My romantic past has been littered with abusive men. I’m probably not alone in the fact my first experiences involved being used, assaulted, humiliated, dropped and shattered into a million little pieces. I can’t blame them entirely. I saw the warning signs as clear as day and I still let them tear me apart.
I’ve had good relationships too, with kind men who treated me well, but I was always enticed back to the misery. And just like any addiction, the more frequently I engaged in this type of behaviour, the greater the long-term damage. Each test became more and more savage with time. It was a lesson which just wouldn’t stop repeating.
The first sign is breathlessness. Even before the abuse begins you know something’s not right. Anxiety and overwhelm, half fantasy, half fear, there’s something strangely intoxicating about this unnerving version of lust. A sort of delicious, sexual opiate.
To increase the dosage and through a process known as ‘love bombing’ the victim is swept off their feet. Mad declarations and perfect offerings are served in suffocating waves of charm, all within the first couple of weeks.
The term narcissist is overused at the moment and it’s hard to distinguish between a sociopath and a narcissist (and a total asshole) but what defines them all is their inability for empathy and human connection. I prefer to use the term ‘love avoidant’ but however you want to define it, they’re absolute ecstatic perfection to the likes of me.
As the love avoidant furiously ticks each box, the one which you remain blissfully in denial of is the real cavernous crate they leave their dirty mark on because it’s the one box which tops the list – their inability to care.
Gradually the facade is dropped. High on oxytocin and overwhelming ideals of perfect love you begin to witness an alien presence. The avoidant becomes cold and withdrawn, triggering all those abandonment issues which fundamentally make you so vulnerable.
The pain should be a warning sign to leave but by then your sense of self has completely collapsed and even if you do find the strength to end the affair – once the red flags are flying, like a true addict you’re soon clawing back at the projection of perfect love they first presented.
Desperate to feel the same high, you start falling…
The new, cold and mocking persona is jarring. Horrifying in fact, as they further trigger any feelings of low self-worth. Not only are you gasping for a fix from a person who can’t provide it, as time goes by, the love avoidant becomes abusive.
I read once that if you keep avoiding self-love the universe will keep sending you people who also avoid loving you, hoping you’ll get a little clue, but it can take years of abuse to finally learn the lesson and begin healing the wounds which direct your life down terrifying paths in a desperate attempt to fix them.
Sometimes it’s as simple as basic self-care and treating yourself to the things you don’t think you deserve. Other times it’s a little more difficult – exploring your experiences with a therapist, journaling or working on forgiveness.
Loving yourself is the key. It’s not easy. The real person you’re bringing back to good health is your inner child. It takes work, but once you put her on a pedestal instead of the men who abuse you, the journey to wholeness can begin.