Do you know where you were in 1960 when Neil Sadaka’s song “ Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” debuted? If I had to guess, if you’re reading this article you probably weren’t even born yet. Many of you may be actually asking yourself, “Who Is Neil Sadaka?” So I guess you’ll simply have to take my word that it was a great song with a message that still holds true today.
Even though breaking up with someone is difficult it is important to understand that not all break ups are created equal. This then leaves us with the question what is the difference between pathologically harmful relationships which can lead to intimate partner violence and an ordinary bad break up.
Another term used for intimate partner violence , coined by some experts is intimate terrorism. Intimate terrorism is a term that I much prefer as it more accurately describes the feelings and experience from the perspective of a victim. The victim in many cases is being emotionally and psychologically being held hostage in these relationships
If a victim wants to leave the relationship, abusers may threaten victim’s outright or use veiled threats . It’s important to reminder that a veiled threat is still a threat, whether it’s legal or not. Victims live in a constant state of uneasiness and terror.
Is This Love Or Is It Abuse ?
So what is the main difference in breaking up with someone who intentionally and repeatedly hurts us and simply a bad break up experience? What makes these relationships so different and difficult to break free? The one big and glaring difference in these types of relationships is that intentional repeated harm to another person is abuse. Abusive relationships can cause life long trauma.
According to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence , ” 7 out of 10 psychologically abused women display symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder and/or depression.” It is also important to note that the victim, while still in the relationship, does not yet recognize the things the other person is doing is abusive. Once the relationship ends, or more appropriately stated temporarily ends, the victim is not only traumatized but is left with constant confusion.
They are left with more questions than answers. As a registered nurse having worked with countless domestic violence victims, understanding the role confusion plays in abusive relationships is crucial . It is critical for an abuser to keep the victim in a state of confusion.
Confusion is one of the main reason victims stay in these types of relationships or keeps them going back into the abusive cycle. To them none of this makes sense so they keep going back looking for the traditional closure they will never get.
They seek answers that attempt to explain what is happening. They haven’t yet realize that they will never get closure or answers from the person who is actually intentionally hurting them. It is definitely outside of the realm of normal.
The abuser in most cases will return at some point after the relationship ends to lure the victim back into the abuse cycle . They’ll be fake apologies, tears of regret, promises of change, flowers, gifts and more. This hoover tactic from the abuser leaves the victim vulnerable for more abuse and more damage. The cycle starts all over again and more layers of damage and trauma is added.
This Reality Is The Hardest Of All To Accept
Abuse is always a choice. When someone repeatedly abuses another person they indeed are intentionally making a choice to hurt them. Especially when this behavior is brought to the abusers attention and they continue the very same behavior they were told was hurtful. Why would anyone continue doing what they know hurts you?
This is a conscious choice they are making. No excuse or reason should ever be good enough to accept when we tell someone they are hurting us and they keep doing it. Repeatedly hurting someone is not a disability, a mistake, a bad decision or an accident. It is a choice.
This is a concept that is difficult to understand and even harder to digest for many. It’s important to remember though, just because its difficult, doesn’t mean it’s not true. That is the first step of breaking the denial of facts.
The key to getting through the difficult days ahead after breaking up with with a pathological abuser is to educate yourself on the different types of abuse tactics. it. It’s not your fault you were abused but unfortunately, it will be your responsibility to repair the damage they have left in your life.
The chances they will ever change is very slim to none, no matter how much victims hope for change. In Dr. Lundy Bancroft’s book “Why Does He Do That: Inside the Mind Of Angry Controlling Men”, Dr. Bancroft states “ the majority of abusive men do not make deep and lasting changes even in a high-quality abuser program.”
It’s the nature of these types of relationships and the result of continued engagement with them. It wasn’t a normal relationship and the break up you experience in order to free yourself will be anything but normal too.