When I was with Jerkface, I tried so desperately to make him understand why I didn’t like being told I was fat, or stupid, or why it was unfair when I made more money that he could buy whatever he wanted but I could not. I wanted him to look at me lovingly and nod, and say: yeah, babe, I get it – that makes sense. I’m so sorry. Did he ever do that, in our 6+ sad years together? Nope. Not once.
More surprising, a therapist actually tried to convince me I hadn’t spent enough time trying to fix this horror of a marriage and that I should keep working on it. But at this point, I’d spent hundreds of nights crying and even wandering the neighborhood in my robe at 1am like a crazy person (long story), lost too many friends, and had let Jerkface get rid of any cute clothes I once had, so even though I was 29, I looked and felt 49. No, scratch that. I felt dead. Ancient. And on really bad days I didn’t feel real.
There are not two sides to the story in an abusive relationship.
When I was finally ready to leave Jerkface, I was READY. I’ll talk about the details of how I left in another post, but for now let’s just say I left him a note and never came back. Some of my friends and coworkers – and definitely that weirdo therapist – felt I should have confronted him, given him a chance to respond, talked it over with him. But I knew myself and I knew him and that situation was never going to work.
My goal in leaving Jerkface was to LEAVE HIM and never get pulled back in to the abuse, the sadness, the emptiness, the shame that was our marriage. My goal was to protect myself – not to give him the opportunity to have a heartfelt chat and hear his side of things. There aren’t two sides in an abusive relationship. We didn’t disagree. We didn’t see things differently. He abused me for years, and I finally, finally decided I didn’t deserve to live that way.
When you’re being treated badly, you get to do what you want, the way you want it, in order to get your life back.
Would it have been better for me to tell him face-to-face that it was over? Maybe. I don’t know. What I know is that I couldn’t do it. I had nothing left. And he was scary. And you know what? I learned something really, really critical from doing a very important thing imperfectly: no one else needs to like or understand anything you do. Let that sink in. No one else has to approve, or agree, or weigh in at all.
How easy it is for people to tell you what you should do and how you should do it. They’re not the ones who have to sleep in that bed, next to that person who insults you, frightens you, dehumanizes you. They don’t have to get up and look in the mirror and face another day of fear and shame.
When you’re being treated badly, you get to do what you want, the way you want it, in order to get your life back. If it helps, you have my permission. But you don’t need it.
Summary: I left Jerkface a note when I left him forever. But some people felt I should have talked to him instead. Why? What good would that have done? When it comes to leaving an abusive relationship, no one needs to like or understand anything you do. If you don’t like the way you’re being treated, that’s all anyone needs to know.
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