Before dating the guy I’d eventually marry, I was involved in two long-term abusive heterosexual relationships. The first one was mildly abusive, the second one more explicit. The first one didn’t like women very much, and the second one liked them but saw them as interchangeable. Both of them profoundly influenced the way I view myself and interact with other people, especially men.
But my first and most enduring abusive relationships were with girls and young women. I don’t have a single close friend from K-12 left in my life because almost all of them were abusers. Those who weren’t abusers I broke off contact with anyway, because I never felt comfortable around them. There was one childhood friendship in particular in which, when she failed to abuse me, I abused her instead. (I’m so sorry, A. I still think about you.)
Because of that string of abusive relationships – and the very specific, almost eerie pattern of the abuse – I remain unable to really let my guard down around any woman. It’s taken me years to realize how deeply those childhood and adolescent relationships affected my sense of self. When the attendants at my wedding gave their speeches, every single one focused on my husband – not because few people like me, but because few people really know me (which isn’t to say that it didn’t hurt pretty badly. They could have made an effort, you know?). I literally do not know how to form strong bonds with other women. This is a skill I was never taught.
Divide and conquer.
How has abuse shaped your life and your sense of self? In what ways do you find yourself reenacting, or waiting to reenact, destructive behaviors you learned when you were young? (I’m sure I don’t need to say this, but anonymous comments are welcome.)
Filed under: feminism