Let me tell you why……

Very recently, I was asked by a dear friend whether or not I would enter into another romantic relationship at this point in my life. I am a survivor of domestic violence, and I’ve been out of relationships for almost five years now. My last husband was, at first, someone who looked very good on paper. Little did I know he was even more emotionally damaged than I ever was. He went beyond my deficiency to the point of actual developmental disability. I think perhaps this is why I chose him. My subconscious knew he was in bad shape and I thought I could help him. Probably because of everything I had been through in my battered and unfulfiling love life and having gone through several years of intense analysis, when I met him, I thought I was healed but alas, no, this was not true. And so I sought out, unwittingly, someone just like me.

Growing up, I had no role model of relationship to which I could refer. My own mom had been married four times, twice to the same predatory pedophile. What I experienced growing up was dysfunction to the nth degree and it permanently carved in my brain the exact wrong thing to look for in a person. This is why now I easily admit I have no business being in a love relationship. I have no qualifications that would benefit me or anyone I would associate with.

When you grow up inside extreme abuse, then spend many years pursuing the ideas that formed you, there is nothing you have to offer. Except for jealousy, insecurity, out of control roller coaster emotions that arise out of the opening of the heart once again. Of course  there is the initial attraction that is seemingly untouchable, the dreamy first stages of love are nothing more than a dense fog bank of non reality that cement the physical bond but don’t even crack the seal on the lower, much more important character traits that will eventually rise to the surface. Here is a list of character traits held by people who have been emotionally and/ or physically abused, and this is what we have to offer in love:

  • Can only guess at what healthy behavior is.
  • Tendency towards distraction, rather than inclusion
  • Have trouble completing things
  • Lie when they don’t need to. Lying might have been a survival tactic in the home.
  • Judge themselves without mercy.
  • Have trouble accepting compliments.
  • Often take responsibility for problems, but not successes.
  • Or they go to the other extreme and refuse to take any responsibility for mistakes while trying to take credit for the work of others.
  • Have trouble having fun since their childhoods were lost, stolen, repressed.
  • Take themselves very seriously or not seriously at all.
  • Have difficulty with intimate relationships.
  • Expect others to just “know what they want.” (They can’t express it because they were so often disappointed as children that they learned to stop asking for things.)
  • Over-react to things beyond their control.
  • Constantly seek approval & affirmation.
  • Feel different from others.
  • Are extremely loyal, even when facing overwhelming evidence that their loyalty is undeserved.
  • Are either super responsible or super irresponsible.
  • Tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences. (This impulsiveness leads to confusion, self-loathing, and loss of control over their environment. The result is they spend much energy blaming others, feeling victimized and cleaning up messes.
  • We have feelings of low self- esteem (This is a result of being criticized too often as children and teenagers.)
  • We perpetuate these parental messages by judging ourselves and others harshly. We try to cover up our poor opinions of ourselves by being perfectionistic, controlling, contemptuous and gossipy.
  • We tend to isolate ourselves out of fear and we feel often uneasy around other people, especially authority figures.
  • We are desperate for love and approval and will do anything to make people like us.
  • We are afraid of losing others.
  • We are afraid of being abandoned.
  • It is difficult for us to “let go.”
  • We are intimidated by angry people and personal criticism. This adds to our feelings of inadequacy and insecurity.
  • We continue to attract emotionally unavailable people with addictive personalities.
  • We live life as victims, blaming others for our circumstances, and are attracted to other victims (and people with power) as friends and lovers. We confuse love with pity and tend to “love” people we can pity and rescue. And we confuse love with need.
  • We are either super-responsible or super-irresponsible. We take responsibility for solving others’ problems or expect others to be responsible for solving ours. This enables us to avoid being responsible for our own lives and choices.
  • We feel guilty when we stand up for ourselves or act in our own best interests. We give in to others’ needs and opinions instead of taking care of ourselves.
  • We deny, minimize or repress our feelings as a result of our traumatic childhoods. We are unwilling to admit the impact our inability to identify and express our feelings has had on our adult lives.
  • We are dependent personalities who are so terrified of rejection or abandonment that we tend to stay in situations or relationships that are harmful to us. Our fears and dependency stop us from ending unfulfilling relationships and prevent us from entering into fulfilling ones. Because we feel so unlovable it is difficult or impossible to believe anyone can really love us, and won’t eventually leave us once they see how “bad” we are.
  • Denial, isolation, control, shame, and undeserved guilt are legacies from our family. As a result of these symptoms, we feel hopeless and helpless.
  • We have difficulty with intimacy, security, trust, and commitment in our relationships. Lacking clearly defined personal limits and boundaries, we often become codependent.
  • We tend to procrastinate and have difficulty following projects through from beginning to end.
  • We have a strong need to be in control. We overreact to change things over which we have no control.
  • Have a need to be parented –  too immature or childish to be able to think on their own
  • We have a tendency towards self harm, whether that is threatening suicide or practicing harmful  habits like drinking or smoking……

So, all this being said, would you want to date me? I sure hope not. Two people willing to engage with all this going on is a sure road to disaster. I have finally realized that I am much better off unattached because the terrible ending is simply not worth it. This bulleted can of worms will always exist inside my soul. Armed with this knowledge, I seek only to spare myself and any other person this pain filled existence. I still have many years of solitude in front of me before any of these qualities can possibly fall off me. Maybe when I’m in my eighties, I can be a better partner. Then again, maybe not. The final truth is: life can only be managed, not cured.

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