From birth I lacked positive women role models. My birth mother hadn’t been equipped with the emotional tools that a young women needs in terms of intimate relationships, which meant that as a result she excused and protected her abusive husbands behaviour in the household. In short she was a “Pick Me.” Her behaviour and undeterred adoration for her husband taught me a lot about myself and my “place” within relationship dynamics.
By the time I was 16, the poor example I had originally been exposed to plus the ones that I continually saw around me, led me to continue a number of subconscious cycles. This only perpetuated my trauma which in turn reinforced my already incorrect outlook.
I was being taught that women are supposed to expect men to be less emotionally aware. To not expect them to be able to pick up on our nonverbal cues, to anticipate a meltdown when they don’t get their way, to make sure they’re always happy – even if that means we sacrifice our comfort in order to save their ego (fake moaning, reassuring them they have big genitalia, allowing them to be dominant and controlling). We are meant to be careful with them, hyper aware of their fragile feelings and volatile moods and most importantly be patient during their “self-growth”.
“Self-growth”, in this context, is defined in terms of the hope that is pinned on the slight possibility he’ll become the man you always wished for. The acceptance of this equates to embracing the idea that the bad, often abusive, manipulative and violent behaviour targeted at his s/o is only collateral damage – in part he didn’t mean what he did or said; it was just part of his character development and women must stay supportive during this period.
This is a very dangerous narrative that is impressed upon young women disguised under “he’s going through a tough time,” “he’s been through some stuff as a kid,” coupled with the popularised “ride or die” mentality; the mind-set that you, as a woman, must stay loyal, stay supportive and stay with him no matter what he puts you through. All of this dismisses the fact that often these women have had rough childhoods, and have been through a lot too. This same mentality was what was ingested by my birth mother. It is the very same that fuelled my own vulnerability.
Fast forward to age 19. I am a self-labelled intersectional feminist, more aware of my own psychology thanks to a stint in psychiatric wards and constantly giving my friends/younger sisters lectures and advice on how to avoid unnecessarily traumatising themselves in the long run. I believe this gave me a sense of belief that I was above being mistreated again, that I was too equipped now. So can you imagine my despair when in, December 2017 the man I had been involved with began to lay into me one morning whilst I was doing my makeup. My emergency hospitalization in the early hours of the next day revealed I had lost my two month pregnancy.
Instead of trying to understand where it all went sour, the realisation hit home; the message had been conditioned so deeply that neither I (who had acquired all this recent knowledge), nor the women around me save for one friend had been able to advise me correctly.
The second was that I do not have to stay with someone on the hope that it is a “phase”. As soon as the red flags had begun to creep in I shouldn’t have let them slide under the guise that I just “had to be patient”.
I am under no obligation to stay with somebody that isn’t fully “emotionally developed” – especially if their “development” includes threats, guilt tripping, gas lighting, bullying, controlling, sexually coercive or manipulative behaviour. Bear in mind, the man I was involved with was 24 but found it perfectly acceptable to demand I make myself a secondary matter when in it came to his needs.
Although I’m still recovering 6 months on from the added trauma I recognise it has already strengthened me in ways I originally assumed I had been. For me to be able to really understand I believe the universe had to allow me to experience first-hand a significant loss in order to break the cycle. I’m not going to say I’ve shed my vulnerabilities completely but I can definitely say I’ve noticed a significant change in the way I interact with men and the now lower level of tolerance I live by.
My message to anyone in an abusive (of any kind) relationship, whether it is the early stages or not, is that if you can get away and it is safe to do so, please, please do. It shouldn’t have taken something so devastating to happen to me in order to make the needed impact.And for anyone who hasn’t experienced anything like this but feels as if they would never fall to prey, I beg you to constantly reassess your vulnerabilities and your relationships with both your romantic and platonic interactions.
Written by Akora Thursday