Two weeks after my ex-boyfriend left home, I met him randomly at Starbucks.
He presented very well. If you had met him, you would say that he seems like a very nice and kind man. He smiles and has an attractive voice. His beard makes him look like a harmless man with good principles. He displays financial generosity — he didn’t hesitate to give cash to the homeless man begging outside. It’s easy to be attracted to him.
And that’s why I fell for him in the first place. I could have never imagined the harm that his words and actions would cause me.
An abuser sees life through control and domination
The real problem — which my ex doesn’t realize — is that he lives in a separate reality. I call it “Reality I”, as Patricia Evans describes in her book The Verbally Abusive Relationship.
My ex sees everything as a power play when it comes to relationships.
He claims he has strong social awareness. But he doesn’t realize that he’s judging and analyzing reality through the lenses of the power play.
To him, everything happens as part of a game for domination. He’s sure that this is how everybody interacts with each other. But he’s not aware that it’s only a projection of his mind. Power play and domination are his game. Being dominated is his deepest fear. This is why he has to dominate and gain power over others, including his significant other.
He is incapable of questioning his reality. And as such, the Universe plays tricks on him by pushing him into the arms of women who live in “Reality II”. In Reality II, mutuality, collaboration and “power with” are all that is.
To the abuser, a partner is an extension of themselves
My ex unconsciously believes that his intimate partner is an extension of himself. She should feel and think exactly as he does. She should “get” him without asking any questions and understand him — even when he doesn’t understand himself.
When his reality is challenged, he can’t stand it. It’s not safe for him to acknowledge that there is more than his world of power play. He can’t seem to see Reality II.
If he had been aware of Reality II, then maybe he’d know that his
- Threats of breaking up
- Angry outbursts
- Withholding sex
were attempts to shut down, control, and deny the reality of his woman. They were non-collaborative ways of acting in a relationship.
He would say “we fight too much” but never realized that his words and actions were the source of our fights.
He neglected to see me or my reality. Instead, he chose to react out of fear of domination.
An abuser will distort your reality
By giving in to Reality I and explaining myself every time he would accuse me of starting a fight, I confirmed his perception of reality.
I lived in Reality II but lacked one thing: self-esteem. I would doubt my own reality and question myself. I wondered “what makes him think I want to start a fight?”. Not taking his accusations so seriously or wasting my time defending myself would have been the wiser choice.
At Starbucks, he acknowledged that he wasn’t nice to me — without apologizing — and that he showed the worst of himself. But he truly believes that:
- WE had a problem of having “too many fights” and thus were incompatible;
- I — Hakima — brought up the worst in himself.
- He’ll meet a girl who will know how to bring the best in him.
- I treated him as an enemy.
He doesn’t realize that I was really trying to collaborate.
He doesn’t see that he had projected all of his insecurities onto me. That they were never mine.
If he doesn’t question his reality, the same issues will arise with every other woman.
He doesn’t get that I was overwhelmed by his demands. Overwhelmed by the pain of his actions. So much so that I couldn’t react as fast as he wanted me to when he was angry.
For an abuser, there is only one truth: theirs
At Starbucks, I told him that I’ve accepted the best and the worst of his personality. I might not have felt good about his worst — I became very anxious — but it didn’t factor into the breakup to me. Here again, he disagreed — he doesn’t think that I’ve accepted the worst in him.
Then he talked about his exes. He was sad that he could get along well with his exes when the relationship ended — but not during the relationship. That seems to be a pattern in his life. He seems to value them only after things ended.
He suggested that we call each other sometimes and stay friends. Why would I do such a thing? He hadn’t been a friend to me during our relationship. A change of relationship status won’t change his way of being. I doubted he would magically start listening to me, valuing me, respecting me, or taking an interest in what I had to say. I couldn’t believe he would begin to empathize with me or offer emotional support and understanding. To give all the things friends normally do.
The few times he tried to call, I couldn't pick up the phone. So he called his ex before me instead…
"Because of the receptive nature of the feminine, she is like a mirror to the masculine. She will download out of what he projects onto her and mirror that back to him. If he sends her love and abundance, she will reflect radiance and light. If he projects his ego and pride onto her, she will reflect darkness and chaos."— Jake Wood Dard
An abuser needs an energy supply
When I saw him at Starbucks, what struck me first was his level of energy. He didn’t spark energy. I’m very sensitive to people’s energy and his was low. Lower than mine despite having been abused and discarded.
I believe that he needs someone very basic in his life. Someone with a similarly low level of energy. But that is not what he is looking for. And that’s not what he attracts.
A woman living in Reality II will either be unable to reject him because of lack of self-esteem — like I used to be — or be entirely uninterested in him. And so, I’m pretty sure that he’ll have similar fights with his next woman. Sooner or later, he will show his true colours.
One must have great self-esteem to reject abuse
Despite the fact that I lived in Reality II, I lacked self-esteem and I didn’t successfully assert my boundaries.
The first time he swore at me — The F word — I was devastated. Yet, I stayed grounded in my boundaries. He apologized and seemed very regretful. Regretful or not, it happened again. And again. I began to lose hope that it could ever change.
Then, he set up some rules for me. If he’d insult me, I should apologize within the next 15 minutes.
I applied the rule…
At some point, I sought help from his mum but she only enabled the abuse further.
She said that I must have done something terrible for him to reach a point to insult me. She also said that I was too sensitive. She encouraged me to ignore my discomfort. They are just words.
This is how people stay with abusers. They become desensitized to the abuse and shamed for being the victim.
Setting limits with an abuser requires extraordinary trust in the self
Self-esteem is needed to set limits. But besides self-esteem, setting limits requires extraordinary trust in yourself. Trust in your own feelings and your own perceptions — so much trust that if you are mistreated you know that:
- Even if he thinks it is justified, you will not accept it;
- Even if he thinks it is a joke, you will not accept it;
- Even if he does not understand, you will not accept it;
- Even if he says it is your fault, you will not accept it;
- Even if he says you do not know what you’re talking about, you will not accept it;
- Even if he says you are just trying to be right, you will not accept it;
- Even if he says you are a bitch, you will not accept it;
- Even if he says a hundred things, you will not accept it, nor will you accept the hundred other things;
- Even if you have made a mistake, you will not accept the abuse. You know that you will not accept being put down or the subject of rage over a simple mistake.
It is important that you accept your own perceptions and feelings completely.
My ex is controlling. But how can someone with such deep insecurities appear so calm and nice?
Today, I feel a real weight on my chest. I feel it balled up in my throat. I have to swallow the truth that I’ve been abused because I lacked self-esteem.
But, I’m sad for my ex — he was never able to truly see me. He was not able to protect our relationship.
He was never the protector I thought he was.
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