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Lessons From the End of a Marriage

A “How to Thrive” Guide After Divorce

I Used to Judge

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I used to judge.

I’m not proud of it.

But I used to judge those who stayed in abusive relationships.

I criticized the victim for staying put while exclaiming that, were I ever to find myself in a similar situation, I would leave immediately.

It always seemed so clear to me. So cut and dry.

If the victim wasn’t choosing to leave, then they were choosing to be hit.

But that was before I was judged myself.

I wasn’t in an abusive relationship*. But I was played. And I played along. Played the fool. People hear of my situation and wonder how I didn’t know about the marital embezzlement or the double life. I’m criticized for staying unaware.

And you know my first response when I hear those words?

You weren’t there.

You don’t know.

The same words spoken by those that have been in abusive relationships.

It’s so easy to declare a solution to a problem when you’re viewing it from the outside. But it’s a false clarity, born of perspective and ignorance. When you only see a piece, it’s easy to play judge. But life isn’t that simple.

People stay in abusive relationships because the abuse comes in slowly and “normal” is changed over time.

People stay in abusive relationships because they learned in childhood that abuse is love.

People stay in abusive relationships because they believe they are not worth more.

People stay in abusive relationships because they fear the repercussions of leaving more than those of staying.

People stay in abusive relationships because they love their partner. Except when they fear him/her.

People stay in abusive relationships because the abuser is a skilled trapper, limiting resources and escape routes.

People stay in abusive relationships because their partner is a wonderful parent.

People stay in abusive relationships because they are hopeful that he/she will return to the way it was.

People stay in abusive relationships because depression keeps them stuck.

People stay in abusive relationships because “one more time” is always repeated once more.

People stay in abusive relationships because of fear. And love. And shame. And hope.

I judged for the same reason people have judged me.

I wanted to believe that I was too strong, too smart, too brave for it to ever happen to me. I wanted to believe that I was safe.

And since then, I’ve made friends with many people who have opened up to me about the abuse they’ve endured. And these friends are all strong and smart and brave.

I’ve learned not to judge. To be willing to accept that I am not immune. That I cannot truly understand a situation unless I have lived it. And that in any case, it is better to listen with compassion that speak with judgement.

*My ex husband never was physically abusive. He was never openly controlling. However, he was manipulative and secretive. And I was physically afraid of him once he left; I realized that he was capable of things I never imagined. It was a type of covert abuse.

If you are on Twitter, check out the hashtags #WhyILeft and #WhyIStayed. Powerful.

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10 thoughts on “I Used to Judge

  1. The say the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. You can feel the build-up begin. It is like a sudden change in cabin pressure. You can prepare yourself.

    The threat if physical abuse left the minute we separated, but I had no idea what was yet to come. Apparently, he was just getting warmed up. The devil I don’t know is mentally, emotionally and legally sucker punching at will. I had no idea. If I had a crystal ball I’m not sure I would have gotten that PFA and had him removed from the home. The bruises fade. The hits, they were nothing compared to this. This is the devil I don’t know and because of our children (collateral damage) I am still being held hostage.

  2. Right there with you, Amanda. That “amicable” divorce he insisted he wanted has turned into the battle of a life time. When it started, I was sad that my marriage was ending but I did not hate him. I wish I could still say that, 5 years later.

    1. You took the words right out of my brain. Unfortunately, that may not be saying too much now. 11 yrs and and frontal lobe brain injury later…

  3. Thank you for this post, it speaks the truth and hits the nail on the head when it comes to solving the problem of domestic abuse. I too used to judge, not that i meant to be uncaring but I could not understand why women stayed. I was far to self sufficient, far too independent to ever be in an abusive relationship. I made sure I wasn’t reliant on a man, I didn’t take crap from any man, and when I decided it was over, I walked.
    So when at 42 I met my soul mate, a man who loved me for me and told me to never change, that he had thought he had been in love before, until he met me, the man who cried the first time he said he loved me, the most even tempered man I had ever met; I thanked God for my good fortune.
    Ten years later; he destroyed my business by sabotaging my work truck, (thus making it impossible for me to work, have money and leave), destroying every single possession of mine (by accident) discovering he was living with 3 women while he was a long haul trucker, he impregnated a young girl while away on a missionary trip to Africa, and after he had gone from the man who gave CPR to gold fish to the man who sucker punched me knocking me out, screaming in my face that I was an ungrateful bitch and a real man would have hit me a lot sooner…………….. I left. A shell of the confident woman I once was
    I vowed that if I survived I would spend the rest of my life raising awareness about domestic abuse.
    A punch to the head never hurt as bad as the mental and emotional abuse and any physical wounds healed long ago, but there are scars inside that have taken 4 years to heal.
    No one teaches us that there are people in the world, psychopaths, who are born without a conscience, thus have no remorse or empathy and will do anything to get what they want, leaving a trail of destruction and broken (or dead) ex’s in their wake. I could not grasp that the man I loved was capable of cutting my brake line, stealing from me, who are pathological liars who actually feed off of people’s pain.
    Just because you were not hit, you were in an abusive relationship. So many women (and men) don’t even know they are being abused, they think they are going crazy. By the time the physical abuse starts they are in so deep they can’t claw their way out,
    I ended up leaving finally, with $5 and my dog in a truck that was barely running; homeless and alone.
    Four years out and I am standing proud and strong again, victims of abuse are very strong women; only a strong woman could endure it.
    You are a shining example of a strong woman who has put her life back together, I am a glowing example of “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. I have no regrets because everything I have been through brought me here and I have found serenity and peace I never thought possible.
    Sorry for the length of my comment. You touched a soft spot.

    1. Thank you for the length of your comment and for sharing your story. It’s an unfortunate truth that there are many things we struggle to understand until we face them. The “it can’t happen to me” drive is a powerful one. Glad you’re on the other side and thank you for sharing your story to help others:)

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