By: LANISHA D. PORTER
It was subtle, discreet and almost unnoticeable if you weren’t on the receiving end of the gut-wrenching offenses. But, the continuous neglect was enough to assure me that it wasn’t healthy.
One thing about me is that I’m ambitious. For most intents and purposes this is a great thing. This means I have the stamina to bulldoze through any number of hurdles to get what I want. I regroup, recover, and reattempt until I get it.
Well, this gets dangerous when it comes to interpersonal relationships. Why? Simply, because, as I’ve learned the hard way, you cannot will other people into your vision. Ever.
My ambition made me the perfect target for the abuse I endured all those years because I was convinced that I could will it all into something good. I convinced myself that my suffering was but a tax to pay for the glory that could come from me staying. I believed the way out of it was going through it; so, through it I went. I believed…”Oh, we will mature past this problem”, or “if I keep enduring, he will recognize my commitment.”
Now, let me just pause as you’re probably thinking the worst right about now…
My partner wasn’t at all a “horrible” guy. On paper I’m sure he’d check out to be prince charming for some and meet most, if not all, the prerequisites of a “Good Man.” And essentially, that’s what made my situation far more dangerous because his bad wasn’t your traditional “bad.” It was subtle, discreet and almost unnoticeable if you weren’t on the receiving end of the gut-wrenching offenses. But, the continuous neglect was enough to assure me that it wasn’t healthy.
In between the full-hearted laughs, the telepathy we shared, his ability to get me, his willingness to learn me, and my ability to depend on him I craved forever with him. I would will my way through whatever to immortalize our good moments. But the emotional tide that would wash over me when I realized his inabilities carried this quiet suggestion while crashing against the shores of my consciousness: maybe you’re in an abusive relationship.
I always found myself grappling with thoughts pondering if I was wrong, being unrealistic with expectations, or being too rigid for a “Good Man.” I wasn’t sure of my judgment. I questioned if I could trust my instincts. Because again, he wasn’t doing anything too overly awful, but he also wasn’t meeting my emotional needs or respecting my boundaries. So what made it abusive Lanisha? Maybe you just got your feelings hurt and you misinterpreted at as abuse…?
Nope… not even.
I’ll run the ball home for you.
The first thing to note here is that in love you never bundle. Just because someone professes their love for you doesn’t mean they will act on it with respect, and honor. I’m sure in my relationship I was loved, and maybe loved the best way he knew how but respected and honored were rare occasions.
Example; If I could recount and make commission off the privacy breaches and violations of trust that I endured, I’d have enough to pay off my student loans in lump sum. The abuse here was that I was always asked to be understanding of the third parties being inducted into knowing sensitive information about our relationship while never giving permission for the information to had been shared. It’s unhealthy and most of all uncomfortable for a party that I’ve never had the opportunity to build trust with to draw information about me that I didn’t offer, and information that I vulnerably deposited with a partner in confidence. This directly afflicts the idea of honor. Also, it completely assaulted my ability to feel entirely safe with him. Slowly but surely it eroded all levels of trust. Moreover, it created a dynamic of control and power because not only was I now forced into an intimate space with persons I was uncomfortable with without my direct consenting, but consequently, people imagined me through his lens and however he had canonized the narrative which invited unfair speculation.
Going further, faith was a manipulation tactic often used in our relationship. At some point my esteem as a Christian was lowered because I was “jokingly” criticized constantly about all that I didn’t know. I don’t see this as such a bad thing though because I was encouraged to study and seek God more on my own in independent study. But specifically, I remember an instance in which I shared my desires with my partner about how I felt we should be more intentional in planning our future as it pertained to marriage and children. Quickly, my desires were dismissed by being told “Rush not. God’s timing is perfect.”
To an untrained ear and eye, another young woman would deem this to be “profound.”
I, however, could see through to the matter. He was deflecting accountability. I could tell by how all he offered was a rebuttal while never acknowledging the legitimacy of my raised concerned. While, I do believe God’s timing is perfect; I also don’t believe you should be wasteful of the time God gives us. I believe you should steward over that time wisely. Him saying such to me only felt as though he was looking to justify burning through more precious years being unintentional. (At which point I couldn’t accept because now I was being disrespectful to God and his loaned time to me.)
“Good” is an empty and meaningless adjective when your emotional needs are being neglected consistently.
It was tiny accumulations of trust violations and master manipulations that finally wounded our relationship enough for me to make some hard decisions. First, I had to acknowledge that I allowed my feelings of aloneness in the relationship to drive me to mar myself and push the boundaries of my own morality. Second, I needed to gather enough humility to cut my loses, as I so badly planned on winning. I ambitiously wanted the home, the children, the family, the full-hearted laughs…the life together. It felt like it was right at my fingertips. If only I continued to endure.
Our situation became cyclic. As sure as we had hard days, we had better days which I was not only accustomed to but frankly addicted. After all, ultimately, he was a “Good Man.” He wasn’t cheating or hitting me. Compared to the market, he was good enough; I could negotiate through the rest. Right…? But let me tell you this. “Good” is an empty and meaningless adjective when your emotional needs are being neglected consistently. Thus, we called it quits.
It was at this point that I’d learn just how abusive our relationship actually was. The clarity of hindsight propelled me into revelation.
I realized that where I put boundaries to protect myself, he mindlessly ignored them. He felt as though he could regain access to me at his whim without reacquainting himself. And because I had spent so much time with him before in the past, I could agree that it did feel odd and overly formal to upheld boundaries now. At some point, I just trusted we could be ill-defined and things would shake out into a natural rhythm. I assumed his best intentions for me. Though I was sadly mistaken. His intentions were always what was best for him. Quickly I realized what I confused as his sincere attempts of reconciliation, was nothing more than his refusal to let me go. It was all very manipulative and highly abusive. He would stay far enough away to reject any relationship responsibilities, but also helicopter close enough to maintain access for his advantage. He’d lower my guard with private confessions about how I molded him into the man he was afraid he’d never become saying he owed me everything, yet he never even once celebrated me or affirmed me publicly. Again, I’ll remind you: love, honor, and respect are completely different things that we should be careful not to package together. One is not indicative of the other.
It took me a while to understand who I was dealing with. It took me even longer to strategize a real exit plan. Again, he knew me too well. Which also meant he knew how to properly hurt me. I could no longer believe he might pull it together and magically mount into my hopes of all a man should be. I also could no longer allow myself to feel a secret gratitude that he kept "coming back” for me. He wasn’t coming back because he changed his heart, learned how to respect me, or even honor me. He was coming back simply because he had a co-dependency. This further went on to dehumanize me because I wasn’t being valued for my candidacy to be a wife, mother, or business partner. But valued only insofar to prop up his ego or cure his personal crises.
If your story is anything like mine, I understand the layered complexities you’re sifting through. It’s not easy but it does get better with real work. Pray for discernment and learn to be okay in waiting (even if you feel the healing isn’t coming fast enough). My advice is to completely disengage. That’s the “secret.” By engaging you only encourage their behavior and allow yourself to remain an easy and accessible target for their abuse.
Welcome to my views from this horizon!