It is my duty to seek my own happiness, growth, and fulfillment.
One of the ways I do that is by surrounding myself within communities of like-minded people. It is safe place to share and say “me too”. One of them is a recovery group for those who have experienced domestic violence and narcissistic abuse. One day a while back, I stumbled upon a thread that shocked the members of the group. It was started by a woman who was confused about her current situation and didn’t know what to do. She was looking for guidance and many people had already given oodles of suggestions.
But then, as I scrolled down I saw this:
“Hello. My name is Justin*. I am Jessica’s* husband, and I used to be an abuser. We were happy for a long time. Then I went through a lot of stuff that I handled very badly. None of it was her fault, but it was easier to blame her than to deal with it.
I did some terrible things. I hit her. I called her names. I spread lies about her. I publicly humiliated her. In private, I bullied her to the point where she was living in fear of me. Eventually, I lashed out at a neighbor and got arrested. I got probation.
One of the requirements was a psychiatric evaluation. I had to face the fact that I was pretty severely mentally ill. I also had to face everything that I had done, take responsibility for it, and make amends.
My wife had left me. Who could blame her? I was surprised that she had stayed as long as she had. I had completely destroyed what had once been a very happy marriage.
It took a long time and a lot of work. I apologized to her for everything. I explained myself to everyone I had lied to about her and everyone I had humiliated her in front of. I told my children how wrong I had been, and did not allow them to repeat my behavior. Most importantly, I stopped abusing my wife.
I didn’t make promises. I didn’t send flowers. I didn’t try to win her over. That means nothing. Don’t fall for it. What I did do was take complete responsibility for my behavior and try my best to be a better person. I treated her with love and respect.
Changing was hard. It took years of therapy. It took years for Jessica to even begin to trust me again. Not days. Not months. Years.
My wife is a beautiful, strong, accomplished woman. Her strength of character is amazing. That’s what I fell in love with; that and her kindness, generosity, and capacity to love.
What happened between us was not her fault. It was not my kids’, my parents’, the neighbor’s, or anyone else’s. It was not due to stress, illness, my job, or anything else in my life. It was ME. I was the problem. To fix the problem, I had to fix me!
What you are going through/ have been through is not your fault, and you can’t fix it. Don’t try. Get out, get safe, and move forward with your life on your own terms.
Abusers can change, but it takes a lot. I wouldn’t count on it happening.
Go be happy! God bless!”
*Names changed for privacy
I was shocked, as were so many of the others. A few people, sadly, read it and took it as “YES, my “so and so” can change, I’ll be more patient.” They missed the message entirely.
I was able to contact “Jessica” and speak to her directly about this. She was very candid and I could tell quite genuine, even when it didn’t paint things in the best light. I asked her if I might be able to copy this letter and change the names because I could see how powerful it is. Obviously, she understood its power too.
You cannot change anyone but yourself.
I learned that lesson in 8th grade. No amount of compassion, kindness, empathy, or patience will change anyone. True change comes when the pain of our current choices and circumstances becomes more than we can bare.
Ladies, if you are still clinging patiently, lovingly steadfast because you believe that something magic will happen, or that God will intervene, I have a message for you.
The magic is within you. [Tweet “You must put forth the effort to create a reality of respect.”] And sometimes that means letting go and a little heartache. But the other side of that pain is where dreams come true.XO,