Addicted To Abuse

Confessions Of A Willing Victim     

The question people ask me when they find out - and almost no one finds out - is why. Why do I let you do this to me? I don't fit their stereotype: I'm an intelligent, educated, financially stable woman, and I worked hard to put myself here. Why do I let you tear me down?
Honestly, I don't know.    
What I do know is this: before I met you, I often congratulated myself on my independence and self-confidence. Sometimes, I even felt attractive and believed that I was worth loving.
And I know this: I don't go out looking for you. I barely even notice you when you first come into my life, and I don't think of you in a romantic way, I swear.
So when you approach me, I think you must be kidding. You're so good looking, young, smart and from the best family in town. But you're not kidding. You pursue me relentlessly and wear me down with your talk of soulmates, destiny and love.
You tell me how amazing I am, and you say you love everything about me that I like about myself. You're not just saying that, or so it seems. You get specific, and you notice the little things that matter to me. This never happens to me, so it's not long before I'm thinking: "at last."
And I whisper to myself: "I want you to take care of me."
But I don't blame you for the seduction. It's not your fault. Yes, you offer me the love heroin, but I'm the one who takes it eagerly, desperately. I see the warning signs: the boundaries are mine to set if I want to. But I don't want to. I want you to consume me. I want you to be my life, because I don't think I have one of my own.
I leave my marriage (dead long before I met you) right away. It's just that easy. I can't sleep or eat, but in a good way. You and I can't stay away from each other. You're obsessed with me, and magical thinker that I am, it's my dream come true. Finally, for the very first time, a man loves me for me! And I love him, too! This is the best thing that's ever happened to me.
In a matter of days, you own me.
But it's all an illusion, of course. I keep trying to get more of the drug, to re-create that high, but it never comes back, because you're no longer giving; you're just taking. And now I'm hooked: powerless to do anything but give you what you want.
I try to extricate myself. I go to therapy, desperately trying to find the answers that I don't really want. The self-help books I read, and I read an awful lot of them these days, tell me to cultivate my hobbies and interests.
Bullshit. I already have hobbies and interests, and none of them engages me the way you do. Who writes this crap, anyway? Has anyone ever walked away from a fiery, all-consuming love affair so they can have more time to knit and fly-fish?
Not me. And so I sign up to play the game. But I'm doomed, because you've already won. And because you don't love me, boy are you holding all the cards.
I try to play anyway, but how can I win at a game I don't understand? I would play by the rules if I knew what they were, but you keep changing them.
One day, I undress you and kiss you and stroke your beautiful stomach. You sigh and say, "I love the way you touch me." Of course you do, I think. I'm your soulmate, so I know what you want and I'll give it to you. The next week, when I touch you in exactly the same way, you slap me away and snarl, "Don't touch me!"
Another day, you ask me to love you. You tell me that we can be together forever if I love you. Days later, I make love to you, and with you still inside me, I look into your eyes and tell you that I do. You push me off of you and say no, no, no. And just like that, I'm on the floor alone and naked and crying and trying to understand how you can love me and want me one minute and hate me and be repulsed by me the next.
Maybe you know the answer, but I know you won't tell me, because you won't even talk to me, and you won't let me talk to you. You're in the bathroom, washing me away from you.
I pull myself up, try to get dressed. I don't know what's going to happen next, but I know it'll be less humiliating if I'm not naked. Time for damage control.
Now I'm bleeding. I think, you've really hurt me this time. But no. I've started my period. Everything - you, me, my blood - is smeared all over me, and I'm crying and now you don't love me.
And believe it or not, I'm the one who's apologizing. And I clean it up. It's my job to keep your secrets. You're saying you shouldn't have brought me here. Look what a mess I'm making of your family's historic building. Now, I'm making too much noise. I'm just trying to calm you down, but everything I do makes you angrier. Oh, God, how am I fucking this up so badly? I've spent my whole life in training for this. I can be perfect and quiet or whatever it is that you want. I know how to fix every single thing so the man doesn't get angry. I'm something of an expert. But it's not working now.
You put me in your truck - what are you going to do, drive me away from your family's good name? In an instant, I'm transformed from object of desire to leaking bag of garbage to be dumped.
It's funny - my worst fear right now is not, where are you taking me, and what are you going to do to me? It's that you don't want me anymore. Sure, I'm afraid of you, but I'm more afraid that you'll abandon me.
And that's exactly what happens. You force me out of the truck at the edge of town. Total humiliation: you've fucked me, abused me, abandoned me, and I'm crying, bleeding, alone right there on the main drag in our tiny town.
And no one sees me at all. Remember: I'm the expert.
Follow You Down
So… tonight is the night. This is when I know for sure that I'm in an abusive relationship. But I'm so addicted to you now (my therapist doesn't like it when I use the words "love" and "relationship" when I talk about you) that I'm willing to follow you down as far as you'll take me.
Because it's not just about you. You're not just a man. You're a link in a chain. I know that if I get away from you, there will be another one - and he'll be worse, no doubt, because they've gotten worse as I've grown older. I put more in; I get less out. That's how it works.
Later, after these episodes, there's a honeymoon phase. You come back to me, saying, "You know it's not my fault, right? You know you provoke me. You change me into a different person." I don't disagree.
What damages me most is not that you're doing it, but that I'm letting you do it and I don't want you to stop. It's a downward spiral: The lower I feel, the more I take, and the worse you get, the lower I feel, etc.
Those books I read say that women like me don't leave men like you because they can't afford to leave or they're afraid you'll come after them and the children. What's my excuse? You're surely not giving me any money. I've got money of my own, and you don't give a crap about me, so I'm pretty sure you won't come after me. You can go somewhere else: what girl in town doesn't want you? I'm nothing to you, but you feel like my last chance.
My therapist tells me that as long as I'm stuck to you, I can't meet a nice guy. I hear these words come out of my mouth: "Nice guys don't go for girls like me." If any friend of mine said this, I'd prop her up and find a way to convince her it isn't true. But I can say it about myself, because I know it's the truth, and there's no sense denying it. That leads to false hope, and false hope leads to men like you.
I swear, it's not like I pick you and your brothers. You guys always come for me, and I say no. You find me and wear me down. Who did she say she worked for? Call her there. What's her last name? Look it up. It's a small town. It's not like I'm turning down the nice guys and picking you. The nice guys don't approach - girls like me.
I'm so ashamed that I'm letting you treat me this way, but the truth is, the worse you treat me, the more I love you. Those closest to me want me to be free of you, I think, but mostly, they don't know what to say. They tell me to stay away from you: "If he calls, don't answer the phone. If he comes over anyway, call the police. Don't talk to him. He's bad for you."
They don't get it. You don't stop because I don't want you to stop. If I really wanted to, I could find a way out.
Not Good Enough
My therapist again: my whole life, I've been dominated by a raging, disapproving, unpredictable man - first my father, then a long string of bad men, right down to you. No matter how smart I am or what kind of grades I get or how hard I work around here, I could never be good enough for any of you guys. You're not going to love me, no matter how unbelievably hard I try to win your approval. It's a treadmill, not a marathon. I've always been a little odd and socially awkward and (let's be honest) I'm not a beauty queen, so I try to beat the competition the only way I can: unlike the other girls, I will love you unconditionally. I can stand more pain - of any kind - and I'll build you up, make you a man and sacrifice myself to your insanity.
I have known you my whole life.
And I have no excuses. It's not about money, because I have worked hard and saved well, and for some reason, that's one place I won't let you in. And no kids, so no strings! Except now you've figured out that I want a baby, and you start trying to get me pregnant. You're saying, think how smart and beautiful our baby would be, but I know your real motivation: if we have a child, you'll control me forever. This would be the single craziest thing I could do. But the next day, I throw away my birth control pills.
So you've changed the rules again. You even start to tell me that you love me, and now I'll get in trouble if I don't say it, right? You don't really love me, of course. It's control, again. And it works, again.
You dictate how and when and where I touch you. But my body belongs to you. When we're riding in your truck, you reach over and put your hand between my legs. It's not affectionate or even sexual - just a reminder: "You belong to me." And I don't move your hand.
As crazy as I am, I have a moment of clarity every now and then. I think, "Thank God you don't love me." If you did, would I be dead, or just destitute and desperate? If you loved me, you would take my money, my car and I'd get fired and evicted from everywhere just like you do.
But you can't love me, because you don't think I'm good enough for you. You may come from the biggest, most important family in town, but everyone knows about your problems. Everyone loves and respects me, and you can't stand it. But why are you ashamed of me - because I'm older? Fatter? Not as beautiful as you are? fuck you.
Take All Of Me
You've got an amazing deal. I'm your unpaid prostitute. You can come over in the middle of the night, do your dope, have a drink, have the most amazing sex and conversation, maybe release your anger and frustration, and then leave, no strings attached. You know I will never make trouble.
I love the sex, too, you know. You're my religion, so to me, everything you do is magical. My mind worships you, so why shouldn't my body? Take everything. I barely even resist.
I'm pitiful, I know, but it's not like I'm not trying. My therapist, who seems ready to give up on me, compels me to seek help at the local domestic violence shelter. You'd think this humiliating wake-up call would stop me from seeing you, but it doesn't, of course.
I agree to complete the program, but I adopt an uncharacteristically belligerent attitude. I don't belong here, even though the "intake" counselors are sure that I do. I defiantly wear my business clothes, drive my expensive car to the shelter - and park around the block and dash in, head down.
I tell myself that I'm way ahead of these other women here: I have a job with health insurance, a college degree, someplace to live. But, in my insanity, I'm the inferior one here. See, their men are out hunting them, but I know you're not looking for me, because you don't have to. You just laugh and say, "Go ahead. I don't care if you leave me. I don't need you." This is the perfect thing for you to say. Back to the treadmill.
But first: This fucking program I've agreed to. These women tell stories much worse than mine. They ran away from their men in the middle of the night with nothing but their kids and the nightclothes on their backs. Some have broken bones. Aside from a few minor incidents, you've never hurt me physically. It's almost all verbal and emotional with you. My sick mind sees failure in this: If you valued me, you'd hunt me and rage out of control like their men apparently have. I can't even be abused properly!
I know I should be grateful. These women have no jobs, nor any prospect for one. If I leave this town, I can get a job anywhere, doing all kinds of things, maybe even make more money. Forget this shelter: I have friends and family I could stay with.
But when I voice this to the counselors, they say: these women had at least some of those things, too. They warn me that men like you systematically separate women from their support systems. But I already know that from experience. It's true this time, too. A close friend or two stops returning my phone calls. Another says, "Don't talk to me about this anymore. I give up."
Maybe I've given up on myself, too. Haven't I stopped dreaming of travel or a better career? I look awful. Everything suffers. I continue my downward slide.
And you keep pulling me down. Constantly, you say, "You're not as smart as you think you are; your friends are only pretending to like you; your work is meaningless."
I think I used to feel attractive. I sure don't now. In fact, when I take a class at the college in our town, I feel nearly panicked as I sit among the young, perfect girls. You would love any of them more than you love me. Look at them. Look at me. I feel so ugly now.
You tear me down, and because I let you, now I feel not just ugly but stupid, too. You say it's your job to knock me down off my high horse, and you're pretty good at it. You're the physical embodiment of the voice inside my head that constantly tells me I'm not good enough. I wonder why I need you at all.
One of my friends says I'm addicted to the drama that surrounds you and us. I don't think so. I'm tired of hospitals, police, drugs, accidents, lies. I say I want a nice man, but deep down, I'm not so sure. To me, what you do represents strength and confidence. I like a strong man, I say.
Maybe I'm afraid of being alone. But I'm alone most of the time anyway. My relationship with you isolates me, and even though I'm stuck to you, you're not really here for me, either.
Remember the time we thought I had cancer and you said you'd drive me to Atlanta for my scan? I fasted for 12 hours and waited for you. You never came, so I drove myself. Scared, hungry, alone, and driving myself to the big city hospital with the big scary machine. I find myself lying to the technicians so they'll let me leave. You went to get the car so I won't have to walk so far, I say, and now you're waiting to drive me home.
So I can do alone, I tell myself, and it's true. I can.
But that doesn't stop me from looking for a good man.
You're angry, but vindicated, when you come back to me after dumping me for the hundredth time and I tell you that I went on a date with another man - an executive I met. You laugh, and I guess it is pretty funny. I really set myself up, saying, "See? A nice man with a real job can be attracted to the real me, the whole package." I dress up and go to his house, and he humiliates me. He tells me everything is wrong - my clothes, my accent, my job, my perfume, everything. I say "thanks for dinner" and cry all the way home.
And then there's another man, and I like him so much. He senses my distrust and asks me to believe in him and bare my soul to him. This "soul" bullshit should be a red flag by now, but I really start to trust him, and he pulls your story out of me. He sleeps next to me, makes me feel safe, promises to protect me - and he could do it, too. He's an elite military man who teaches other elite military men to kill the enemy with their bare hands! Just my type. And as soon as I relax and trust him, he turns out to be pretty much like you.
See? You laugh.
And so I go back to you, every single time.
Don't Give Up
So what's different now? How was it possible, when you came to my office last week, for me to run away without talking to you? Why did I not take your phone calls, and when one came through by mistake, how did I lie to you, tell you I was in a meeting, hang up as you demanded that I give you my new secret address and phone number?
Well, in the books and movies, the girl is always rescued by a nice guy. But let's face facts: the guy on the white horse isn't showing up for me, and anyway, I know it's wrong to want that. I'm supposed to rescue myself, I'm told. I know this, but I also notice that everyone who says this is loved and secure - happily married with kids and extended families and lots of healthy friendships. Easy for them to say. They get rescued every day.
So I'm trying to learn to breathe underwater. I'm going against my every instinct, a hundred times a day, really trying this time to do what I'm told is the right thing to do - the opposite of what I've always done to survive. It feels impossible, but for several weeks now, I've done it. They say, "One day at a time." It's more like one agonizing minute at a time.
I'm struggling, trying so hard to have faith that my life can be about more than this. I have no proof, no reason to believe that this is so, but I guess that's what faith is. Faith and hope.
And, as smart as you are, I'm surprised you don't know the truth: you're still in the game. If only you will keep trying - pull your old tricks - persistence (call my office again and again), charm, the element of surprise (just march into my office when everyone else is at lunch!) - you can win.
Just say the magic words: "I can't live without you."
I feel exactly the same way about you.


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