“He loved her so much. He was never a violent person.” “They were inseparable, I can’t believe this happened.” “He was such a kind person, he would never harm a soul.” We hear these refrains every time someone falls victim to domestic violence. There’s always someone available to claim they know the accused and the situation well enough to know that some sort of demonic possession would have to come into play to lead to such a tragedy.
All summer (and the one before) there has been talk of Suicide Squad and the many colorful characters it features. The most colorful and most talked about these being Harley Quinn. Her costume, the actress who portrays her, and her backstory have been covered extensively. The latter topic takes us through the sordid beginnings of Harley Quinn and her relationship with the Joker, a demented boyfriend who ensnares the brilliant psychiatrist Harleen Quinzel through manipulation, abuse and a vat of acid. Hooray.
This line from Julieanne Smolinski’s essay The Funny Thing About Abusive Relationships neatly summed up the dilemma I’ve struggled to address internally and externally since my first experience with an abusive relationship all the way through what was my very last. How does a strong woman end up in such a position of weakness?
At one point I didn’t think I was ever going to post this. It was far too dark. Not really in keeping with the tone I had established. Even when I talked about some of the shadier moments of past relationships I tried to keep it relatively light. But after a week conversing with a myriad of women who had similar experiences, I felt more compelled to share my own more publicly. One of the women I spoke with had no idea anyone else could possibly go through what she did. And one is still in the midst of it. It was her story even more than the others that prompted the release of this material. Because I know she represents thousands of other women who are still in it and I feel I have a responsibility to share anything I can to encourage them to get out before it’s too late.
Know what’s amazing? Therapy. Know who needs to realize this? Everyone. I just got a message from a friend explaining how he unloaded six months worth of built up mental health concerns in one session. The result? A prozac prescription. During that six-month period, he had gotten out of a tumultuous relationship with a bag of crazy, so the need for a little help from a professional was unsurprising.
After I split with my fiancé for the final time, I spent weeks of therapy learning that I wasn’t (am not) crazy. The real eye-opener was this book. It read like a narration of the entire demented year and a half. It was then that I recognized the gaslighting that was going on inside of my relationship. Evans named it crazy-making, but the concept is exactly the same. He (or she) dismisses what you’re feeling or thinking as a dysfunction of your personality or entire gender in order to control the situation and, ultimately, you.
I have little patience for people who use emotional baggage to justify treating someone poorly in any type of relationship. Our world has forged crutches and cultivated convenient excuses for individuals to use whenever they choose not to take responsibility for their own actions. My lack of sympathy for these individuals likely causes some dissent, maybe even anger. I simply don’t understand why anything someone endured in the past gives them permission to take it out on someone else, especially someone they “love.” The seriousness of the behavior can range from commitment issues to abuse.
Recently a friend of mine, apparently seeking some misguided advice on his relationship, reached out to me. He and his girlfriend had begun arguing on a weekly basis and he wondered if this was normal, posing the question, “does every relationship ultimately get to the point where you argue constantly?” After prefacing my response with this caveat: “I haven’t been in a relationship for years and it’s been even longer since I’ve seen the inside of a functional relationship,” I addressed his concerns.
There has been much controversy surrounding the book “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough” by Lori Gottlieb, a middle-aged journalist and single mother. The idea behind the book is that women who are too picky end up alone. I have not read the book so I will refrain from criticizing, but it has brought forth some interesting discussions. Some people are up in arms, saying how dare she suggest that women settle for anything less than the best. Others completely agree with the idea that those who cling unflinchingly to their ideals will ultimately end up alone.