This time of year – Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s – can be so magnificent. It is a time to gather with family and friends to show and receive love, connection and support. It’s a time of celebration – of faith, new beginnings, life. Yet, for many men, women, and children, this time of year is the hardest. It can be full of broken dreams for a meaningful time particularly if they deal with abuse in their home. The M3ND Project remembers this and, if you are experiencing abuse, we are here for you. We have not forgotten you. We know how painful and isolating Covert Emotional Abuse can be. To the survivors of abuse out there please know you are not alone. There is hope and healing.
Today, we offer a new story from one of our supporters who shares your pain:
Every year it gets worse. There’s a build-up during Fall usually sprinkled with some brutal arguments. Winter is the worst, especially during Christmastime. It’s a literal cold war of not speaking due to the risk of stepping on a land mine of explosive behavior and words. Finances are scarce leading to even more opportunities to argue.
The bad days give me a preview of what I can only imagine hell to be like. On those days, the emotional pain is so excruciating that it feels reminiscent of physical bruises. These bruises aren’t visible, they’re internal as if my entire soul is bruised and sobbing.
I can feel your hatred radiating off of you like a kettle about to boil. You really can’t stand me. I feel it in every cold look darted my way. Why do I bother you so much? What did I do that irritated you today?
There are occasional moments of reprieve from it but they’re always short-lived. That’s when I have to be extra careful not to ‘spoil’ your mood because the blow-up will be even worse. Something always inevitably spoils it though. I’ll bring up someone’s name, cook a meal at the “wrong” time, or breathe. And you’ll remind me how much you hate being around me and how much better your life was before you met me (over a decade ago) and I poisoned your happy existence. I always convince myself to just get through Christmas and create my exit plan after. There have been years of this. With no options of places to go and even less money to make this plan happen, I feel Stuck. And frustrated. So frustrated.
Love doesn’t abandon. Which is perhaps why I’m still here. Though I sometimes doubt the depth of this love. Could it be love if it’s saturated with so much hurt, pain, name-calling, confusion (SO much confusion), aggression, attitude, deadening silence, regret, anger, resentment, and lack of respect?
Eventually, Spring comes. With the help of a tax return (that I never see), your mood is lighter. We still argue, but usually much less. And there are good times that remind me why I’ve stayed in this game so long anyway. That’s the toughest part. There are good days or parts of days. And they are wonderful. They are what I cling to in the hopes that they would one day be the norm. You are charming and you engage with our boys. You make me laugh too, and we forget about the bad. We laugh about things that would otherwise set you off and genuinely enjoy each other for a while. Then something, a call, a text, one too many meltdowns from our kids, me risking bringing up an upcoming event that we were invited to. Something. Will inevitably set you off and the cycle repeats itself. And I wonder why I talked myself off the ledge while you were in a better mood, knowing perfectly well that your mood would flip and I would once again become the enemy. I knew it. But I hoped.
Why has it taken me so long to share this thorough explanation of my feelings? Same reason I haven’t said it to you in person. The crimson soul that’s been delicately crafted and poured like melted butter won’t translate as a rose-colored aroma of a beating heart on fire, crying to be understood and empathized with. Instead, you’ll sniff the black ash of a whiny rant that you’ve heard before (and twisted, refuted, and ultimately misunderstood altogether).
I want you to work on yourself and learn how to better love others- love me- the way I deserve to be loved and cherished. I truly do want our marriage to heal from this. I want to heal from this. But I need you to want to change and take action. Not just say what I want to hear. If you do, that’s manipulation and I won’t tolerate it anymore. This is Abuse. It’s gone on for way too long and I won’t take it anymore. If you continue to speak and behave abusively, I will have no choice but to leave with the boys. I really don’t want to uproot our lives and do that but I will.
If you find yourself in this situation, we are sorry you are experiencing this. It is not your fault. Please visit our website and become familiar with the behaviors of Covert Emotional Abuse, read our materials and think about the things we share. If you feel stuck and unable to leave because you have “nothing”, consider reaching out to your local domestic violence agency or the national domestic violence hotline to learn more about what you can do should you choose to leave. Keep reading, learning, and knowing you are worth it. Remember: you are not alone. Countless survivors were once victims of the same type of abuse you are currently enduring. They are now healing on the other side of abuse. There is hope.
To our first responders – moms, dads, siblings, cousins, friends… this is the time of year to allow GRACE and COMPASSION to overflow. Please do not assume you know what’s going on behind closed doors. Instead, have a listening ear and a warm embrace; don’t judge, dismiss or minimize the victim’s experience. Reach out a hand to the victim in your life. Whether it be a phone call, a coffee, or a dinner, the simplest of personal interactions can let victims know that they do not have to be alone this holiday season. If you sense something is amiss for one of your family members, hold off saying anything during holiday celebrations as it might set the abuser off; Instead, be intentional about setting a time to get together after the holidays, then ask how they are doing. Ask how their marriage is. Ask if they are OK. And if they share, listen, listen, and listen. Then, ask how you can help.
Want to share your personal expereince with abuse? Whether you are are a man or a woman, a survivor, first responder, or even a reformed perpetrator, we want to hear from you. Hearing someone else’s story helps you to know that you are not alone. Relating to others can bring you clarity, hope and connection. When men and women share their story you can play a vital role in someone else’s life. Click here to learn more.