LL, thank you for this honest and courageous post. This is such an important issue to talk about as so many people manage to leave an abusive partner but find the aftermath very difficult, turning on themselves and feeling shame, guilt and self-hatred.
You have done so well to leave and get to a safe address, where you are having to hide from your ex-partner. You have come a long way already.
It sounds like learning the theory of domestic abuse helped you intellectually recognise that the abuse wasn’t your fault but this alone hasn’t stopped your feelings of self blame, self hatred and guilt. That makes a lot of sense, what a person knows intellectually and what a person’s feels emotionally can be very different and this is normal.
I can see from your post that you blame yourself as you call yourself weak for begging for forgiveness after she hit you. At Galop we believe that every survivor will defy, resist and try to prevent abuse or violence to them. However sometimes the way we might try to do this might seem surprising or confusing – so if we think about the example you name of begging for forgiveness. Perhaps it was the best way to resist further violence and to prevent another attack in the coming days or weeks. You most likely knew your partner well and knew what would be the most effective ways of resisting and preventing violence, so perhaps that’s what influenced you to use this approach and it was in fact a clever and resourceful tactic, rather than a weak one.
I can hear the self-blame coming through in the questions you ask yourself, like, ‘why didn’t I leave after the first time she hit me?’ And many people have asked these questions of themselves or when talking to the helpline team, you’re not alone with feeling self-blame. There can be many factors that influence a person to remain with a partner who harms them. Common factors we hear from people on the helpline are:
• I was married and I wanted the marriage to work so I was prepared to keep working at it. I took marriage seriously.
• They promised to change and I believed and hoped they could as when we started the relationship they didn’t behave like this. It came in after time.
• I felt responsible for them, they didn’t have anyone else and they suffered with mental health issues.
• I believed I could help them.
• I loved them, there were some qualities that I liked a lot.
• I was dependant on them for housing, money, visa, care.
I hope this helps you see that you are not alone with staying with a partner who used harmful tactics to control you and you are not to blame for staying with her. Many factors may come together, like a web, to keep you there.
It sounds like you are doing the right thing by going to therapy and crying. Therapy is a great place to let out the feelings and allow them the space they need. Sometimes bottling them or not allowing the feelings can cause the pain to last longer. So while crying might not feel like the comfortable thing to do, it is great you are expressing your emotions in a safe space! Bravo for making this happen.
You asked whether you will be able to trust again or have new friends or a partner. Many survivors feel like this. Is it worth it? Can you take that risk again? You might find this free peer to peer support network worth exploring. Co-dependants Anonymous is a network of people who have experienced unhealthy, dysfunctional and/or abusive relationships and want to move forward and have respectful, equal, boundaried relationships. Perhaps take a look at their website and their introductory material and see if it makes sense to you.
Thank you for being so brave and sharing bravely your experience of coping and recovering after domestic abuse. Your words may help others who have a similar experience.