I recently witnessed a troubling exchange in the grocery store. I didn’t handle it well. And I don’t know how I could have done it better. It was troubling.
I hope I didn’t make your situation worse. It was such a shock to hear a man’s voice yelling, “SHUT UP!” so near me. I was just about to check out when his tirade began. “What are you thinking? Just do what I say!”, he shouted.
The clerk partially regained my attention but I turned to you again as she was calculating my change. While your man charged past me I turned and placed my hand on your shoulder. Did my empathy for you create a greater problem when your abuser spun around to watch from outside the door?
I hadn’t recollected myself as I walked out. I stared directly into his eyes and gave him a “look”. That was a mistake, I know. As I muttered, “Asshole”, under my breath I glanced back and he was staring after me. Why did I escalate the situation by increasing his anger? It’s simply not a good way to move through the world, AND he would certainly take any anger out on you. He may even have misread the situation and felt that you enlisted my support.
And I’m sorry that you are remaining in this situation. I do understand, though.
I get that you may think this is love. Or perhaps when he is loving, he is so gentle and beseeching that you believe that he will never be abusive again. This may be a pattern that you have known all of your life. Or it may have begun as a wonderful and exciting love affair and slowly degraded to this. Either way, it is hard to see a way out of it, isn’t it?
Your sense of worth and faith in yourself may be eroded. You may think that you deserve such treatment or you may just have forgotten that it is possible to stand up for yourself in this world. Perhaps your fear and shame override your desire for escape from the bad times.
You may feel you have nowhere to go and no one to turn to. Has your family have given up on you? Your friends may be alienated. After all, they have warned you, offered you a way out many times. It’s a lonely place to be.
I wanted to do more.
I wanted to tell you that this isn’t love. Love doesn’t hurt. Love doesn’t destroy. Love doesn’t imprison, emotionally or physically.
I wanted to tell you that this is not your fault. We are all capable of putting ourselves in the hands of someone who eats away at us until we aren’t sure who we are. There, but for the grace of God, go any one of us.
I wanted to tell you that there are people who will help you. I could personally take your hand and lead you to a house that would shelter you, comfort you, counsel you and then help you establish a life for yourself that is safe and secure.
I hope that you have one friend, one phone number, one small spark within you that knows that life can be different.
I’m sending a check to our local women’s shelter and hotline. I wish I could do more.