Tuesday, September 11, 2012

If They Don't Mean to Hurt You, Is It Still Abuse?

As a teen it seemed like every show on TV had an abuse theme, either the main theme or secondary.  I think the 80s were some kind of waking up period for the world.  Here's this awful thing and you need to know about it.  Like that.

And on TV, abuse was easy to recognize.  You could always pick out the villain.  He was charming in public and a monster behind closed doors.  If he was nice to his victim, it was just to manipulate her into what he wanted.  It was all so black and white.

But in real life it's not always like that.

Sometimes someone's behavior hurts you so much.  You know they love you and weren't trying to hurt you, but they did.  And when you know they didn't mean to hurt you it's easy to overlook it.  It's easy to say it doesn't matter.  It's easy to forgive and move on.

Sometimes you see their suffering and excuse their behavior because of it.  If she weren't struggling so, she never would have said those things.  She never would have called me that.  She never would have made me feel so worthless.

And after a while it becomes the norm.  It's just who they are so you accept it.  You know you can't change them so you just take it.

But guess what?  That's not healthy.  Just taking it isn't okay.  It will destroy you.

I'm big on identifying motivation.  I try to look for why people do what they do.  And I generally assume they didn't mean to.  Maybe it's because when I am mean I don't usually mean to be.  We tend to ascribe our motivations to others; it's human nature.

So if someone hurts you.  A lot.  Over and over.  But they didn't mean to.  Is it still abuse?

Yes, it is.  Even if they're sorry.  Even if they're not.  You can try to reason it away.  You can excuse it all you want.  But it's still abuse.

Because sometimes abuse isn't about intent -- it's about results.  It's about one person putting their own emotional needs above yours in an unhealthy way.  It's about crossing boundaries.  It's about using another person for your own benefit.

And it's about how it makes you feel.  When you've spent years in abusive relationships, sometimes you don't see it.  You sit and take it and later you crumble.  The crumbling is a sign.

Sometimes you see the crumbling as a sign that you aren't strong enough.  That you aren't kind enough.  That you aren't forgiving enough.  That's not what it's signaling.

You are crumbling because you are wounded.  Because what was done to you wasn't right.  And whether anyone else noticed it or not, it was still wrong.

And you can learn from it.  You can learn to protect yourself.  You can set boundaries.  You can refuse to see people.  You can leave.  You can make excuses.  You can even lie to protect yourself. 

When you are young, you are sometimes helpless and trapped.  When you are an adult, you aren't.  Unless you are actually chained up, you can get out.  It may not be the ending you were looking for.  It may not be easy.  In fact, it will probably be the toughest thing you ever do.  But sometimes you have to leave.

But if you stay, it's your job to protect yourself.  You can spend all the time in the world blaming the other person.  Saying it's their fault.  And you would be mostly right.  But you won't heal.  You won't heal until you see that little glimmer of power that you still have.  You won't heal until you take back control of your life and your own emotional health.  You won't heal until you refuse to be a punching bag.  Ever again!

It takes time.  It takes practice.  And you might have to learn over and over again with multiple people.  But each time you set a boundary and stick to it, demand that it be respected, you will be stronger.  More whole.  More healthy.   Better able to face the next day.

And you are worth protecting.  Say it over and over to yourself if you have to.  If that's too hard right now, just remember that it's your job.  You are the only person on this planet whose job it is to keep you safe your whole life.  Sometimes it's easier to think of it this way.

Abuse isn't always easy to see.  But if the same person keeps hurting you over and over, protect yourself.  Whether they mean it or not doesn't matter.

It's not okay to hurt people.

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Blogger Bonnie said...

This is what I love about the atonement. Yes, it is for all (those who hurt and those who've been hurt) and yes it's a turning to God for strength (so we all repent, whether we've chosen or not, and are thereby healed by turning to God) but it's also about power.

The atonement is empowering. It teaches us how to set boundaries and how to rise above someone else's choices. It empowers us to protect ourselves even as we heal. I love Jesus Christ.

September 11, 2012 at 9:10 AM  
Blogger Tiffany said...

Powerful piece. Thank you so much for sharing.

September 11, 2012 at 11:05 AM  
Blogger Linda Jordan said...

So true! Thanks for sharing.

September 11, 2012 at 6:08 PM  
Blogger Growing Tween said...

I love this blog! Just found you from a SITS link- and your honesty. The empty therapist chair photo is fantastic. I can't wait to read more.

September 12, 2012 at 8:24 AM  
Anonymous Ren said...

Oh, this post speaks to me. I do wish I could point a friend in the direction of your blog. Her beau is like this... nice enough most of the time but with a mean undertone... it's worn her down but she feels like she's got no other option. Anyway, thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. Much appreciated. :)

September 12, 2012 at 8:42 AM  
Blogger Kristin Leamy said...

As with so many of your posts, I love this. I've shared it on Facebook, and I have a dear, dear friend who has gone through this. I can't say what his intent was, but she crumbled. She has emerged stronger, and with boundaries etc. I am so proud of her for leaving, and I think your words can help others to see the power they still have.

September 14, 2012 at 10:49 AM  
Blogger Running Circles said...

Thanks Robin for this post. It helped to reaffirm a decision I recently made.

September 14, 2012 at 3:49 PM  
Anonymous Leah said...

Very powerful post. Thank you for your words.

September 15, 2012 at 1:08 AM  
Blogger agapewoman said...

Very good Robin, it is about protecting yourself because many people stay in abusive relationships for whatever reason. Great post.

September 15, 2012 at 8:11 AM  
Blogger doseofreality said...

As always, you have shared an excellent post on Saturday Sharefest Robin. This is so well said and honestly should probably be in a magazine. Definitely in therapist's offices. You hit the nail on the head.

September 15, 2012 at 8:17 AM  
Blogger Savvy WorkingGal said...

Robin I agree with Dose of Reality only I think you should write a book rather than be in a magazine. You've pretty much summed up why I've started my strength challenge. "I am crumbling from being wounded." I grew up in an abusive household and had one abusive relationship. Here I am 50 and still feel powerless. I do consider it a miracle I found my current husband - he is so supportive and non-abusive. I and my 5 siblings have had much therapy and many discussions about why my dad is the way he is, though his lousy upbringing is not an excuse for the way he treated us. Anything can set him off and provoke a rage. I stopped talking to him several years ago after receiving a birthday card with a nasty message written in it. At that point I realized I am done with this relationship.

September 15, 2012 at 10:06 AM  
Blogger Pricilla J. Designs said...

This is always a difficult topic, and I commend you on taking on the task.

Stopping by from SITS!


September 15, 2012 at 10:49 AM  
Anonymous Kate said...

This is a great post about an important topic. I hope anyone who needs this message will find their way to your blog.

September 15, 2012 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger Sorta Southern Single Mom said...

Another important message. Your point about the villain being easy to identify on tv reminds me of a book I read to my children...it was actually a book on how babies are born, but there was a page on stranger danger and body privacy and there was a line, "Sometimes bad touches feel good." It was eye-opening to me... because abuse is generally attributed to hurting, but sometimes it doesn't. It had just never occurred to me.

September 16, 2012 at 5:54 AM  
Anonymous Modern Gypsy said...

This is a powerful post - a very powerful post! It's hard to distinguish between recurring emotional abuse and habit and the occasional slip up, but I think your post did a wonderful job of helping people recognize when it's a pattern.

Dropping by from SITS.

September 18, 2012 at 6:41 AM  
Blogger Blond Duck said...

Hurt is hurt.

September 18, 2012 at 8:39 PM  
OpenID organizedisland.com said...

Great post and so true! Sharing it....

September 19, 2012 at 8:05 AM  
OpenID Ilene, The Fierce Diva Guide to Life said...

Abuse is not about intent, it is about results. So true! I need to keep this close to my heart right now. Thank you. xo

September 19, 2012 at 12:33 PM  
Blogger Suz said...


Luvs Suz

September 19, 2012 at 1:32 PM  
Blogger Anne said...

True words spoken from the heart.

September 20, 2012 at 3:01 AM  
Anonymous Mothering From Scratch said...

{Melinda} Great post, as usual, Robin. I identify these kind of people in our lives as "toxic." It's taken me a long time to set the boundaries necessary to protect myself from these types, but now I do it without hesitation or apology. There's no excuse for abuse -- intentional or not.

September 20, 2012 at 8:08 AM  
OpenID ifyougiveagirlacookie said...

Great post. It's hard to realize this sort of thing when you're on the inside, but sometimes-- just sometimes, you're smart enough to get out. I did :)

September 20, 2012 at 8:09 AM  
Blogger Ginny Marie said...

I can completely identify with this post! There is someone in my life who doesn't mean to hurt me, and yet she has quite frequently. I haven't spoken to her for a long time.

September 20, 2012 at 8:21 PM  
Blogger Dani said...

*hug* It's so hard to break the cycle. What make it absolutely frustrating is when you see it and still can't figure out how to stop it. I'm so thankful that I have enough confidence to set my boundries now.

My kids and my job as a dancer really helped me.

There's that old stereotype that all "strippers" were abused and have daddy issues. It's pretty much true lol. But I had the opposite result than most girls. Instead of spiralling down and re-traumitizing myself I ended up gaining this huge amount of confidence and getting my power back.

I don't think anyone ever gets over abuse. But the the emotional scars can be managed.

September 23, 2012 at 8:28 PM  
Anonymous Debella said...

Of course not!

November 7, 2012 at 2:10 AM  

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