You often feel overwhelmed or nervous when you are going to be with the person/persons. In fact you run down a list of things not to say or do when you are with them. You tell yourself that maybe if you are more patient, if you keep everything light, if you are more loving it will be fine.
Maybe this time you won't leave in tears, or in anger that you didn't stand up for yourself and you allowed yourself to be treated that way yet again. But, you know, if you had stood up for yourself, if you had said what should have been said, had you set the boundary, you would have been told you were wrong. Clearly there would not have been a problem if you were more loving.
You become accustomed to walking on eggshells to prevent a frightening, angry outburst or the punishment of not being spoken to because you upset them. Because clearly if there is an outburst you are to blame. You must not be loving.
You wrestle with being labeled too sensitive, or unable to take a joke when deeply hurtful, cutting remarks are made. Clearly you misunderstood! Clearly you are the problem. Never mind that the joke was at your expense and left you embarrassed or that it cut like a knife. You need to learn how to take a joke.
You begin to be painfully aware that this relationship is not mutually caring. It does not feel safe. There are lies and deceit. There is no respect. At least it's not given, it is however expected! You are often belittled and left with anxiety, fear, shame, anger, and sometimes despair.
You have tried to learn the careful dance of keeping peace, not pushing buttons, knowing your place, and hiding the fact that you are the walking wounded.
Sadly, you never seem to be able to learn the steps of this dance well enough.
You are emotionally bleeding out.
You feel confused. You have a sense that this is all wrong! Yet the person/persons you love, you trust... Well, they say you are to blame.
Maybe they're right.
How could you think such negative things about them?? They must be right! You are not loving!
Maybe, if you try to speak to them about the problem. Just approach the issue carefully. Oh the anger you are met with. You best apologize, and quick! The fear that they will evict you from their lives if you make them angry is so great!
Just keep smiling. Just keep loving! Love better!! Figure out how to dance this dance well so they won't be angry. Clearly you must have done things wrong for them to be so hurtful, so angry. They say it's your fault after all.
And the wound grows deeper with every harmful interaction. You look fine on the outside, but you can't stop the emotional bleeding on the inside.
You are weary and worn, a dry dusty land.
This is a very small glimpse into the experience of a person caught in an emotionally destructive relationship. A very small glimpse into my experience.
This is what we do not talk about, this deep pain and turmoil caused by a destructive relationship.
How could we?
How do you tell someone that you are in deep distress when you've been convinced it is your own fault? That somehow you have brought this upon yourself.
And, to be honest, when a person who is in an emotionally destructive relationship tries to talk to someone who has never experienced an emotionally destructive relationship the responses are often, without intent, very damaging.
People can't see your wounds. There are no cuts. There are no bruises. You look good! So they will say things like - "that's just how families are" - "I'm sure they didn't mean anything by it." These statements are probably true for healthy relationships. For destructive relationships - they are completely false! They leave a person feeling like the lies - it's my fault - I'm too sensitive - I'm just not loving enough - are true.
How do you explain to a friend who has never experienced a destructive relationship that a comment from a destructive person isn't just a comment? That it had a pointed meaning. That you better understand the meaning and act accordingly. This my friends is part of the dance of the emotionally destructive relationship.
People tend say things like "forgive and forget. Reconcile." These things are good and possible in relationships where there is mutual respect and love and each person is willing and able to take responsibility for their actions. They are not realistic, and are painful to hear for someone in an unhealthy relationship with a person they cannot trust, they may be fearful of, or in a relationship that does not feel emotionally safe. In a relationship that demands forgiveness yet refuses repentance or resolution to a problem reconciliation is not possible.
The pattern of the destructive relationship I was in began to break when the Husband, my hero, was bold, he stood up and said, "No more! This must change or the relationship must end!"
If only it was that easy.
Destructive people do not just let go. Nor do we feel we have the right, or that it's right to end relationships.
They do not want the relationship to change and be healthier. Often they are not able or willing to see that their behaviors are harmful.
The hurtful behavior toward me became worse.
Others were drawn in with false information, and took sides.
I received some very hurtful letters from people I love who chose to believe whatever was being said about me.
I often struggle today with wondering who, in my circle of relationships, has heard and believed false information about me.
These broken, hurt places are the things we are ashamed to talk about.
There are no words to express how difficult it is to tell you about this deep pain in my life. It will make some people very angry at me. How dare I?
I dare because I realize that I am not alone.
Some of you know this pain all too well. I am so sorry you do dear one. I know that you too are ashamed to talk about it. Please know that you are not the alone!
"Please remember that being in a relationship with you is not a person's right. It is a sacred privilege! It should be treated as such."
It took me a great deal of time to believe that statement which I loosely quote from the book The Emotionally Destructive Relationship by Leslie Vernick. This book has been a significant help to me as I heal and accept the fact that it was not because I wasn't loving enough, or because I was too sensitive, or because of any of the other lies I believed that the relationship I was in was broken.
Some of you will not understand the experience I've shared. I hope, however, that you will have a greater awareness if a friend tells you about an experience, from another relationship, that feels painful to them. That you might take a moment to consider there is something deeper your friend is trying to tell you. That some gentle questions and a listening ear could go a long way to allowing a person in deep pain share and find some support and help.
These things are not easy for us to talk about. We gently test the waters and will quickly stuff it all away if we feel it is not safe to share.
I had to separate myself from the harmful relationship I was in. I can only say this was best and appropriate for me. I cannot say that it is necessary or best for anyone else's relationship. It is a decision each person has to make for themselves.
C.S. Lewis wrote, "Love is more stern and splendid than kindness." I do believe that the most loving thing we can do is hold people accountable for their actions. We can say, "No More!" We can pray that their eyes will be opened to their hurtful actions and that they will seek to change. We can release them and ourselves through forgiveness and allow God to heal our wounds. We can choose to no longer be quiet! We can help and support those who are hurting!