26 February 2013

Dating & Verbal Abuse


Question from a Reader (written here with permission):

How do you deal with being so deeply in love someone but they no longer want you, they just want to forget you and block you completely out of their life?  How do you deal with them being so verbally abusive but you love them and don't want to lose them that you just sit there and take it, not one word of retaliation, just tears.

Answer:

My honest opinion?  Gratitude.  Gratitude that a relationship that is abusive is ending and that you didn't make the mistake of marrying the person.  Gratitude that even if you didn't have the strength to walk away from the abuse, the relationship ended anyway.  Gratitude that you have the ability to start anew, heal, rebuild your self-worth, and find someone who is whole as well.  It is a blessing that in the moments of our lives when we find it most difficult to separate ourselves from those whose negativity is a source constant pain, they save us the trouble and leave on their own.  

I hope you are on to better things and that you pursue those things with gratitude that you just dodged a bullet.  No healthy relationship has its basis in abuse.  Also, embrace this next phase of your life.  Do the personal work to HEAL, regain strength, and learn to feel whole so that you don't get into this type of relationship again. 

You're not alone in the way you feel, or the circumstances you describe.  My heart goes out to you and the pain this has caused you. 

From now on, reserve that kind of affection for those who are capable of and interested in returning it.  (I'm not suggesting you should only have love for certain kinds of people...but I am suggesting that we should be careful about which ones we choose to partner with.)

With Love,
Mara and Danny 

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Readers, have you had experience with verbal abuse?  I know from my own experiences with it that it is an extremely difficult thing to face, especially when it comes from one you love.  It's even more difficult when you wrap your self-worth around the way someone else is treating you, which is SUCH an easy thing to do.  I certainly did this at one point in my life... 

-I found I accepted a lot more than I should have and stuck around, hoping this person would throw me a bone. 
-As the relationship continued, it's like the desperation to be loved by this person only increased.  I thought surely my self-worth would be restored if I was good enough to be treated kindly.
-I remember feeling like I had offered the best of myself - including lots of "love", a giving nature, generosity, kindness, etc.- and yet it still wasn't enough.  It still wasn't enough to get treated well by him and it certainly wasn't enough to change him.  
-When my best behavior was still not enough to impress the one I loved, combined with negativity coming my way, I certainly began thinking I likely wouldn't be worthy of anyone's love or kindness.  In fact, at times it felt almost impossible to imagine ever meeting or being loved by someone else. 

If any of this sounds familiar to you, I hope you can see right here in black and white how dysfunctional this is.  I know that somehow in the moment we rationalize, we don't have the eyes to see it or the guts to admit it.  When I think of myself, I wonder why I didn't just walk away in those early days.  My post on Love Addiction has a lot to do with it.  But I've said it before and I'll likely keep saying it a lot...  
Our self-worth should not be based on the way another is treating us - or the love we feel from another person - or the amount we feel "desired" by another person.  When we operate that way, we do stupid/desperate things.  And a healthy relationship (& our own dignity) will never result.  Do not base your self worth on any outside circumstance.  It HAS to come from within or a higher source in order to withstand the challenges out there.  Getting that kind of self-worth takes a lot of work and desire, but it's worth it completely. 
In those sad days of mine, I obviously didn't own my own self-worth like I do now.  I really did want to be loved by a guy in order to feel truly whole and confident (yikes).  Ladies, let's OWN OUR SELF-WORTH FOR OURSELVES.  I truly want that for all of you.  And I want that for young women.  It's up to us to teach them these things, but we have to live and breathe it ourselves first.  PLEASE make it a lifetime journey to develop and maintain your own empowerment.  I have written lots on this subject throughout this whole blog so I won't go into specifics today.  (See the sidebar for "Self Worth".)  Know that if you are finding healing difficult, that's ok.  But still believe 100% that it's possible.  Keep seeking help in different ways and don't give up.  THIS post (Become Your Best Self) shows what my path was and can give you loads of ideas for some things to try.  Also, consider a professional therapist to guide you through this.  And in my opinion, a spiritual guide of some kind can be one of the most powerful forces in your journey.  Find one.  Churches or spiritual healers are a good place to start.  I haven't been to many churches so I can't comment on them, but I can tell you that the purest teachings of Mormonism have helped me to heal and rebuild my self-worth more than anything else (you can read more about it here).  I've added in some Buddhist thoughts to my life practices as well. 

OK - much love to everyone out there.  GOOD LUCK as you seek after good things and try to heal in your lives.  HEALING IS POSSIBLE.  This, I know.  

With love,
Mara   

Back to verbal abuse...have you experienced it?  Was it difficult to walk away?  What would you say to this woman or others who are trying to find their way?  Please share ANY tips or thoughts on how you healed or improved your situation. 


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20 comments:

  1. Needed this today. Thank you!

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  2. I don't have a simple comment for your reader--I have an entire day's worth of things to say in and around this subject. Boiling that down to a 3-step plan is impossible because learning to value yourself is and must be something that takes time. But you can start with:
    -Ask for help. [You did it already!]
    -Express gratitude for being FREE from the man abusing you. (Mara, you're absolutely right about gratitude!) Force yourself to say it out loud. List what else you're grateful for. Do it every day until you feel it. You will eventually feel it, I promise.
    -Use your pain to recognise pain in others. Do the tiniest thing you can think of to help one person today. Repeat.

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    1. LOVE this. Doing even a tiny thing to help someone - - yes, lifechanging. It's the perfect way to restore our worth and dignity.

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  3. Love this. What a wonderful answer.

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  4. Perfect answer. I didn't know I was in a verbally abusive relationship for 3 and a half years until i got out of it. I am every so grateful my ex has never contacted me again and he is gone from my life. Somewhere in the depths of that dreadful relationship I didn't see my self-worth, but once you find it out you know that it is a blessing that they shut the door on you and please let yourself lock it shut.

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  5. You're free! Right now you might not realize what that means but down the road, after you've developed your own self-worth, you will be grateful. I stayed in a relationship for far too long because I felt that my love for him would cure everything. I changed everything about myself and know what? He left anyway. I was left with a broken heart and even worse, a broken identity. I didn't know who I was. I had changed so much about myself that I hated looking in the mirror for fear of what I would truly find. Honestly, his leaving was the best thing that could have happened to me. 3 years later, I'm happy, thriving, and living a life I didn't think was possible. Am I glad I went through that abuse? Of course not. I still don't fully trust men and I still question myself a lot. Yet, that abusive experience really opened my eyes to what other women go through and I can offer love and encouragement to women going through similar experiences. It's a long road of recovery (it feels like it sometimes) but it will all fade. There is better love out there, kinder and uplifting. That's the love we all deserve.

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  6. I am in the thick of this right now. I think one of the harder things is that many of us do not recognize verbal abuse until our self-confidence is shot, and we're sitting there wondering why. Why can't he just love me the way I am? Why do I feel like I am never heard? Why do I feel so ugly? What can I do to make this relationship better? I went to counseling to figure out how to be a better wife. My counselor told me that I was "love-starved" and we went through dissecting my marriage and issues from my childhood that made me feel that I was not worth being loved. I had to come to the realization that my happiness is worth just as much as someone else's. I think you have to find something that motivates you to change from the relationship. Something that makes you realize you can stand on your own two feet. For me, it is my two young beautiful boys. I have to break the cycle for them and their future partners in life. It would break my heart to see them put their partners down, ignore them, or just make them feel unloved. And they would miss out on all that love brings - all that happiness and richness!! The gratitude is a must to not carry anger of your own and just take note of the happiness and peace you feel away from them. And be grateful of everything you learn about yourself through the process. I have told my friends many times how as painful as this is, i wouldn't trade this experience for anything because of how much I have learned through it all. On another note, I wanted to thank you for your blog!! While going through all of this, I have read your blog almost daily, and you two have brought such inspiration and many smiles to my face excited about life and love in general.

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  7. I was married to a man that struggled with anxiety & depression and self medicated with pornography. Even though I truly feel that he didn't mean to be verbally abusive and was just being honest about what he was attracted to, those words of expressing his unattraction to me were very hurtful. I remember very distinctly being on a walk around my neighborhood and I'd been praying to know what I should do in regards to my marriage. My strong impression on my walk was that I was emotionally and spiritually dying. If I choose to stay in this relationship that ten years down the road, I'd have 3 small children and still end up divorced, plus emotionally and spiritually numb and dead. I didn't want that for my future children, a mother who was checked out, who was on antidepressants just to survive her surroundings.

    Looking back, I made the right decision. It's been 7 years, and for many of those years I've held anger and hate towards my ex, but this blog has helped me make the choice to intentionally reframe that anger into gratitude for the experience that year of a horrible marriage gave me. I'm almost there, I keep focusing on the lessons I learned, the amazing resilience it taught me, how strong I really am, etc.

    I also experienced losing a very very dear male friend who I'd developed feelings for and he didn't reciprocate. I could also be angry and hurt for him ending the friendship, but I'm so very grateful for what he taught me in our friendship. Even though our relationship wasn't a romantic one, he taught me what it felt like to be cared for, to be the one served not always serving. I now know what an amazing relationship with someone who is healthy can be like and that helps me while dating now.

    Always be looking for the learning experience.

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  8. Oh my, I can relate to her question so much. I was married to my ex husband for 8 years and although the verbal abuse wasn't there in the beginning -- or I was too naive to see the early signs of it -- it steadily got worse and worse. I felt horrible about myself and yet I jumped through hoops to get this guy, my husband, the father of my 2 children, to love me and appreciate me. I cried a lot. It even got to the point where he would speak to me this way in public, in front of family and friends, whereas before it was strictly behind "closed doors." Then the time came when he decided to leave, I dug in my heels and did everything I could to keep our family together, but the verbal abuse only escalated and he left anyway. As difficult as it was, divorce gave me my life back! Once I was away from that environment, it didn't take me long to start discovering myself and being so happy with the person I was and who I could be. I could finally be the mom I wanted to be for my kids, happy and loving. Looking back I could see the situation a bit more clearly and how bad it really was. We think that only those who are being abused physically need help getting out, but verbal abuse can be just as hard to break away from and it's so easy to hide it. I have been remarried for nearly 5 years now to a wonderful man who is pretty much the opposite of my ex. I could go on and on about him, but just know that even if I had not remarried I was happy, I was excited about where I was in life and where I could see myself going. I had great friends, family, and a counselor who helped me when I needed it. Don't be afraid to ask for help, you're not alone!

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  9. I can identify with so many of you lovely women here! My relationship didn't start out abusive...he was the man of my dreams and he actually loved me!! The abuse was subtle to begin with...shortly after our first child was born. He was no longer the center of my world and escalated when our twins were born. I stayed because he was all that I had ever known and I knew that I loved him enough for the both of us and when this time in our life was done, our relationship would be healed. I too, changed so much about myself to please him. He made me feel worthless and like I deserved what I was getting. I often wished that he would have just hit me because those wounds would have healed, but the damage to my soul has taken years to overcome. He left as well...and destroyed my very being in the process. I am so thankful for my faith, as it was what brought me through that dark time. I have often said about my divorce that God gave me the greatest gift in the ugliest package. I have been abundantly blessed and didn't know that life could be so beautiful. My children are happy, I am happy, we are so lucky. Praise the Lord!

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  10. When I'm in a difficult situation or I know that I'm ignoring what my gut/intuition says, I stop and ask myself what advice I'd give to my daughter/best friend/mom. Of course I'd tell all of them to flee from an abusive relationship (or whatever bad thing I'm facing). Sometimes that makes it clearer what I should do. Sometimes I also find it helpful to go back and read my writing (in this case, the question that you wrote) several weeks later. With distance, I'm often able to see how pathetic/needy/sad/unacceptable I was being in that moment and it gives me strength to act from a better place.

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  11. I'd love to reply to each of the comments here individually, but I don't have time. More than anything I just want to thank you all for investing time and thought and positive energy on behalf of this reader and others who may need help.

    Mara and I are always so grateful for the wisdom you all share with us and each other, and this is certainly one of those times where I feel that gratitude.

    From listening to a few of the comments, I can imagine that most who become abusers don't start that way. Perhaps this is why it can be so difficult to leave a bad situation because you feel like this person just isn't themselves at that moment. It's natural to feel like you still love someone...or at least the someone they once were.

    It is so encouraging to hear of all of your stories of healing. What a miracle! Thank you all for sharing (and I hope others continue to do so).

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  12. I think stepping out of it for a minute was the best thing for me. It starts so slow and gradual that it's hard to see how much it is eating at you until you are able to get away. When my ex-husband left for military service I first felt I'd die for months without him. Within days I felt happiness, peace, and a lot more self-esteem than usual.

    Take a break from that person, it's amazing how much clearer you can see and how much happiness you realize you could have.

    Also ask friends and family who love you. They won't lead you astray, they will tell you what they think if you ask. Trust them, they love you and want you to be happy!

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  13. Seems like a good place to pop in and suggest taking a look at Leslie Morgan Steiner's TED talk. She speaks as much about verbal abuse as physical abuse, and why people tolerate it. Most victims of abuse don't see themselves as victims. Have a look, see, it was a really fabulous talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/leslie_morgan_steiner_why_domestic_violence_victims_don_t_leave.html

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  14. Yes, gratitude is great advice. I on the otherhand ended up marrying a man who was incredibly verbally abusive. I was young and he was my first serious relationship, so honestly, I don't think I knew any better. I was so willing to overlook so many of the things he would say - or do - to me and chalk it up to "well he's so smart, he's probably right about me." My self-worth was at such an extreme low!

    So I'm grateful I was able to find myself again. I'm grateful I was able to see how abusive he truly was and to start asking questions from my friends "is this normal? wait, you mean, you guys don't have this problem?" I started questioning EVERYTHING. And suddenly, I started getting stronger and more confident and realizing, hey - I'm better than what he's telling me. I'm smarter than that. There's gotta be someone out there who would treat me better.

    Here we are, four years later, and I'm married to the kindest, gentlest, most appreciative man I've ever known! But I'm also grateful to my first husband, as strange as it may sound. Because by tearing me down, I had to learn to build myself back up. And to find someone who encouraged me to be myself and grow each day - TOGETHER.

    It's hard. Making that break is devastating. Or at least it FEELS devastating. But give it some time and you'll realize you're just getting your freedom back. And you're so much better than how he's making you feel. SO much.

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  15. I was in a verbally abusive marriage for 4 years. My ex-husband left one month after our second son was born. That was a little over two years ago and I am truly grateful he made that choice. I often tell people that divorce is the hardest, biggest blessing in my life. After he left, I had so many people tell me they were so glad I was back. While I was married to this man, it was like I was a shadow of myself; I existed this way to survive. Like others who have commented, I did not realize what a bad situation I was in until I was out of it. I too feel so much gratitude that my ex made the decision to leave me because now I am free. I am free to be me without being constantly criticized and ridiculed. I am free to be happy and to grow and learn. I love my life so much! It's not easy being a single mom, but I am so, so happy. My life is amazing and I feel truly blessed.

    I still have to interact with my ex because of our children. This is difficult as he still takes opportunities to try and put me down. I have gotten much better at not letting him get under my skin, but sometimes he says just the right things to hurt me. I am also grateful I get to continue learning from this experience. I continually learn patience. I get to learn to love in a different way; learning to love someone that has caused so much pain and continues to make life difficult for me and my loved ones is a wonderful opportunity for growth.

    Thank you for this post and for this blog. My motto for the last couple of years has been "Happy is a choice" and I feel like that's what you teach here as well. There is so much joy to be had in this world, what a blessing it is to be alive.

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  16. Thank you so much for writing about this. It feels really good to find that I am not alone! Your experience mind as well be an exact replica to mine. I am working really hard on loving myself and knowing my self worth. It's funny, when I was in the thick of the ups and downs of my past relationship I had a love/hate relationship with your blog. Sometimes I clung to the words and knew they were right and often I couldn't bring myself to look at them because I knew it was truth and I didn't feel worthy of even reading about it. I didn't think I would ever have a relationship like you and Danny have. I am still trying to have hope that I will. I am grateful to you for unknowingly helping me along my journey.

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  18. Hi Mara,
    Your post really struck a chord with me. I was recently in a verbally abusive relationship which significantly attacked my self esteem and confidence. I have struggled with many aspects of its aftermath, from understanding my ex-boyfriend's behavior, to accepting the notion that I dealt with it for as long as I did. It's been a tough journey towards healing but I'm getting there with the help of a solid support system. You mention self-love and the idea that this propels all loving relationships. I agree with you entirely, which is why I've dedicated myself to fully accepting and, primarily, loving myself. Verbal abuse is a serious societal issue that can easily tarnish the self-esteem of any individual. I now understand that my ex-bf lacks that self-love, because a person who loves themselves, doesn't destroy another.

    I thought I'd share this quote with you and your readers: "The moment you see how important it is to love yourself, you will stop making others suffer" - Thich Nhat Hanh

    Keep up the great work, Mara:)

    Chris
    http://theanonymousdiva.wordpress.com/

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  19. I am going through it now. It is good to hear I am not alone, it makes it less scary. You can find my story at utahmotherbear.blogspot.com.

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