“Wow, that’s so admirable that you would stay an in abusive relationship for so long! And you were so determined to keep loving him no matter what… most people wouldn’t do that. You’re so strong.”
admirable? strong?? love??? Um, no.
Remaining in that relationship was the most destructive thing I have ever done; it was a sick, twisted codependency, not love; and it was a result of a weakness of character, not a strength of character. Not to say that I blame myself for what happened– I don’t. Or that I view others in abusive relationships as “weak”– I don’t. But the fact of the matter is that it takes a heck of a lot of strength to have self-respect, and to stand up for what you know you are worthy of. That’s a strength I’ve never had, up until about the last 5 months of my life. It’s a strength I wish to God that I DID have 2 years ago, so that I could have avoided the mental, emotional, and physical scars that I’m not convinced I’ll ever be truly rid of. It’s a strength that needs to be understood to BE a strength, and not a selfishness.
I persevered through that hell of a relationship, partly because I thought it was love, but partly because I was experiencing severe chronic depression, and didn’t believe that I deserved any better. He needed someone, and even though he was twisted, dangerous, and unhealthy, I honestly thought it was my purpose to be that person for him, no matter the cost to my own health or to my other relationships. Tell me… what about that is admirable? Because from my perspective, nothing about sacrificing your grades, familial relationships, friendships, ability to confide in anyone but that one person, hope for the future, sanity, and your very sense of self– nothing about that is admirable. It’s not that I was “strong” for not giving up on him, not defending myself to him, not telling anyone the things he did to me. It’s just fucking sad.
It was a nightmare I created for myself, that I would never ever go back to, and that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone– why on earth would that be something you aspire to?
I knew right from the beginning exactly what I was getting into with him. But I never once gave up on it. My own awareness and acceptance through the whole thing continues to haunt me. In the months since, getting through all of the loneliness, confusion, flashbacks, guilt, shame, and horror– THAT took strength. Who I was then was not admirable. But who I am now– while still a flawed, in-the-works person– has made admirable progress. And I intend to keep making progress, until the very day I die.
But I know who I am.
I know what I’m worth.
That’s self-respect. That’s strength. And if anyone doesn’t think it’s right that I so confidently announce my worth– frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn. I don’t need anyone’s approval, and I don’t need anyone’s permission to accept myself. Not anymore. I will not apologize for my existence, and I will not apologize for being proud of who I am. Not anymore.
My love story cannot be sculpted into a tragic tale of gallantry. It is a sad, fucked up story, so don’t you dare be inspired by it.