I was lucky in a lot of ways, in that my last relationship never (quite) escalated to physical abuse (the man I'm married to now has left darker, deeper, and more wonderful bruises! All of course, because I've wanted him to ;-) ) But with my ex, there were no bruises. All outsiders saw was a couple who bickered; isn't that normal?
Maybe. Maybe not. I think each person needs to decide for themselves what's healthy bickering and what's an unhealthy dynamic. (Me, I don't care for bickering. Sure my husband and I disagree, occasionally even loudly, but it's rare. Even remodeling an old house together, we haven't had very many fights.)
However, the kind of abuse I was suffering under my ex did leave scars on my heart. On my soul. Emotional and psychological abuse are very real and are often just as painful as physical abuse. Because of my basic psychological make up, I'm still fairly open and able to trust, but there have been time when my husband has said something that triggered a knee-jerk reaction (because it was similar to something my ex said) that has caused the walls to go up. He's never done it on purpose, but it has had an effect on our marriage. A lesser man might not have had the patience to deal with it.
One of the things that outsiders (myself included) ask when we see or hear of abusive relationships is "why?" Why would anyone stay with someone who treats them so badly? There is no easy answer, but there are a few that can be summed up in short answer.
Abusive relationships rarely start out that way. Abusers are smart. Or, if not smart, at least manipulative. Even they know that if they want to obtain power over someone (which is what abuse typically boils down to), they need to start out with little things. "I don't like that dress, why not wear this one?" Or "I like your hair down..." and he pulls out the ponytail holder, ever so gently. Then it escalates. Harsh words, harsh tones, implications of helplessness or stupidity. Then tears. And then the make up period, flowers and sweet words to make it all better.
And then the cycle starts all over again.
The cycle of physical abuse works the same way. In the beginning it's perfect. He or she is "the one." Then there's a fight. A slap. Promises. Kisses. Flowers. A period of calm. And then there's another fight, a harder slap. A shove. Tears. Promises. Kisses. Flowers. Pretty soon it starts to feel normal, even safe, because for many of us, it's easier to stay with the devil we know than risk being on our own in a great big world filled with unknown devils. Depending on how we've been raised, we may find being with someone who hits and/or belittles us safer than being unmarried or unattached.
Thankfully, I wasn't raised to think like that.
Abusers often go through great lengths to separate us from our friends and family. My ex once told me that I didn't need friends, I had a husband. (This was after a huge fight because I'd spent an afternoon with a friend while he was at work--i.e., it didn't impact my time with him in the least. He was simply angry because I'd been out with a friend. A female friend. MALE friends were out of the question and I lost touch with a lot of good people in the years that we were together).
All of this is stuff I've had to weave into Palo's background and back story for Bound: Damaged Goods. Stan, Palo's abuser and Dom has it easy; he travels the Renaissance Festival circuit. All he had to do was get Palo to agree to come with him and presto, Palo is hundreds if not thousands of miles away from his friends and family. Isolating him from other rennies (people who work and travel the circuit) wouldn't be too difficult, either. Palo has a stutter (it's pretty bad) and doesn't like to talk to people because of the way they look at him when he does. That makes it easy to follow Stan's rule about not talking to people (which is a classic red flag when it comes to abuse. If your partner doesn't like you talking to people, it's never a good sign.)
Stan tells Palo about his ex, who left him for another man; he tells Palo how much he loves him and how afraid he is that Palo will leave him too, so Palo forgives his jealousy. And for his part, Palo started out the relationship telling Stan he wanted a strong man to help him define his place in the relationship, so he asked for this right? (Wrong, but when you're in the middle of it, it can be hard to see that.) In some was, I think that makes abuse even more insidious in a BDSM D/s or M/s relationship. Just look at what I went through with my ex. I wanted it. I encouraged it. According to at least a few people in the circle of kinksters he wound up in, I was wrong for denying him his "right" as my Dom to treat me however he wanted.
Before I close out and head over to the new house to work on the garden, I'd like to share a few links:
If you're in an abusive relationship or think someone you know might be, there is help available to you, both locally and nationally. But remember, leaving isn't an event. It's a process. Be patient with yourself (or your friend). You can learn more about getting help HERE.