If So, You’re Perfectly Normal
The stress of untangling YOU from THEM can make you want your abuser back. It sucks, but it’s true.
After I left Will, my husband, my desire to return to him surprised me. I thought I was above wanting him back. I felt like such a loser! I didn’t expect to ever give my abuser a letter describing what I was willing to do to take him back, but I did. (You can read it here.)
I took a plan designed for those who want to see if their abuser is willing to change from The Verbally Abusive Man: Can He Change? by Patricia Evans. The plan helped me to see that if I were to consider taking Will back, he must do things, not say things, that showed me he wanted to make our marriage work. As you probably know, listening to an abuser’s words opens you up to their lies. Lies that, if your aching heart believes, stomp you right back into place under the abuser’s control.
Women often return to their abusers six times before they leave for good. Sorry men, I don’t know how many times guys go back, but I imagine it’s about the same rate of return. Many of the statistics collected for women probably apply to men because the patterns and effects of abuse are the same whether the victim is male or female. The question is why do we go back when we know our partner is poison?
A Theory on Why Victims Want Our Abusers Back
We tried to change our abusers. But they rebelled angrily when you ask them to be someone they are not. No, they will not be “more polite” or “less aggressive” or “more sensitive” because that’s not who they are. Nine times out of ten, abusers would probably agree with my ex when he said: “I like myself! I’m not going to change!” If your abuser says something like that, then they are, at least, being authentic human beings.
Wouldn’t it be great to have that sense of identity back? Abuse makes you forget who you are. Our abusers like themselves, but we don’t know who we are anymore.
We Lie to Ourselves
When we try to be someone we are not to please another person, we excuse our non-authentic behaviors by telling ourselves:
- “I’m becoming a better person”
- “I’m compromising to make this relationship work”
- “I want to become a person my partner can love”
We make ourselves believe that changing our positive, passionate, and powerful qualities will somehow make them love us more and treat us with respect. Sometimes, we remember that our powerful qualities drew our partner to us. But now, those qualities are the exact ones they want to stomp out. An abuser doesn’t want you to have your own ideas. You’re not controllable when you think independently.
The abuser wants their victim to be, think and do exactly as they (the abuser) would. They lash out with abuse when we are, think, or do something they would not. So, to avoid abuse (or to make them happy) we lie to ourselves. We believe whatever we need to believe to make hiding who we are okay. We help them hammer us into the stereotype they want us to be.
Why We Want Them Back
I heard from a woman who wanted to know how to stop wanting her abuser to come back to her. This man treated her horribly and utilized every possible form of abuse. Her email showed that she acknowledged that fact. She planned to stay away from him, and she couldn’t understand why she had any desire to reconcile. Like me, she thought she was above wanting him back.
We’ve been talking about changing yourself and them and discussed why you cannot change them (or anyone who acts authentically!). Even so, as victims, we try. We don’t so much succeed in changing them, but we do eventually change ourselves. We think we’re compromising, but we’re really trying to be them, which is what they want. If you could completely be your abuser then they would know exactly what you would do/say every second of the day because it would be exactly what they would do or say. Their control over you would be complete!
Unfortunately, when you try to change “them or me” you usually end up changing YOU into THEM so much that your Self, your who-I-am, tightly entangles with their Self. In essence, you brainwash yourself into being them – at least in part. You don’t notice it as it happens and your abuser encourages your metamorphosis because they like being selfish. (How many of you have wondered if you are the abuser? Yep. You wonder if you changed into them, don’t you?)
Separating Your Self from Your Abuser
So, when you separate from an abuser, you not only lose that person, you lose a part of your Self.
- If you severed your arm in an accident, you would suffer anxiety because you would no longer be your same Self.
- If you lost your memory due to amnesia, you would become anxious when you knew you lost a part of your Self.
- When you sever your relationship with your abuser, you suffer anxiety because you severed a bit of your Self.
You don’t feel lost because you need them or love them. You feel lost, scared, and anxious because you must disentangle who you really are from the false-you created to avoid abuse. If you feel like you are losing a part of yourself remember that you’re only losing the part the abuser made you create. However, in the stress and trauma of separation, it’s hard to discern that. Instead, the anxiety makes you think that you miss them, need them, and crave them like a drug. Getting them back seems the only way to relieve the anxiety and fear.
To help you stay away, you could:
- join a support group
- go to counseling
- do some guided meditation
- call a hotline
- do some journaling, get t all out
- do whatever healthy things you need to do to stay away from your poisonous partner.
Your abuser’s energy will wear off. You will feel better, sooner rather than later if you focus on disentangling them from your psyche while leaving your awesome Self intact.
Time will ease this “separation anxiety”. Your abuser will get out of your system if you stay away.
Featured photo by Muhmed Alaa El-Bank