For the purpose of this piece, please understand that I am using relationship to mean ‘prolonged human coexistence’ it could be an abusive friendship, an abusive parent, an abusive member of your community.
1. Abusive relationships almost always have honeymoon periods.
Which means some, maybe even a lot, of your memories of said abuser may be good memories.
And you may miss those parts of them.
Missing the ‘good’ parts of them, loving the good parts of them even, does not excuse the bad things they did to you.
It doesn’t make it better, or not as bad, since sometimes you laughed and had fun. It doesn’t change the fact that they were, or still are, abusive.
2. Abusers are, by nature, manipulative.
They’ll gaslight you- make you feel as if you’re the one who abused them. Abusers know that when they make their victims feel as if they’re the ones who did wrong- the person usually feels guilty. And in feeling guilty they usually double up on the ‘If I loved you enough/behaved enough this wouldn’t bother me/you wouldn’t do this’ mantra that a lot of survivors have.
They make you feel like you deserve what they did to you. That they’re the good guys really, in the whole situation. They were punishing you so that you could learn- and thus become a better person.
All of these things are wrong though. It isn’t true. They were not the good guys. But the fact that you sometimes, you have conflicted feelings- because you began to believe them- believe that you deserved those things…. it doesn’t change the terrible reality of what abuse is.
and it doesn’t make what happened to you less significant.
3. Stockholm Syndrome/Traumatic Bonding
Traumatic bonding is “strong emotional ties that develop between two persons where one person intermittently harasses, beats, threatens, abuses, or intimidates the other.”
In abuse- especially in those who went through traumatic bonding or suffer from Stockholm syndrome… there is a lot of denial that the bad things are going on.
When going through these things… people cling to whatever small ‘kindness’ that they can find. They often truly care for their abusers, partially in an attempt to make the bad things not as bad, or happen less.
Bonds like that can be hard to break. It is not your fault for struggling.
4. You feel like you owe(d) them.
A lot of abusive relationships start off with abusers doing really nice things. And then calling in ‘debts’. This kind of goes along with the honey moon phase stuff- but not always. This may be more extreme than just a honeymoon phase.
These are people who step in and ‘fix’ situations (some legitimate- some not) in order to call on it later and be like, “well, I mean.. I did do soandso for you.”
Looking back on these events, you may still feel a lot of gratitude. That doesn’t change the rest of what happened.
5. You were made to believe that it was as good as it gets.
This is usually done in a combination. First, they insult you. Try to ruin your concept of self-worth as much as possible. Remind you that no one will ever love you.
and then they step in and say that its okay because they’ll always be there. That no one will ever love you like they loved you.
It can be very hard to change these thoughts. They work very hard to make us believe them. It is not your fault that you are struggling to fix the wreckage they left.
6. You were young.
Children do not always realize that sexual touch is wrong. Especially when abusers tell them that its okay. That its their special secret. That its a prize for good behavior.
You are not at fault for having believed those things- and for occasionally slipping back into that mindset. It is not your fault that felt special as a child, and thus your memories are ‘positive’.
You are not broken.
Having positive memories of your abuser, missing parts of what they were to you, even loving them…
does not mean you are wrong. it doesn’t make what they did okay.
You are trying to heal from a terrible thing, and no one can fault you for where you are at on your journey.
Having conflicted feelings does not make you wrong, it just makes you human.