You can get PTSD from staying in an emotionally abusive relationship

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Saria Dragon of the Rain Wilds
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You can get PTSD from staying in an emotionally abusive relationship

#1

Post by Saria Dragon of the Rain Wilds » Mon Apr 25, 2016 9:30 pm

http://www.ptsdjournal.com/posts/you-ca ... ationship/
By Jennifer Williams-Fields

Stop. Just stop asking why a woman is so stupid and so weak when she stays in an abusive relationship. There’s no answer you can possibly understand.

Your judgment only further shames abused women. It shames women like me.

There was no punch on the very first date with my ex-husband. That’s not normally how abusive marriages start. In fact, my first date was probably pretty similar to yours: he was charming, he paid attention to me, and he flattered me.

Of course, the red flags were there in the beginning of my relationship. But I was young and naïve, probably much like you were in the beginning of your relationship.

Except my marriage took a different turn than yours.

An abusive marriage takes time to build. It’s slow and methodical and incessant, much like a dripping kitchen faucet.

It begins like a little drip you don’t even notice — an off-hand remark that is “just a joke.” I’m told I’m too sensitive and the remark was no big deal. It seems so small and insignificant at the time. I probably am a little too sensitive.

DRIP, DRIP.

I occasionally notice the drip but it’s no big deal. A public joke made at my expense is just my partner being the usual life of the party. When he asks if I’m wearing this dress out or whom I’m going with, it only means he loves me and cares about me.

When he tells me he doesn’t like my new friend, I agree. Yes, I can see where she can be bossy. My husband is more important than a friend, so I pull away and don’t continue the friendship.

DRIP, DRIP.

The drip is getting annoying, but you don’t sell your house over a leaky faucet.

When a playful push was a little more than playful, I tell myself he didn’t really mean it.

He forgets he’s stronger than me. When I confront him in yet another lie he’s told, he tells me I’m crazy for not believing him. Maybe I’m crazy … I’m beginning to feel a little crazy.

I begin to compensate for the drips in my marriage. I’ll be better. I’ll be a better wife. I’ll make sure the house is clean and dinner is always prepared. And when he doesn’t even come home for dinner, I’ll keep it wrapped and warmed in the oven for him.

On a night I’m feeling feisty, I feed his dinner to the dog before he comes home. I’m not feeling quite as smug well after midnight when he does show up. I quickly get out of bed and go to the kitchen as he yells at me to make him dinner.

Waking me from sleep becomes a regular occurrence. I no longer allow myself deep, restful sleep. I’m always listening and waiting.

In the morning, I’ll shush the kids to keep them quiet so they don’t wake up daddy. We all begin to walk on eggshells around him.

DRIP, DRIP.

The drip is flowing pretty strong now. I’m afraid to put a bucket under it and see how much water I’m really losing. Denial is setting in.

If I hadn’t said what I did, he wouldn’t have gotten so mad. It’s my fault; I need to just keep quiet. I should know better than to confront him when he’s been drinking.

He’s right — I really am an ungrateful bitch. He goes to work every day so I can stay home with the kids. Of course he needs time to himself on the way home from work each day.

On the rare occasion I do meet with my friends, I rush to be home before him. I never ask him to babysit so I can do something in the evening. I mustn’t inconvenience him.

We attempt marriage counseling. Although neither of us is totally honest about why we are there, the counselors are open with us about their concerns.

We never spend more than one session with a counselor.

DRIP, DRIP.

I’m working so hard to be the perfect wife and have the perfect family that I don’t take the time to notice there’s water spilling on to the floor.

I know what will make this better. I’ll get really active outside the home but of course, I’ll still take care of everything in the home and never burden him. And I’ll never dare ask for help.

I’m now the perfect fourth grade room mother. My church mentors tell me to read books and listen to lectures on praying for my husband and understanding his needs.

I work very hard to present the front of a perfectly happy family. My kids are involved in multiple activities that I, of course, solely organize and am responsible for.

I’ve begun to drop subtle hints to the other moms but when they confront me I adamantly deny it. No, everything is great, I insist. I point to all the happy family photos I post to Facebook as evidence.


I’m not sure which scares me more: the fear that others will find out my secret, or that my husband will find out I told the truth about our marriage. I realize I’m now afraid of him.

DRIP, DRIP.

And then one day, I wake up and realize the house is flooding. My head bobs under the water. I’m scared.

I also see the fear in my children’s eyes. Oh dear God, what have I done? How did we get here? Who have I become?

The night he throws his cell phone at me and narrowly misses my head, I want to pack the kids in the car and leave. The evening at the dinner table when he stands up and throws a fork at me in front of the kids, I want to leave.

Where would I possibly go? And if I do go somewhere, what will I do? How will I afford living on my own?

He’s right — I have no skills to survive on my own. I need his money.

“What, you want to leave and go whore around?” he yells to me. “I always knew you were a slut.”

He’s a master at deflection. His actions are no longer the focus; I’m the one on trial now.

I’m no longer the woman I was on our first date. I’ve become timid and weak in front of him. I feel defeated. I chose this man and I gave birth to these children. It’s my fault.

With every breath I take, it’s my duty to keep these kids safe and keep my life together. It’s the only life I’ve known for twenty years. At this point, I don’t know how to do anything else.

I stay.

DRIP, DRIP.

The flood continues. My head bobs under a second time.

On a typical anger-filled evening, I say enough is enough and I decide to fight back. But even in his stumbling drunken stupor, he’s stronger than I am.

I see the look in his eye as he hovers over me. He has biologically been given the ability to kill. That look in his eye terrifies me.

“Go ahead and leave,” he sneers to me. “But the kids stay here.”

My retreat that night is all it takes to turn the faucet on all the way and force me to tread water, if not for my life, then at the very least for my sanity.

Despite my best attempts, my secret has been exposed. I can’t just up and leave like well-meaning friends tell me to. It’s not that easy.

I have no money. In fact, he found my secret stash I’d been working on for almost a year. I thought I was so careful that no bank records would come to the house. He must have broken in to my email.

I should’ve known better. He always kept close tabs on me. He hated when I accused him of spying on me, so I just let him snoop.

He made me feel so guilty and ashamed when I handed over my secret savings to him. I wonder what he did with the money? I know it didn’t get used for the kids needs. I assume he drank it or gambled it or used it to impress another woman.

I’m stuck. I stay.

DRIP DRIP

Dear God, please don’t let me go under a third time. My family is beyond rescue, but please save me and save my kids.

…..

I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m no longer in the marriage, yet my scars run deep.

Abuse doesn’t always manifest as a black eye or a bloody wound. The effects of psychological abuse are just as damaging.

I entered counseling and was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, andPTSD. The psychological abuse kept me fearful, the depression and anxiety left me incapable of taking the steps necessary to get out.

Although I initially thought PTSD was a bit extreme, it’s been almost three years and certain noises or situations still trigger difficult memories for me.

When my male boss was angry and yelling at the staff one day, I became physically sick. I felt like I was right back where I was years ago, sitting and cowering on the garage floor, trying to placate the anger of a man towering over me.

I worry that not only have my daughters witnessed a man mistreat a woman, but that my sons have had a poor example to follow of what it means to be a real man.

I stayed for the sake of my children. Now, I blame myself for the effects staying may possibly have on them.

Why did I stay? I stayed because I was isolated; I was financially dependent on him; I was sleep deprived; I was told and I believed I was worthless; I was worn down from constantly being on guard for the next attack.

I stayed because I was more afraid to leave.
Nonsense, I have not yet begun to defile myself.

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#2

Post by Apiary Tazy » Tue Apr 26, 2016 2:45 pm

Reminder that emotional abuse is MUCH more common than physical abuse.

Life is complicated. There's no way it can't be. Separating yourself at all from an abusive relationship is strength to me.

Let's just say I know from personal experience and leave it at that for right now.

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#3

Post by ScottyMcGee » Tue Apr 26, 2016 3:10 pm

I really hate it when people say "Why are they so dumb why do they stay?" when talking about other people in their relationships. I learned about a little thing called "cognitive dissonance" in psych back in college, and suddenly it all made sense.
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#4

Post by Kil'jaeden » Mon May 16, 2016 1:40 pm

I have personally seen this sort of thing, so I know how people tend to justify things. Men do it too, not just women. I have seen a family member repeatedly justify the actions of his father who beat him. I have seen the typical battered wife thing too. My half-sister did the same thing with the people that abused her. She just treated it like it never happened, and like she had no grudge against them at all.

My mother was in an emotionally abusive relationship with my father. And he always did want to know where she was going, with whom, and how long. He bugged the phone one time. The main difference is that she was never submissive or weak, and would often do things to get back at him. All it did in the end was make them both miserable. All these people I know show symptoms like PTSD. It slowly grinds people down. Worse, it typically deadens the ability for these kinds of people to function well in society. Me and one of my sisters went through the good experience of living with this from the start. I thought it was normal until I met a friend's family in grade school. I would want to get my father's approval, but it was very hard to do. I was afraid of him as a kid anyway. My sister was as well, even moreso than me. She is more sensitive and prone to hold grudges than I am. In fact, whenever he was harsh with me, he would tell me that he was just trying to "toughen me up" and that the world will be even more harsh on me as an adult. I often would think I had done something wrong, and wonder what I could do to correct my behavior. One time, he was mad that I had brought a book with me as "it was not the place to be reading" and so he tried to throw my book out of a moving car. It was a library book too, and he would have told me to pay for it had he succeeded.

My father's father was the same way with him. The only time I ever saw my father really have an emotional breakdown was when his father(my grandfather) died. My grandfather never beat his kids, or drank, or anything like that, but he could be very harsh and exacting. He was very work-minded; he would even be thinking about work at dinner. Even when I knew my grandfather as an old man he was still that way. He once scared off IRS agents by pointing out to them their mistakes in trying to assess him. He did, however, provide well for his family. My father grew up wanting nothing more than to please his father, but usually he would not meet the high standard. His whole career choice was to please his father. I can't help but wonder if that is part of the reason for how my father treated his own family. Certainly, he was worse about it than his father, but he was also putting himself under constant stress. He neglected to do much about his daughters by other women, except to go to court when needed and send money, hence the reason why my half-sister was abused for years without him knowing. He barely cared to know. Now that he is in his late 40's, he suddenly wants to act like a father to them, and to me. After we are all adults. I think he is going soft in the head with age or something.
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#5

Post by I REALLY HATE POKEMON! » Mon May 16, 2016 8:57 pm

[QUOTE="ScottyMcGee, post: 1593805, member: 31048"]I really hate it when people say "Why are they so dumb why do they stay?" when talking about other people in their relationships. I learned about a little thing called "cognitive dissonance" in psych back in college, and suddenly it all made sense.[/QUOTE]

It's circumstantial, I think. If one has no burdens (financial issues, mental problems, ect.), obligations (children, credible threat of murder, ect.), or the like to complicate things, and have the option to relatively easily leave into a better situation almost immediately, then there's not a very good reason to stay around abusive people other than perhaps being overly emotional, simply not concerned with one's own well-being, or something along those lines.

I'm sure I'll catch flak for this. I'm used to it.

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#6

Post by Random User » Mon May 16, 2016 10:37 pm

I won't give you flak for it, it's not something that could be universally understood. Emotional fulfillment has a lot of sway with people, though. If someone is abusive towards you, but still fulfills you emotionally, it's not as simple to sort out whether or not the relationship is worth it. It can be a confusing mess and you can convince yourself that things are better than they actually are.

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#7

Post by Apiary Tazy » Tue May 17, 2016 3:25 am

[QUOTE="I REALLY HATE POKEMON!, post: 1595813, member: 18119"]It's circumstantial, I think. If one has no burdens (financial issues, mental problems, ect.), obligations (children, credible threat of murder, ect.), or the like to complicate things, and have the option to relatively easily leave into a better situation almost immediately, then there's not a very good reason to stay around abusive people other than perhaps being overly emotional, simply not concerned with one's own well-being, or something along those lines.

I'm sure I'll catch flak for this. I'm used to it.[/QUOTE]

I don't know. Someone might target a person with these qualities for abuse knowing they won't leave or do anything to out them. There are people like that.

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#8

Post by I REALLY HATE POKEMON! » Tue May 17, 2016 5:15 am

[QUOTE="Tazy Ten, post: 1595845, member: 19345"]I don't know. Someone might target a person with these qualities for abuse knowing they won't leave or do anything to out them. There are people like that.[/QUOTE]

Oh, absolutely, that's a fact.

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#9

Post by Kil'jaeden » Tue May 17, 2016 7:31 am

These sorts of people, the bully types, can see prey from a long distance away. It does not help that weak willed and low self esteem types of people seem attracted to their natural predators. It may be that they want someone else to be strong for them, and see any abuse toward themselves as deserved, and worth it for the benefits of the relationship.
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#10

Post by I REALLY HATE POKEMON! » Tue May 17, 2016 7:37 am

That unfortunately sounds frighteningly accurate.

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#11

Post by Deepfake » Tue May 17, 2016 9:06 am

People model their expectations for relationships on what they know. If they see family members participating in and receiving abuse, and if they see it in media, it becomes normalized in their mind. Abusers will often start off very differently and the relationship may gradually decline as they convince the other of being in the wrong.

Many people see the stereotype of the yelling, angry couple as the only relationship. The insane girlfriend who is jealous, exacts revenge in petty ways, etc, is their 'normal' and something better than that is out of the question. This is one of reasons why there's that whole get-old-and-resent-your-partner mentality.
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