Mutually Abusive Relationships
There is practically no literature on the subject of mutually abusive relationships, as this is only a recently recognized phenomenon. While professionals, such as Dawn Bradley Berry, J. D. acknowledge that it occurs, few can agree on whether it was mutual in nature.
The dynamics of abusive relationships are significantly more complex than professionals seem to think. In decades prior, society bred women to be docile, obedient, and complacent. Most research reflects that in abusive relationships. The man “attacks”, and the woman is “victimized”.
Unquestionably, that is precisely the manner abuse presented itself in my relationship prior to this one. It began innocuously with casual criticisms and negative remarks. A person is inclined to believe that a loved one only means the best, even if the words sting. There was hardly a second thought toward the words. Eventually, they grew into berating remarks, lambasting lectures, and generalized nitpicking over every action, behavior, expression, inaction, word, thought, emotion . . .
By then, I was already convinced that these heinous contortions were the embodiment of what I truly was. I was already manipulated into believing I had been delusional about my own nature to begin with. It was like being in a house of mirrors. Every reflection revealed a new flaw.
But, a miniscule portion of my consciousness spotted the cracks all along. It seemed I was not entirely convinced that this was the absolute truth. Contradictions existed at everywhere in this fun house. How was it possible that I was so stupid when my grade point average was far above his? If I was such a flawed, inadequate, and vile person, why did I have so many faithful, loving friends?
At that point, the seeds of alcoholism were taking root. I violated my own rules of drinking. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere! I’m not drinking alone if I’m drinking with my boyfriend. Hair of the dog, best way to cure a hangover. If I’m still managing to get to school and hold an honor’s average, I’m not drinking too much.
Liquid courage and comfortingly numb.
Naturally, I engaged the fire breathing dragon with my own fire. Raw throat from screaming for hours, until one of us locked the other out, or I started packing a bag. I was attempting to turn his own game right around on him. The problem is that he was the gamemaster, and I was just a pawn. I was always the pawn. He could play me against me, and change the rules at will.
It was common knowledge. I would never leave. I was already too terrified of the potential consequences. Besides, all of my money was tied up in that apartment. We had acquired a sizable amount of mutual property. I was unwilling to sacrifice all of my gains, my gains, because I paid for them, to someone else.
Next, we moved into the isolation stage. Suddenly, all of my girl friends were whores and my male friends wanted to get into my pants. Your friends are a reflection of who you are. No wonder you’re a completely stupid whore. A drop of truth existed. One of my closest friends was a teen mom, a stripper, and into drugs. I didn’t see a whole lot wrong there. She had a good heart, despite her mistakes. But. . . maybe I was wrong.
We graduated college, lost our apartment, and moved onto some family property. This was the turning point. Here, we were completely alone.
I was a victim as much as I was an abuser.
It is one of the most difficult realities I have to face.
Prior to that point, I had never laid my hands on anyone with malicious intent. And truthfully, I can’t pinpoint where it began. Being in a perpetual state of inebriation has likely damaged that portion of my memory to beyond retrievable. I can only recall certain events. But, my mind will never be able to purge itself of the horror, guilt, rage, terror, hurt, and animosity I felt.
He started abusing me first. Again, it started innocently enough with playful roughhousing that usually got out of hand. Eventually, it turned into vulgar, degrading, often coerced, dangerously rough sex. Then, it finally graduated to domestic life. The transitions were so smooth that it was too hard to distinguish in the house of mirrors. Sometimes you need to be put in your place. You don’t know what’s good for you.
I became the monster that I loathed. I was an animal, trapped in a cage, and emotionally, verbally, and now physically beaten for mistakes. Sometimes, it was events that were beyond my control. And, I gave in to my natural instincts. I started fighting back.
I wanted him to feel the pain he inflicted upon me.
I recall a specific incident, the worst of them all. We were drinking and playing World of Warcraft. He was highly competitive, and I was entirely defensive. As usual, he had remarks on my lack of skill and inadequacy in the team. I started back in on him. There was a back and forth that eventually provoked me to get up in his face. He saw me coming and hit me in the face with a CAT5 cord. The cord slashed my face and the connector rendered my right eye useless.
I pounced, but he knocked me flat on my back, with his foot on my chest. He commanded, “You stay down there!” I wrested myself free and attempted to get on my feet, only to be knocked flat and pinned again. “Stay on the f***ing floor!” Once more. “I thought I f***ing told you to lay on the f***ing floor!”
I couldn’t free myself this time, and I angrily searched the floor for something, anything. I grabbed a discarded vodka bottle and hurled with all of my strength at his head. He jerked to dodge the impact, and I got to my feet. I stared at him defiantly with my mouth twisted into a snarl.
“What the f*** do you think you’re doing?! You could have f***ing killed me, you stupid b****!”
“I’m sorry I didn’t!”
He came at me, but I lunged for him, tackling him to the floor. I began mercilessly wailing on him as he antagonized me, “Is that all you got?! A fly could do more damage!” I slapped him across the face so hard that my red handprint swelled on his cheek.
He threw me off of him, but I was still in pursuit. My cheek burned, my eye puffed shut, and my rage incinerated every last shred of humanity that remained. I grabbed him by his shirt before he made it to the front door. He shoved me, but I remained latched to him.
“I’m leaving you, you crazy b****!”
“Take this with you!”, I spit at him and sunk my teeth into the flesh over his heart. He picked me up by my throat, viciously thrust me to the floor, and slammed the door. I laid there, coughing and gasping to regain my breath.
That wasn’t the end. The end didn’t come for nearly another year. And in that year, incidents such as these were commonplace. I could not legitimately claim victimization. I shared equal fault for the escalation of the abuse that occurred. Despite any trauma I have suffered, I am responsible for another person’s trauma.
That alone hinders healing. Most of the world will never see themselves in that light. I have more than glanced at the monster in the mirror. I became it. I abhor all parties involved in each and every single last act. Including myself. How could I possible forgive myself for such atrocities that I committed when I have personally felt the pain they inflict?