In the years when I was putting up with abuse and infidelity, I was pretty sure it was my fault. Like a lot of people in these situations, especially domestic violence victims, I thought that someone else’s bad behavior was the result of something I did.
Although I didn’t know that I didn’t know, I was programmed to do a dance of dysfunction and I knew the steps and the cheater/abuser knew the steps. And we went round and round the dance floor.
I had to be told, verbatim, what to say when someone was manipulating me and abusing me and blaming me for things that were not my fault and threatening to do something they wouldn’t ever do. (or even better, threaten to do something he was already doing…my ex told me that if I kept accusing him of cheating on me, he was going to cheat one me…and he was already cheating on me [welcome to CrazyTown!]}
I had to be TOLD that no one had the right to put their hands on me. I had to be told that the response “If you keep accusing me of that I’m going to do it…” is sick and twisted. I had to be TOLD to call his bluff on keeping my kids if I didn’t listen to every horrible thought he had about me. I had to be TOLD to say, “So what”?” and “Who cares?” and “Go ahead.” and “It doesn’t matter!” I had to be told all these things that I tell people ALL THE TIME.
We had done things the same way for years.
He would accuse, I would defend.
He would threaten, I would capitulate.
He would hold things over my head. I would apologize.
I broke out of the dance. I said no more. I said, I have had enough.
And I learned new ways and I did new things and I learned to stop dancing and be healthy. I had to learn to not give the same knee jerk reactions and to stop and think and say something/do something differently.
It was hard work but not as hard as continuing to be beat down by the same old dance. I grew healthy and learned to march to my own drum and dance to my own tune.
Thought for today: Today I will learn what dysfunctional dance steps I am doing and resist doing the same old thing that only leads to pain. Today I will stop and think and when I am unsure of what to do, I will do nothing. Today I will step out of the dance.
Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.
Getting Past Your Breakup: How To Turn A Devastating Loss Into The Best Thing That Ever Happened To You (DaCapo 2009)