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Saturday, May 30, 2015

When Love Isn't Love

His idea of a date consisted of buying a cooler full of cheap beer and driving with her beside him along the back, graveled country roads. It never occurred to her to question why she would be so accepting of so cheap, not to mention disrespectful, a gesture, because she had been blinded by what she thought was love for a very long time. She allowed herself to suffer through many of these dates, falsely believing that just because he was gracious enough to take her along during his drunken binges that it made her a special person. She didn't even decide to stop going when the closest he ever came to romance was the time her best friend decided to tag along for the ride and he stopped once to get out to pee on the side of the road only to return to the car, opening the back door, and leaned in to stick his tongue down her best friend's throat in a sloppy kiss that she witnessed, paralyzed with horror and humiliation.

Who knows why we think we love who we think we love? The memory of this young, insecure woman is a far cry from the person I have become. Perhaps it is moments like this from my past who has made me who I am today. Well, really, it is. The man who never flinched after kissing my best friend in front of me is the man that I met shortly after divorcing my first husband and throughout the 12 or so years that we dated, broke up and got back together again we finally married. It was a marriage that lasted six years, but only one of those years did we actually live in the same house together. There are all kinds of different ways to abuse and disrespect someone. Many women suffer physical abuse from their husbands and boyfriends and the outward manifestations of those abuses are there for the world to see, so that no one could ever doubt the visible signs of violence. It's much easier to gain the support from one's friends and family when you show up at a doorstep in the middle of the night with your mouth bleeding and new bruises showing up on your arms, legs and face.

Emotional abuse is more insidious. The scars are invisible. The lack of self-esteem that develops over years of having a mate call you stupid, or worse, and treat you like you are always his second, third or fourth priority never leave your mind. Many women never feel they can leave these relationships because for many reasons, they become dependent on these men that they think will finally turn around and be sorry and love them with the kind of love they so desperately seek. That is the trap of being in an abusive relationship that is common to both physical and emotional abuse. The belief that if you behave perfectly, that if you look good enough, that if you never question his authority over you, that he will one day look at you adoringly and tell you that you are his one and only and that you are deserving of better treatment and that you have won his love and undivided attention.

Thank goodness I have never been physically abused. No one has ever lifted a hand to slap me or beat me up or break bones. I have never been taken to a hospital emergency room to be treated for those kinds of injuries, but I have spent the night before in a Woman's Shelter because I was afraid to go home to someone who had become so drunk that he thought it would be ok to go load his gun and sit with it on his lap as he drank one beer after another. And yet I have chosen to live with many situations where I have not been respected or loved the way in my mind, is real loving. So you may ask, “why if you knew what love was supposed to be like, did you live that way.” My only answer is that I lived those experiences because I got something from it. I have wanted and chosen all my life experiences, good and bad, so that I can make comparisons. How can you know how beautiful a sunny day can be if you never stand in the rain. And although rain in itself is beautiful, I believe in the two contrasts.

I am now living a single life and it's a good one. I will know a good man when he comes along because I've known one who was not so good. For me. I don't know where he is now, or how he is living his life or if he ever thinks of our life together, and if he does, if his memories are different from mine. They probably are different. But that's his memory, his reality.

I don't write this to degrade this man who I chose to have a relationship with because he has some goodness and he obviously had some qualities that I loved. But I write introspectively and to share something that might help someone else to see the difference between love and obsession. To see the difference between nurturing and abusing. And to know when to get out. And you can get out.

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