Joe and I had a week of getting to know each other and start our relationship before he returned to his army base. It was a fun week of long conversations, movies, and lots of laughter. It was a week of wading in the water and basking in the newly found sunshine. I was smitten. As the next cloud rolled in, I was not at all worried. I enjoyed it. It was one of those clouds that you look up at and try to see a shape in it, watch it form and move peacefully through the sky. It wasn’t until this last year, after seeing a similar cloud form in a different relationship, that I could see the form that it would actually take.
This next piece can be seen as part of the human existence. We all have a story and most of us have one that is littered with tragedy and pain. In getting to know Joe, he told me about his past. He had an unhealthy relationship with his parents, volatile relationship with his only brother and never really was accepted or “heard” by anyone. In me he was finding someone that was accepting and that he could trust. He could tell that I would be different. I would be the one to make him happy. In having a difficult personal history myself, I had evolved into a person that was a care taker. I never wanted anyone to feel lost or unloved. Emotionally, this had put me at a handicap. I felt like I could be the one to redeem his life for him. What felt like a buoy, holding me above the water, would actually become an anchor. Dragging me deeper and keeping me in the water.
Is this part of abuse? No. Not at all. It’s looking for that person that you can relate to to help you on your journey. Where it became an issue is when I put it on myself that I could not let him down. I became responsible for his emotions and well being. I saw no problem in that at the time. Even two years ago as I started a new relationship with the same cloud, I missed my own fault in it. Once this cycle started, Joe would put little guilt trips in here and there to let me know I was failing him. Whether it be that I wasn’t available for a call or that I wasn’t writing him letters everyday, I wasn’t doing enough. He would question if I would end up being like everyone else. The broken part of my heart had no intention of hurting him or making him feel pain. That led me to try harder. I made myself available at almost every whim. I was entrenched in proving my worth and proving to him that he was lovable. In trying to help him, I started to lose myself. My own desires and opinions became secondary to his and how he was feeling.
This entire mindset is unhealthy. After going through it a second time, I finally realize that each person has to be responsible for their own happiness. Someone can add to it, but no one person can be an overall fix. No one has that kind of power nor should have that kind of responsibility. In every survivor that I’ve discussed this with, there is a similar dynamic. Generally an abuser will find a care giver and latch onto that energy and compassion. This completely encompasses the survivor in taking care of them and ‘fixing’ past hurts. It could be family, relationships, addictions, or work. The hook, line and sinker is not the problems, but the responsibility given to and taken by the survivor. I don’t believe this to be a purposeful act of abuse, but rather a broken part that has a need and later manifests into abusive behaviors.
For me, the water was getting deeper. I was blissfully unaware. I felt needed and wanted. I thought my fairytale was about to start. I forgot that, for most of my life, I had been scared of the deep water.