How To Not Pick An Abuser Over And Over Again

Picking The Wrong One

The story we hear often. The girl who has finally made a break away from the abusive chaotic man, only to have fallen in love with his twin brother. The question is what causes a woman to find another abuser, and another, and another.

Some say it’s what she knows. Her childhood was abusive and chaotic. Her dad was unpredictable, her Mom complacent and shut down. She might have been passed around.

That’s not always the case, however. Sometimes these women have not grown up in abusive addictive environments. Then what’s the draw?

The draw is the first abusive relationship. Even if the first one was with a teacher, a sibling, a boyfriend or husband.

The first thing I will say is that when we are harmed, say a slap in the face, its not just the slap that causes the harm. It is the element of surprise. That being the case, times of calm because frightening. The body has learned that experiencing calm and feelings of saftey is a dangerous place to be, because calm is where the shock of abuse occurs. Therefore being with someone who is volatile feels almost safer than with a man who is always kind and caring.

Another aspect to this is that when we are in relationship with someone, and when we are close to them, our body produces a chemical dump in response to that relationship. When we move near the one we love, our body responds by dumping hormones into our body — driven by the brain. Research shows that the juices dumped into the body for bonding are significantly stronger in an abusive relationship that in a safe healthy relationship. That means the sparks are much stronger with a dangerous man if you’ve been abused before, than with a good solid man. If you’ve been abused and bonded with an abuser, teach yourself to RUN when you feel the strong sparks. Then teach yourself to slowly bond with a good kind man. The healthy relationship takes time. Take the time. Love that is deep is amazing. The sparks will come, they just won’t be there the first minute you meet him. Or the first couple months, either.

Picking the wrong one is what you’re use to. Fight what you’re use to. True love simmers slow. Life is short. Don’t waste your precious short life on the roller coaster.

In conclusion, bullies are triggered by weakness. The more someone is harmed, the weaker a person presents in relationship. Work to tap back into your compassionate strong self. A bully looks for someone he can push around. Try out the word ‘no’ on your first encounter. Try it out again and again. How ‘no’ is tolerated is telling. Make sure you have a strong group of friends who are truth tellers. Most of the time, abusers are sniffed out by strong types right away. Listen when a friend cautions you.

Change is possible. You can do this. A gentle safe life awaits you.

By; Lisa Boyl-Davis, LICSW

 

First posted on Medium on a Publication called Better Marriage 

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Bill Died Yesterday

 

Yesterday Bill died.  Bill, our friend.  The Bill with a smirk, always a wonderful smirk on his face.  The mischievous tinkle.  The face I always looked forward to seeing, I’d search for Bill across the crowded Sunday Morning service.  Worried he’d someday be gone.

What will the world be like without Bill?  Our kind-hearted friend.  The guy always with time to listen.  Who loved to see me.  The smile he’d get when he saw our kids.  The stories he and Ted shared, standing out in the church parking lot, unhurried – they would talk.  A car where they were standing needed to back out, they would move to one side, and keep talking.  They’d have to move again.  And still, so much to say.  Never too busy to share another story, he and Ted could talk about anything at all.  Bill holding onto his stick (“It’s not a cane”, he’d say) – his son had carved it for him.  He’d tell about the trips across the states.  All about the adventures.  About the wind at one of the rest stops so strong someone had to help him to the restroom.  Into his 90’s, he was still on the go.  He’d tell about his flying days.  He was a flight instructor during WWII.  Ted and Bill both loved airplanes, they had that in common.  Ted knows which planes he flew.  I can never remember. 

Bill would come along on church campouts.  He’d join the kids for the campout bike parades.  He’d decorate his bike up fancy too.  And always the twinkle, the smirk. 

Bill, such a thoughtful guy.  I remember telling him one Sunday that Marty, our son, who he was fond of, had graduated from H.S.  I invited him to the graduation party.  I really didn’t expect him to make it.  His wife had passed away and doubted he was getting out much.  He came walking up, a bit unsteady on his feet even then, but came to congratulate Marty. 

Losing his wife I think was so hard on him.  He’d tear up anytime he talked about her.   The wife he’d spent a lifetime with, raising so many children that at her funeral I lost track of the count.  Their children, birth children and foster kids.  A lifetime of giving love to each other, and to their many kids and friends.  Grace had a stroke and for years Bill took care of her, bringing her to church in the wheelchair, his patient easy-going ways.  It was definitely true love.

Bill would steal purses.  You’d be chatting with him, and get distracted.  A few minutes later you’d realize your purse was gone.  After scrambling, you’d notice across the room, your purse and a few others hanging from Bills shoulder.  He did this enough times that the church finally presented him with his own purse, which he faithfully wore with his Sunday best. 

This story, it happens everyday.  Good people are born, live, then they die.  He was 96, after all.  And still, I can’t make it OK in my head that it will work for Bill to be missing.  I suppose that would be due to the significant lack of Bill’s in this world.  The eyes that see you from across the room.  The sideways smile.  The twinkle.  The dry jokes.  The smirk. The trust to share a story.  Taking the time to do so.  The interest in others. The caring questions.  The lifetime of giving and loving.  A man whose choices benefited so many. 

I suppose he stole things other than purses.  Like hearts.  It’s a habit.  Whenever I find my seat in church, I hunt for the site of Bill.  Bill died yesterday.  Finally with Grace again.  The twinkle.  The smirk.  Though he’s gone from us, he’s where he’s been headed all along.  A little support through the windy patch, and he’s arrived.  

 

All I Ask

by Gordon Jenkins

Beautiful girls, walk a little slower when you walk by me

Lingering sunsets, stay a little longer with the lonely sea

Children everywhere, when you shoot at bad men, shoot at me

Take me to that strange, enchanted land grown-ups seldom understand

Wandering rainbows, leave a bit of color for my heart to own

Stars in the sky, make my wish come true before the night has flown
And let the music play
as long as there’s a song to sing
And we will stay younger
than Spring

How to Treat The Fat Person In Your Life

Disclaimer:  Our culture has a distorted view of beauty.  That topic is for another blog.  Here I address the actual need for weight loss and how one might treat a person who is overweight.

 

This morning I slipped into some jeans I’ve not been able to wear for 3 years.  Thyroid cancer made my life miserable.  And still, with help from God and the people in my life, I figured out what I needed to do, and here I am, where I wanted to be.  It’s the most amazing feeling to wear pants that fit the structure of my body.  While soaking in the comfort of the thing, I knew I had to write.  Here are a few tips, in case you didn’t know, on how to treat the fat person in your life. 

Fat people know they are fat. 

You don’t have to tell them, remind them, or point it out. 

Fat people know the difference between good food and bad food. 

Telling them will not help. 

Fat people know that being overweight is bad on their health. 

Fat people don’t need to be made fun of behind the back or to their face. 

Fat people need acceptance.  They need to know they are adored, AS IS.  Adored in public and private.  Adored while eating.  Adored while walking.  While sitting down watching a show.  Adored.  Because fat is A WALL, FOLKS.  Fat acts as a barrier between the fat person and ALL THE DANGEROUS UNKIND JUDGMENTAL VULTURES out there.  Feelings of anxiety and feelings of hunger land in the very same spot on the body.  Each time anxiety is awakened, so is hunger, and vise versa.  Giving a fat person more anxiety gives them more hunger. Each time you point out how fat your “loved one” is, you’ve given them more reason to pack on the fat.  Did you take that in?  You might be the very reason your loved one is fat in the first place.  

Fat gives DISTANCE between the vulnerable one and yourself.   Fat prevents a whole host of activities, including love-making which by the way requires TRUST and INTIMACY.  Trust and intimacy can not be established alongside SHAME.  Not possible.  You might be blaming a lousy love life on the obese person in your life.  Lovers are made to love.  Bodies are built to heal.  The fat person has work to do, no doubt.  However if the fat person is living with an unsafe person, the fat will remain or return. 

Fat manages vulnerability.  And therefore every time you find it necessary to identify how fat he or she is (yes, it goes both ways) you are causing stress in which, even if your loved one wanted to, couldn’t release the weight.  Seriously, how many times have you known someone who found a lifestyle for healing and lost all their weight only to put it on again?  Have you ever wondered why he or she was almost driven to pack it back on, when they loved the weight loss so much?  Of course there are medical and life reasons weight returns, such as surgery, childbirth, thyroid issues etc…  When there are no good reasons and still the body reactively drives toward weight gain, that is when it’s time to start noticing how anxiety producing thinness is, and how comfortable obesity feels.  Either way, if there is weight to release, there is call for a healthy environment in which weight loss will be a good thing for all parties involved.  It’s the obese person’s job to learn to manage his or her vulnerability, however you can sure make it easier. 

Here are some things you can do and say:

Write down things you have done and said that were not safe.

Ask God to change your heart toward the heavy person in your life.

Tell her you have been an unsafe person.

Tell him you are done pointing out, criticizing, correcting and suggesting.

Tell her about your fears, that you don’t want anything to happen to her, that you are worried.  

Tell him you have decided to work on your health, including your emotional health, and want to be a safe person (please see the book Safe People by Henry Cloud and John Townsend)

Tell her often all the things you love about her, and what attracts you to her.  If you can think of nothing, you have grown a very hard heart.  Attraction is something we build  and work on, not something that hits us sideways from outer space.  No wonder she doesn’t feel safe.  Pray.  I will guarantee you, God will give you a very long list of things to desire and enjoy about the other person.  Because that’s how God sees us – our proud papa.  We are his adored children.  Prejudice, bigotry, and judgmental abuse cloaked in joking and jabs is a hard habit to break.  If not that overt, still, we our bodies are made to pick up subtle disregard and disgust.  What will change you is to have a good hard look at who you are.  You will notice what is ugly about you, and how God loves you anyway, and this will change your heart about the people in your life.

Remember, if your loved one has been harmed by you over and over throughout the years, he or she will have a hard time believing you are for real.  Allow time for distance, anger and sadness.  Yes, anger, and lots of it, toward you.  Grief takes time.  Trust comes along much later.  Time.  Let this healing take time. 

My family and the family I married into who are the worst about this issue.  I somehow managed to marry a man who, though not perfect, gets it.  He often tells me I need to eat more, that the reason I’m heavy is because my body is starving.  When I’m eating something not great for me, he tells me to enjoy it.  When I work hard at getting healthy, he tells me I look just as beautiful to him as I did before.  I’ve been obese (see picture) and thin ( now about 12 sizes smaller), and loved both ways.  I would have never lost weight if he had rejected me as a heavy woman.  He made it safe for me to get healthy and strong.  And I won’t ever take that for granted, because I know my situation is not the norm.

By the way, the body gravitates towards thin.  Make a safe-haven.  Learn to love the one you’re with.  Making these changes will make you both stronger and more healthy.  I guarantee it.  

 

 

Another Marriage Haircut

He is frugal.  He likes to save a buck.  And so before we were ever even admitting to ourselves the feelings we had for each other, I cut his hair.  I didn’t know how to cut hair back then, but that was ok with him.  Apartment across from the engineering building, along the cement wall, up narrow stairway and through door he’d arrive with his friend Joey, both with too much hair, needing a cut.  And that’s how I learned, by cutting and by the mistakes I made.  Ted’s hair has a little wave – helping to hide the wonderings.  Joey’s not so much… straight as a stick and wiry.  I really messed it up a couple times.  The fact that either one of them came back for another cut, and another was shocking to me!

Really, I started cutting hair when I was a kid, but it was for my Dad who was bald.  It amounted to trimming the length, and trimming his beard. Wasn’t quite the same as a bushy full head of too much hair.

The haircuts in the apartment were with sewing scissors or any other scissor we happen to have.  Never with the luxury of hair-cutting tools.  My roommate Ann and I were poor college students.  Our budget for food those days was 40.00 per month, each contributing 20.00, standing in the commodities line for free cheese and butter whenever possible. Nice scissors were out of the question.  I really should have hit the guys up for nice hair-cutting scissors since I was cutting their hair for free, but they were as poor, too.

Despite the lousy scissors and lack of skill, the event itself was grand. Ann was usually in the background making comments that made the guys nervous about what was happening to their hair, causing great hilarity – me laughing till my sides hurt, and most likely messing up the cut even more.  The cuts were usually followed by an attempt to straighten out what had been so badly damaged. And more laughter.  A couple weeks after the cuts, the guys started to look a little better and by the time the hair was much too long again, both of them had forgotten how bad the last cut had been.

I’m still cutting my husband’s hair, 28 years later.  Joey lives in another state.  I’m thinking he can afford a haircut now:) I wonder if roommate Ann has her own collection of cuts to provide, locks needing cut, cross the ocean in Cambodia.  So much time has passed.  So much has changed.  But I still cut his hair. And our kids hair.  I’m better at it now.  We’ve managed to purchase some hair cutting tools; scissors, clippers, etc..  My husband is still frugal – now with time. And so when his hair needs a cutting, he doesn’t want to take the time, waits way too long, miserable grumpy, finally weeks later agrees to let me cut his hair – he says the same thing every time “Oh, I feel so much better, why do you let me go so long!!?”

We have had ups and downs in our marriage.

And still we manage to make peace for yet another haircut.

Maybe I fell in love with him cutting his hair.

I suppose something so mundane might have that kind of power.

Maybe mundane need is where true love resides.

A scheduled glue that holds us strong.

A holy routine of nothing that special.

I wonder.

Living Together. Might it Help a Future Marriage?

 

Today a couple friends came over to spend the day with me – helped me piece together a quilt for my baby grandson.  It’s been a long time since I sat in a kitchen, barefoot on tile floor, adult conversation moving through the hours of a morning.  The topic we happened upon – What’s wrong with living together as a next step for a couple that is moving toward marriage?  The topic wasn’t the expanded version of people living the wild life.  It was all about committed Christian adults who truly believe it’s best to first get to know someone, date, and as a next step, move in before marriage.  And why doing so might or might not be the best idea.  Scriptures were discussed, the ‘one-flesh’ and ‘the break up would be a divorce’ ideas, hypotheticals, stories of heartbreak and stories of those who seemed to have made it work, and talk of our fears. 

After all the ideas turned and turned again, I thought to myself “A trial run wouldn’t have worked for my husband and I because it would have taken all the years of our lives to get a realistic representation of what we’d be getting into.” 

Because no two years – no two days have been just alike.

Because every time I think I know him, he’s someone new.

Because I’ve changed too.

Because what cuts me deep one season is what I desire most the next.

Because anything we set up long ago has gone along the wayside and  been replaced 100 times over by the current needs of life.

Because our goals and dreams have changed.

Because it doesn’t really matter what use to be, what is now is what we’re dealing with.

Because kids have changed us.

Because jobs have changed us.

Because changing a church has changed us.

Because having cancer once and then twice has changed everything all over again.

Some seasons in the game of life we’ve been top of the world. 

Others seasons we’ve been giant losers

– just trying to make it through the day.

A trial run would not have helped us to know if we could stay together and hold a lasting love, because we would need to have given our love a spin for about an eternity to know for sure,  which is why we said I do.  That’s what the promise for us was about.  Deciding he would be the one I’d take the lifetime chance on.  And I’d be his roll of the dice. 

It has not been easy.  Because I’m not an easy person to predict, and neither is he.  That’s the problem about marriage.  Who knows how to maneuver unless we know what to expect.  The year we fell in love, if someone had told me I’d better live with him to discover that he stomps around in the kitchen and slams things down loud when he’s mad, I’d have to tell them that it wouldn’t be a fair trial as a few years later he found his voice at which time I wished he’d start stomping again and stop talking!  If they’d told me living together would help me understand his struggles with God, and how that would affect our kids, I’d have to tell them that just as I have grown, so has he, and that our kids seem to have outdone us on their love for Jesus despite our struggles.  If they told us I better try him out to know more about the way he’d adore me one day and despise me the next and that I had found myself a moody man, I’d have to say nothing has changed in this department, and probably never will.  Moving in would not have helped me.  I knew when I said “I do” that I was marrying one part sweetheart, one part demon, and eight-parts kitchen table.  In the end, who would I have married that could have made my life as full and interesting and good as the one I rolled the dice for? And how would trying out one after another help me find a better man?

I know that if I go out and lease a brand new Suburb, I’ll love everything about it for the first little while because the engine hasn’t yet frozen up – 350 miles from home.  The door handle hasn’t fallen off in my hand.  The seats haven’t yet cracked and cut into my leg.  The frame hasn’t morphed and wobbled down the washboard road. 

The heartbreaking problems that have caused the most pain in this marriage didn’t show up for 15 years, and nearly tore us apart.  They would not have shown up in a 14 year trial.  That would mean that trying our relationship out for 14 years would have not provided either one of us security. 

Date.

Take your time. 

Big Issues will usually show themselves even when not under the same roof. 

But some things don’t show up for years.

What has pulled us from the brink has not been a guarantee of a predictable soul-mate, but a guarantee from God.  God will never leave us or forsake us.  We call on GOD and HE will show us great and mighty things.  The Lord will take our hearts of stone and turn them to hearts of flesh.  God is the reason we are still together.  This one thing we’ve done right in our marriage.  Turn again to God when hopelessness suffocates our functioning.  When I took a gamble and choose my husband, I was betting on GOD to get us through.  The Scripture says to not be unequally yoked.  That one’s a biggie, and we didn’t do that perfectly either, as a person can fake their love for God.  I think in some ways we were unequally yoked most of our marriage, but because there was a willingness for both of us to turn to God in tough times (“Will you pray with me?” says one enemy to another.  “OK” says the hated one), we continued to become more closely yoked then we had been before.  For all the horrid things I know about my husband, and he knows about me, I would still choose him over any other person on the planet, and I’m pretty sure he’d say the same of me.  Most days:)

The Id of Prime: How to Prevent Destroying the Best Years of Your Life

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It’s a familiar pattern.  Man at the top of his game at work, making the most he will ever make, married to the most beautiful adoring wife, envy of us all decides it’s time to engage in a seedy fling, starts shooting up, embezzles money at work.  Beautiful woman happily married, finding success at work, finally a publishing a book, living in a community of friends who adore her and she decides to have an affair with a teenage druggie down the street, decides to quit work, starts to drink, it’s all over. 

The reasons given are many:

He’s afraid of responsibility 

She wants to sabotage her life because of guilt that it’s going so well

He wasn’t respected enough by his wife 

She could never get over harm done to her as a child 

His testosterone made him do it 

Her hormones were out of whack 

And what I say to that is “Why now?”  Why didn’t his wife’s disrespect cause him to act this way two years ago?  Why didn’t her painful past kick in long ago? His fear of responsibility cause him to steal at work, to use drugs, to cheat before now? 

The safest people in the world seem to be unsure of themselves.  Awkward teenagers, trying to understand where they sit at the table of life.  Young adults struggling to get through college.    People at any age who have not made it in life.  Aging folks who have lost..  Had their heart broken.  Buried a parent.  Been abandoned by a spouse.  Lost a child to drugs.  Lost a job.  Been through bankruptcy.  12 step boot camp en route to sobriety.  These people unsure of life itself seem to be the ones much less apt to do harsh things to others in their journey up the proverbial ladder.  It is my view that the id is most commonly enlarged at prime.  At the place in life where things are going the best.  I am amazing, I will protect this amazing persona of myself, and others better see me this way.  If they don’t I will throw it all away. 

Brene Brown’s research shows that wholehearted people, those people who do the best in life, are the ones who embrace their own vulnerability, and with an authentic style of living, share their real selves with others around them.  Which really is the best antidote to the Id of Prime.  Much different from the need to convince others that I’m OK in my quest to belong, I set out to develop a habitual view on myself starting young that embraces me as flawed and valuable even-though.  When I embrace my flaws, and let you know mine, I am inviting you to own and state yours, and together we can care for each other as imperfect, challenging each other along the way, to garnish strength from the other when I need it, which is all the time. 

When I am in a state of awkward insecurity, why would I be more authentic and vulnerable?  Simply put, in my reaching for answers, I am in the position of teachability.   To be teachable is to be vulnerable.  I am saying there is something you know that I don’t know.  And this makes me much safer than the position of ‘I have all the answers and you should be lucky to be in my presence’. 

The self made culture celebrates the exact opposite of teachability and neediness.  Regardless of how brazen we are to proclaim ‘I’ve got it’, this is not reality.  Like it or not, we are needy.  Consider getting through college.  Say we earn our way through college by getting good grades, 100% scholarship.  Someone in a dark room surrounded by stacks of papers, using red pen, sweat and coffee is also getting you through college.  Someone wearing hairnet and gloves is making food in a cafeteria.  Someone is cleaning the toilet, furnishing toilet paper to the stalls, applying bleach as needed, lysol, elbow-grease.  We are our brothers keepers.  We are not islands. 

Working in an Emergency Room for 19 years, one dynamic showed itself over and over.  Didn’t matter if I was dealing with a brilliant Microsoft manager, a rich elderly banker, a well known pastor or a street drug user.  He or she open and vulnerable over time with some close loved ones was the winner.  Sometimes the ‘professionals’ were the ones in real trouble.  They had face to save, a reputation to maintain.  Would rather crack then look like a mess.  Every human being goes through crisis.  We may think we will skirt crisis by keeping distance,  not ‘bothering’ anyone with our problems.  Eventually we come to the end of ourselves, and those of us who have been real with others are the ones to get better.  On the other hand, isolated we can find ourselves pulled under by relatively small setbacks, because we are lacking skills of teachability, flexibility (able to flex even thought it puts me in a poor light), vulnerability and authenticity.

The id of prime. 

An avoidable destruction of me as I practice:

a heart position of reaching toward learning from someone who knows more then me

practice honestly with myself about my weaknesses and deficits

choose to not fake who I am with you

reject the prideful prison of self protection

These practices set us up for deep abiding relationship, whether it be in marriage, with our kids, in the workplace, with our bodies.  Id of prime that walks away from it all is walking away from pretend.  It’s not walking away from intimacy real and raw and deep. Let the best years of our lives honor The God who knew what I was about and gave the prime of his life for my eternity anyway.