Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Question, Part II

I should preface this post by repeating that yesterday's post really, really wasn't inspired by a particular event. Everything is cool.

Crazy cool, Daddy-O.
It actually was inspired by a post on a Facebook page I follow. Someone asked the question, "Is it worse to be physically abused or emotionally abused?" And there followed a flood of comments from people who had been subjected to one or the other, or in a surprising number of cases, both. And heartbreakingly, from people dealing with abuse right now, today. It just got me thinking, that's all.

It got me thinking about why people would be abusive toward someone with whom they're romantically involved. And why the victims put up with it, and how the abuse sometimes becomes mutual as a defense mechanism.

And it got me thinking about relationships in general, and how the definition of "normal" becomes established very early on and rarely changes.

I find "delicate" to be much better, actually.

I have my own track record of giving and receiving emotional abuse, and it seems many of you do, as well. It often takes the form of what Riley's Mom called "passive-aggressive nonsense" and goes no further, but that still counts. Based on your responses, and responses to the Facebook post that triggered this discussion, emotional abuse in all its forms is something that's not only widespread but also fairly easy to admit and talk about. I don't know if that's a good thing - because it's not locked up behind a door of shame - or a bad thing - because it's so common and accepted that it's like admitting you've watched porn or eaten an entire package of Oreos at a sitting.

Just your average human weakness.
I suppose I've been on the receiving end of physical abuse, as well, but I'm keeping that one locked behind the door for now.

Anyway, the FB post and my own ruminations happened to coincide with something that happened between Drummer Boy and me. We hit a rough patch - I won't go into details; if you're a regular reader you've gotten veiled and very incomplete hints of it recently - and we talked it out. Which doesn't sound like a big deal, unless you understand that "talking it out" has never been part of my arsenal of coping mechanisms.

I grew up terrified of conflict and disapproval, and I carried that emotional disability right into my marriage. I've promised not to go into detail about the demise of my marriage in this blog, and I'm going to honor that promise. But in a chat with DB about working out our issues, I said something that I now realize represents a huge a-ha moment for me. What I said was this:

Love isn't enough. [Spouse] and I had all the love in the world, but we had a terrible relationship almost from the start, and we never tried to work on it until it was too late.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but...the Beatles were wrong.

Guys, I'm really, really sorry.
Love is not all you need. I realize that the logically and statistically correct version - "Love is a necessary but not sufficient condition" - lacks the anthemic punch of the original. But since those guys had five divorces and a slew of marital difficulties amongst them, I daresay they might even agree.

You can love someone and still abuse them. You can love someone and still accept their abuse. You can love someone but be completely unwilling/unable to forge a happy, healthy relationship with them. Because we convince ourselves that love is enough, or because we believe we deserve bad things (like abuse) as the cost of having good things (like a romantic companion).

And it turns out there are as many stories out there as there are people. It would be impractical - and, frankly, exhausting - to judge everybody's story, which means it's not really feasible to judge anybody's. And it just feels better to me to know that we're all doing the best we can to be happy, and that none of us is really succeeding 100%, and nobody should be feel ashamed of that fact.

All we can do is try to do better.



  1. Love is actually just a neurochemical process... which drags along a lot of other neurochemical processes in its train.

    But it wouldn't be sexy singing about "I wanna hold your endorphins" :/

  2. Love is, of course, a neurochemical process, as is everything we experience. For convenience, I will call it love. People who are sadists, either physically (which is getting tougher these days in the US what with those pesky domestic abuse laws) and non-physically, get a zap to their pleasure center when they see someone else's pain, particularly when they cause that pain. They do not look for people whom they love, they look for people who love them. And they find hideously effective, though subtle, ways to inflict this pain.

    Love is not all you need. You also need an understanding of what the fuck is going on, and how to make it better. Or when to get out.

  3. I'm passive aggressive as shit. Even when I know it is hurtful to my husband and/or kid. I am trying, but I still slip...


You're thinking it, you may as well type it. The only comments you'll regret are the ones you don't leave. Also, replies to threads make puppies grow big and strong.