Enduring an abusive relationship takes its toll. The fallout from abuse takes a toll. Trusting again after abuse is possible.
By Tom P Blake – Finding Love after 50
Deborah emailed: "Do you ever discuss the topic of verbal and emotional abuse? In particular, the trust and the fallout of verbal and emotional abuse. I have done an enormous amount of healing including therapy from an abusive relationship.
"I'm 56, attractive, and have a good job. I've always loved to have fun and would like to again. I'd like not to feel like I can't trust men.
"My ex partner was very wealthy, appeared kind in public, but, after a year or two, became extremely verbally nasty. I thought: this can't be the same man.
"Do you have any experience or insight that might help?"
My reply to Deborah:
"I have two years of abuse experience-on the receiving end. That sounds wimpy coming from a man, but women are capable of abusing also.
Based on that experience, I've gained some insight. However, I'm not an abuse counselor or an expert on the subject. Rather a person who has experienced it first-hand, who understands the importance of extricating oneself from its ugly and hurtful grasp.
Most people who get involved with abusers are unaware of the minefield into which they are stepping. Abusers are like Houdini, they hide their dark side. Your words, "...after a year or two" and "I couldn't believe it was the same man" indicate you were likely unaware that he would become "extremely verbally nasty."
In my situation, verbal abuse didn't take a year to surface. It was in a matter of weeks after she and her pre-teenage son had moved into my home at my invitation. One day I was in my office preparing a newspaper column, she walked in and asked if she could have a word with me.
"Of course, honey, what's on your mind?"
"I don't like you writing all of the time." Only she said it in a raised voice. My mouth dropped.
"But that's what I do as a second career," I said calmly.
She continued speaking but got angrier and angrier, raising her voice with each sentence. I was speechless.
That trend continued with an incident every two or three weeks. Only the anger escalated and became more violent, and scary. In the summer, when the windows were open, the neighbors could hear her shouting.
A stab at therapy was fruitless. On the way into the session, she said, "Don't reveal the details."
Why do people stay in abusive relationships? Because they hope they can work things out. They try even harder to please. I couldn't just ask my new roommate and her son to leave. Gosh, I was happy when they moved in.
Deborah, you mentioned the fallout from abuse. It's stressful. It takes a toll. I drank, smoked and gained weight. My health was taking a hit. It leaves scars. I knew I had to break the chain.
Finally, one morning at 6 a.m., I feared she was going to get violent. Physical abuse is a bruise away from verbal abuse. I called 911; the police came to my home. They put us in separate rooms. I heard her tell them it was a conspiracy, that they were my friends and out to get her.
Shortly thereafter, I left my home and gave her two months to get out. It was hard. I had cared for her, but knew for my own good there was no other solution.
Deborah, you asked about trusting again after abuse. I believe you can and will. Very few men are abusers.
I was fortunate. A month later, I met my partner Greta. I could tell from the inner beauty and kindness that emanated from her face that she was a wonderful, warm and caring person. We've been together for 11 years.
So Deborah, the big hurdles--breaking away and doing therapy--are behind you. Now it's time to move forward. Be open and receptive to meeting someone new. Do background and character checks before opening your heart. Select a loving, calm, and caring person.
And when you go on dates, avoid conveying bitterness toward men; try to avoid droning on about what happened to you.
We grow from our experiences. But abuse is one we'd prefer not to have on our resume.
From the Mailbag
Remember the column last summer about a man who had stood by his fiancee during her cancer and then last August I married them?
On August 30, Celia, one of our family of subscribers, wrote a tribute in response to that column:
"Don't you just love it when things all come together in a beautiful ending? I was glad to read that Phil had stuck by her side thourgh a rough time.
"I met Bob through your column in 2004. We had both lost our mates the year before. He was 80 and I had no desire to
"Now (August, 2008), I have been told I do not have a lot of time left and did not want Bob to go through the pain of losing me. Especially not watch me on oxygen 24/7 and not be able to get out much.
"He has chosen to keep seeing me and help what he can-taking me on errands etc-I have no one close here to help. So many men leave at the first sign of illness. Phil (the groom) seems to be one that will stay through thick and thin-for better or worse .
"What a thrill that must have been for you to marry them-and in such a beautiful setting!
"Enjoy your life! Celia"
Update: Yesterday morning, Celia reported that her Bob passed away on Wednesday. Our thoughts are with you Celia.