I'm only partially departing from the September theme of Intuition today because the two hashtags #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft have gone viral. In the wake of the NFL player who punched his wife unconscious in an elevator, abused women and men have come out full-force to help others understand why it is so hard for us to leave, what keeps us there, and how public perception needs to change.
I've added a new section to my Personal page, explaining #WhyIStayed and also #WhyILeft. Click here to go there and read it.
What kept me safe for such a long time in an abusive relationship was my intuition. I knew how to deal with him, how to survive each fight, I knew exactly what kind of evening it was going to be when he walked in the door from work. Any survivor of an abusive relationship will tell you what a certain lift of an eyebrow can mean, what's about to arrive just by listening to the rhythm of steps in the hall, and how we just know.
When I left, I just knew it wasn't going to get any better. Ever.
I knew I was stuck between a rock (staying) and a hard place (leaving) and I was only leaving because I knew I couldn't stay. The dangers of leaving had been made clear to me--leaving an abusive relationship is and remains the most dangerous time. So I knew I had to do everything in my power to get out and to keep myself safe, no matter what.
It was in my weakest moment, the most terrifying time of my life that I had to make the strongest, most courageous decision I will ever make.
In the week I was packing up, I had many thoughts about the people I was leaving behind--people I'd known for up to 7 years. I thought of how he had grown into a younger version of his dad--down to the exact age he was when he decided he wanted a Porsche. (?!?!?!) I took a hard look at his mom, whom I loved dearly. She was nice. So nice. But that was all she could be--given the relationship she was in, she couldn't be anything more than that--not the intelligent, interesting & interested person she truly is. She could only be what her husband allowed her to be. And there was no way in hell I was going to let that be my life.
I looked at his friends and I remembered what my advocate had said--his friends were his friends, not mine, and their loyalties lie with him. Over the next weeks I saw them for who they truly are: two-faced, back-stabbing opportunists. Petty and jealous of one another, always engaged in some kind of drama. As their behaviors became clear to me, the little, confusing moments of the past years became understandable.
To be very clear: it took weeks just to get out, 2 1/2 years to get divorced, 3 1/2 before it was all over, 6 years to feel some kind of peace begin to take residence in my life. When I left I had no idea what was going to happen to me, nor did I have any clue what kind of fresh hell he would heap onto my life for years to come.
I was powerless in the relationship, powerless to leave until I told my parents and they helped me, and I was powerless after I left because I had no money to make things happen.
Going from powerless and knowing where he is to powerless and not knowing where he was didn't seem like a good deal--but it was the only decision I could make to even try to keep myself safe.
No one asked, "Why did he do that to you?" They asked how I had stuck it out for so long. As if I had had so many other, awesome choices.
We must place blame where blame is due--on the abuser. And nowhere else.