I have been hearing a lot about Ray Rice lately, and I have been trying to look away. There is a part of me that doesn’t want to weigh in, but all the five minute activists on facebook make it so hard. Yes, I am talking about the mouth breathers who don’t care about relationship violence and probably snicker when they see a couple fighting in a restaurant. They utter the words, “Oh shit, she did not when the girl throws a glass of water in the dudes face.”
Or then some idiot guy who wants to be macho sees a man shaking and slapping a woman. He steps in wanting to be her knight and shining armor. Then he either gets his ass beat or better yet, the woman slaps him herself. Maybe she will even scream, “Stay out of my business!”
Then there is the scenario where her well intentioned friends stage an intervention to get her away, but she goes back. They are wondering what has possessed her to do so. They think she’s nice, he hits her. What is wrong with her? Maybe he sweet talked her again. Bad news, she wanted to be sweet talked.
When these things happen, these disturbing tableaus, one thing becomes apparent. At it’s core, most people do not understand relationship violence. Living ordinary lives with a moderate amount of drama, they like to believe they are far away from it. Or they judge their family member or friend who is in the trap. Then there is the school of thought where some women are made to believe it is all their fault, when in reality both people are in the boxing ring.
Then there is the other more painful and over simplified belief that women are victims and victims alone. Men in this situation are seen as brutes unable to keep their temper in check, and this woman waits on him hand and foot believing he will change. It is nothing like this. Trust me, I know.
Yes, I am a dating violence survivor. It is something I am quite vocal about. The experience is nothing short of hell, and it makes you trust less and look at life, from the mundane to the major in a whole different way. Before you feel too badly for me, and before you want to deck my ex, let me tell you a dirty little secret. I was just as bad as he was.
A dysfunctional, codependent relationship isn’t a friendship let alone partnership. It is two people who are jockeying for control that want to win at all times. Head games are played on both ends, usually more the woman than the man. Insults are hurled on the guys end, usually cruel and below the belt. Then the woman hurls more insults. That is just the beginning. The Miracle Grow is already being poured on everyone’s character flaws, and now they are bigger than ever. That is when the relationship gets physically violent, and all hell breaks loose. Yeah, he hit me, but I hit him back. Then I made the excuse that we were just passionate.
Afterwards, there is a makeup period that is amazing. Love is pure like Romeo and Juliet, and nothing can tear you apart. He feels bad and promises never to do it again, and yes, I know you always believe him because I did. However, in my heart I also knew it wasn’t true. I now had the upper hand and wanted to keep it. He was also brainstorming so he could keep the upper hand. Sure, I was winning, but he couldn’t let this happen for too long.
Then there were times things would get so heated that yeah, I hit first. Then he hit back. We were a toxic twosome like that. When things reach that point, the relationship itself becomes like a drug. I still remember there was a high that would come from the two of us fighting, and then afterwards the pay off felt like bliss. Later on, I would find out codependency is in fact recognized as an addiction, and this bipolar makeup/breakup pattern had a name.
Like anyone with an addiction, I led a double life. My grades were still good, but as soon as I left school I entered hell. I lied so people wouldn’t know the truth about how bad my life had gotten. Whenever someone would point out this relationship was bad for me, I would either sell my ex like a used car or tell them that they didn’t know what love was. When they would insist I needed to leave him, I cut them out of my life. How dare they?
I started to change too. More often than not, I was angry. As someone who is able to get along with most people, I now found myself in constant conflict. There were times when I just felt drained and I didn’t know why. I started making stupid mistakes, and almost missed registration for classes. Then people would remark I had an acid tongue and many came to avoid me thus isolating me more. The energy created between us was vile and evil, and in return I became vile and evil.
I didn’t want to leave the relationship. Where would I go and what would I do? I knew it would be different, but I didn’t know how I would feel. So I decided to cope by any and all destructive means possible. I stopped eating and lived on diet pills, thus having my weight drop. I drank to excess. Life became hard and everything started to break open. I couldn’t do anything right because this quicksand was pulling me down.
The moment you hit rock bottom is when you get tired of digging. One day, after I felt so drained I passed out in my closet, I decided I was tired of digging. If I stayed, this was going to kill me. Yes, this. The fights were getting more violent, and it became a reality that he might kill me in the course of one because he was much bigger. Or I might accidentally kill myself because of all the stupid things I was doing to deal with him. Maybe, just maybe I might jump into traffic because my despair had become so great. I knew if I didn’t leave, I wasn’t going to. That is when I put on my big girl pants and ended it once and for all.
It was scary, but I was willing to make the plunge. Like anyone trapped in a codependent cycle I was able to get out, but it was hard. My ex didn’t want to let go, and became belligerent when I began seeing other men. For some time, I fed into him. Finally, at the urging of my support network, I blocked him on any and all social media where he continues to be blocked to this day.
Some white knight didn’t rescue me and give me a pukalicious ending. Hell to the no. Instead, I continued to tumble down the rabbit hole a tad longer, making more terrible decisions. It was tough for me to meet decent guys, because I didn’t behave like a decent person. Not to mention the level of chaos I had become used to was a ten, and my willingness to fight anytime and anywhere made most dudes run like they saw Godzilla. It wasn’t because I am a mean and nasty person, but again, you have to be a certain way in order to cope with the relationship. Now that I was back in the moving world, most decent dudes didn’t want to cope with me.
Finally after more bad decisions, I decided it was time to look at my role and my side of the street. It was time to change my behavior, and look at why I kept picking rotten tomatoes. When I did this house cleaning, and a lot of it was from working with a counselor, I became a better woman with more self esteem. These days I wouldn’t dream of repeating history.
Ray Rice was caught in a pattern, and so was his wife. Like my ex and I, they do this all the time. However, now the world knows there business, but on a larger scale, we are also educating ourselves more and more about relationship violence. Ray Rice’s wife shouldn’t have punched him, and he should have walked away. Actually, both should have walked away in separate directions never to speak again, but they can’t and won’t as they are locking horns needing to be in charge.
I am glad the Ravens suspended him. Yes, relationship violence is a serious matter and you just can’t knock someone out in a fight, especially when that person is an easy target. However she should have also behaved better. Again, it is an addictive cycle. My hope for the both of them is that they split up from each other and lead separate lives peacefully. On their own, they probably are okay people. Together, they are a power line in a lightning storm.
I feel grateful and blessed I escaped that part of my life intact. Now things are different, and in a good way. For as dark as some of my days have been, leaving that relationship was still one of the hardest things I have ever done. My hope is that everyone learns a thing or two from Ray Rice, and that everyone becomes more educated about dating violence. That way, when it touches your life you aren’t judgmental. Also, you know that the person will leave when they are ready, and unfortunately, they may never be ready. Sure, it takes two to make a thing go bad, but it only takes on adult to decide this needs to change and to walk away, breaking the cycle.
If you don’t think you can get out, you can. Does it take some work? Yeah. One thing is for sure, if you take the leap it’s frightening, but it does get better.