“Love is not about finding the right person, but creating a right relationship. It’s not about how much love you have in the beginning but how much love you build till the end.”
I know I’m not alone in my lingering fear of pain and the way I try to flee its onset. In the past, I would do almost anything to avoid being hurt, and I was unwilling to take risks in my emotional life. I remained in a love-less relationship for 16 1/2 years and a in a second, controlling, compulsive and impulsive relationship for nearly 11 years, then endured a 5 year abusive relationship because I didn’t want to feel the pain associated with ending those relationships.
Deep down though, I knew I was playing a dangerous game with my sanity. But at least I wasn’t making myself vulnerable, or so I thought. Life without pain I have learned is an impossibility. The same is true of love. Our loved ones may grow away from us for a while, or they may become sick, leave us or die. We cannot control life. Accepting it and loving it as it is, with everything that is unpredictable and painful about it, is one of my greatest challenges along my path of personal growth.
I can accept pain as a part of life, even as a part of my growth and health. I can accept pain when I have attained a sense of serenity in my heart. I must give up the false sense of power that results from closing myself off from pain, and, at last, I will feel fully alive.
- The Mother of all Depressions (christophersmark.wordpress.com)
- In Love v. Being “In Love” (christophersmark.wordpress.com)
- “This is life” … No, it’s narcissism on a huge scale (professorbainbridge.com)
IS MY RELATIONSHIP ABUSIVE?
Domestic violence can be difficult to identify, especially for the person experiencing it. I am blogging about my own personal experience in an abusive relationship. For reasons I am still trying to understand, I remained in an abusive relationship for more than four years. How is it that I finally have the strength and courage now to share this part of my life? An abusive relationship clouds one’s thinking and ability to discern fact from fiction in addition to the creation of doubt, shame and blame. This is my chance for serious introspection during this time when I see my life clearly.
The abuse I experienced caused me to enter into a very introspective time during which I spent a vast number of hours researching this topic of domestic violence, specific to the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered communities. I hope that within several blogs I will be able to break my personal situation down to a series that will take the reader along a path from the more general, almost research type approach I take when attempting to understand new information, to a more specific view of my own personal world.
I have come to know that people sometimes misunderstand domestic violence and think it is only physical abuse when actually, it can be emotional, financial and/or sexual abuse as well. Abusers often manipulate victims so that they feel they are to blame for the abuse. Sometimes gay abusers will try to tell their partners that “this is how it is in a gay relationship”. Abusers often promise to change their behavior, and the hope for that positive change can keep a victim from identifying the pattern of abuse in the relationship.
Am I Being Abused?
How can you determine whether you’re being abused? Every relationship is different and many relationships have rough patches with arguments and other turmoil. Though some behaviors may be hurtful, no one behavior determines whether a person is being abusive. Also, intimate partner abuse takes many forms, including physical, emotional, sexual, identity and financial abuse. Review the following list of signs of possible abuse:
Are you in a relationship with someone who:
• Keeps you from spending time with friends or family members?
• Makes you account for your time when apart from him/her?
• Is excessively jealous and possessive?
• Makes unreasonable demands for your attention?
• Blames you for all the arguments or problems in the relationship?
• Wants to make all the decisions?
• Invades your privacy – opening your mail, reading your e-mail or going through your personal belongings?
• Gets angry for no apparent reason?
• Seems like two different people – one is charming or loving, the other is mean and hurtful?
• Lies in order to confuse you?
• Criticizes, ridicules, humiliates or belittles you?
• Controls your finances or feels entitled to your financial support?
• Damages your property?
• Harasses you at work or school?
• Threatens to out you at work, to your family or to others?
• Criticizes your body and appearance?
• Prevents you from practicing safe sex?
• Forces or coerces you to have sex or hurts you during sex?
• Becomes angry if you don’t go along with his/her sexual demands?
• Blames his/her behavior on alcohol, drugs or his/her own history of abuse?
• Pressures you to use alcohol or other drugs?
• Threatens you with physical harm or makes you feel afraid?
• Pushes, shoves, grabs, punches, hits or strikes you with hands or fists?
• Threatens or assaults you with weapons, such as household objects or knives?
• Manipulates you with the constant threat of mood changes and impending rage? Has you “walking on eggs” or living with constant stress, anxiety or fear?
Get More Information
If you answered “Yes” to any of the questions above, you may want to learn more about partner abuse and take a serious look at your relationship. Start by reading and educating yourself at your local library or the Internet specific to these topics:
Definition of Domestic Violence
The Types of Abuse
The Cycle of Abuse
A very helpful book is Men Who Beat the Men Who Love Them by David Island and Patrick Letellier.
What to Expect
An abuser has two goals: one, to hold his/her partner in the relationship and two, to control his/her partner’s behavior so the partner meets the abuser’s needs. Abusers can be astonishingly devious in creating tactics to meet these goals, but there are some common maneuvers:
It’s More Than Physical
Most people think of abuse as physical but there are four other types of abuse: emotional, sexual, and financial and identity. Even if he/she’s not hitting you, he/she could be abusing you. Verbal or emotional abuse, for example, is almost always used even if physical abuse is not. Abusers can be extremely creative in the types of abuse that they use. Also, abuse usually follows a cycle with standard phases: first he/she is nice, even super nice; second, he/she starts being mildly abusive; third, there is an abuse attack; fourth, he/she is apologetic, loving and contrite. But the cycle just starts all over again and again and again.
Abusers will try to convince their partners that their abusive behavior is “normal” or “normal for a gay (G), bisexual (B) or transgender (T) relationship”. This tactic is especially effective with people who are inexperienced in gay relationships. Abuse is not normal in any relationship, including gay relationships. Abuse has no part in a healthy relationship.
“You’re the Abuser, I’m the Victim”
Partners may defend themselves against abuse, such as physical abuse. An abuser may assert that this self-defense is abuse and that the partner is the abuser. Or the abuser may claim that the partner is “mutually abusive”.
A common characteristic of abusers is the lack of responsibility they take for their own behaviors. They may accuse their partners of being the “abuser” and they, sometimes, genuinely believe that they are the “abused” party. They may use this claim to manipulate friends, service providers and law enforcement. An abuser, for example, may seek a restraining order against his/her partner, claiming the partner is the abuser.
“You’re to Blame”
Another ploy is to blame the partner for “making” the abuser abuse. The abuser will claim that he/she would not abuse if only the partner did X or if the partner didn’t do Y. Again, the abuser is trying to shift the responsibility from him/herself to his/her partner. Unfortunately, this tactic is all too successful. Partners often assume too much responsibility not only for the abuser’s behavior but also for the relationship as a whole. The reality is that the partner can not stop the abuser from abusing.
“It’s the Stress, Drugs…”
Abusers sometimes claim that some circumstance forces them to abuse and if only the circumstance were to change, they would stop. They blame their abusive behavior on such circumstances as stress, lack of a job or the use of drugs (especially crystal meth) or alcohol. These are only excuses. There always will be some circumstance that in their minds justifies their abusive behavior.
Abusers commonly promise to change – to stop abusing, to stop using drugs, to stop whatever. These promises often follow an abusive incident. The goal of these promises is to win back the partner and to hold him in the relationship. The abusers may believe their own promises, but the goal of the promises is not to reform their behavior but to keep their partner. Once the partner indicates that he is staying in the relationship, the promise is forgotten.
No Legal Protection
Abusers may attempt to convince their partners that no one will help them and that they are not entitled to legal protection from abuse. There is help available.
Ending the Abuse
Experience has shown that once abuse begins it is very likely to continue and become more frequent and more severe over time. Research suggests that abusers are also very unlikely to end the relationship. Partners who are abused have two choices, either to stay and be abused or leave. Partners can and do have compelling reasons to stay in an abusive relationship. Abusers rarely end the relationship because in most cases they psychologically need the partner more than the partner needs them. They can be quite successful at hiding their dependency on the partner and their fear of losing him, and they often work to convince the partner that he would be lost without the abuser. Whether a partner stays or leaves, it is wise to have a safety plan to maximize his safety.
If any of these maneuvers sound familiar, you may want to not only get more information, but seek assistance from a resource knowledgeable about domestic violence.
What to Do
Reach out for help! There is help available!
Gay men often do not reach out for help because they believe there is no help out there for them. Services specifically for gay men are limited but they do exist. There are gay-friendly services of all types such as mental and physical health care providers, counselors, social service agencies and support groups. One way to find these resources is by contacting a local, gay social service agency. Friends and family also can be a supportive resource.
The most frequently reported reason why partners stay in abusive relationships is “hope for change” or their “fear of being alone.” Partners believe the abuser’s promises to get help or to change. Experience shows that once a person begins to abuse, the problem is likely to get worse. Get a perspective on your own experience. Abusers may feel guilty and apologetic after an abusive incident and promise themselves and their partner that they will change. Unfortunately, even with the best intentions, most abusers do not stop being abusive.
Look in the Mirror
Look in the mirror.
I gaze deeply at the image of me;
A man who is troubled by mental relapse;
“sick-in-the-head” behavior problems,
Caution, code red!
What a deceiving image I see.
Is this reflection really of me?
I look like a man who is strong and keen,
but deep inside, I feel ashamed.
I cannot control the anger built inside of me;
Anger I have for things I should just let be!
Anger even built towards me.
Who is this coming from behind me?
A man who’s reflection joins me.
My partner, my love!
Do you see the monster I call me?
I have hurt you in many ways;
please forgive the words I say.
Forgive me for hitting you
and calling you those trashy names.
I am scared of myself. Can you help me
“I know I love you without a doubt.”
is sung from his beautiful mouth.
I am blessed to be given his love and affection.
I must not destroy this reflection;
the two of us, side by side.
I am reminded that this man stands beside me,
willing to continue, right here at my side.
I must not make this a wild, scary ride.
I will change my reflection starting deep inside.
All Rights Reserved
Fear thrives on distractions. Love thrives on presence. — Alan Cohen
February 19, 2008 was the date of my last blog. So much has happened since then. Much of the time I felt depressed. There were days that would run into one another. Long, endless days. Days in which I simply couldn’t or wouldn’t get out of bed. There were many times of intense anxiety during which my mind played games with me, blinding me to see any beacon of hope. I truly couldn’t see any real possibility of coming through the stressors that I faced. I failed to see any good in life. When I wasn’t curled up in bed, I would be quickly sailing through one mood swing to another. Anyone in my way along this vacillation of moods was sure to be quickly cut down by some sarcastic remark I hurled at them. My mood swings triggered some very negative reactions in my partner as a result. Any thing wrong in my life, our life, or his life I quickly pointed the finger of blame right at him. It didn’t take long before I alienated myself from even his support. I felt so alone, yet continued to alienate myself from everyone.
Not that there were that many people to alienate myself from this past month. The past year has found my partner and I eliminating those individuals from our life that were negative, users, or involved in our life when using drugs. Unfortunately, some good people became casualties in this process. I can see how in my desire to avoid people, I put them into the same elimination process of dismissal. The loneliness that resulted only perpetuated and deepened my depression and mood swings.
Days and nights were spent sleeping, interrupted by periodic attacks of anxiety which would cause pain in my chest so severe and a loss of breath so tight in the chest that each time I thought that surely I would die. But death didn’t come, my problems grew around me, and I couldn’t or wouldn’t deal with them. I was afraid. Lost, alone and afraid.
The list of what I saw as problems, or challenges is so long and far too tedious for me to list here for you, but the main issues were of financial problems, putting my partner’s mother into her final resting place (she transitioned on January 23, 2008 and we didn’t have the money to pay the funeral home for her burial), relationship issues, a longing for the life I once had, guilt and a feeling that I was not adequately caring for our growing family of animals (now 3 dogs, 3 cats, and one parrot), our lack of health insurance, medical concerns and I’m sure there’s more that I could include if I gave it some more thought. But suffice it to say, my world felt heavy, unpleasant and sick.
I wish I could say that I am beyond this latest round of depression; that it’s behind me. But I can’t. Things look better to me. A number of what seemed to be huge, voluminous challenges, have turned out to be almost “non-issues” once they were faced. A big part of my problem was the way I wouldn’t deal with my fears. As my partner withdrew from me, I was no longer receivi9ng his support or help in solving issues which were jointly ours. The turning point came with the addition of another very, very large stressor.
One evening about four weeks ago, my partner got off the phone and said that a dear friend of his – someone who opened her home to him and supported him for nearly two years, was in trouble. She lost her home, and had no where to go along with her two Pit Bull mix female dogs. The primary friendship is between my partner and his friend, and knowing how indebted he has always felt toward her for that long period of love, nurturing and support, the decision to open our home to her and her two dogs came easily. Of course. We’d make it work somehow. This friend Linda’s dogs are Sadie and Sierra, two litter mates that are seven years old. These dogs have always been known to be protective, aggressive and have bitten a number of people during the course of their life. They are known to attack and kill smaller animals, like cats and small dogs. Great. We have three cats and three small dogs (the third dog, Rascal became part of our family after Christopher’s mother died. We gave Rascal to her for Christmas a few years ago). We set up residence for the cats in one bedroom, the dogs in another. Sadie and Sierra would have the living room. It seemed as though it would work just fine.
That first night, Christopher was going into the bedroom where the cats were being kept, and one of them got out, headed straight for Sadie and Sierra. He panicked, running to rescue the cat. Sadie and Sierra attacked Christopher, biting deep into the muscle of his right leg. The pain was severe, that I could tell. It was his shock and fear of the way in which the dogs turned on him that lingered and was difficult to shake. Linda wanted to pack up an leave that night. We weren’t going to let her do that. She had nowhere to go. Again, we’d make it work somehow.
We carefully made our way through the next two days, but in the evening of that third night, I opened the bedroom door and out ran our twenty-six year old cat, Cinder. He was lumbering right between the two growling and aggressive Sadie and Sierra. I panicked. I started screaming at them to get back! Stop! Now they weren’t going after the cat. It was me they were after. They started jumping up my back, biting at me as they lept. Their weight and strength caused me to slip and fall onto the tile floor in the living room. They wildly bit at my backside and both legs. I couldn’t get up! I felt as though I were moving in slow motion in a nightmare. I screamed so loud and at the same time looked back and could see the bared teeth of each dog biting into me. Linda wasn’t home. Christopher came running down the hallway screaming like a maniac scaring them off of me. By this time however, the attack caused so many bites to me, and the jeans I was wearing were nearly shredded from their teeth. While Christopher kept them away from me, I ran to the bedroom. All I could think to do was take a shower. I cried hysterically, and couldn’t get the fierce image of those dogs biting at me out of my mind. I still can’t shake that memory.
Christopher placed a call to Linda on her cell phone and she was back home within minutes. She took the dogs outside for what seemed to be hours. Again, she felt she should leave, and again we said “stay”. We’d make it work out. As strange as this may seem, it has worked out. Gradually, I have come to increase my trust of Sadie and Sierra, and we are all more cognizant of our movements in the house, as well as the placement of each animal. Most who hear this story can’t understand why any of this would be allowed to happen. That we’d bring this into our home, complicating life so dramatically, disrupting so much of what once was our routine. I say, this is our commitment to someone who has given so much of herself. She continues to give of herself, going beyond any expectation of reciprocity in a roommate type situation. Linda is quite easy to get along with as a roommate, as she pulls more than her share of responsibility. She has given me the motivation to move forward in life, and face my fears.
To me, Linda has been an incredible listener, gently asking if I am open to her feedback. She has seen the areas where my fear leads to inaction and ultimately becoming an even greater and more dangerous problem. In those situations, she has taken me by the hand and committed herself to helping me; being at my side, asking questions I may have missed, devising solutions, and ultimately resolving problems. This has been such a burden lifted from my shoulders. It’s the support and guidance I am in need of for now, all given without creating any codependency. It all feels so healthy to me. I’ll share more of this past month’s developments, and the progress we’re all making here in our home.