Day 3 : Something you have to forgive yourself for.
Mutually Abusive Relationships
There is practically no literature on the subject of mutually abusive relationships, as this is only a recently recognized phenomenon. While professionals, such as Dawn Bradley Berry, J. D. acknowledge that it occurs, few can agree on whether it was mutual in nature.
The dynamics of abusive relationships are significantly more complex than professionals seem to think. In decades prior, society bred women to be docile, obedient, and complacent. Most research reflects that in abusive relationships. The man “attacks”, and the woman is “victimized”.
Unquestionably, that is precisely the manner abuse presented itself in my relationship prior to this one. It began innocuously with casual criticisms and negative remarks. A person is inclined to believe that a loved one only means the best, even if the words sting. There was hardly a second thought toward the words. Eventually, they grew into berating remarks, lambasting lectures, and generalized nitpicking over every action, behavior, expression, inaction, word, thought, emotion . . .
By then, I was already convinced that these heinous contortions were the embodiment of what I truly was. I was already manipulated into believing I had been delusional about my own nature to begin with. It was like being in a house of mirrors. Every reflection revealed a new flaw.
But, a miniscule portion of my consciousness spotted the cracks all along. It seemed I was not entirely convinced that this was the absolute truth. Contradictions existed at everywhere in this fun house. How was it possible that I was so stupid when my grade point average was far above his? If I was such a flawed, inadequate, and vile person, why did I have so many faithful, loving friends?
At that point, the seeds of alcoholism were taking root. I violated my own rules of drinking. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere! I’m not drinking alone if I’m drinking with my boyfriend. Hair of the dog, best way to cure a hangover. If I’m still managing to get to school and hold an honor’s average, I’m not drinking too much.
Liquid courage and comfortingly numb.
Naturally, I engaged the fire breathing dragon with my own fire. Raw throat from screaming for hours, until one of us locked the other out, or I started packing a bag. I was attempting to turn his own game right around on him. The problem is that he was the gamemaster, and I was just a pawn. I was always the pawn. He could play me against me, and change the rules at will.
It was common knowledge. I would never leave. I was already too terrified of the potential consequences. Besides, all of my money was tied up in that apartment. We had acquired a sizable amount of mutual property. I was unwilling to sacrifice all of my gains, my gains, because I paid for them, to someone else.
Next, we moved into the isolation stage. Suddenly, all of my girl friends were whores and my male friends wanted to get into my pants. Your friends are a reflection of who you are. No wonder you’re a completely stupid whore. A drop of truth existed. One of my closest friends was a teen mom, a stripper, and into drugs. I didn’t see a whole lot wrong there. She had a good heart, despite her mistakes. But. . . maybe I was wrong.
We graduated college, lost our apartment, and moved onto some family property. This was the turning point. Here, we were completely alone.
I was a victim as much as I was an abuser.
It is one of the most difficult realities I have to face.
Prior to that point, I had never laid my hands on anyone with malicious intent. And truthfully, I can’t pinpoint where it began. Being in a perpetual state of inebriation has likely damaged that portion of my memory to beyond retrievable. I can only recall certain events. But, my mind will never be able to purge itself of the horror, guilt, rage, terror, hurt, and animosity I felt.
He started abusing me first. Again, it started innocently enough with playful roughhousing that usually got out of hand. Eventually, it turned into vulgar, degrading, often coerced, dangerously rough sex. Then, it finally graduated to domestic life. The transitions were so smooth that it was too hard to distinguish in the house of mirrors. Sometimes you need to be put in your place. You don’t know what’s good for you.
I became the monster that I loathed. I was an animal, trapped in a cage, and emotionally, verbally, and now physically beaten for mistakes. Sometimes, it was events that were beyond my control. And, I gave in to my natural instincts. I started fighting back.
I wanted him to feel the pain he inflicted upon me.
I recall a specific incident, the worst of them all. We were drinking and playing World of Warcraft. He was highly competitive, and I was entirely defensive. As usual, he had remarks on my lack of skill and inadequacy in the team. I started back in on him. There was a back and forth that eventually provoked me to get up in his face. He saw me coming and hit me in the face with a CAT5 cord. The cord slashed my face and the connector rendered my right eye useless.
I pounced, but he knocked me flat on my back, with his foot on my chest. He commanded, “You stay down there!” I wrested myself free and attempted to get on my feet, only to be knocked flat and pinned again. “Stay on the f***ing floor!“ Once more. “I thought I f***ing told you to lay on the f***ing floor!”
I couldn’t free myself this time, and I angrily searched the floor for something, anything. I grabbed a discarded vodka bottle and hurled with all of my strength at his head. He jerked to dodge the impact, and I got to my feet. I stared at him defiantly with my mouth twisted into a snarl.
“What the f*** do you think you’re doing?! You could have f***ing killed me, you stupid b****!”
“I’m sorry I didn’t!”
He came at me, but I lunged for him, tackling him to the floor. I began mercilessly wailing on him as he antagonized me, “Is that all you got?! A fly could do more damage!” I slapped him across the face so hard that my red handprint swelled on his cheek.
He threw me off of him, but I was still in pursuit. My cheek burned, my eye puffed shut, and my rage incinerated every last shred of humanity that remained. I grabbed him by his shirt before he made it to the front door. He shoved me, but I remained latched to him.
“I’m leaving you, you crazy b****!”
“Take this with you!”, I spit at him and sunk my teeth into the flesh over his heart. He picked me up by my throat, viciously thrust me to the floor, and slammed the door. I laid there, coughing and gasping to regain my breath.
That wasn’t the end. The end didn’t come for nearly another year. And in that year, incidents such as these were commonplace. I could not legitimately claim victimization. I shared equal fault for the escalation of the abuse that occurred. Despite any trauma I have suffered, I am responsible for another person’s trauma.
That alone hinders healing. Most of the world will never see themselves in that light. I have more than glanced at the monster in the mirror. I became it. I abhor all parties involved in each and every single last act. Including myself. How could I possible forgive myself for such atrocities that I committed when I have personally felt the pain they inflict?
- Domestic Abuse – Part II (What the Bible Says About…) (godizreal.wordpress.com)
- The Alchemy of Relationship (ascendingstarseed.wordpress.com)
- Why Lying Hurts So Much (psychologytoday.com)
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I still think you are the victim LuLU! He brought that out of you. WE all have that capacity but it takes a real brutal asshole to bring it out. You were trying to survive! You weren’t the monster. You wren’t!
I’m not so sure. I’ve seen it in myself. I’ve seen the lashing out. It’s rarer anymore, but it was one the of the reasons why I sought treatment in the first place. I thought to myself, “What’s wrong with me? I’m not always like this.” It turns out that I am like that a lot more than I wanted to admit. The difference was that he brought that out in me. It existed there beforehand.
I don’t know. It’s probably just soldier talk, you know? I’ve seen a number veterans with that “killer complex”, you know? I never killed anyone, but sometimes, with Avi, I really wanted to.
I know what you mean by it always was in you. I think it is probably in all of us but most women fear the repercussions. I am the same as you. I would never let a man talk like that to me and lash out and just lay there and take it. I am the kind that will fight back with everything I have in me. It doesn’t even cross my mind if they are bigger than me. I don’t look down on a woman refusing to let a man make a victim out of her. I have balanced my leg against a wall before to keep from being pushed down. I will not back down. I know I am getting really wound up but that is just the way I feel. Don’t feel a bit of guilt for that sweety! If you hadn’t stood up he would have treated you even worse. A man needs to know that he can not predict what a woman might do to defend herself.
I’m going to give you some bits and pieces of what I’m writing to come, but I’m glad to do it. I’d love to brainstorm a little on this one, collect my thoughts, you know.
There isn’t a whole lot of literature on this. I actually read an article that stated, and I’m paraphrasing, “Mutually abusive relationships usually cannot be sustained for any significant duration, typically because one partner will often give up and leave.” That is absolutely not true in my case, and since there are now songs that exist about it, I would suspect it’s like that in many relationships.
Saying that it isn’t often sustained for any significant duration because a partner won’t put up with it is like saying, “Why doesn’t she / he leave that person that beats them?” It’s the same premise. The mutually abusive relationship begins like a traditionally abusive relationship until the other partner starts to perpetuate the violence. That’s a different story entirely.
And here’s the scoop on that. The abuse starts out like abuse in any other relationship. There is the abuser and there is the victim. The abuser is like any typical abuser that starts out with depreciating comments disguised in jokes. It moves into criticism and psychological conditioning. Again, there is the typical abuser / victim dynamic where it’s pretty cut and dry. Eventually, it becomes complete verbal abuse, where the abuser is blatantly victimizing the victim. It is even pretty obvious to outsiders at this point.
That’s where things take a turn. In any typical abusive relationships, this is where the abuser will eventually lash out and start subtly bringing physical abuse into the mix. In a mutually abusive relationship, this is where the victim notices the victimization, and starts to get upset about it.
That’s what happened to me. I begged. I pleaded. I bargained and threatened. I started verbally abusing him just before he started to rough me up. And I think that’s probably what fueled the justification for the physical violence in his eyes. I found that my mean comments were my own verbal defense so that he might back off. Apparently, they were the signal to take things to another level.
And for awhile, I let him beat me, because I felt like I deserved it. He made me feel like I deserved it. That’s how it goes. The victim / abuser dynamic continues to shift in a mutually abusive relationship. One person being victimized becomes justification for abusive behavior. Then, the abuser feels guilty about perpetuating the abuse and puts oneself in the position to be victimized again. And the cycle continues.
Eventually, I got the idea that words weren’t going to get my point across, because clearly, he didn’t think he was being clear enough. It seemed like he got the idea that his assaults were clear, both physical and sexual at this point. There is nothing more degrading than sexual assault, but that’s another topic for another time. I had already done my share of abusing, so I stayed. And that’s how it worked. A person gets sucked in by their guilt and shame over their behavior, and they find themselves stuck in the relationship trying to make it better. Instead, they are making it worse by staying and not breaking the cycle.
So, I took a defensive stance and started to hit back. Eventually, I wanted blood. I wanted him to hurt like me. I wanted to watch him hurt like me, and see it all in his face. I started to attack when he provoked me. And then I’d feel shameful about it later. Again and again and again.
That was two years of my life, just gone. I have no excuse to have behaved that way. Maybe in the beginning it was just, but when I started to attack with little provocation – well, let’s just say I should’ve been the bigger person. I should have known better than that. And I should have not put myself in the position to get sucked in like that.
I just think deciding not to just be a victim but becoming an abuser as well has been my way to handle men, but yeah the staying,with them would be something different. I just have always been one ready for violence when it came to men who treated me with abuse verbally or physically. But then I would not let that person near me again. But it would be different to be in a situation where it was ongoing and neither one left the relationship. Anyway, basically I just didn’t like the thought of all that happening to you. 😉
I thought that fighting back was the right thing to do. It’s not. Violence is never the answer. Violence begets more violence, always. It should have occurred to me that he would always meet me with more force than I came at him with. A lot of things should have occurred to me. Like, I was never going to be able to fix this. I’m sure the best shrinks in the world could not have fixed that. It was something inherently flawed, and we did everything spiteful to make each other miserable.
It wasn’t pleasant. At least I have the comfort of knowing that he had a court martial several years after for beating his wife while stationed in Kentucky. Ha ha.
I hope he is in prison! Yeah it’s violent over here, both men and women
seriously I used to be the kind of person who liked to think that I had to be tough. But I am not like that anymore.
No doubt, same here. But, after I crashed and burned in my own violence and aggression, I gained a lot of perspective on the roots of my behavior.
yeah I know what you mean. still have an anger problem when I hear that someone I care about has dealt with it. I knew kinda about this before but not in detail
Oh I hear you there. I’m a total Mama bear. Don’t mess with my cubs.
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I am an abuser and abused. Your story has helped me to start to realise why why why. I feel so ashamed for what I did to my still husband. I know from friends/family he puts me down but its “subtle” as in he truly loved me like he had never loved anyone ever, but did not actually “like” who I was as a person. He was the ultimate to me in being loved and possibly motivated by going into a dark place to maybe find some truth. I think he is a mysoginist and I his most important relationship so it all came up for him too. He does great things for/with me but I never felt affirmed. I have trashed his/our house (not home) and hit and bit and attacked him verbally in every area of his life/beliefs/manhood. Threatened him with other men – replacing/leaving him. I think I did it as a self protection. I slept with another man a month into our marriage. We did not fight for three days (our Honeymoon) I was so traumatised that day after weeks of fighting fighting and sex sex and drinking and just wanted to talk about what I saw as a huge mistake to have married my husband (but I did not want to lose him). It was a 2 minute sex act yet I came. I think I wanted to cheat on him to protect myself and also to tell him to Fluck off. I don’t know exactly. I was previously attracted to this guy but had no conscious thought to sleep with him that day. I kept it secret and told my husband two years later when were seperated. In our continued seperations I slept with another three guys. One after my husband was in recovery (arm in cast/head in hell) had pulled off a proper suicide which I cut short by getting the ambulance etc.Anyway my husband is bi polar and can’t let go of me or the anger. His violence which he thought he had dealt with has surfaced after me pushing and pushing him as I could see it in the shadows. Sexual grey rape, domination etc etc. I think I also have a mild “bipolar” mentality if that makes sense. I am rambling but your posts about grey sex, yours about sleeping with the men while you were with your boyfriend to “collect” love etc etc have touched me. I am seperated again in another up and down episode but your posts have made me realise I need to write it down and look at it all in hope of healing. I am scared to do it because its so ugly, but you have given me strength and inspiration. I have a great sister who supports me and a lovely sister in Jesus who prays and loves and never judges so I am ok, but it just felt so important to be able to tell you hoping and thinking you can understand. With lots of love to a Sister in a sea of storms. Sorry for babbling a bit. Getitgirl. (I have not put my real name here because its a kind of private reply but in public. 🙂
The first step to healing is admitting that there is a problem, and recognizing your own part in the problem. You’ve done just that. You’ve touched me with your relation to my situations. What my ex did was cruel, but I know I had a hand in it, even if I was being defensive or actually being aggressive as an act of defiance. That’s what a therapist told another blogger, and I related to it. I have a problem with authority, and I want to please so much. And when I see myself being manipulated, or I see indifference to my selfless acts, I start to rebel.
There was so much to the dynamics of what happened between us. He established his dominance, and that was okay in my eyes. Except, I didn’t realize that I would eventually come to see him as an authority figure. I had a very torturous relationship with my own father, so I, of course, have daddy issues. I got into a relationship with a guy a lot like my father, but much, much worse.
At the beginning, he treated me like a princess, and I did everything to please this man. I found us an apartment. I moved us out of his mother’s house and out from under her thumb. I gave him a new life in a new town with new friends. I even put the bulk of the deposit down on the apartment, and usually ended up paying the bulk of the rent.
That’s not to say that I’m not to blame. I don’t take on wrongful blame either. I know what happened. I could describe it in great detail, but I’ll give you the abbreviated version. We started with verbal teasing and physical roughhousing for fun. It progressed. Jokes at my expense. Eventually, I started to counter with outright mean things to say. I perpetuated it, because he would not be bested.
That’s not where the shame and guilt comes in. Name calling is a bad habit that a lot of couples in healthy relationships do every once in awhile. The guilt comes in on the very first day I ever hit him. He hit me, “playfully”, and I knew he hit me on purpose. So from then on, I had given him the free pass to hit me. And then, he’d play the victim card, saying he couldn’t help it, he was an abused child, etc, etc.
He was an abused child. He was a sexually abused child too. And he used sex as a weapon. The ultimate weapon. He used things as weapons that I couldn’t do. Withholding affection. Withholding sex.
I did things. I threatened to leave. (With no response). I cut and he started to cut and burn to prove a point. He would not be bested. I attempted suicide once by emptying out the contents of my medicine cabinet in my stomach. He kicked me in the stomach to wake me from my unconsciousness and then attempted to have sex with me.
The shame and the guilt comes from these two places. I knew better than to hit him. But, I wanted to inflict pain on him in the only way that I knew how; the only way that he would get the point (and he still didn’t). I wanted him to know how I felt. I wanted him to know what it was like. I have never been that vengeful and vicious in my life.
The other place is the sexual deviancy. It’s not me. Never mind the confession. There were acts that I was coerced into that I am ashamed of. And there were acts that I committed to him that I find absolutely repulsive. But, again, I wanted him to know what it felt like. Disgustingly, he enjoyed himself. Or at least he pretended to.
I am glad that I touched you, and I hope that I’ve inspired you to tell your story to others now. Thanks for the idea for my Friday Confessional!
X x x. So pleased to get your reply! Keep going you are an absolute inspiration!
Thanks 🙂 I really appreciate it. I’m telling you, this made my day today.
With love from Cape Town!
Just a poem I wrote tonight. Had a long sms diatribe with my husband and tried to share where I am at, and finally this poem/prose came out about a little bird with a broken wing I brought to the vet. It died.
Just want to share it with u – its raining outside softly and I am warm in bed and sober enough. Four ciggarettes left till morning and thinking of sharing with someone/those who may understand.
Able to be here on my own is good albeit tearful.
So here is a little part of me – shared without using sex or control or fear.
Thanks again Lulu, PS did you ever see Jodie Foster as Tallulah in Bugsy Malone? 🙂
If I had been earlier little starling may not have died –
If I had been later little starling may have lived –
Little starling you looked me in the eye
with broken wing –
I saw love and trust in you
small broken thing.
If you had lived wild thing
with broken wing
I would have given you
a cage for freedom
and broke my heart thinking
of you flying free.
O starling how sweet you looked
at dying me.
No fear just love and bravery…
Your poetry gives me goosebumps, it’s so beautiful and deep. Thanks for sharing!
A letter on love and hate. Thank you Lulu. Hope I am not being a pest, but this is a place where your honesty helps me find mine!
“Just because somebody doesn’t love you the way you want them to, doesn’t mean they don’t love you with everything they got” –Author Unknown
I loved you badly but I loved you. I still do. You can snort in derision but I hope that somewhere inside you can feel my heart in that. I know you loved me too, even though to me, it felt like “unlove”. I know you hate me for saying I felt so unloved and acting the way I did. I don’t blame you for that.
I am trying to delve into my ugly brokeness and find a new way.
I am truly sorry for breaking your heart so unerringly, it was not my intention, but I did, unwaiveringly.
Somewhere inside me there are the answers to my actions but I cannot fathom them and come up with a single definitive factor or foundation. I know you think the answer is obvious…
If sex was all I wanted I had no reason to have had the long term relationships I had and the constant yearning for sharing my life with a special other… I was not always as you see me now.
Trying to make sense of that, you accuse me of frivolous sex and meaningless relations. I have opened my heart so many times in the hope of sharing love. I have given where there was no love returned. I have accepted an illusion of love hoping to reach the other. I have taken abuse and told myself it was love. I have been hurt more than I ever shared with you. I would not share in case you ridiculed me. I was to weak, too unloving (of myself, others, and of you)
You bore the brunt of my hurts and anger and violent horror at not “finding” love when I had given and believed so much.
I understand your thoughts at this time on never again loving, but I have to say I still choose to believe in that beauty of love and the hope that it is possible in this broken place we all are part of.
I never trusted you. Your stories the way you told them were still so real and powerfully a part of your experience of love and hurt, that I could not believe you had truly come to a new place of love. Least of all in loving me…
My answer was to be your Natural Born Killer Woman. I was not brave enough to try and nourish and believe once again in that simple human joy of shared love. Sacrifice.
I broke it before it could break me. Failing to be truly strong and share my fears – I chose to break “us”, hoping you and your also broken heart could save us. You tried. I give you that.
In all honesty I don’t think perfect love is possible here. Less of “imperfect” love and behaviour, I do believe in. With all my heart.
How many times I wished we had not married so soon, to take time to really “get” what the other was about. Ah but to attempt love without jumping in the deep end, that I don’t know…
I don’t regret marrying. I regret hurting you. I regret what I did not understand.
I regret what you did not understand. I regret the hurt.
Ah a broken heart. Nothing more intense to bring growth no matter how it breaks.
Don’t think I am making light of heartbreak. It is the single-most painful journey in this life, and the most illuminating.
I endeavour (your word) to learn and rearrange myself, yet again and some more. How lightly you seem to look upon my life when its flavour and theme has been about broken hearts, but I understand why.
I am sorry I inflicted this on you. I hope you will overcome and learn more, and that love will be more in your life. As in mine.
I have not given up on love (self love/other love) and I will not, as long as I have air in these lungs. It is too great a question to die in, without having tried to fathom.
That is my consuming place on this planet. I have failed but I wish to learn. I have broken every rule of love. Perhaps only in realising my lack of love have I started to find the way to be love, and finally be able to share it with another. Opening every wounded scar in hope.
My first revelation on love is to love myself. Feel myself. Ask myself. Dare myself. Take care of myself.
Finally, to be able to share this “me” with another, without fear of rejection or approval. Without control or wicked insurance or hate. Without the desperate ugly need.
I think real love must be a many splendoured thing. Perhaps loving means not needing to be loved in return on our terms??
In closing: God! It is hard to love me.
Forgive me for hurting them so badly. Help those I have hurt to overcome their pain. Help me forgive those who hurt me. Help us love Lord.
I’ve written so much on this. First, there is Disorder and Love: What We Do and Don’t Know and The Friday Confessional: Promiscuously Yours. I hope that you find that you resonate with them.
Your letter was amazing. It sounded so familiar and resonated with me. The more you let it out, the more you can let go, and you’ll find your solace.
Thanks Lulu! You have helped open something up on the inside of me. I googled and googled looking for something to help make sense and I found your site! You are such a blessing! Thank you for your deep and beautiful words and for sharing so deeply.I am an avid fan of yours and have read as much of your writing as I can. I was stunned by the truths in Promiscuously Yours. Keep writing please!
It took me a long time to come to the conclusions I did in Promiscuously Yours. A person has to truly be in love to know what it is. And even then, I don’t think we know the true dimensions of it.
With my first ex, it was easy to make sense of it all. We both grew up. Neither of us was really ready to leave the safety of one another. So we went rounds. But, with Avi, I didn’t love him. I settled for him because he was there, right in front of me.
Why on Earth would I go through all of that if I never really loved him? I’m still looking for the most truthful answer to that.
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