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“We accept the love we think we deserve.” ~The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Why does she stay? That’s a question I ask myself so often when I read stories of women who have been consistently abused by husbands, boyfriends, or other men in their lives. And I honestly don’t think there’s one answer that stands up to scrutiny any more than the others. Every woman is an individual, and she has her own reasons for staying, but I can’t help but pose the question inside my own head anyway.

I saw this quote a while ago, and it resonated with me, about accepting the love we think we deserve. On some level it struck me as being brutally honest, for several reasons, but on another level it was an attempt at answering the question that keeps haunting me. Why does she stay? It’s quite possible she stays because she’s accepting whatever she thinks is the love he offers her, that she believes this IS love, even when he hurts her both emotionally and physically.

And I use the term “she” with a caveat, with a disclaimer that not all victims are women, but I come into contact with more of these issues involving women than anyone else. So I use the term, but I understand it’s not all-encompassing as it is. Nothing could be, though in this society we try to make everything fit. Regardless, these emotional and physical scars are everywhere, and those who inflict them often get off scot-free when it comes to getting a proper comeuppance, living to torture their victims another day. To think that victims believe this is love is beyond me, but it happens all the time, and it has happened over and over again.

These patterns are honestly depressing to see, but there is no end in sight. “We accept the love we think we deserve,” says more about our own feelings of self-loathing and poor self-esteem than they say about the other person. These other people manipulate us because they know they can, because they see in us these signs of low self-esteem and they prey on that. Shame on them. They say they love us, but they don’t know what love is. They only know how to pretend well enough to reel us in, and then they lower the boom, in more ways than one. Once we are caught in the web, it’s so incredibly difficult to extricate ourselves from it, because we become believers.

At least that’s how I see it. I could be completely wrong, but it’s what I see from those of my friends and acquaintances who have stayed, who have put themselves secondary to someone who is literally not worth it. The quote, to me, means that we, as human beings, can’t quite wrap our brains around the fact that we’re worth so much more than a punching bag, either emotionally or physically. When we have been neglected and cast aside it becomes easier to accept that any sign of interest on the part of someone else might be the only interest we will ever get in our lives. It becomes easier to accept it all, despite the warning signs, and throughout the relationship, even when the hard times come.

Why does she stay? She stays because she thinks he will change, even though she knows he won’t. He says he will change. He sometimes gets emotional and cries on her shoulder, and she thinks that’s a sign things are looking up, not the manipulative move it really is. Or maybe he honestly thinks he will change, but when faced with a similar situation in the future he simply goes back to his previous ways because they are hardwired into his brain. She stays because she believes in the goodness in him, despite the fact that he often shows her his negative side. She stays because she thinks she cannot find anything better, and she believes what he is giving her is what love looks like.

This is the love she thinks she deserves, and it makes sense. But it also makes me so utterly sad for her, for me, and for mankind, that this is what we think we amount to in the grand scheme of things, that too often we are belittled and taught to think we aren’t worth very much. We deserve so much more, every single one of us out here just wanting to be loved, to be appreciated, to be seen for who we are and embraced for it in a way we haven’t been before. It’s never enough just to settle, to give up essential parts of ourselves for people who don’t care, who just want to control us in a way we wouldn’t accept if it was anyone but us. But we often have blind spots when it comes to those who we believe we love, when it comes to those who have already broken our will, our self-esteem, and our emotional capacity.

She stays because she thinks there’s nothing better for her in this wide world. And that’s an absolute travesty.

Sam

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At least, that’s how I always sing that song. And I’m sure Britney wasn’t singing about any kind of abuse, but the word “hit” does have certain connotations I find hard to ignore. Then I think about that Matchbox 20 song, and how the lead singer keeps saying how he wants to push me around, push me down. That’s a little harsh. Man, those 90s were a trip with all the physicality in the songs (don’t even get me started on Sisqo’s “Thong Song”), but it brings up a good point I wanted to make. You hear it again and again from abused women (and even more so lately, from abused men), that they didn’t feel safe long before they were physically abused by the person who was supposed to love them. This comes from all the verbal abuse and torture that most often precipitates the physical aspect, verbal abuse that’s most often worse than anything physical that could be done. And yet, it’s still not taken seriously enough in our society.

Babyface said it best in his song, “How Come, How Long,” which is all about a woman who is abused and how it ended up.

She had a college degree
Smart as anyone could be
She had so much to live for
But she fell in love
With the wrong kinda man

While I love the song, it reminds me, though, that there isn’t a “wrong kinda man,” as it purports. There is a man who does wrong, and he doesn’t have to always be abusive. If he is abusive just once, that is once too many. Too many women talk about how their man “slipped up,” but if he can “slip up,” he isn’t doing right by you, and you shouldn’t

“But she fell in love with the wrong kinda man.”

take it. Is it true that everyone has the propensity for violence, given the chance and the circumstances? If he loves you, ladies, he won’t even verbally abuse you, and if he does, he needs to be set in his place, not given a free pass because he treats you right most of the time.

Words can cut bone deep too. I knew a woman who went through most of her adult life married to a man who often belittled her, even in public. He was always talking about her weight in a joking manner, somehow thinking, I’m sure, that if you say it as a joke it isn’t as terrible. That’s completely incorrect. He would also talk down to her like she was a child, and laughed about that too. And nobody would put him in his place for fear that if he would talk to her about those things in public, what must it have been like in private? Instead, we would all talk to her and tell her to leave him, but she loved him. Somehow, she still loved the man who treated her like garbage for most of the time. How do you break that hold before it’s too late?

And she paid with her life
For loving that man
So we cannot ignore
We must look for the signs
And maybe next time
We might save somebody’s life.

It’s sad, too, what this wearing down will do on someone who is abused. Even if they say they’re fine with it, that they’re strong, they’re really not. She’s just putting on a brave face, for you, but if you’re a real friend, you will see that she’s hurting anyway. And it’s our responsibility to talk about it, to get her to talk about it, because it’s only in communication and in being a good friend that you can hope to change her view of herself. Because that’s what the real problem has become. His harsh words, and his cruel japes have turned her against herself, against her body, against her own thoughts, and it can’t be taken lightly at all. Not only do the abusers have control with those words and those actions, but they can bring on self-loathing in the abused, and too many battered women take their own lives, their way to get out of the situation. It’s shocking, and yet at the same time it’s not. Imagine how you would feel if someone was beating you down every single day, the same person who is supposed to be building you up?

“We are all responsible for making a difference…”

Don’t think it only happens within the bonds of holy matrimony either. On the contrary, it can happen with any kind of significant others, meaning boyfriends or girlfriends, people you are dating, or even family members. We care an awful lot about what our family thinks of us, and sometimes the abuse starts early with mothers being dissatisfied with their daughters’ or sons’ appearance, and making it known. If that’s what they know, and the only thing they know, from an early age on, how are they expected to find someone who doesn’t make them feel that way? That’s all they know, so that’s what they seek out. It’s devastating, and yet it’s so prevalent in our world today. We are all responsible for making a difference, though. Just as abusers can crush with words and actions, so we can work to repair with our words and actions.

That’s why friends are so important. If you have a solid network of friends, you can get free of that situation so much easier. While I don’t care for interventions, they can be very helpful because they gather together the people who really do love you, not the ones who say they do, but then act just the opposite.

What do you think are other solutions for this problem of abuse?

Sam

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