February 26, 2016

When Abuse is Comfortable and Familiar

Have you ever wondered why someone would stay in an abusive relationship?  We have a tendency to jump to the conclusion that the person has no self respect or self esteem.

While a lack of self respect and low self esteem are common among people who have been abused, one of the reasons, that maybe even the person in an abusive relationship doesn't immediately realize, is that sometimes we gravitate toward abusive situations because it’s familiar to us, and on some levels, comfortable.

In order to live a happy and fulfilling life, the healing process after being abused is a necessary process, but the truth is, it's also a painful process.

Many people unknowingly will stay in abusive situations because on a subconscious level it's easier than learning normal and healthy relationship skills.  In order to learn normal and healthy relationship skills, and even skills to function within society, means that we have to face our pain and fears, and sometimes that seems so daunting and terrifying that we subconsciously choose to stay with what we have learned and know.

As a young woman I often cried and wondered why I attracted the wrong kind of friends and men into my life.  The men who always cheated on me, lied to me, manipulated me, criticized me and showed me little to no respect.  Friends who felt it was okay to say hurtful things.

In my early twenties I worked at a bank, and a client who was a real estate investor came to the bank often.  He was a very handsome Italian man, a little on the husky side.  My best friend at the time also worked at the bank.  She was a very beautiful young woman from Puerto Rico.

My friend was very interested in our handsome client.  However, he seemed to be only interested in me.  He bought me flowers every time he came to the bank and asked me out to dinner.  I always kindly refused his invitations, not only because he was a client, but also because he was one of those normal confident men that scared me.

My friend often told me that the only reason he was interested in me was because Italian men loved women with big behinds.  I wasn’t sure what she was talking about, since we both had pear-shaped figures.

It was very hurtful and I couldn’t understand why my best friend would say something so hurtful me.  Her comment suggested that a man couldn’t possibly be attracted to my personality.  It was particularly hurtful to me as I would remember my mother telling me that no man would ever want me, except for sex.

Even though I had made the decision early in my life to take the journey of healing, there was a part of me that was too scared to let go of the "familiar."  For me, one of the most difficult aspects of healing was learning to trust all of me to another person.  It involved becoming vulnerable and allowing myself to be loved, which was something I had no experience with and it was a horrifying idea.

It took me a long time to admit that it was my fault for attracting the wrong kind of people into my life.  I had to take responsibility for making decisions based on my fear of letting go of what was familiar, and my deep rooted fear of allowing myself to be open and vulnerable.

I was constantly expecting to be hurt, so in building up all these emotional walls, I was attracting the wrong people into my life.  My behavior accomplished exactly what I was always afraid of, being hurt and deepening my mistrust in people.  At the same time, since I always expected people to hurt me, I accepted it as normal because it was familiar to me.

Eventually, I knew I was making excuses and allowing myself to be mistreated and emotionally abused because it was familiar, and on some levels, even comfortable. 

Despite the familiarity, despite my fears, I made the decision that this was not how I wanted to live my life.  I could no longer accept that this was my fate.  I decided that I wanted to experience normal and healthy relationships, not only with men, but with friends.  More importantly, I decided I wanted to know what it felt like to truly give and receive love.

I began my journey by first deciding that I would not allow anymore "familiar" type people into my life.  I opened up more emotionally to friends and sought their advice.  I read a lot of books on relationship and interpersonal skills.  Slowly I began to understand myself and my own needs better.  I made a list of what I would and would not accept from friends or men.

I thought about what my best friend told me, "No one will respect you, until you respect yourself."  I began to understand that in order to attract more positive, emotionally and mentally healthy people into my life, I had to learn to respect myself as much as I expected others to respect me.

It wasn’t an overnight transformation.  It takes time to learn to love and respect yourself, but when you’ve been abused you have the advantage of knowing what traits to look for in a person that you should avoid.  That part came much easier for me, and when a person exhibited traits I did not want a part of my life, I limited the scope of my interaction with that person.

If you’re in an abusive situation, whether it’s a relationship or friendship, you need to remember that no one can hurt you unless you allow them to.  You have to let go of what is familiar and set boundaries of what you will and will not accept into your life.

If you are scared to leave an abusive relationship, then you must immediately seek the help of authorities and escape.  Never allow anyone to deny you the life you deserve.

There will always be people in the world that pray on people who have been hurt in life, and have had their self-esteem and self-respect destroyed through abuse.  They cannot enter our lives and cause us harm if we do not allow it.

Respect yourself enough to admit that you are allowing the wrong people into your life, and make the conscious decision to end the cycle of allowing destructive people into your life.  Make the decision today that you will set your boundaries and not allow anyone into your life that will not enhance your life.

Promise yourself today that you will stand up to and escape any abusive situation you are in.  Promise yourself today that you will never again tolerate or settle for anyone that would hurt you.  Promise yourself today that will begin to take the steps needed to respect and love yourself.

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