Thursday, November 20, 2014

Keeping On

Living on our own removed the beneficial dilution provided when living in a cult commune with many other families. Our dysfunctional family's problems became magnified. Things did not get better. Nevertheless, I, continuing with eyes blinded to how truly bad our situation was, kept on doing my best to smooth over conflicts and keep the peace between father and children, and between husband and wife.

"Women who remain with abusive partners appear to employ cognitive strategies that help them perceive their relationship in a positive light."* This was obviously the case with me.

I was committed to my marriage, and I wouldn't give up. I clung to the narrative that my husband was what I imagined (or perhaps, wanted) him to be, rationalizing away and denying what was reality. I chose to disregard anything that didn't fit with my belief about him. I continued to hope for the best. I ignored the emotional abuse and neglect. I rationalized away his angry, petty outbursts and harshness towards our children. I preferred to tip-toe around him, ever-hopeful that I could receive some much-desired affection from him.

As Dr. Craig Malkin of Harvard Medical School wrote in a 2013 article, the "desperate, often palpable hope" of those in abusive relationships, both physical, psychological, and emotional, "is that the abuse will go away. And they tend to block out all evidence to the contrary. In point of fact, they stay for love. Many abuse survivors cling to the positive traits in their partners... In one study, more than half of the abuse survivors saw their partners as 'highly dependable.'"

Complicating the issue with me, was that I, like many others in abusive relationships, "are often cut off from friends and financial supports." Another pertinent point Dr. Malkin brings out is that "one of the most formidable and dangerous obstacles abuse victims face is their own searing guilt and shame; they're incredibly adept at blaming themselves for the abuse." I had years of hearing from TFI leadership that I was to blame for the problems in our marriage. I figured it was a given.

Succinctly summarizing my situation, he wrote of a female client of his, "She was a prisoner of her own hope."

*"Coping with an Abusive Relationship: I. How and Why Do Women Stay?" Tracy Bennett Herbert, Roxane Cohen Silver, and John H. Ellard.

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