This email landed in my Inbox:
Hi Annie. I just read your article about recovering from an emotionally abusive relationship. I am in one right now and have been for almost two years. He is a very loving man and tells me all the time how beautiful I am and he always talks about marrying me and having children. When he gets angry is when he starts bringing up things I've done in the past and makes me feel bad about myself. He gets angry if I imply he is controlling and says that he isn't. He professes and shows so much love to me, but he is also very emotionally abusive when he is angry or I do something he doesn't like. I basically live in isolation with no car or phone and I can't go anywhere without him. We share an email address and I don't have my own myspace/facebook page. He tells me I can do things but I don't because I know that in reality it will make him upset. He doesn't insult my looks and he is completely dedicated to me, so is he still considered emotionally abusive?
There are no prizes for the correct answer.
Two things about this email are interesting:
1) The questioner clearly already knows the answer to her question. But she is exercising a massive amount of denial. She starts by stating – correctly – that she is in an abusive relationship. She ends by asking ‘is he still considered emotionally abusive?’ if he says the right things and is ‘dedicated’. I take ‘dedicated’ to mean that he focuses a lot of his attention on her. Most likely, he is obsessive, or ‘all over her like a rash’, rather than devoted.
2) How the writer defines a ‘loving’ man.
Some years ago now, I had my face read by Face Reader Glenna Trout. Glenna introduced me to the Three Rings of Relationships, and planted a comforting hand on my shoulder as she spoke of true intimacy (the First Ring) and the illusion of intimacy that occurs with Second Ringers. These are the people with whom you share an experience, an agenda, or a need.
Glenna’s hand stayed planted firmly on my shoulder as two painful revelations sank in. The first was that my abusive husband had only ever been a Second Ringer, whose need (for a partner) was an unfortunately good match for mine. The second revelation was even more painful: I had never experienced a true First Ring relationship.
Sadly, I don’t think I was alone in this.
Abused women email me all the time to talk about the love they share with an abusive, loving partner, and I find myself becoming increasingly crabby. Not with them, but with the persistence of the toxic notion that you can truly love someone and treat them badly.
I remember in a church at a friend’s wedding years ago and being rocked to my core when I first heard these words from Corinthians:
Love is patient, Love is kind,
It does not envy, it does not boast,
It is not proud, it is not rude,
It is not self-seeking,
It is not easily angered,
It keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil,
but rejoices with the truth.
Love always protects, always trusts,
always hopes, always perseveres.
Love bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends.
Love never fails.
That didn’t sound too much like my abusive ‘other half’. I don’t suppose it sounds like yours either.
But suppose you wrote about abusive ‘love’. It would read something like this:
Abusive love is rarely patient, Abusive love is rarely kind,
It does envy, it does boast,
It is proud, it is rude,
It is self-seeking,
It is easily angered,
It keeps a detailed record of wrongs.
Abusive love delights in destruction,
but does not rejoice with the truth.
Abusive love rarely protects, rarely trusts,
rarely hopes, rarely perseveres.
Abusive love bears nothing, believes nothing,
hopes nothing, endures nothing.
Abusive love soon ends.
Abusive love fails.
Now that sounds just like my abusive ex-partner and, I’m guessing, it sounds like yours also.
When you said: “I love you” to your abusive partner, you doubtless surrendered your heart and your independence.
When he said: “I love you”, he took possession of your heart and your independence.
What did he give in return?
The most charitable answer is that he gave as much as he was capable of giving – which, over time, was destined to embody the law of diminishing returns.
A more cynical, but probably accurate, answer was that he gave just as much as he needed to give, in order to get what he wanted.
As to what he wanted, that was not you, but the use-value you represented.
If it had been you that he wanted, why would he have worked to deprive you of your freedom, your safety, your self-worth, your trust, your confidence, your dreams, your vitality and your vitality?
Why would he not have celebrated you?
And when will you start to celebrate you?