Things I shouldn’t have tolerated, in no particular order

The musings of a domestic abuse survivor

“His intention wasn’t to hurt her, he was just trying to scare her. To get her to behave.”

Yep, I actually said that. To social services. About how he had physically abused my five year old. At that point I was already out of the relationship, I should have been out of his control right? Wrong. The truth is I think I would probably still defend him or bow to his wishes to this day if it wasn’t for the restraining order that keeps him away. Not seeing him, speaking to him, literally having zero contact with him is what let’s me stay in my own head, mostly.

This is the bit where I’m supposed to say it’s because I love him too much and he’s a good person really, he just has anger issues. I’m actually not going to say that. It wasn’t ever about love.

Our sick story was based on his narcissistic desire to enjoy his own life at the expense of everyone else and my… whatever the heck is wrong with me for tolerating him issues. I’m working on it in therapy. The crux of it is that I felt responsible for him, complicit in everything he did, like if I just worked harder to make him happy then he could change and we could be happy. Or at least not so miserable.

I’ve educated myself on narcissistic personality disorder. I’ve read the battered woman books. The freedom programme? Done that. I’m in specialist therapy for what I’ve been through. My rational brain knows what happened me and as my therapist constantly reminds me – I did the best that I could with what I had. I didn’t have the tools to escape, I couldn’t fully accept what I was going through because my fight/flight/freeze was perpetually stuck on freeze to protect myself and my little people. The problem I think I’m going to face forever now is how easy that fight/flight/freeze gets triggered. I disassociate. A lot. I’m working on it.

Part of why I feel complicit is simply because I’m the one who played pretend while behind closed doors he got away with what he did to us. One thing I want to say is this – I didn’t ever lie, I just didn’t say any of the bad stuff out loud. Abusers don’t abuse all the time. The good stuff I shared with friends and family, when I played happy families – all of that was also real. Does that make me complicit? A liar by admission? My only defence is that I was trying to protect everyone. Most importantly, I had to keep his secrets to keep us safe.

Anyway, I digress.

He wasn’t trying to hurt her, only scare her. I was defending his motivation as if that changed the fact that what he did was wrong. Still trying to soften the blow for him and I didn’t even realise I was doing it because I was so conditioned to protect him. Common assault the police called it, what he did to her. My daughter. Our daughter? My daughter.

The thing that I shouldn’t have tolerated was the excuse – “she doesn’t listen to your discipline.” He boomed scathingly. “She doesn’t listen to anything. If she won’t listen, I have to make her listen.”

I had to agree that she didn’t listen. She was beyond the normal realm of discipline, I was also desperately searching for some way of teaching her to manage those big emotions. So in some respects his argument was sound. We needed to do something, right?

I remember standing there in the middle of my living room with the palms of my hands pressed savagely against my temples watching what he did to her. Maternal instinct at war with self preservation, adrenaline pissing into my bloodstream and my heart kicking against my ribs like a rabbit caught in the fox’s jaws. We needed to do something, but this was wrong so wrong, every single fibre of my being was screaming at me to stop him. I admit that I hesitated. I admit that it went on for too long before I intervened – Does that make me complicit? – but I did intervene. I snatched her out of his arms, dragged her into my body and screamed at him to stop it, stop it, stop it now. You can imagine the argument that ensued.

I don’t even remember what she did in the first place. She’s not a bad kid. She’s feisty, passionate, loud. If she finds a pound coin in a shop she’ll hand it in to the staff without being prompted. If she’s in a bad mood she’ll pull faces at her brother over the dinner table and blame her mood on the mere existence of his face. She’s wonderful, powerful, maddening. Unique.

True, she wasn’t responding to ‘normal’ discipline, but only because he was beyond discipline and into the realm of abuse. As a side note it’s been 14 months since she’s been subjected to any of that and I still struggle to get through to her sometimes. But that is because of him. We are growing and learning, and she is going to be one hell of a woman one day.

I tolerated his excuse, I tolerated the argument in which he blamed me for his rage yet again – for not meeting every single one of his needs and desires and then I tolerated his existence in my home for a few more months after that.

© Emma Stead

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6 responses to “Things I shouldn’t have tolerated, in no particular order”

  1. Reblogged this on A new Book: Writing into the Light and commented:
    “Together, one mind, one life (one small step at a time), let’s see how many people (and lives) we can encourage, impact, empower, enrich, uplift and perhaps even inspire to reach their fullest potentials.”

    “One cannot always tell what it is that keeps us shut in, confines us, seems to bury us, but still one feels certain barriers, certain gates, certain walls. is all this imagination, fantasy? ….”

    Hi Emma
    Thanks for another follow (+ the ‘likes'(s)
    Happy blogging/writing and all the best with your blog
    “early bird sleepy-head” craig
    “It always seems impossible…
    until it gets done!”
    – Nelson Mandela
    You CAN…if you THINK you can

    “Put your fears behind you and your dreams in front of you…always.”

    Best wishes from the First City to see the light


    Don’t worry about the world ending today
    it’s already tomorrow in scenic and tranquil ‘little’ New Zealand

    To my many WordPress followers (+ FB friends/followers)

    Thanks for the follow (although the destination is unknown).

    happy travelling
    “piedpiper” c

    “Do not go where the path may lead. Go where there is no path and leave a trail”
    of CHAOS! (at least in the “real world” and hopefully NOT cyberspace too)
    “Mr going nowhere (fast) man”

    Best wishes from the First City to see the light


    Don’t worry about the world ending today…its already tomorrow in scenic and tranquil ‘little’ New Zealand


  2. Emma, you are courageous and so much stronger than you realise. I can relate to being tolerant to this type of behaviour (although my experience was only emotional abuse). For me, once it was over, it was the shame I felt for putting up with it for so long. What did that say about me? How weak was I? Please don’t beat yourself up for something that isn’t even your responsibility (ie his behaviour). You are so much better than that. I wish you well on your journey of recovery. As we say in New Zealand – Kia Kaha. Stay strong.


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