Unpacking My Monster
In my last blog, I shared some of the abuse that I endured in a dysfunctional relationship that has residual trauma effects to this day. In this post, I will unpack some of the narratives that got me there.
As I said in my last post, I know I am not blameless. I am not a perfect person, but no one deserves to endure ongoing abuse. If you have set clear boundaries about respecting you verbally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, or in concert with other types of abuse like academic or intimate partner violence with someone and those boundaries get ignored, you may want to seek professional assistance with changing the situation.
The purpose of this blog is to analyze some of the social narratives that caused me to not leave my abuser sooner. I called a shelter. I had counseling appointments that I cancelled. I knew my abuser would not change, and I stayed anyway. I wanted to believe. I want to look at how I got here. This is not an exploration of what makes people shitty people. This is not assigning blame beyond stating that it is wrong to hit or hurt people on purpose. This is an exploration of social narratives.
So, let’s look at the narratives. I wrote,
He was smooth and charming. He was handsome and cool. He is my worst nightmare.
As I pointed out in a training on deprogramming sex narratives, the main societal messages that made this choice a reality include:
· Women picking the hot guy over everyone else
· Nerds are lame
· You can get through to him
· He’s just misunderstood
· Cult of domesticity beliefs and narratives
He told me what he wanted in our relationship in the beginning. He didn’t want to be involved beyond a physical relationship. I wanted that too. Then, it changed about four months in. It doesn’t matter who wanted it to change or why really. It just did.
What does it mean to pick the hot guy over everyone else if you’re a lady? It limits your choices to look for a partner before you even know your sexuality. Once you have a hot guy, don’t lose him. Put up with whatever because he’s hot. A lot of people put up with a lot of shit “because they’re hot.” My type from when I was young was tall, dark, and handsome. It was repeated throughout my life in movies and tv. What I learned is that emotionally distant is not a good look on anyone, especially me. Let’s look at another early narrative that left an impression on me.
Nerds are lame. When I was a baby kid girl, no more than 7, I had a friend named David. I would go to his house, and we would do chemistry and physics experiments together. It was so fun until my parents made fun of me and called him my boyfriend. I did not like that at all, and I’ll do a deeper exploration into the narratives that caused me to not pursue science earlier in a later blog post. This is about how I got made fun of for being friends with a guy who was a nerd. My dad would say that and follow it up with a nice, childish, “Eeeewwww” to really drive the point home. It was just easier to not look at the pH of different things after school than to hang out with David and get literal shit about it for days. So yeah, thanks –rents (do people even still say that anymore? I didn’t say it in 2008, but I am now). You definitely don’t want to pick a partner your family will ridicule you for being with.
You can get through to him, and that is a special thing. Everyone knows that real men don’t cry and women are the emotional ones in the [heteronormative relationship]. These two narratives mask a super-secret, hidden narrative: if you can watch a man cry, he is showing you his real feelings, and he doesn’t do that for just anyone. This is probably the biggest contributor to staying with my abusive ex for so long. In this narrative, you are being let into a special, real world that is usually private. It is reserved for family. This meant that whether my ex meant it or not, whenever he cried, and said things like he didn’t mean it or it wouldn’t happen again, I bought in because that was reality. He wouldn’t lie to me, especially while he was crying. It’s weird and twisted to actually try to articulate this one. This narrative teaches a person to believe the words that are said while a person is crying more than believing actions and patterns, which are true as well. Observe the patterns. Record the patterns. The patterns are true.
Finally, he’s just misunderstood. Underneath that stoic, rugged, whatever exterior is a sensitive guy. You just have to break through the façade.
The exterior is what it is. If it is cold, let it be. If it is friendly, let it be. Be around people who not only want to be around you and are nice to you. Also, be nice to people.
We’ve all been exposed to or internalized different beliefs about sex and our own sexuality whether it be from friends or the media or health care professionals. Believe it or not, narratives about sex for women are related to a social construct (an idea that is maintained and reinforced by society and passed on through generations) called “womanhood as motherhood,” which is related to the Cult of Domesticity.
The tenets of the Cult of Domesticity require women to be pious and subservient, which are also messages I received. I should be patient. I should be kind. I should not give up on this person, who is struggling to do good things. Even if it is to my detriment.
Yes, even if you die, do not give up on your abuser. This is probably the worst message I internalized. My life had no meaning, no value to me. This person was hurting me because he was in trouble, and I had to do what I could to fix him, even though he never asked for that.
He did not want me to fix him. As far as I know, he is still in denial that he ever had a problem.
Some people do want to be fixed. They need to seek professional help. If a person is not willing to do that, don’t waste your time doing something that was never asked for. You get yourself your own help instead.
Yeah, so all of this is super-heavy, but we aren’t really taught how to handle ourselves in these situations. It is getting better though. Zonta chapters and other organizations host Hands are not for Hitting events, and lesson plans can be found online.
We are moving forward. Slowly, begrudgingly, we are breaking the cycles of abuse and violence.