The Lies We Tell Ourselves
by Rebecca Hieronymi
“But, he can change, right?” I’m going to be extremely honest with you. If your partner has shown any abusive behaviors, they are not likely to change. When you identify abusive traits in a partner, the most difficult and often heartbreaking thing you will have to do is choose how to act on that information. You may not want to let them go because of all of the wonderful memories that come flooding in, creating an idealized version of them based on who you wished or thought they were. We want to believe we can change them – love them enough to shape them. It is during these times you must be proactive in how you discern if your partner actually has the ability to change.
When a victim believes they can stop or control the downward spiral of abuse, the abuser’s job is made that much easier. We tell ourselves lies to explain away their actions, wanting to believe that if we could understand why they are the way they are, then we can change them. But, the abuser’s mindset is a complex web of deep-seated influences and experiences that create their consciousness and behavior, and there is little you can do to change them. The core power and control tactics of an abuser are not going to change by only addressing one piece of the puzzle (e.g. anger management).
It is normal to feel a sense of attachment and obligation toward someone you thought was the one, but the key is in caring more about your safety. Here are seven lies we tell ourselves from ‘Stop Signs’ by Lynn Fairweather:
1.“He’s been violent with others, but he would never hurt me.” If your partner has a violent criminal history, has admitted to previous assaults or justified assaults against a former partner saying “she started it” or deserved it, you are dealing with someone who may believe that “might makes right.”
2. “He’ll change when we… get married/have children/move in together.” Cohabitation, marriage, and childrearing are a challenge for average non-violent people. So, yes an abusive partner will change – by becoming more abusive under the pressure instead of better.
3. “Love hurts: it’s not real if it doesn’t.” Society leads girls to believe that conflict and passionate aggression are associated with romance. TV shows, films, and music are all guilty of perpetrating this idea. It’s true that love can inspire powerful emotions in people but mental, physical and other forms of abuse are never excusable or acceptable. “In true love, it may hurt to be away from someone, but it should never hurt to be with them.”
4. “If it doesn’t work out, I can just… get a divorce/breakup/move out.” An abusive relationship is like a spider’s web. Victims become tightly wrapped in a cocoon of control and fear. Getting out is always harder than we think.
5. “He loves me, so he wouldn’t really hurt me.” To you love may mean commitment, trust and openness but to an abusive partner love means ownership and control, and they will use any tactic to maintain that control.
6. “We were meant to be together, so I have to make it work.” The idea of a “one true soul mate” is a myth, and it’s time to put it to bed. You can find real and healthy love out there.
7. “He is just misunderstood.” Many of us are natural helpers; we may even feel a calling to fix wounded souls and troubled minds. While this is an admirable trait, it also makes you a prime target for an abuser. Abusers will blame psychological issues for their actions, and they may have issues, but it is not your job to stick around and repair them.
Abusers can change, but rarely do. They do not see that they are doing wrong, and in some cases they see it but don’t care. If you truly believe they are capable of change, let them do so alone, then come back later to show you their progress. As the saying goes, “the proof is in the pudding.” In other words, the proof is in actions not promises. If you have told yourself the above lies, it’s time to reevaluate your relationship.
on’t feel ashamed or embarrassed that you walked into the spider’s web. It is wiser to acknowledge you were deceived and save your life than stay in a dangerous situation to “save face.
If you or someone you know has experienced intimate partner violence, Crisis Services of North Alabama can help. Please contact us locally at 256.574.5826, on our 24/7 HELPline at 256.716.1000, or at our website www.csna.org. Advocates provide free, confidential support to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.