- Dealing with anger and saying goodbye
You leave. Once you leave, emotions roll over you like floodtide. Any emotion; every emotion. You’ve had to disconnect from your feelings to protect yourself, or minimize how badly you hurt, or hide your resentment and anger. He told you what you were feeling, that you were wrong, that you were crazy, and your trust in yourself slipped.
One moment, you feel elation, a cage door has swung open and you’re stepping outside. The next, you feel alone, afraid, guilty. You loved him. You still love him.
Please be patient. Please be kind to yourself. The time after separation is one of turbulent feelings, insecurity and life changes, and increased risk. It will get better. You won’t always feel so conflicted. And your anger will find it’s place.
Anger, in particular, is hard. I hadn’t expressed anger in ages. I couldn’t, it would make the fights worse. So I bit my tongue, I forgave, I said it wasn’t a big deal. I told myself he didn’t mean it.
I left, and anger swept over me like seasickness. Literally; I got sick. Safe, I could remember things he had done and said with some perspective. I could see how pieces fit together, how much was denied, how many times he apologized. And then hurt me again.
I was angry at being angry: why couldn’t I express all the things I’ve been feeling for so long? Why shouldn’t he have to hear about every single incident and harsh word? Why do I have to walk away with this anger? Why do I have to hurt so badly, to stuff my anger and pride, why do I have to be the one to fix this?
Caution: anger has hooked me back into the relationship. The desire to be heard can bring you right back into the argument.
I have felt, and am feeling, many things. I feel sadness and loss, loneliness and abandonment.
But none of my feelings will ever be strong enough to change him. Not even my fear. He could see it in my eyes and know when I flinched. He said he loved me and would never want anything to hurt me. He knew I was afraid, and sometimes showed that he felt remorse.
He knew my fear. He knew he had hurt me.
But he didn’t change.
I couldn’t even say goodbye
Oftentimes when we leave an abusive relationship, its in the middle of crisis and communication has completely broken down. Saying goodbye, in the way we want to, isn’t possible. Once we’ve separated, we still long to say those goodbyes.
Many of us have been the one to smooth things over, calm things down, bring everything back to okay. We may suspect he’s sorry but can’t say so, or recognize his difficult past. We love. We may know that he expects us to do that again (and again and again).
It’s usually when we leave or threaten to leave that the abusive partner makes any real steps toward amends or getting help. He may join AA or go to treatment. He may start seeing a therapist or take an anger management class. He might get on antidepressants. There are promises. Apologies. Ultimatums. And pleas.
When you don’t respond, you’re ‘heartless’.
You know this is part of the cycle.
This time, you don’t want to smooth it over or calm things down. This time, you want to stand tall and live with the fact that it wasn’t going to get any better.
We can’t be sure he’d reciprocate the ‘farewell’ feeling. Communication with him would be putting ourselves at risk. We know he’ll use anything, everything he can to get us back in, to hook us, to engage: he may use your anger or your wish to say goodbye. His abuse has always had a way of discounting your feelings, or turning your own feelings against you.
So what do you do with all of those feelings?
Say it, but not to Him
You have every right to want to express these things. You will recall more and more that you want to say as you get some time away from him and can see more clearly. Because you have been denied the right to say, feel, and think what you want for so long, it is doubly important for you to start taking that right, now.
But don’t take it with him.
I started a letter. I was so angry I shook and the handwriting grew illegible. As I read information on domestic violence and abusive relationships, as I recognized us in every example, I wept. I wrote pages and pages.
And then I put it in my drawer. Later that night, I thought of something else I wanted to say to him.
I pulled the letter out and added more.
In the beginning, I scribbled things on the letter all the time. I repeated myself sometimes, but that’s okay (he repeated his insults, and they hurt every time). Sometimes the letter made sense and was written in careful, considered sentences. Othertimes, it was strong, bold pen slashes, single words or memories.
I go to the paper less and less.
They tell me, once I realize that I haven’t written anything on the letter for a week or more, I’ll be on my way to healing.
Writing is important for many people as a part of healing. It helps us to vent, to get the emotions out in some physical way; it allows us to let go of them instead of ruminating.
And it is terribly important for survivors to look back at their experience and make some sense of it. You might feel like you’re thinking about it ‘too much’; some people may get tired of hearing you talk about it. That’s ok. It’s ok to be obsessed with the relationship for awhile. You need to understand it. Once you understand it, you’ll find it has less and less power over you, and you are able to spend less and less time thinking about it.
Having a support group, therapist, advocate, and good friends will all help you in the process.
Learn as much as you can about domestic violence, verbal abuse, intimidation and control. Ironically, focusing on it and learning will let you spend less time thinking about it.
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