If you have been involved for any length of time with an abusive man, then you have asked yourself this question:
“Am I doing something wrong to attract such a abusive person?”
When I married my husband, I didn’t know that within the first year of our marriage, he would strangle me and begin a decade-long habit of violent assaults on me. But, I did know that there was something not quite right.
I knew it as I walked to the beautiful beachside place where we took our vows. I knew it three and a half years before on our first date. I always knew that I didn’t completely buy into his stated love for me and I doubt I ever loved him. There were too many red flags.
But, I moved with him 3,000 miles away from my family and friends to a place I’d never been, put up with false promises of lifestyle and togetherness, put up with lies, violence and emotional stress and stayed with him for 15 years.
I’ve asked myself why I did this so many times that I can’t even count. I knew from the start that the odds of this union being good for me were low. My sister knew it and cried with me the night before my wedding, so upset that I was picking this man to marry. But, I was not tuned into her fears or the red flags at all.
I was hooked completely because he wanted me or at least that is what he said and I believed him and felt glad about it. He wanted the same thing as I did, a family. That was 20 years ago.
It is amazing how healing opens minds
Today, after years of therapy, nine years of divorce and the wisdom that comes from experiencing life, I have a pretty good idea why I tolerated such horrible treatment.
I am a codependent, empathetic personality and that makes me vulnerable to abusers. I easily see and feel other people’s pain and often I want to help them fix it so “we” don’t have to feel it anymore. If you have been with an abusers, odds are you are the same way.
My therapist Jessica uses a great illustration to communicate this about a house with a fence around it. I am the type of person who will let people through my front gate, my yard, my front door and into my home, a place that should only be populated with people who care as much about me as I care about them, way before they have shown that they do. I let an abuser into my home, my life, without even knowing it until it was too late.
Narcissists and abusers capitalize on this trait of co-dependents every day. Because despite what they might have you believe, abusers need people around them in order to survive emotionally. Abusers can’t function alone. However, if you are not a codependent or very sensitive person, you are not likely to tolerate and forgive the stream of bad “relationship-decisions” of an abuser.
In other words, it’s not that I am attracting abusers, I’m tolerating them.
What drives co-dependency?
There are a hundred reasons why someone is co-dependent that range from born personality traits to childhood traumas, but being one doesn’t mean you are damaged. Not at all. Sensitive people are incredibly kind to others, loyal, willing to pitch in and help a friend emotionally. They are understanding, forgiving and loving. That doesn’t sound damaged to me.
Abusers and narcissists are looking for those very traits to help them function in life. Narcissists don’t know appropriate emotional responses for everyday situations, that’s why things seems just a little off when you are around one. Non-codependent people don’t hang around long when they sense that so they don’t get hooked in and experience all the “fun” we victims have.
When abusers find people who put up with their, well, crap, they stick to them like glue. They have found the person who will be their guidepost in life, but not in a mutually beneficial way, unfortunately. More like a parasite on a host. And if they find another one, a better one, they will ditch you in a second without remorse.
I used to wonder why my union with my abuser didn’t work, when I could logically see how it could, easily, with just a few adjustments. Therapist after therapist tried to reach him while we were together. Nothing worked. I still got used and abused.
It was so frustrating and eventually hopeless to be living with that everyday.
When I look back on it now with the aide of excellent, professional advice, I see now that I was expecting behaviors and feelings from my abuser that just weren’t going to happen. I expected my abuser to feel the same about people as I did and assumed that he held the same value about exploiting others as me.
I’ve learned that abusers aren’t necessarily looking to fix anything about themselves and often don’t care at all about other people, except as pawns to control and help them medicate their damaged psyche.
What I’ve learned is that, no, I don’t attract broken men, but left on my own, without proper guidance and treatment from an excellent mental healthcare professional, I am apt to keep one if they find me. And since narcissists make up 1 percent of our population and 1 in 5 men have abused their loved ones, the odds are very good that we will cross paths.
I’m just not very skilled, or I wasn’t until recently, at weeding out those who are terrible in relationships, willing to exploit another human being or will hit you when the going gets rough.
It is in my best interest, and if you are a co-dependent, yours, too, to understand this dance so that you don’t repeat it. Getting free of a narcissist abuser is very difficult. Once they have discovered that by pushing the right emotional buttons in you, they fulfilled their never-ending need for narcissistic supply, they won’t want to let you go.
No, you are not doing a thing to attract an abusive man. Nothing at all. You are just putting up with one for many very good and honorable reasons when they find you. Learn how to pull in the welcome mat when they come calling.
And remember, you don’t have any reason to be ashamed and you don’t need to feel humiliated. He should.
Julie Boyd Cole is a mother of two sons, a journalist, writer and business woman. She has written for the Miami Herald, the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, Yahoo.com, among many publications around the country. Currently, she is the chief executive administrator of a non-profit in North Florida. And Julie is a survivor of domestic violence at the hands of her ex-husband and today is an advocate helping other victims sort through the trauma of domestic abuse. Julie also writes for bruisedwoman.com and @bruisedwoman on Twitter about the topic of domestic abuse, co-parenting with an abuser and the emotional damage caused by narcissists and personality disorders.
She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org