Sometimes I stumble on wisdom. Recently, I was talking to a friend about how she stayed far too long in an unhealthy relationship. She said, “I tried so hard to prove myself to him…” I shook my head and said, “I don’t think that’s it. It’s not that you were trying to prove yourself to him, you were trying to prove yourself to yourself.”
You were not trying to prove yourself to him [her/them], you were trying to prove yourself to yourself.
We both paused after that in a “wow” moment that it wasn’t really about him, it was always about you. I stumbled onto that wisdom.
Recently, there seems to be an uptick in discussions about domestic violence (especially around a recent controversial national football league ruling, related to a player involved in a domestic violence situation). There has been a lot of victim blaming (e.g. ‘she must have provoked it’… ‘why did she stay with him after?’) and I want to say this is not that. In all cases, I believe violent acts to be wrong, with those committing acts of violence to be in the wrong. Love is not hitting or kicking or any other violent act. Victims need help, not blame.
So why does she stay?
I’m using “she” here, but domestic violence is not gender specific.Statistics just indicate that women are most often on the receiving end of violence. I am not an expert on domestic violence. And I have never been in such a situation. However, I have volunteered at domestic violence shelters (please consider supporting organizations like 1736 Family Crisis Center!) and seen the effects of this type of violence first hand. I am thankful for the work that the best shelters do to provide counseling and support to the women and children who have been through this unfortunate ordeal. As a volunteer tutor for the children, I was heartbroken many times to arrive at the shelter only to find out that the mother left the shelter with the children. I asked where they went and was told, “We don’t know. Unfortunately it usually means she has gone back to the abuser.” Heartbreaking.
When it comes to any kind of abuse…physical or emotional…I don’t know why women [or men] stay. The case is different for everyone. But I have a few theories:
- It feels normal. In many cases, abuse victims grew up in homes with abusive behavior. It’s what “home” felt like. The association can carry into adulthood and the continuation of abusive relationships. Breaking the cycle is difficult, but necessary for self-preservation (and the safety and future of the children involved!).
- Self-love is missing. If a person feels like the deserve the abuse…or that they can withstand the abuse…they may have lost touch with their self-worth and value. It’s not that you were trying to prove yourself to him, you were trying to prove yourself to yourself. When we forget that we are a child of the Creator, we settle. We try to prove. Self-love is getting back in touch with Divine love and knowing that love is our birthright. While writing this, I was reminded of an Aretha Franklin song I loved, A Rose Is Still A Rose! “Without him your life goes….without him your life goes on. Cuz a rose is still a rose. Babygirl you’re still a flower. He can’t you leave you and then take you. Make you and then break you. Babygirl you hold the power.” Taking back the power is self-love.
- He/she will change. I believe this to be one of the toughest cases. When you want to believe the best in someone, you can overlook the negative situations. Or temporarily forget about them. The reality is people don’t really change. Yes there are some extreme cases of transformation and anything is possible…but really, you have to accept people as they are or not at all. Soon after a comment like this, people want to say, “But no one is perfect, Sage!” Yes, yes…I know, I know. But we’re talking about abuse here. That’s different than liking different TV shows! The real question is, “Do you like the person you are when you’re around this person? ” Do you like the person you are becoming as a result of being around this person? Because really, another person’s energy can change you! Are you happy and upbeat or cynical and depressed? Do you feel like a Rock Star or is your star quality feeling dull? Yes, other factors influence your feelings about yourself, but you know when you’re around someone who replenishes you versus being around someone who drains you. It is never about that person changing, it is always about you.
- Scared to leave. This one scares me. The thought that someone could be scared to leave another is horrible. When discussing, with a friend, a situation of a woman who felt she had no way out, my friend said, “What happened was that he scared her, and she believed it.” A woman may even be fearful of how to get an abusive man out of her house. Fear in any form is a terrible thing. THANKFULLY, there are Hotlines and HELP for those in fearful situations. The National Domestic Violence Hotline number is 1-800-799-7233. It is FREE. Please share and use without hesitation. Even if you’re not sure you need it. That’s why it exists.
Awareness is at the core of everything. When you are not seeing with perfect awareness, you can forget that love is your birthright.When you are aware of a situation someone else may be going through, it can be easy to not want to get involved. But getting involved by calling simply 911 may save someone’s life. Also consider calling the Hotline (1-800-799-7233) before getting personally involved (beyond calling 911), especially if someone close to you is in a violent situation.
I was inspired to write this because I felt that someone might need to read it. If that someone is you, I hope and pray that you are in turn inspired to act proactively and positively to get out of all unhealthy situations.
There is always a way out.
Photo source: Sunflower by SYARAKU