Admitting that you still have feelings for the person who abused you, even that you still love him or that you may miss him from time to time, is nothing to be ashamed of.
Do you feel guilty and wonder what’s wrong with you, when someone asks “How can you still love your abuser?”. She may even remind you of the time you called her for help, or when she met you in the emergency room.
There is no reason for guilt. Your feelings are normal…even common.
You approached the relationship honestly, genuinely offering up your love, trust, and vulnerability to someone who made you believe he was doing the same. Once the abuse started, the abuser pulled you back in by reverting to the “Nice Guy”. He sweetly and apologetically punctuated his darkness with blindingly bright acts of “love”, long enough to restore your faith in him and the relationship.
We’ve all been there and we chose to believe that side. We chose to believe that he loved us; over and over and over…
Love does not stop just because someone hurts you.
Not everyone understands that statement. As a survivor of abuse, you do.
Abuse survivors tend to be compassionate people, caregivers with a huge capacity for love. We believed we could help our abuser change. We were dedicated to our marriage/relationship. Some of us 100% bought into the “til death do us part” vow. We thought we had no Out, so we made the best of the bad times…we held on to the fact that the “Nice Guy”, the one who showed how much he loved us, would be back…maybe. even. forever.
At some point, a final straw broke your will and determination. Something happened, that had happened many times before. But This Time you knew it was time to get out.
The first time I left, the evening I was walking out the door, I taught my ex to iron the crease in his suit pants, how to use the oven and how to make coffee.
29 years later, when I left for the 4th and last time, I left a letter. I was much more frightened then. The anger, the violence, the hurtful words had escalated to the point that I absolutely feared for my safety if I told him face to face. I had a good plan, this time. I left a letter and I ran toward a new way of life. I knew I would not go back.
But, I felt bad. I questioned my decision to leave. I wondered how he’d make it without me. I beat myself up in my mind. I wondered if his behavior toward me was really THAT bad…I’d never been threatened with weapons or hospitalized. Was I over-reacting? Was I really abused??
Y.E.S., I was.
And, if you’re wondering that same thing, the answer is Y.E.S., you were, too. Abuse takes many forms. Every single one is real. You were right to leave…even if you still love him.
That’s OK. It’s normal, and even a common phenomenon, in the cycle of abuse.
I encourage you, though, not to confuse that love with Reality. Sure, the love you feel for your abuser is real…it’s just not healthy or safe. You know that.
People change when the pain is too great to continue the way we were.
Two of my favorite Change quotes are:
· People change for two reasons: (1) they learn enough that they want to and (2) they’ve been hurt enough that they have to.
· With great pain comes great change. If you’re not ready to change, then you’re not in enough pain.
You’ve left your abuser. Your pain was great and your decision not easy. You chose to protect yourself. You took care of YOU this time. Congratulations!
You still love your abuser. That’s not uncommon. It’s OK. Accept the feeling, honor the good times, the kids, the experiences you enjoyed together. Just don’t wash away the bad. It is just as important. He is not who we wanted him to be. He never was and never will be.
It’s like we love a ghost. An apparition, a concept that we created because he wasn’t mean, nasty, hurtful all the time. Good Guys, Nice Guys are not mean, nasty or hurtful like your abuser was. Good Guys, Nice Guys do exist…and you deserve to attract one into your life.
It’s OK to still love your abuser. I loved mine, too, for many years. Then I began thinking about my abuser like a second-cousin… a family member who isn’t that close. I used to say I love him, but I’m not IN love with him.
Since I’ve begun speaking my Truth, standing on the firm ground that I did live in abuse and I will never accept that lifestyle again, I don’t love my abuser anymore. I don’t hate him. I can be in the room with him, for our son’s and grand kid’s birthdays, for example. My new husband is there, too. And, my abuser’s significant other. We are cordial.
I don’t love him anymore.
It’s a process. Don’t rush yourself. I hope you’re able to release the guilt: It’s OK to feel love for your abuser. Just remember why you left. Don’t allow those warm feelings to influence the reality, the pain that you experienced, that was the impetus for you to change…to leave…to begin building a strong new foundation, a safe and healthy life.