I have found it really challenging knowing how best to deal with someone very close to me choosing to live in an emotionally abusive relationship, even though I once had such a relationship. The question that I always ask myself, even as someone who has been there is; “How do we get ourselves into such relationships in the first place?”. I think often we cannot see our whole selves and often choose to beat ourselves down even in small ways. We would rather believe that we are too fat or not pretty enough. Rather than recognize how we have crossed so many challenges. And how that in itself is a big accomplishment.
We tend to see ourselves being worth less than, rather than worth more. And we often to believe someone who pulls us down in the name of love rather than believe those who lift us up. Those who tell us we are actually great as we are. We would rather hand over our power than claim our space in this world. Maybe because its easier, or maybe because we are too scared. What ever the case, I know that no matter how much I tell my mother what an amazing, strong woman she is, I can’t make her leave my step father who is abusive. It has been devastating for my sisters and I to witness. But not only for us, but for her friends and other family too.
Two of my sister’s friends have left their unhappy marriages because they saw that no matter how long they held on, things did not change. My mother’s situation also shined a bright light on their own situations. And they realized that if they didn’t leave they, would be stuck in abusive relationships for the rest of their lives being. And whilst my mother wanted to leave my step father when I was at school. He begged her to stay and convinced her that if she left, it would destroy him. She stayed continuing to put his needs before her own. Until last year when she finally left him.
During this time she blossomed until he threatened to kill himself if she didn’t come back. He also made promises to change and do things differently. She returned and as the months have gone by her health has deteriorated and not one promise has been honored. And when I ask her about it, she feels she made the right choice. No matter what her children, friends or even priest say. She has been firm in her decision. And I have had to accept that there is nothing I can do to change her mind.
Especially now that her voice has weakened and his domination gains strength. I have had to come to terms that this is my mother’s choice and she will die married to this man. She is not a weak woman. In fact she raised 5 daughters on her own, ran her own business and still made time to work in a refuge for drug addicts from midnight till dawn a couple of nights a week. I am the youngest and have always felt that God blessed me with my mother as an angel of all that is good in this world. And I have struggled to see why she cannot see she that she is worth so much more than being treated so cruelly.
How have I chosen to deal with the situation? I have told my step father what I think of him and choose not to see him. I think that the best I can do is accept my mother’s choice. Recognize this is her life and she must live it how she wants to. I tell her often I love her, that I am there for her no matter what. I also remind her that our house is open for her to move in and most of all I tell her she has a voice. A voice that is strong and true. That her point of view matters and that her voice is so much more powerful than the man who constantly tries to silence her.
I struggle to think of how else I can do more. Especially because of my own personal experience. Where my family and friends tried to help me out of my abusive relationship and failed. And how it was only when I decided to leave, did I leave. So for now I am being a support system and respecting that it has to come from her.