There was a time during my marriage, many years in fact, that I believed staying in the situation was somehow better than getting out of it. All of the unknowns seemed too much to bare. As crazy as it sounds, the truth is that the abuse had become familiar – a part of everyday life. On top of that, there was some level of thinking that as long as I was around, I had some control over the abuse that was taking place. I feared that if I left he would be free to be abusive to my children and I wouldn’t be able to protect them. This is because, as the spouse, I incurred the worst of it all. So I decided that staying was the best form of protection for my children. I know that I am not alone in this way of thinking as I encounter many abuse victims with the same mentality. Unfortunately, when we are in situations like this, our thinking becomes distorted and we make choices that allow the abuse to continue. What we aren’t thinking at the time is that our children are still being abused. We think we are the only ones feeling the effects of it all. This simply isn’t true. The truth is that our children are not only feeling it but they are seeing it as well. They are absorbing everything that is taking place in their environment. They may not understand it but they are definitely aware that things aren’t right at home. However, as much as they may know that their home life is far from what it should be or how much they wish things were different, they are also learning to be like the adults in the situation. This means that they will grow up to either be like the abusive parent or to be like the one that accepts the abuse. Furthermore, the effects are damaging. The longer they are exposed to the abuse, the more trauma they experience, even if it isn’t being done directly to them. But it is. We just may not see it at the time because we are so caught up in the abuse and our own thoughts and vision has become cloudy and distorted. An abusive person in the home abuses everyone in the home. There are no exceptions!
It’s been three years since he’s moved out and the effects of the abuse are still present. Even with going to Al-Anon and counseling, the inner turmoil, pain and confusion still lingers in their minds and bodies. To make matters worse, the influence that the relationship has had on them has been embedded in their psyche. Despite all they have learned in recovery, it’s painfully obvious that they have assumed a role in their future relationships already and until they are really willing to do the inner work that is required to heal, they will continue to suffer from the effects of the toxic relationship.
The best thing we can do is to SHOW them that this behavior is unacceptable. We can also show them that true change is possible. By empowering ourselves, we become a new type of role model for them. They may not see it at the time but eventually they will. Healing from abuse is a messy process. It’s important not to get discouraged because we aren’t seeing the progress we may be hoping for but trust that we all have the ability to overcome any trauma that we have experienced. Staying in an abusive relationship is never the answer. Take it from someone that knows.