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#66257 - 04/25/05 10:24 PM Time to look at ourselves, too.
kolisha54 Offline

Registered: 12/02/03
Posts: 475
Loc: Brooklyn, NY
For all Partners (women & men):

I have been struggling for some time now to understand the nature of my love & "addiction" to a person who has had abuse in his background. I know so many of us share similar patterns & I am beginning to think that it is time for us to devote more time to investigating why WE are so devoted to relationships which cause us so much pain. Why are we willing to go through all of this? Maybe it's time for us to take stock & ask ourselves the questions we have been avoiding....

Were we abused?

Were we neglected?

Did we grow up in dysfunctional home environments?

Are we happy with the identities we have established for ourselves?

Why do we continue to hang on when any (I hate to use this adjective) "normal" person would have given up a looooooong time ago????

If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now... when? --Hillel

#66258 - 04/26/05 02:17 AM Re: Time to look at ourselves, too.
Caetel Offline

Registered: 11/05/03
Posts: 322
Loc: Paris, France
Yes I have been abused
Yes I have been neglected
Yes I have grown up in the most horrific dysfunctional family

But I want also to say that I am looking at myself ALL the time, everyday. I have worked a lot on co-dependency issues and I have made a breakthrough on the core issue of merging/abandonment relationship (linked to the relationship with my mother in my infant years).
In my long life (turning 35 on Thursday 28 ;\) ) I have loved only two men: W and V both male incest survivors. It is true that there is an attraction due to our own experiences, especially a strong feeling of safety. I have been thinking a lot about the nature of love and I have come to realize that love itself isn't dysfunctional, my love for them isn't dysfunctional.
W and V are SO different: W felt like my soul mate, like a male version of me. V is the complete opposite of me though we share the same values. The relationship with each of them was different though one might say that there was a pattern (linked with sexual abuse).
I have read on this board the advice that I should take the love I gave to V and give it to someone who can give me some love in return. I don't agree with this. When I broke up with W, I never stopped loving him. I will love him until I die. It's the same with V. I love him and this love I gave is as much a part of him than it is a part of me. I do not love them because they are survivors, I love them because of who they are as complete persons. I love V for his ideas, for his shyness, for his clumsiness, for his looks, for his hands, for his elegance, for his manners, for his values and opinions about life...I was actually very surprised to fall in love with him because he was so different from me.
I have been thinking several times about another issue which is the timing in a relationship. But then again, though it feels the timing when I met W and V was wrong, they both made me grow so much. With W I discovered that I was a survivor, he made me lift the amnesia about my own abuse. With V I discovered everything about "being in and building a relationship", about vulnerability, sexual desire, communication, bounderies...
So why do I hang on ? Because of hope, because of faith, because time does not exist, because I believe in reincarnation, because I believe that my love (even when not returned), can help W and V to heal and become better men. I want them to be happy and love makes me a better person.
Love just IS, love lives in the present, always.

Mitakuye oyasin ! We are all related !

#66259 - 04/26/05 03:42 AM Re: Time to look at ourselves, too.
SAR Offline
Administrator Emeritus

Registered: 12/07/03
Posts: 3310
Loc: USA

I have mixed feelings about this topic, kolisha... just as folks come on here asking "My boyfriend engages in A,B and C behavior-- has he been sexually abused?", and we tell them, "He may well have been, but it's impossible to know based on his behavior alone"... I'm not sure if you can deduce that "we" are unhappy or abnormal people because of A,B or C relationship behavior. We might be ;\) but we aren't always.

I also think that it might be dangerous to confuse our own healing (if, in fact, we are in need of healing :p ) with the healing of the relationship/our partner's healing (if we have a partner and/or a relationship in need of healing). To me, it's too much like mixing chemicals-- you can't un-mix them and the whole thing might explode or give off poisonous fumes. Especially here, on this board, I see myself as a friend and partner to my boyfriend and I try to learn, develop and heal in that role. I don't know how useful it is to heal as a survivor and a secondary survivor at the same time-- to me it seems that they each require their own journey and that sometimes those journeys intersect-- but not being able to separate MY issues from OUR issues from HIS issues would be a step backwards for me-- so in this place I try to leave MY issues "at the door".

And, especially where my boyfriend's symptoms and acting out have affected me-- yes, maybe I accepted some of that because of what I learned about marriage as a kid, or because I was unhappy with myself-- but I think that part of healing is understanding the difference between the hurt I experienced as a child and the hurt I experienced as a partner. It's not fair to my boyfriend to make my healing from his acting out contingent on my healing from years of childhood wounds. It's equally unfair to attribute my hurt over his acting out to a prior hurt-- the things he did were damaging to me all on their own, NOT because I was abused as a kid. How can I say that they would have hurt me differently, or less, if I'd had a happier childhood? And I'm not saying that's your implication, kolisha-- I'm saying that his childhood doesn't let him off the hook in terms of what we each need to do to make our relationship good today, and mine shouldn't either.


Why do we continue to hang on when any (I hate to use this adjective) "normal" person would have given up a looooooong time ago????
Personally-- if my boyfriend weren't a very different person from the one I started dating, I would have given up already.

I was halfway out the door when he disclosed to me-- mostly because I didn't feel I could stay unless I KNEW that his acting out and distancing were in the past. Part of what he said to me when he disclosed was that he'd been looking at his life over the last few months and trying to make some changes on his own-- and when I thought about it I could see that he was telling the truth. He had been taking better care of himself, driving safer, starting to catch up on the bills-- I was so used to the same old thing from him, I hadn't been looking for those changes. If I hadn't seen that evidence when I did, I probably would have kept walking.


#66260 - 04/26/05 04:12 AM Re: Time to look at ourselves, too.
Janie101 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 6
Loc: seattle
Yes, me too...all of the above also and I agree though that recognition may be more the root then an unconscious desire to keep abuse going in our lives. Not that I don't think that we don't beat ourselves and cause extra difficulty for ourselves from time to time but I think that its hard for us to trust "normal" people and so we choose our friends and our mates from people who have similar back grounds and experiences so that we can relate.

When I first met G, it was like having no where to hide, when he looked at me it was like he saw right through me, he could complete my thoughts when I got hung up on how to express them and he never judged me or my quirks. He gave me a sense of belonging that I had not experienced with a man before. I have a girlfriend that I have known for 20+ years now, she and I have had what she calls parallel lives, we have an unconditional love for one another that is almost magic in how easy and deep it is. We don't share every moment of our lives together and there have been times when we lived in separate cities and would rarely speak, but we always come back to each other and when we do its like we were never separated.

I think that everyone chooses friendships and mates according to their own experience and comfort and that this is the real root to class differences as well. I can no more have a relationship with a "normal" person then I can talk the ins and outs of the stock market with the physicians I work for. The world of the "leave it to beaver" family is foreign to me as is the world of high finance.

I do think it is important for us to take a look at ourselves though, its ok to be broken, that which doesn't kill us makes us stronger. I really believe that. There are small wonderful gifts in my pain, my capacity for empathy is one. The depth of my desire is another. My ability to love and make selfless gestures is another. Without my experiences I would not be who I am and I really like myself for the most part. I get annoyed with my tides and sometimes I am really tired and overwhelmed by myself and life and anything that steps in my path but for the most part I am grateful because where I came from, I was one of the luckier ones.

I could benefit from some one on one therapy, I am 39 years old and have spent my life trying to heal myself with philosophy, good friends, and careful choices. There may still be some blame and why me's lurking within that cause me difficulty in various situations but I know that my wars are internal ones.

Having said all of that, I think there is more then enough evidence to suggest that victimizers know their victims and that victimizers are cunning and patient and if we don't learn how to recognize and protect ourselves from them then we will fall prey to them because they are looking for us. There are people I have come across in my life who have made the hair on my body stand on end or who have made me automatically repulsed for no obvious reason. If someone elicits this kind of response from me, I stay away. I listen to my body and do not put myself in compromising situations with people I don't know or I am not comfortable with. At 16 years old I decided I was not every going to be a victim again, I stood up to my victimizer and said NO! The only abuser I have to fear now is myself.


#66261 - 04/26/05 08:15 AM Re: Time to look at ourselves, too.
sunshine2 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 01/23/05
Posts: 16
I have a problem with this idea Kolisha. Sometimes we need to sacrifice for the one we love, even though may never return that favor.

Even though I struggle with my SO's situation at times, it doesn't eradicate the feelings. I love him for him. Not because he "needs" somebody "normal" or because he was abused. I love him because he's funny, he's sweet, he makes me laugh, he's one of the smartest men I know, he's creative, he plays a mean guitar, loves animals, and we both have careers that mirror each other so we have endless things to talk about. Love is something based upon two people - not two people and their problems.

I wasn't sexually abused. I've never been attracted to someone who was until this man, so to assume that would be part of the attraction or the cause for an "obsession" is a tad off base, don't you think? I wasn't raised in a "dysfunctional" family in the sense it was used here, I was raised by a governess in an affluent family - call it neglect by association. My parents were too busy being who they were to pay me or my sister much attention. We could have let this affect us but, instead, we chose to learn from it and we are both very loving women. We both are good mothers and she has a wonderful marriage. I, the first time around, was not so lucky. I married the wrong person (and a minister to boot) and got the crap kicked out of me for a very long time. Does that make me somebody who's going to go looking to be abused? To love somebody else who's going to abuse me? No, it just crushed what little self esteem I have left but it doesn't make me any less capable of loving somebody - whether they be an abuse survivor or the most perfectly normal male in town.

My attraction to my SO is for who he is. The abuse is something he went through, but that doesn't ultimately make him who he is. Yes, it's hard sometimes. Yes, it's frustrating. Yes, it comes with absurd and unexpected surprises - my latest being this whole avoidant disorder thing that I am none too impressed with - but, ultimately, when I lay down the pros and the cons of loving this man, I have far more pros. Yes, the by products of what they go through are horrible and yes, we suffer the brunt of most of it as SO's but, ultimately, if our loved one is making an honest attempt to get help, they're keeping to their meds as necessary and following their therapy plan as prescribed, who are we to fault their progress?

Sometimes loving someone means making some sacrifices to help them help themselves. As long as we are not being abused and we are not losing ourselves to the situation - which CAN happen, we all have to watch ourselves there I think - we are the stronger part of the relationship and they gain strength and hope from our love. It's just my opinon but I know a lot of very strong couples from the family support group I attend here where I live and we all have the same feeling regarding this. Loving somebody in this position doesn't make us a sucker for punishment. It makes us somebody brave and loving to want to love somebody who feels they are so unworthy of love and care and it won't kill us to be unselfish and to look beyond ourselves for a bit to help them help themselves.

Granted, I can't function on the high plain all the time, I have my own issues to deal with, it's true. Domestic abuse isn't exactly the easiest thing to get over. But I do my best and I love him for who he is, which is exactly what he wants and needs.

#66262 - 04/26/05 11:20 PM Re: Time to look at ourselves, too.
An Offline

Registered: 12/24/04
Posts: 151
Loc: usa
I need to still read each word of each post but absolutely I think we're more than likely special women/partners. I know it's true for me that I come from a definite dysfunctional family and all the more so because denial is it's ever- defining feature- My father was a compulsive gambler and my mother the perfect co-addict, but even as a child I thought it made no sense for two lives to be wasted. And even though I didn't know the words for it, the dynamics and mutual futility of "enabling" was apparent. They were both good people but neither grew past the Catch-22 of their roles in the family mobile.

That was my biggest determination. To break myself of my learned codependency. And nothing has tested that more than this relationship. But I know what attracted me to my guy- his will to transcend his SA. He didn't know how and he had every fear, but he came out of his family with the same feelings as me, that he wanted to love them but also needed to grow out of the family denial system. I'd say we're both "purple sheep" in our families. the ones who break the pattern and don't quite "get with" the dysfunctional family program.

For sure, the tolerance for having to "do without"- materially and emotionally- was learned in my childhood and I have to watch it- it's been tricky with this relationship for sure to be sure there's balance and equality and responsibility where it should be . It's also made me able to understand when he was a victim of his own behaviors and made him more understanding of my sensitivities too. He's actually one of the few men (or women) who has really understood my sensitivity and valued it as the depth of strength and as a resource the way I do.

For us there was something else that I think has been a key and strangely special gift to our relationship. I had finally outgrown my family's strict religious upbringing where one despises the body, sexuality, and physicality in all forms. I'd gone from the brainy little girl who even in elementary school would plan my absences around gym days to a woman in her 40s who was wonderfully fit and running 4 miles a day and feeling great and free of the family stuff. Then I got a rare and rather debilitating muscle deteriorating disease about 7 years ago. I'm recuperating progressively from it now but it's been my parrallel to his situation and has made me tolerant and understanding when I would have lost that had I not had this experience myself - where I know I'm not the way I want to be but it was very very difficult to find my way out of the degenerating situation (it's so rare that all patients have the same 5 year frustrating journey to diagnosis). difficult but possible

An example is that he often expresses frustration that he couldn't be the man he wanted to be in the relationship in terms of follow through. He's great when feeling good, but when the dark days would come from the SA issues, (e.g. a call from a family member would trigger his shutdown) , he wouldn't live up to any of his earlier intentions.
--When he thought he should quit relating because of that, I earnestly told him I saw it as no different than my situation at this time. I would like to be the person who regularly ran 4 times a week and was capable of planning and doing whatever I planned. But the disease has changed that. I can make hopeful plans and if it's a good physical day, I may do it, but I never know. Somedays I can barely survive and get myself dressed so I am reluctant to make plans despite my best of intentions and strong desires. Just as he tolerates my limitations I give the same to him and just see it as equal consideration.

BUT I do have to monitor myself constantly cause i can slip easily out of the "different but equal" considerations and become codependent in my actions. But it's an opportunity- a challenge for sure- for me to keep on growing. Early on with him, I got out my old copy of "Codependent No More" -( which was my second copy since the first one wore out from my needing it so 15 years ago! )

It's like when my boyfriend asked once how I could make any good out of the bad childhood -- I truly believe it makes us more empathetic richer beings in some ways- granted at a price.

I've found myself thinking that every curse is a blessing too and every blessing a curse. It's all in how we use it.

So YES to there is something special about us all I suspect, but NO to it being a negative something. At least in my case I know we identify with each other's sense of childhood loss. And it has given us similar sensitivities and ideals. Although me and my guy don't share the same background specifics, we share the same sense of parental betrayal. So we reparent ourselves and make our new selves, step by step through our ever- new lifetimes. I'm always philosophical and need optimism like I need air-

I think this site has the best of the world's men and women. I am always inspired by the extreme honesty and caring that happens here and find it a bright Light in the storm of life- and thanks Kolisha for bringing it up. I have thought about this many times......
[edited by me for my typos!]

#66263 - 04/28/05 01:36 AM Re: Time to look at ourselves, too.
Abby Offline

Registered: 11/18/04
Posts: 36
Thanks Kolisha for this post. For what myself is concerned:

yes, I am a CSA survivor

yes, from a psychological point of view I have been neglected from my parents and other caregivers

yes, I come from a dysfunctional family for what emotional matters are concerned

no, I am not happy with my own current identity. I am a survivor and still in the healing process, so I feel NOT to be able to act in my daily life as MY TRUE SELF would / could let me live. It’s amazingly frustrating. I know the spiral of healing, and going backwards sometime to old patterns makes me furious with my myself and terrified I would always get stuck in my fears and low self-esteem. I know I have already done an amount of healing: I have acknowledged my past and I am out of denial and able to function healthy in my work and my friendships. Still, there’s this “black hole” of my sexual life and consequently my ability to be in a loving relationship. That’s the huge healing process I still struggle to fight for. To be able to live an equal relationship with a man is the biggest dream of my life.

Interestingly, despite I am a survivor I have rarely put in place the “withdrawal in bad times” dynamic. I tend to search for my deepest friends when I feel bad. But I have for the rest many behaviours and thought patterns which are typical of a survivor. My relationship with my former BF failed for this reason: he knew I am a survivor but he didn't love and respect me enough to tolerate my attitudes so he gave up with me. So in a way now I am trying to have for my male survivor friend the attitudes I would have liked somebody who namely loved me to put in place with myself. I would like to be loved despite my automatic reactions and everything, but am I able to do the same for someone else in the first place? How can I pretend to be treated in an understanding and respectful way by somebody if I don’t do the same? I know how tough the healing process is, why should I believe that it’s so hard for me alone? I want to be respected, so I have to respect him, ...

But this would not be enough. Because it could seem from my wording that I am simply using my friend for a personal psychological exercise. And anyway those should be attitudes to be applied towards any human being, shouldn't it? But I am also in love for the guy. I hang on because it is HIM. HE worth all my hanging on. He has incredible qualities as a human being, and I am sure I have fallen in love because of the goods in his personality. There’s a great chemistry between us, and we share so many ideals, principles, interests. He is also the first man I can feel to trust completely also physically, I have never experienced such a safe and peaceful feeling with a man in my life (and because of my job and my interests I have many men around me all the time, so I can recognise my different feelings). Interacting with him has given a complete new direction to my life, and sorted out from me a number of personal tools I didn’t supposed to have. I have done a giant personal growth pattern since I know him, he has had a powerful positive influence to my spirit. Then HE is a great person. He has survived to psychological, physical and sexual abuses through childhood and teenage years on the sole basis of his willing to live and improve as a human being. He still is committed towards himself to improve as a person. His soul strength is just amazing to me. Just like his intelligence and sensibility. My admiration for this man in endless. I am in love for him for who he is.

Though now I must face the fact that who he is includes survivor coping strategies and an ongoing healing process. This does not lessen a bit his qualities, but unfortunately the withdrawing dynamic triggers me in an area which I am still working on and I am weak to manage. What I see happening in my life and in my relation with my male survivor friend since our mutual disclosure is very well described by Laura Davis in her wonderful book “Allies In Healing”. Two-survivors relationships can be extremely difficult, because the people involved can be powerful allies but at the same time there’s are a high risk of continously trigger each other, so often doubling the pain instead of being a reciprocal support.

I know that there is no hope for me and my friend to establish a true healthy relationship (whatever nature it could have) without EACH OF US walking our own healing process. I am aware that currently I have watched deep on my personal story and I am out of denial phase. I am quiet sure my friend was in a denial phase instead when he disclosed to me and I have the strong impression that only now he’s realising the sad truth and how much he has been affected by SA. This rejecting attitude from his side is new and started soon after disclosure, so I tend to believe they are really related. I will see if, when and how he would like to come back again in my life. I hope he will. At least, my greatest wish is that, even if he decides to withdrawn from me forever, he will take care of himself through therapy and a proper support system. I want to take care of myself anyway and go on in my own healing. And I want to keep hanging on. I wish I have the strength for it.


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