A few weeks ago, I bumped into an old friend. We had a brief discussion about the weather, the tough economy and water shortage before she briefed me about her relationship. She seemed dull on this particular day. “I want to leave,” she burst out. I had heard that statement before.
From people who never left. They just complained but never left. When my friend made this statement, I remembered a conversation we had months ago.
She had declared that she was there to stay and nothing would push her out of marriage. “What changed?” I wondered, but I did not want to probe. It was none of my business.
Besides, I didn’t want to listen to another story of a toxic relationship, especially from a friend. These kinds of tales were taking a toll on me. She didn’t want to say much either.
She struggled to keep the ‘juicy’ details of her relationship a mystery and in the process; she looked down, fighting tears.
STILL LOVED HIM
I made a joke, just to ease the tension and she laughed. Then she told me she lacked the energy to laugh, that the constant crying had really drained her. What followed were brief and vague tales of various things he had done to her. There were allegations of cheating, neglect and mind games. It was a one-sided story, but even so, I gathered that he had a big ego.
To my surprise, she declared that she still loved him and she was willing to come back after a while, if he met certain conditions.
She also hinted that she was afraid she would never find anyone like him. At this point, I realised her reality had been extremely distorted, which is a common side effect of emotional abuse.
It’s common for abuse victims to not only tolerate but also excuse abuse. Often, it’s been argued that women stick around because of their children or due to financial reasons.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. My friend didn’t have any children and she was definitely capable for fending for herself, but still she found a few excuses to stick around until she couldn’t take it anymore.
This begs the question, how many people accommodate, tolerate, excuse and even cover up abuse in the name of love? Could you be one of them? Here are the signs:
KEEPING UP APPEARANCES
In an era where people are flying to Dubai just to celebrate their “first kiss anniversary”, the pressure to speak highly of your relationship is mounting.
Couples have camped at YouTube showcasing their wonderful love stories. Photographers have also not spared us. We are waking up to cleverly-staged family portraits, engagement photoshoots and men marvelling at their wives’ baby bumps.
This might prompt you to keep up with the trends even when things are not so good in paradise.
One of the signs that you’re accommodating abuse is overcompensating the lack of happiness with excessive PR for your relationship.
It could be your constant bragging about how amazing your partner is, covering up bruises with makeup or a fake social media life. Whatever your tactics are, they do not change the fact that you’re unhappy.
YOU ALWAYS HAVE A GOOD EXCUSE
“He will change, I’m praying for him”, you keep telling yourself. Or “She is going through something, I’m sure she still loves me” and “I provoked him, I also had a role to play in this”.
When you first met, things were rosy, but along the way the claws came out. It’s human to desire the good old days when your love blossomed.
Even when you are nursing serious injuries after a rough fight, your mind will take you back to those days when your partner showered you with love. The good memories will linger and as a result, you will forget the pain you’re going through for a moment. From there, the excuses will pop up. You will try to rationalize your decision for sticking around or failing to get help and every time your excuses will make a lot of sense to you. Thus you will trudge on, this rocky path. You are not alone in this, studies show that victims of abuse are more likely to stick around by excusing their partners’ behaviour. In 2016, Twitter user, Bev Gooden started the Hashtag #WhyIstayed and gave victims of abuse an opportunity to explain to the public why they stayed in abusive relationships. Most of them had pretty good excuses. Some gave chilling tales of how they were literally locked up, threatened or manipulated. One Twitter user narrated how her partner tore all her clothes and threw her shoes leaving her with nothing but innerwear during the winter. We wouldn’t term such encounters as excuses but interestingly, those who wanted to leave eventually left cleverly. This shows the powerful nature of a strong will. Excuses will always be there but nothing beats the will and desire for a better life.
YOU’VE LOST THE SUPPORT OF FRIENDS AND RELATIVES
When abused, most people will run to their best friends and relatives. They narrate their ordeals amidst tears and regrets and once they’re done, they go back to their abusers. At first, your supporters will sympathize and give you advice but if you fail to take action, your complaints will begin to fall on deaf ears. Eventually, they will stop picking your calls. In extreme instances, they will ask you to never call them as long as you’re with your abusive partner. They’re not isolating you because they hate you; they’re simply giving you much needed tough love. After all, when you’re abused, they’re affected too. You may bear the bruises and emotional scars but your siblings, parents, friends and children are also affected by abuse. Therefore, if you find yourself wading through your troubled relationship all by yourself, it’s time to question your priorities. Would you rather lose everybody else in a bid to tolerate an abusive partner?
TRYING TO BE A HEALER
All abusive people have been through a lot, just like everybody else. They were probably abused as children, or they were hurt by their previous partners. Maybe they’re struggling with childhood traumas, but still there’s no excuse for abusing others. You’ve probably diagnosed your partner’s abusive behaviour and you want to love him until he reforms. You’re trying to be the loved one that never left or the partner that showed him how to love. That’s a good course but it’s hard to save someone who doesn’t need saving. After all, if they really needed help in slaying their childhood demons, they would be at the forefront. One such person who tried to be a healer is Rihanna, the popular singer. Her story as a victim of abuse is well-known to many. In 2009, she was beaten and almost thrown out of a car by her then boyfriend Chris Brown. Three years later, they got back together. When questioned about her move by a Vanity Fair writer, this is what she said; “Maybe I’m the person who’s almost the guardian angel to this person, to be there when they’re not strong enough...” However, in the same interview, she admitted that it was foolish to think she was built to be his saviour. In the process of trying to be a saviour, you might end up creating new demons for your loved ones and yourself. You’re not breaking the cycle of abuse but enhancing it.
DOWNPLAYING THE GRAVITY OF ABUSE
Finally, a lot of people tend to feel embarrassed for being abused, thanks to victim-shaming. It seems convenient to either deny or downplay abuse. You’d probably share stories of nasty things your partner says or does to you and when someone points out that you’re being abused, you’re quick to defend him.
If they insult and threaten you, you may console yourself by saying “at least he/she didn’t hit me”. This is a clear indication that you’re not in touch with reality.
You prefer to stay in a bubble. When someone tries to burst that bubble, they become your enemy. Abusive people are not entirely evil. They’re humans too and sometimes they can be kind and even loving.
They will dialogue with you from time to time and convince you that they will either change or you’re to blame for their behaviour. But that doesn’t minimize the effect of their abuse.
If you ended up in a hospital bed after a confrontation, you will not get well sooner just because your partner seemed remorseful afterwards.