As a victim of abuse, my abuser held me to an impossible standard: “Be the perfect woman in my eyes.”
Whenever I did not think or behave the way his perfect woman did, then I suffered the consequences (abusive anger, name-calling, intimidation, etc.). In his eyes, my goal in life should be to become the woman he wanted me to be…flawless in his eyes. His perfect idealization left no room to be human, let alone myself!
Please…Knock Me Off That Pedestal
He often told me that he held me up on a pedestal, above all other women, and when I fell off that pedestal, he became angry. This explanation was meant to excuse his poor behavior; it was not an apology.
Back in the day, my husband was inscrutable. I dare not criticize him openly; but I did notice his imperfections. I acknowledged he was an alcoholic. I understood that his friends were tools for him to use as needed. I grasped the fact that he felt it was okay to take advantage of me so long as he met his goals. I even sensed that the love he felt for his children was conditional (but that was a tough one for me to grasp, so I tried really hard to ignore the evidence).
I knew he was not perfect and that it was dangerous to say so. I knew I had to be perfect (his definition of it) and that it was dangerous to not be so. This quandary caused conflict in my mind. This wasn’t fair.
But his perfect woman would never complain. She would go about remedying the situation – making it tolerable for herself and unnoticeable to him. So, over time and without realizing the error of my thinking, I decided that if I could never be perfect, I could be “the better person”.
I Am Better Than You
However, I didn’t attempt to be better than the true man (alcoholic, exploiter, selfish) – that would be too easy! No, I decided to be better than the man he presented himself to be. In hindsight, I clearly see major problems with this mission:
- I set myself up as judge of another human being (the only way to be “better than” was to judge him as “less than”)
- I strove to be not only the perfect woman, but also the perfect man!
- The stress inherent in these pursuits is too much to bear. Fatigue, depression, a constant stream of failure, loss of self-esteem/confidence…it was an impossible mission, doomed to fail.
After deciding to be the bigger person, I did feel better for a time. I told myself that I was helping him become a better man, better than even he thought he was. I told myself that I was also becoming a more authentic person, better than I was before. This was the seed to the idea that I just may be able to change him. I may be able to show him the error of his ways. I may be able to FIX him!
Yet both of these ideas of perfection were flawed. I was trying to be the woman he wanted me to be and the man I wanted him to be. Although I told myself I was becoming more authentic, I was becoming less of who I am.
Come to find out, I am actually a bit flawed. I feel conflict and am sometimes unable to rise above it. What a shocker.
Negative Emotions Serve a Higher Purpose
I’ve also discovered that my “flawed” emotions of anger, blame, envy and even hate serve a purpose. When I thought I was perfect, I did not allow myself to feel those types of flawed, base emotions. I sugar-coated them with affirmations, prayers, and denial. By ignoring those emotions, I imbibed myself with (false) strength that allowed the abuse to continue and I remained in a toxic relationship that could have ended years ago.
If I had only allowed myself to be angry when he called me a whore. If I had only blamed him for the outcome of his unconscionable behaviors. If I had only envied the sweet, wholesome marriages around me. If I had only hated his controlling, manipulative behaviors.
If only I had let loose my false sense of perfection, then I would have paid attention to those base emotions when they appeared and I could have done something to remedy them long, long ago.
Do not fear your dark emotions – examine them, bring them into the light. Find a place where no one can hear you but Spirit and confess them to your god. Loudly proclaim the wrongs perpetrated against you. Allow yourself to hate another human being besides yourself for a time! Expose those feelings, feel them, believe you feel them for a reason, and then seek to heal them.
Remember, hating someone does not mean you must seek vengeance. Blaming someone for their part in the drama does not mean you devoid yourself of responsibility. After you truly feel the emotions inside of you, then you can choose to make your corresponding actions to those emotions result in something good for you.