There’s a question that keeps coming up from the people around me. Not the ones who have been friends all along, but people who I have met and gotten to know after I left my ex. And it’s not just people I meet and become friends with, but with medical and psychological personnel and other professionals I interact with.
But, did he ever hit you?
And it comes up repeatedly, even from people for whom I’ve already answered the question.
I have a fairly consistent answer for them. “God, I wish he would have!”
The answer is simple. I am, and have always been a fairly strong willed individual. I have more often than not walked my own path, rather than following the herd mentality. Even in high school, I was kind of that kid who was sort of accepted around the edges of most cliques, but never truly a member of any particular group – except for the group of friends I had somewhat collected around me. At the time I wouldn’t have stated that I was a leader, but when I look back at it with 20/20 hindsight, I was somewhat a leader – just not the only one in the group. I was the one a lot of people came to for advice and comfort.
And if my ex had ever actually physically harmed me, I would have taken his ass down (remember, I learned dirty fighting in my teens and early 20s, and did NOT teach him all of my moves), preferably with multiple broken bones, and left his happy ass. And I told him this repeatedly. In fact, the ONE time he considered actually hitting me, and even raised his hand to start doing so, he claims I teleported across the room, got right into his face and dared him to take the shot.
What I remember is taking two steps, getting my face within millimeters of his, and, yes, daring him to take the shot. When he chose not to, I told him that if he EVER raised his hand to me again, he’d better actually intend to follow through – because I wouldn’t put up even with the threat of physical abuse. Knowing he was physically abused as a child, this was a hard limit for me, a boundary I made very clear would be dangerous for him to cross.
Thinking back on it, I think that was the turning point where he decided he needed to be more subtle with his abuse of me. Where he realized that if he wanted to keep me under his thumb, he needed to fit his abuse in with the same triggers that I used to abuse myself.
We all have that internal critic that keeps us making choices that harm us. We think we’re keeping ourselves from harm, but really we’re just abusing ourselves.
So, no, he never hit me. But, I really, really wish he had.
For some reason it’s easier for people to believe that someone will put up with being physically abused for decades, because of some weakness or fear inside the victim, than it is for someone to believe that a person who comes across as strong and invincible would put up with mental and emotional abuse for that same time period.
So, even though I explain in detail that it was a combination of choices, both on my side and on his side, all they see is me somehow blaming myself for the abuse.
I’m not blaming myself. I’m taking accountability for the choices that *I* made that kept me under his thumb. He has accountability for his choices, for the things he did and said and chose. But, if I hadn’t allowed those things to happen, if I hadn’t had that arrogant idea that I could somehow “save” this broken man, they would have never happened. If I hadn’t made the choice to stay, even when I KNEW what was going on (even though he would fairly easily make me question my sanity when I confronted that behavior), then I wouldn’t be in the situation I am in now – where I have to deal with the damage that two decades of abuse did to me.
It’s easy to put him physically behind me, and focus on moving forward. It’s not so easy to put him mentally or emotionally behind me. That’s why I am in therapy, to learn how to do that. Because I need to fix the broken pieces in myself that made it so easy for me to fall into his narcissistic hands. It’s not just all his fault, though he bears the blame for his own choices. If I hadn’t already been primed emotionally to fall under his manipulative spell, I would never have even dated him – let alone married him.
It’s not about him, per se. It’s about learning the lessons I needed to learn from that relationship, so I don’t make the same damned mistakes.