How To Find Some Peace In An Abusive Relationship
I tried to write this post earlier today, but evidently there were some comments and stories I needed to read first. Stories from addicts, ministers and other abuse survivors reminded me of how much I used to fight my abuser. I fought with my ex-husband so often that I accepted some isolation to spare myself the embarrassment of fighting in front of his friends. At the end, I think every one of the people my ex hung out with knew that I couldn't stand to look at him.
No wonder they believed his stories that I was miserable and unstable. I couldn't open my mouth without something negative about my ex sliding out. My feelings for him surrounded me like a prickly heat and they made me seem like someone I was not. Ugly. Hateful. Mean. My feelings for my ex made it easy for his friends to feel sorry for him, give him a place to stay, and believe his side of whatever story he told.
Was There Peace In My Abusive Relationship - Peace Inside of Me?
I was not at peace. I was in turmoil, seeking peace. I thought that forcing my ex to change would bring me peace, so I fought hard. The more I fought, the less like myself I became. I yelled and screamed. I called him names. I did these things in front of our children. I thought I was standing up for myself. I thought that acting like him would make him listen to me, but over time, I knew he wasn't listening to me. Still, my fight continued and I came to like myself less and less.
Fighting Cannot Produce Peace In Abusive Relationships
I lived a lot of years searching for peace. I was frustrated, confused, aggravated, upset and in turmoil. Now I enjoy peace. But I might never have found it if I'd stopped looking for it, because God wanted to teach me to pursue it. Sometimes we wish for things to change but are unwilling to do what it takes to make things better. ~Joyce Meyer
In despair, I broke down. I felt ashamed and mad at myself for moving far away from my true heart. I prayed and begged for God to change things for me. I baited Him, praying, "I know you could do it, so please change this misery!" If you've heard the bible story of Jesus in the desert, you know that the devil tempted Him to use his powers to relieve His suffering, too. I acted like a little devil to God, and like all devils, God easily and repeatedly said, "No".
It isn't up to God or your abuser's friends or their family or you whether or not your abuser ever changes so you can have peace. If change comes, it won't be to give you peace anyway! It will come because your abuser wants to change.
I felt God abandoned me. I felt alone in all the world and had a big ol' pity party for myself. When I couldn't cry anymore, I decided that what I was doing was not working. "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results" began to make sense to me. Praying in the manner I prayed and fighting my ex in the way I'd fought would never work to bring me peace. But what would?
Peace In Abusive Relationships Requires You To Build A Life Worth Fighting For
Throughout those years of misery, I never focused on my life. Sure, I was mad at my ex for making it difficult to attend college and begin a business. I was mad at my ex for telling me who I was and what I wanted. I was mad at him for many things with good reason! But if you had asked me what I wanted to go to school to become, I couldn't answer you. Likewise, if you asked me how I defined myself or what I wanted for my life, I could not have answered you.
I fought him so hard that I forgot what I was fighting for.
I have to build a life for myself that I want to fight for. And being miserable in some place where they take away all the things I actually do love about life seems totally counterproductive. Stripping me of joy and hope isn't going to do help me make healthier decisions. ~Nic Sheff
Nic Sheff speaks about sober houses in the quote above, but it fits living in abuse, too. Victims of abuse need to (re)build their lives and feel valuable. But they cannot do that in a relationship that takes away all they love about themselves and erases joy and hope. You cannot build a great life fighting someone else for the right to build it.
How to Stop Fighting And Find Peace In Abusive Relationships
STOP fighting. Just like that. Stop it. Quit yelling and sniping. Stop trying to one-up the abuser. Stop co-creating the abuser's path of escalation. When you stop acting like someone you are not, you are forced to decide who you are.
How do you decide who you are? That's easy enough. Set personal boundaries and enforce them peacefully. A boundary is only you deciding what you like and what you don't like, then expressing your feelings non-confrontationally and taking actions that make it very hard for your abuser to "make" you feel miserable and angry (5 Ways of Dealing With Verbally Abusive Relationships).
Personal boundaries remind you to be you. I requested a commenter to the blog to do this:
When you hear yourself saying things that you don’t like, shut your mouth. When you feel like doing something that does not align with who you want to be, do not do that thing.
The abuser is likely to attack viciously when you put your boundaries in place. It is difficult to keep your mouth shut or walk away when someone says hateful things to you, but with practice it will get easier.
Boundaries let you be you - and your abuser to be themselves. Over time, you will come to see that you deserve much more out of life. You will want to create a life worth fighting for instead of fighting someone for the life you want.
I wish you all a very peaceful holiday season. Remember that abuse can increase throughout the holidays, so give yourself the gift of peace as often as possible.
*Both women and men could be abusers or victims, so do not take my pronoun choices as an implication that one gender abuses and the other is victimized.
Holly, K. (2013, December 4). How To Find Some Peace In An Abusive Relationship, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/verbalabuseinrelationships/2013/12/fighting-for-peace
Author: Kellie Jo Holly
This goes on and on. This for over 7 years to someone I SUPPORT totally 100%, and am not legally married to. I feel like I need to be taken out and horsewhipped to "wake up" and get rid of this horror, this negative, screaming, scary, abusive person. NOW, add a child relative ( minor) into my home that is related to my deceased husband..and it's 100x worse. I can NOT have this child exposed to his craziness or hear any of his crazy, negative, horrible fodder out of his mouth.
I am nothing but a mere shadow of the person I used to be. His friends and relatives KNOW how horrific he is, substance abuser, negative, doesn't work, drinks, smokes, spends, horrible father, horrible everything. Yet , HERE I AM. I wish every single day that I would wake up to find he had died in the night. Then, I won't have to "do" anything. Hear the backlash from his friends/family . The real reason they would be concerned is that he might land ON THEIR DOORSTEP again, and they would "put up with him" support him and take his abuse. That's why they'd be angry with me. NOT like we are FRIENDS or get along or anything anyway.
I need to have a house fall on me or someone to shake me til I am AWAKE and aware of this horror ruining my life, and every single life he touches.
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I was not at peace. I was in turmoil, seeking peace. I thought that forcing my ex to change would bring me peace, so I fought hard. The more I fought, the less like myself I became. I yelled and screamed. I called him names. I did these things in front of our children. I thought I was standing up for myself. I thought that acting like him would make him listen to me, but over time, I knew he wasn’t listening to me. Still, my fight continued and I came to like myself less and less."
Wow! How amazing and powerful your words are! This is literally the exact reaction from others I experienced when leaving a horrible abusive spouse and the same words I said about myself when I realized I became like my Ex in order to survive being with him. I was mean, angry, hurtful & defensive towards my Ex until he said he hated me so much I no longer had a reason to act that way. I realized I had become just like him and he hated me, hence hating himself, a concept he may never comprehend.
Regardless, I was no longer myself, and the last spark of "me" was fighting to hang on inside me. That same day, I suddenly let go of all that anger and hate, I apologized to everyone, even my abuser. The weight and burden I carried for years was lifted and I felt clarity like never before in my life. That night in bed, my body shook with fever and sweats and chills. I was physically ill.
Today, nearly 18 mos later, I am free of my abuser. Healthy, happy, loving life and my children more than ever. My Ex told me today that I was a scumbag, a piece of shit, a liar, and to f!$@ off when we exchanged our son. Mostly because he got the wrong school supplies and was/is too dumb to find the school's list or print one himself.
I let it get to me and it bothered me all day. Yet, a wonderful kind friend explained what a man is thinking and to look inwards for peace. It's not easy, it's not done in a day or week. Time heals you, their anger is theirs. My life is mine. We maybe slip, stumble and even fall for a long time, but I got out. I made it and I am free! To anyone else who knows abuse and wants out, you CAN do it! You will be okay. Don't let your spark burn out!
What made me feel better was knowing others are going through the same thing then I realised something else. I've learnt how to recognise trauma and the fight or flight response, I've taught my children how to use their breath when dealing with their twat of a father once he's been drinking but I failed to do it myself.
Breath in for the count of 4, hold for the count of 7, breath out for 8 repeat as necessary. It really helps and I see things differently, calmly. Hopefully it can help you too xx
So, I've been thinking about this a lot since I read it last night. It's something I want to do - why is it so hard? Disclaimer- I rarely yell (although he thinks if I speak with any emotion it's yelling)but I do fling out sarcastically defensive comments and respond in the negative, hence the path of escalation as above. Sarcasm is his preferred language and I find myself using it, though I don't like it. My heart races and I feel sick in my stomach. I don't hate myself for it any more but I want it to stop because it does no good.
Thinking it through, the reason the words just come out, despite me deciding a million times I won't do that any more is because they are so often on replay inside my head. I still haven't won the battle of getting him out of my head. Difficult when we still live together. Perhaps more so, now that I understand the abuse dynamic. I am always anticipating, preparing myself, wondering what the real version of the story he just told me is, on guard and on edge. Because I am determined not to be put down, minimized, trivialized, misquoted, etc. etc., when he baits, I bite.
When you start changing the story in your head, it plays out your way in reality. You can never truly anticipate what your abuser will do, yet we spend countless hours reliving our abuse in our minds because it hurts and because we want to figure out how we could have done things differently. Repeatedly hurting ourselves with these horrible memories helps create depression, ptsd, anxiety, etc., yet at times, it seems like all we can do. But it isn't. Replacing those thoughts with the things I mentioned above creates a healthier mind-environment from which we become able to "STOP".
Joy, use the statement as a GOAL, not an immediate mandate. Sometimes you will fall into the trap, but in time you will fall MUCH less often until it is not a war to stay mind-healthy.