I hate that I miss him. I hate that after all he’s done to me, all that stands out to me right now are his good features. I hate that I saw his hands at court today and longed for them to hold me. And then in the next second, remembered how they would unwantedly grab at my breasts, butt, or crotch.
I hate that I’m still attracted to him. That I still have faith that somewhere inside there’s a good person who really does care about me. I hate that I know it’s not true, but I just can’t convince myself of it.
I hate how he discarded me. Like so much trash after I told him that his sexual coercion was rape. I hate imagining him being with someone else. I hate feeling like my not being with someone else makes me less than, instead of more.
I hate that I still have to hear his voice, that I still have to work with him to raise our children, that I still have to be in close proximity to him at times. Being in a room with him makes my skin crawl. I have to fight the urge not to run away when I see him. But I still miss him. I still love him. Not just because he’s the father of my children, but because we shared a life together for 7 years.
A lot of those memories are tarnished by what I now know as control, coercion, and abuse. That doesn’t change the fact that he could be kind, compassionate, funny, understanding, and generous. Those values also don’t diminish the fact that he did abuse me. That I’m still recovering from years of abuse. That I still have to remind myself every day that I’m valuable, I’m safe, I’m not making things up, I’m not elaborating, I’m not being petty or vindictive.
It speaks volumes that I still think of him as a good person. I still give him the benefit of the doubt but then reign myself back in and remember the levels he’s stooped to in order to get what he wanted. I wonder if he’s even capable of remorse, of empathy, of any of those values I listed above. He could display those values but I often wonder if it was an act to ultimately reach some end goal.
This is cognitive dissonance. “Mental gymnastics” is another term for it. Any abuse survivor will tell you that we struggle with this on a daily basis. This is a result of gaslighting. It is an effective tool that abusers use to cause their victims to doubt their own perceptions. Survivors begin to see the world from our abusers perspective, so when we begin to question the abuse or doubt our abuser, we also begin to doubt our reality. That reality is so ingrained (as was necessary for survival), that reminding ourselves of the truth is an almost constant battle.
I no longer wonder why women return to their abusers. The battle in our own minds is exhausting. I’m fortunate to have a good amount of insight and knowledge about domestic violence as well as resources, supports, and clinical tools to fight the thoughts. For many women, that’s not the case. Many women are emotionally and financially dependent on their spouses; struggling to break free of that can be extremely difficult, though not impossible.
The thoughts do change in time. The battle does get easier. I hear from other survivors that the feelings of longing and missing him do fade. I just keep reminding myself of my value and that it’s not determined by what others think of me. Even if I cry today because I miss him, I’m still surviving. I’m not living each day with the anxiety of wondering what he’s going to do or when he’s going to need something from me. Even if my mind is doing somersaults, at least I’m landing on my feet now instead of on my head.