your guard down and emotionally invested yourself to such an extent that you have embarrassed yourself. I think that however much of a hard exterior we all make out to have, we all basically want to trust, love, be loved and be trusted. Shifting your dynamic over to untrusting and constantly on high alert isn’t sustainable and is, quite frankly, exhausting.
Abuse damages in whatever form it takes and here at Many Small Voices we hope to gather the stories of those who have survived abuse into one resource to help and support those who are still victims. We also hope to support survivors through recovery once the abuse has stopped because the scars are still there and will remain forever. Support after abuse is just as important.
We are not experts, just people who are passionate that domestic abuse, in whatever form it takes, must be stopped.
If you think you or someone you know needs help please take a look in our links page to find a list of organisations that strive to help support victims of abuse.
We are looking for your stories of abuse to feature on our blog and make many small voices one LOUD voice. We will protect your anonymity at all times should you wish to remain anonymous, so please contact us for more details.
Many Small Voices To Make One Big Voice Speaking Out Against Domestic Abuse.