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When my twelve-year toxic relationship ended I was devastated. All that time, energy, and love seemed wasted. I wasn’t bitter or angry, despite having plenty of reasons to be. I was simply heartbroken. It would be a long time before I came to terms with what I could never get back.
I was finishing up my graduate degree back then and had finally accepted that things between us would never get better. He would never stop cheating, never stop being abusive, and would never give me the life I dreamed about. There would be no putting off acceptance for another decade.
It was time to let him go.
When he first moved out, I had second thoughts and wanted him to stay. He knew he was in control, had the power in the relationship, and used that to his advantage. I not only helped him find a place but I helped him move in. I helped pay for his furniture despite being a broke graduate student. I even helped with his cell phone bill. He manipulated my decade long desire to take care of him.
This faulty thinking, that somehow taking care of him could fix things, went on for a few months. I knew it needed to stop but this was a longtime habit of mine and co-dependent aspect of our relationship. And so I continued to pay both emotionally and financially.
It is common in relationships where domestic violence is present for the abusive partner to manipulate the victim in a variety of ways. I was no different. This power, according to a study by Norwich University’s Dr. James Schaap and Dr. Miguel Callejo is “used in order to satisfy a strong need for appreciation/esteem and status. An individual employing personalized power tends to exercise this power spontaneously, have little inhibition and self-control, and have a strong desire to dominate others”.
Somehow though, despite it all, I wanted him to realize all he had done and apologize. Truly apologize. And to be perfectly honest, I had the fantasy of him begging for me back and promising to treat me better.
What I really needed was to take the power back and get some closure. Hanging around him, post split, wasn’t going to provide either. I knew this and knew it was time for me to make a big move. Literally.
I packed up my apartment that we had shared together and made arrangements to move to another state. Distance was the only way we could truly part ways and the only hope I had at letting go. I think a big part of him expected me to stay because he thought that I was bluffing. He told me I was a fool for leaving.
When my determination began to shake I called my best friend and asked her to fly out and help me make the move. She was so determined to get me away from that relationship she gladly agreed despite her fear of flying. I honestly don’t know what would have happened if she hadn’t been there to encourage me forward. How different my life might be right now if she hadn’t shown up for me.
The movers packed up my belongings and my ex continued to text and call my phone. Could I bring him some money before I left town? How could I leave him without x y and z? The guilt trip was in full effect once he realized I was truly leaving. My friend pointed towards the horizon and said let’s go. And go we did.
Turning The Power On
When I got settled in a different state I had a lot of pain to deal with. His abuse had caused quite a bit of damage to my heart and soul. The long-lasting effects of domestic violence on the survivor are numerous. This rebuilding process would take a few years. Even now, I find pieces that haven’t healed.
But the power between us was no longer in his hands. I had my life back. And when he did finally apologize and plead for me to come back just as I had once fantasized? It wasn’t enough. His words rang hollow and insincere. It was too little, too late. No flowery words or songs or promises could undo the damage he had done.
Years have passed since then and I have lived, loved, and had my heart-broken again. I no longer feel my time, energy, and love was wasted. It went exactly where it was meant to go and was spent on someone who I chose to spend it on.
There is a lesson (or fifty) that I took away from my experience. I will never spend that much time waiting for someone to change. I will never hand over my life to a power-hungry abusive person. I will never sell myself short. And I will never punish myself for how he chose to treat me.
I am a survivor and the power has always resided within me. It just took a while to get it back.