I was walking out of a meeting when I glanced at an article on my phone claiming you had defended Rob Porter’s character in light of abuse allegations. Not knowing the full story, or honestly even who you were, my stomach sank. I was immediately reminded of the years I spent trying to help my ex-husband escape the consequences of his former fiancees’ abuse claims, which had led to several criminal charges I believed couldn’t have possibly been true. He had told me about the relationships, and the women’s’ psychosis, and came across as the perfect victim. He cried thanking me for understanding and criticized me when I started acting like them. They served a prominent role in our relationship – the epitome of everything that hurt him, and everything I should never become.
You can read a summary of my story here. Buffered by milder days and even good memories, I allowed him to nitpick every aspect of me, my life, and my family. He would yell and degrade me to make a single point – I was inherently better than the person I was being on the days when I had enough self-respect to defend my boundaries. I had so much potential, and chose not to be the person he knew I could be. He told me I didn’t know how to love, yet he told me no one understood him like I did. He told me I would be nothing without him, yet he put me on a pedestal so high it seemed he was forsaking all others. He would tell me he was proud of me, and that he loved me, but he always made it a point that he loved the person I could be – if I just listened to him, followed him, and respected him as a man.
When he couldn’t find work, I grieved for him. I sought to clear his record, which included terroristic threatening and assault, so he could find work again. I served as a character reference for him. I drafted resumes for him, wrote cover letters, and paid for training so he could attend school and change careers. I defended him and mocked his exes for being so crazy. Even when he kept me up until 4am screaming at me, even when he made me sleep on the floor because I had made him upset, even when I sat and cried in the bathroom while he stood in the doorway and warned me not to move, even when I tried to leave the house and he restrained me, I defended him, I respected him, and I loved him. I knew I was different. The only problem was, I was not.
I decided after 8 years, and after realizing that the torment I had been living most days was abusive, to leave. As I prepared, the violence and manipulation got worse and became more physical. I remember the moments of clarity like it was yesterday, seeing in him everything I denied for so long.
I write this not to criticize your decision to be with a man who has a history of abuse. You are a strong woman capable of making your way in the world, clearly. But my situation, as well as the stories of other successful women, prove that your position, beauty, brilliance, and success do not exempt you from being stricken down emotionally or physically. Abuse is often considered to be something reserved for uneducated women and men, or single moms with drunken husbands, but it simply isn’t true. The truth is, it is being the most loving women, the most stubborn in succeeding in and upholding our commits, which make us targets for mistreatment by abusers of all types.
…your position, beauty, brilliance, and success do not exempt you from being stricken down emotionally or physically. ..The truth is, it is being the most loving women, the most stubborn in succeeding in and upholding our commits, which make us targets for mistreatment by abusers of all types.
I hope as much as you do that the stories coming out are false. I hope he will change, I hope he has accepted the man he was and is working on his insecurities and faults. I hope he never hurts you or belittles you, and I hope he never extinguishes your flame. I hope he loves you the way you deserve to be loved, and regards you with respect. I hope he doesn’t excuse aggression for passion, or excuse his violations in the name of love. Lastly, I hope you have developed the skills necessary to require these things in your relationship, and find the strength and love for yourself to leave if your boundaries are ever violated.
If I could give you two final pieces of advice, the first would be to take some time alone to think about your own boundaries and what you are willing to endure in this or any relationship. Whether you believe them or not, listen to the women who came before you. Be mindful of the violations they claim, and watch for them in your interactions. Prepare yourself to understand red flags and signs of abuse so you are able to escape safely before you fall into a gaslighted darkness.
Second, you do not need to hate your partner to acknowledge abusive behavior and safely get out. There is an understanding that women who leave abusive relationships should hate them for what they did, and perhaps some do. I am not a hateful person, and my ex-husband is no exception. I was angry, disgusted, and in disbelief. I was hurt, when I realized what he was doing – but I never hated him. There existed 8 years of love that kept me in my relationship. I pity him. I pain for him, that he chooses to live his life the way he does. He is broken, and there was nothing I could do to change him. I respect the fact that he thinks his behavior is ok. The only thing that matters is that is wasn’t acceptable to me. Whether it has been 4 weeks or 40 years, leaving doesn’t mean hating. It simply means standing up for your own values and your own boundaries.
This is all I wanted to say. I made a commitment when I left my marriage to share my story and develop a network of strong, empowered, and successful survivors to help others understand they are not alone. Unlike many others in your circle and close to your situation, women like me can see these patterns clearly, as we watch our pasts play out in other’s realities. We see through charisma and charm, and understand that an abusive man can be a brilliant asset to his team at work, and an absolute horror at home. Regardless of your position or status, I would never let myself watch you go into this dark place without reaching out to give you what I didn’t have – a voice, a light, and hope.
Very sincerely yours,
For more information on healthy relationships and abuse: http://www.thehotline.org/
If you are a survivor of an abusive relationship, the best thing you can do to help others is share. You will never know the impact you have, sharing how beautiful life can be on the other side, and reminding those currently struggling that they are not alone. I have made a simple template to guide you through my Heroes program. Read more about it here: http://fembrulee.com/heroes/