Understanding the motives and actions of an abuser is often difficult and confusing for a victim to comprehend. How could he say he loved me, share a roof with me, and children with me yet hate me so much? Many women and men find themselves pondering this question because even when the relationship ends there are a multitude of questions left unanswered.
When I was a teenager I went out with a guy who was the classic abusive boyfriend in every way. He tried to dictate who I spent my time with, didn’t like any of my friends or family, and tried to isolate me from them. Although he didn’t want me to be around any of them it seemed that he didn’t want to be around me either.
Ten years later I met up with him again. Enough time had passed for me to start to see the relationship in a different light. I thought mainly of the good times and romanticized the whole thing. And somewhere along those daydreams I started to believe that he really had loved me.
So we started communicating again and one night we met up. That night he tried to sleep with me. I politely declined. The next day after exchanging a text or two I never heard from him again. I was devastated. How could he have no feelings for me? How could he have said he loved me, then years later not even like me? He wasn’t even considerate enough to answer my last text message.
When I realized he had cut me off and that I was never going to hear from him again it felt like I’d gotten hit by a truck. It was soon after that that I had the realization that he never loved me. He hadn’t even liked me.
When I decided after my last terribly abusive relationship that I was done being abused by men, I figured making the change from dating abusive men to dating normal ones would be as easy as flicking off a light switch. My life, until that point had been so dramatic that I decided to chronicle the journey in my book, I Know Why They Call a Shell a Shell: Tales of Love Lost at Sea. I’d planned on writing about my unbelievable relationship past and then write a very happily-ever-after ending based on what I foresaw to be my sunnier dating future. Par usual, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Though I made a conscious decision to no longer involve myself in unhealthy relationships, the rest of me still had to catch up with that thought. There really is a common personality trait in people who end up in abusive situations. A lot of these victims and future victims of abusive relationships have low self-esteem, but other personality traits can lead to this situation. Being vulnerable, too trusting, or not assertive enough can entrap you in a variety of unhealthy situations not limited to romantic, (also friendships and work-related scenarios).
Today I am going to talk about Rihanna and how she is rumored to be back with Chris Brown- how did that happen?
There is so much stuff going on psychologically in an abusive relationship that I could talk about it for days (and probably will if you let me, ha). When Rihanna was successfully removed from the Chris Brown situation, it was not entirely on her own accord, but through court ordered restraining orders and likely the intervention of family and friends. The fact that she did not willingly choose to leave has a lot to do with why she’s back.
She went on Barbara Walters shortly after the relationship was over, and after hearing her peace, we all believed that she was done but did she? Usually a person knows when it isn’t over and that is why they go back months, and in Rihanna’s case, years later. The longest I was away from an abuser was a month or two and then I went back. It was through intervention of family and friends that got me out of one of the relationships and almost being murdered that got me out of the other. The first guy I was with, who was also abusive, I walked out of on my own, but my strength apparently went downhill from there. So wouldn’t one or more years be enough for Rihanna to gain enough perspective to get away? You would think so.
When you’re in an abusive relationship, deep down you know something’s not right, that it’s not the right person for you, and that you are doing the wrong thing. However, you are paralyzed to do anything about it mainly because for one reason or another, you’ve become invested. You have given away a part of yourself to this person and you are not ready to give the relationship up, because in your mind you believed by giving the part of you that you gave, you earned the partnership, so why should you let them go now? The more drama and the more issues of theirs you put up with, the larger your investment becomes and the only interest you earn is the opportunity to hang out with them. You think that they want to be around you after all you’ve done for them but then they push you away- and you can’t wrap your mind around why.
Now here comes the second facet of this scenario, they leave you- or leave you hanging. They cheat on you, hit you, call you a bitch, cunt, fat, and you stay. You stay and you cry and cry. The pain caused by their words and actions is agonizing because let’s be honest, both of you know that you’re not going anywhere. So in the midst of your tears, somewhere in the back of your mind is this realization, this knowledge that you will be staying for the duration regardless of what they do or what names they may currently be calling you.
Sooner of later, when your mate is done blowing off their steam or maybe they’re bored, they come around. They might even apologize- though usually, it’s more of a pathetic excuse for an apology than anything. The sea is calm again. You’re exhausted but feel the physical relief that comes when the tears have finally stopped. You sniffle a little, your tears are drying up, your body is tired. The both of you spend the night cuddling on the couch watching whatever show he wants to watch. He hands you the remote control and urges you to choose something, “Really?” you ask, shocked and honored, as if you’d just been handed the key to the Crown Jewels of something.
You vaguely remember having the same dynamics with your mother or father. The way they abused you when no one was around. The way they acted wonderful and charming in public, to family and friends, always made you sick, even though someone would’ve thought you were to young to comprehend what was going on, you did. For days the abuse continued, and you begged them to stop, begged them. They caused you that same feeling- the crying that never ends-sense of urgency and panic-feeling. Then when they were tired or bored they started to be nice to you again, for a few minutes at least. The second you fell into their placation the abuse started all over again, as did your attempt to appease them.
So why do people end up in abusive relationships? Because when abusive dynamics are the same dynamics that have bonded them to their parents, their brain has grown to believe that abuse is actually love. The abused brain has never experienced love from their parent- the typical thing that bonds one to their mother or father- instead they have been trapped and bonded to their parent within the cycle of abuse. Therefore, the cycle is actually comforting and familiar to the abused in an abusive relationship.
So that is why Rihanna thinks that what she has with Chris Brown is love. I understand where she’s coming from, but she really needs a conservatorship so someone can legally lock her in her room til she comes to her senses, the man beat her face in already, he is not going to stop there. So now that she is back, you are probably wondering why. So back to the investment I spoke about I the beginning. She has made an emotional investment in him and in a relationship- a relationships that she knows is very dysfunctional and wrong. The longer she stays in this dysfunctyional relationship that she knows is wrong, the longer she feels she has to stay in the long run, for a few reasons.
Firstly she is trying to prove herself right and everyone else wrong. She is trying to justify her choice to be there and is intent on staying until she has proved to herself and the world that it was a good choice. Mainly, she is staying out of guilt. There is likely something “wrong” with her- not just Brown. It is likely that like most of us, she is damaged and has confided in him some type of mental issue or something very upsetting and personal that happened in her childhood. It is also likely that when she told him about it, he listened sympathetically and even metaphorically took up arms against whomever had hurt her in the past. This gesture has helped her heal a bit, as far as the previous issue was concerned, and because of it she feels that she owes him because he helped her. She subconsiously does not want to leave him because she feels guilty about doing so because of all he did for her regarding her past pain and helping her work through it. This is also why she feels that others don’t understand their love- they ave never seen this sympathetic side of him, which he has moreso shown to her in order to keep her rather than to help her. She doesn’t realize this and believes he has been sincere. She doesn’t want his help to go in vain and she doesn’t want to break up with him because that makes her feel like she was using him to be comforted- which maye she was- but she doesn’t want to admit that to herself, the world, or him, so instead she will just stay and this is the biggest reason she got pulled back in.
They were unwillingly seperated, so when he came sniffing back around she was too weak to stay away from him because subconsciously she felt indentured to him because of whatever he’d helped her with. There is a large guilt componenet in abusive relationships in general, and this is where it comes in. It is guilt not love that brings women back into a situation with an abuser and guilt that keeps them asking for more.
I think Adele’s video, “Set Fire to the Rain,” is a great example of a typical abusive relationship. It is actually difficult for me to watch, but I like this song… It does a very good job depicting the typical dynamics, the physical abuse, the screaming, punching, pushing, but what’s even more important is that it depicts the “making up.” The “making up” part of an abusive relationship is by far the sickest facet of the entire dynamic. In fact it is so painful to be without this person, the very person who causes the pain because, consequently, they’re also the only one who can make it go away- now that’s what I call a dilemna. Try putting up with this awful cycle for months and even years and tell me how your health is faring- non-existent I would say. If they don’t kill you,there’s a good chance you will kill yourself on purpose or by accident. 1 in every 5 female murder victims in the US are first victims of domestic violence.
This week has not been a slow news week at all! You know how I love to pick apart the psychology of people in bad relationships, as I did in my article about Kat Von D and and Jesse James and my more recent article about Maria and Arnold but now that I hear that Rihanna and Chris Brown may be sending each other affectionate tweets and that Rihanna is also tweeting a mystery woman who is thought to be Chris Brown's mother (who is urging them to get back together) I am at a loss for words... Rihanna, really?
There are few people in this world I dislike. It's a short list really, let's see, one of my ex-boyfriends, my crazy uncle, and CHRIS BROWN. Most people make plenty of mistakes, some offensive, some hurtful, and some otherwise. Most of the time you can forgive people while others were just born bad: rotten apples. This is the category where I put my ex, my uncle, and Chris Brown: bad apples indeed. Rihanna may forgive Chris Brown, but I never will. Someone like that is an OJ Simpson waiting to happen and if you were lucky enough to get out alive, like Rihanna was, you really shouldn't risk going back.
Sometimes when we don’t trust ourselves, we feel very insecure about stepping out into the world to live life. I know I was afraid to go out and be my own person because of the abuse and rape I experienced at a young age. I feared that I, again, wouldn’t be able to protect myself if put in a compromising situation. As a result, I entered into an abusive relationship and subsequently continued this pattern for years. I was attracted to these types of relationships because, on a subconscious level, the aspect of control imposed limits that made me feel “protected” when everything around me felt very out of control. Alone, I felt vulnerable; like I could become a victim again at any time.
Like a textbook abusive relationship, the imposed limitations ended up including a list of things he didn’t want me to do, people he didn’t want me see, and places he didn’t want me to go. Somewhere in my psyche I knew this and permitted it to happen because I felt more insecure out of the relationship than I did in it. Ironically, I ended up existing in this cocoon for several years instead of navigating the world on my own.
When one is on the receiving end of continuous verbal and emotional assaults, it becomes difficult to tell metaphorically “where one side ends and the other begins.” That’s because when we’re in the midst of an abusive relationship, it’s easy to lose track of what is abuse and what isn’t. That is often because the person who gets to decide what is verbal abuse and what isn’t is the abuser.
I received a copy of “Victory Over Verbal Abuse,” by Patricia Evans. From the moment I opened it, the words made perfect sense and brought me to a new cognitive level of viewing the social interactions around me. A letter inside the book poses the question, “When is a cutting remark abusive and when is it merely callous?” Continue reading →
Sometimes when we don’t trust ourselves, we feel very insecure about stepping out into the world to live life. I know I was afraid to go out and be my own person because of the abuse and rape I experienced at a young age. I feared that I, again, wouldn’t be able to protect myself if put in a compromising situation. As a result, I entered into an abusive relationship and subsequently continued this pattern for years. I was attracted to these types of relationships because on a subconscious level the aspect of control imposed limits that made me feel “protected” when everything around me felt very out of control. Alone, I felt vulnerable; like I could become a victim again at any time.
Like a text book abusive relationship, the imposed limitations ended up including a list of things he didn’t want me to do, people he didn’t want me see, and places he didn’t want me to go. Somewhere in my psyche I knew this and permitted it to happen because I felt more insecure out of the relationship than I did in it. Ironically, I ended up existing in this cocoon for several years instead of navigating the world on my own.
Please check out my new article about the residual effects of domestic violence.
I will never forget the dread I experienced when I was honest about my feelings with my abusive ex-boyfriend. Anything and everything can and will offend an abuser, especially when you disagree with him. What an abuser chooses to get upset about is their choice and is as unpredictable as the weather; something that was benign yesterday can be infuriating today.
Disagreeing with him was never a good idea. After doing so, I remember that sick pang I’d get in my torso as I awaited his imminent reaction. And even when there was no reaction, I found myself wondering and even asking him if he was mad at me. Why? Because that’s what I expected: He usually did get mad at me when I voiced my opinion. Why wouldn’t I worry? Anger was the typical response I got when I was honest with him about my feelings or frustrations. Even with no response, the push and pull of his abusive dynamics prevented me from thinking properly; I was left emotionally “hand shy,” inwardly wincing before each anticipated strike.
I will never forget the dread I experienced when I was honest about my feelings with my abusive ex-boyfriend. Anything and everything can and will offend an abuser; especially when you disagree with them. What they choose to get upset about is at their volition and as unpredictable as the weather; something that was benign yesterday can be infuriate them tomorrow.
Disagreeing with him was never a good idea. After doing so, I remember that sick pang I’d get in my torso as I awaited his imminent reaction. And even when there was no reaction, I found myself wondering and even asking him if he was mad at me. Why? Because that’s what I expected: he usually did get mad at when I voiced my opinion. Why wouldn’t I worry? Anger was the typical response I got when I was honest with him about my feelings or frustrations. Even with no response, the push and pull of his crazy abusive dynamics incapacitated my mind with fear and left me emotionally “hand shy.”