So many movies are about finding love. So much marketing is about getting hitched. In our society, togetherness is celebrated so much more than being alone. So it’s no wonder that aloneness is seen as a temporary state that we hope to escape quickly on our way toward finding that special someone.
It’s true that sharing your life with someone special is indeed wonderful. But sharing your life with someone who isn’t wonderful is far worse than being alone.
When you’re with an abuser, you’re more alone in that relationship than you would ever be by yourself.
When I was married to Jerkface, I had the appearance of a perfect relationship: a supposedly loving, handsome, upstanding man by my side. But in reality he tormented me, ridiculed me, and controlled me, and I spent most nights crying and sleepless because of his abuse.
Contrast that to when I finally had the courage to leave him: instead of sleeplessness and crying, my nights were filled with friends, or the freedom to watch whatever I wanted, to wear whatever I wanted, to laugh at things I thought were funny. All of these without the repercussions of the silent treatment, hateful and disparaging comments about my appearance, my choice of words, what I was wearing, the shape of my body, and my choice of friends.
Hollywood has sold us a lie. Even in recent movies such as La La Land, the nice girl who seems to have a lot going on decides to pursue a Jerkface for the pleasure of dirty looks and condescending lectures on jazz.
And don’t even get me started on the 50 Shades franchise. One of my colleagues in the abuse recovery community is doing a fine job educating on the damage those books and movies are doing.
It’s understandable that our first inclination would be to try to hook up at any cost, to get married, to at least have someone by our side. Because that’s what life is supposedly about. But as someone who has lived through abuse, I know firsthand the loneliness of being in a relationship where you cannot be yourself, where you cannot feel safe, where you can’t do things that you love, where you come home afraid, or sad, or confused at best.
What kind of “relationship” is it when the things that you love are ridiculed, and where you are questioned or punished just for being yourself?
Imagine coming home to peace, silence (or noise if you want that) or whatever music, friends, or food that you yourself have chosen for you. Without your abuser, you can be, do, or wear whatever you want.
It is hard to put a price on being able to just be yourself and feel safe. My Jerkface’s goal in life was to rip apart the very things that everyone else seemed to love about me: my laugh, my friendships, my dancing, my personal style, my sense of humor, my word choices, my work.
Our relationship together was a slow dismantling and disenfranchising of all of these things, so that by the end of it I barely knew who I was, or what I liked anymore.
I was so paralyzed by the fear of being abused for who I was that I didn’t recognize myself anymore.
So when I say that I was alone in this relationship I mean not just that I didn’t have a true partner, but that I didn’t even have myself.
Summary: You really are enough. You do not need someone else ruining your life, questioning your choices, berating you for who you are. Relationships are optional. They are not the destination. Find another goal and find yourself in the process.