Love, or Lack Thereof, for an Abuser
As if I should ever use my ex’s assessment as a testament to reality.
Later, when we’d managed to swing my head around to the way I should be facing, M expressed his concern.
“Why do you think about him so much?”
I didn’t want to answer the question. I mean, who would? No matter what the answer, the end result is I’m focused on my past and allowing an asshole to control my emotional state without even trying. I mean, I haven’t even spoken to him in at least 5 years, and I steady have nightmares about the shit he put me through, and the narrowly escaped shit he almost put me through.
What it really comes down to is I had never really faced what I went through. Oh, I pretended I did, and I talked a good game, but while I was telling people who asked that I was abused (or mentioning it in passing in blog posts), I was telling myself that it was “abuse by society’s standards,” but just a rocky relationship by mine. I’d buried things like the day that he held me at gunpoint while our friends paced outside trying to decide what to do, or that time he drove around town searching for a good place to drive the car off a cliff or into a building while our son was in the back seat.
But I didn’t want to tell M that. The fact that I’m still working through some of the things my late teen years and early adulthood caused feels like a betrayal, sometimes. Like I should have been over all this the day I left my ex that note to let him know I was bringing someone home, and he needed to find somewhere else to stay. Some fucked up shit that was, but it turned out he was leaving in the middle of the night to move to Virginia (without telling me) anyway.
So I said, “I don’t know.”
I should have known the next question he asked would be, “Do you still love him?” but it caught me off guard. And at first, I found myself searching for the “right” answer rather than the real one.
Society is torn on the “right” answer. There are conflicting mitigating circumstances.
I’m supposed to say yes because I was once in love with him and we have four children together. I’m supposed to always love and respect the man I almost married, even if we don’t get along. I’m supposed to remain friendly with him for the children.
I’m supposed to say no because I’m married to and owned by another man. I’m supposed to hate him because he abused me. I’m supposed to wish him a whole buttload of harm because he’s abandoned my children after forcing me out of their lives.
The truth, though, is that I stopped loving him long before I got married. I lost respect for him years before he walked out of our children’s lives. When I stopped loving and respecting him, we were still in high school. I stayed with him because of the kids at first, and then because leaving put other people in danger. Every time I left him, he would spin wildly out of control, hurting himself and others in the process. Every time I started dating someone else, they’d break up with me within a month because he’d threatened their life.
I don’t hate him, though. It takes way too much energy to hate someone. And it’s not like I was an angel. I’m sure some of the things I said and did could be called abuse, as well. I’m mad as hell at him, and if I ever see him again, I’m going to punch him dead in his face. That’s a promise. But there’s no point in hating him.
I knew, though, that if I just said, “No, I don’t love him,” M would return to the original question. So I gave in and explained why I still think about him.
I spent 6 years of my life being terrorized by this person. And even though he probably never even thinks about me, I’m terrified he’ll eventually find a reason and a way to fuck with me again.
What’s funny is I feel guilty about this. It really does feel like a betrayal.
I know my focus should be here, now, and on M. He’s the boss. He’s at the helm. My job is to follow along behind like a lovesick puppy desperately trying to please my master. My responsibility is to trust him to guide us along this battle-worn trail that leads us into our forever. But I’m pristinely aware of his humanity and my ex’s deviousness, and so I am constantly running ahead to peek around the corners and over the cliffs and behind the trees to make sure there are no landmines that he could miss.
M shook his head at me, and stared in disbelief. “I mean, I’m not a fighter,” he said, “but if he ever tries to fuck with you again, I’m not gonna just stand there and let it happen.”
And I guess I knew that, but it felt good to hear him say it. Made me feel less alone in dealing with this thing.
Which is totally fucked up. I have never been alone since I met M. Not once. If I ever need him, he’s there for me. All I have to do is reach for him. The trouble is the reaching. When you’re someone like me, and you’ve spent so much of your life depending on yourself because there was no one else to depend on, you have a hard time recognizing that there’s anything to reach for.
I need to work on that. He can only hold me up if I let him.