The Descent Into Hell Is Easy-“Facilis Descensus Averni”
I can accept a lot of things about other people. Damn near anything, but I cannot accept lying, betrayal, stealing, drug addiction, abuse, and/or the acceptance of abuse in a relationship.
As I’ve discussed in the past, I’ve lived through an abusive relationship. It was a roller coaster and the damage done is, on occasion, still present within my mind. It took a long time to fully emerge from the mental and emotional damage the relationship did in terms of screwing with my sense of self. There are some lingering effects that still remain, despite my best efforts. However, I walked away. I did not, and have not, looked back.
I am the product of an abusive home. It took my mother a long time to muster up the strength and courage to leave, but she did something so many people in her position would never do. She knew things were never going to get better, and she (finally) realized she did not have to stay put and witness G-d only knows what else. I was always proud of her for walking away. I never stopped believing that my mother deserved better. Her response was always the same, “My marriage may not have been what I had hoped for, but my children are everything and more.”
When you repeat the same patterns in your relationships (One person is not a pattern. Two is early on-set pattern. Three is a flat-out problem.), there comes a time when you have to take responsibility for errors in judgment. You have to take a look at yourself and own your part in continuing to accept the behavior as “normal”. Perhaps by beginning therapy to work through your issues in order to have healthier relationships moving forward. It’s important to do something constructive to help you put thoughts into action. You should do whatever the hell you have to in order to be rid of the cancerous person that is bringing you down. It might seem drastic and/or cruel, but that’s precisely what it is. Abuse can and will make you sick. No one needs such negativity in their lives.
Good, healthy, solid relationships do not cause you to be afraid, depressed, unhappy, jealous, miserable, suicidal, angry, hurt, and they NEVER cause you to cry. There is an immense difference between happy tears and tears of misery.
Quality relationships do not have to be defined via social media. You will see zero presence of my personal life on my social media accounts, and there’s good reason behind my decision. I believe in protecting that piece of my life because once you open the doorway into it, there’s no way to slam it shut. Even just mentioning certain people, at times, has felt like an enormous invasion of my privacy, but I will do it if there’s a reason behind it, especially if someone’s life is hanging in the balance. Ultimately, I feel like shielding someone I love deeply is more important than the vanity of showing off. What else is social media if not a form of showing off to the world? Unless you’re using it to showcase work, talent, creativity, etc., it isn’t very real. It is also one of the top issues couples have between them these days.
Whenever someone tells me their boyfriend or husband is friends with all of his ex-girlfriends on Facebook, I already know they doubt him, because in reality, how many people feel the need to be friends with every single ex they’ve ever had? No one I know.
When someone hesitates to state that they are in a relationship with you, when you have already stated you are publicly, and amongst yourselves, that is called a RED FUCKING FLAG. Pay attention to it. If you’re anything like me, you’ve already had a thorough background check run on him and everyone he associates with to make sure he is 100% single with no children, and that you’re not his side chick/mistress. No one wants to be with someone who is dishonest AND has Dexter-esque skeletons in his closet, or qualities within his private persona. I’ve known too many people who were leading double, or even triple, lives. I’m not sure how they found the time, because living one life with one person is hard enough.
One aspect of abusive relationships is the push and pull. They want you, and they don’t want you, mainly because they do not like change. It’s NOT because they don’t want anyone else to have you. They fear change, that’s all. They “love you” one minute, and they also have an opposing side that doesn’t truly resemble hatred, it’s simply disingenuous and emotionally detached. Not everyone is capable of genuine love, and this is important to remember. As the abused party, you have to realize this has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the other person. They may come from the absolute best family you’ve ever met; that means very little when they lack the ability to treat you the way you deserve to be treated, or worse, believe they DO treat you properly.
Another result of the long-term abusive relationship is being the recipient of “guilt gifts”, as I have come to call them, especially in relationships which involve cheating. He fucks up and post-fight, you’re “rewarded” with flowers, stuffed animals, jewelry, chocolate, an expensive vacation, amazing restaurants he’s never taken you to before, you get the gist of it. He thinks these “gifts” mean everything is forgotten and forgiven, that you can keep on “as normal”, and that is precisely where he is wrong. I can guarantee something; his behavior isn’t going to change just because he sent you flowers or bought you something to “shut you up”. Make no mistake, that’s what he is doing. I used to know men who only ever bought flowers for their girlfriends or wives when they’d screwed up royally and didn’t want to sleep on the couch, or in the garage. The ones who were cheating spent a fortune on jewelry. Those weren’t “because I love you” gifts. They were GUILT, plain and simple. The gold and diamond industry is, on occasion, built not on love, but on guilt.
There is also guilt and a plethora of bullshit apologies in physically abusive relationships. Now I’ve never personally experienced a physically abusive relationship outside of my childhood, or I’d be in jail, and there’s a reason for that; I will not tolerate it. I WILL fight back. After several warnings regarding sneaking up on me and/or not announcing one’s presence, I broke a guys’ nose and gave him two black eyes with the force of a well-placed elbow. They truly did not believe I’d do it, but I’d spent weeks saying “Don’t come up from behind me without announcing yourself, because I will react. I am instinctively trained to react as though you are a threat.” Again, this person did not believe me. I don’t know that he learned his lesson, but I gave so many warnings and no, I didn’t do it intentionally. Maybe you can sneak up on a girl who doesn’t have city street smarts, I wouldn’t know, but for me, a warning is enough. “Don’t do this…” is the best I can give a person. My Uncle (G-d Rest and Bless His Soul) did not believe in allowing me to be a victim.
Normal men with healthy attitudes towards women, love, and life don’t keep making such enormous, unforgivable mistakes. They keep to their word, will be where they say they will be every single time, and don’t ever have to buy a “guilt gift”, unless they were SO busy at work they forgot your birthday, anniversary, or had to skip a major holiday. If they do come home with their tail between their legs, it’s not because they were epic fuck-ups or intended to hurt you. There’s a difference. They’ll be honest with you.
Deep down, all women know when they are genuinely loved and when they are genuinely being lied to by their significant other. Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be the only time someone shows you their love or the false kind of “love”. It should be a year-round thing. It doesn’t always have to be large displays of affection either, it can be something as simple as making you breakfast when you’re in a rush, bringing you coffee/tea each morning, or taking care of you when you’re sick. It is the little things that build intimacy and show you you’re loved. If someone knows how I take my tea within a few weeks, that’s a sign that they’re on the right track, because they’ve obviously been paying attention to things I do for myself, as well as things I do for them.
To this day, red roses make me queasy. I sold a gold necklace, including the engraved pendant that came with it, and two rings from that horrible relationship. I donated an FAO Schwarz teddy bear to a charity, because I could no longer allow it to be in the same space with me. I felt immensely liberated in those decisions because I was no longer bogged down by the heaviness of emotions left behind. All evidence of the relationship was wiped clean in those moments. I never have to go back and I do not have to choose to re-live it with anyone else, not unless I choose to divulge the information. There are a few photos that remain, and I don’t have to keep them.
Sometimes I am still haunted, slightly, but ultimately, I would rather be with someone normal, someone who understands that loyalty means remaining loyal, than be with someone who can’t tell the truth, and who thinks it’s okay to cheat when it most certainly is not. I refuse to cry over any relationship when I have the intelligence, self-esteem, and common sense to walk away from anything and anyone. I am stronger in my ability to place my self-worth over someone else’s negativity and drama.
Unfortunately, when you’re in an abusive relationship and you continue to stay, after a while, even your family and friends will stop believing you because your false mask, the one you’ve chosen to show while in the relationship, is one you’re choosing to keep in place. It’s quite similar to covering up bruises with makeup and continuing to allow yourself to be beaten. I’m not sure which is worse, but what you’re doing is a HUGE LIE. It’s encouraging the behavior and allowing it to continue in a vicious cycle. For what?! You gain NOTHING from this merry-go-round of hell. In turn, any support you may have had from family and/or friends will be gone, because they will come to believe you’ve been lying about your relationship all along. They will come to believe that maybe, just maybe, you’re an attention-seeker who cannot be honest, not even with herself.
I am one of the most loyal friends in the world, always ride or die, but when I question that in someone, something is very wrong. I dislike people who force me to question my judgment. In fact, it pisses me off. For some reason I find myself unable to sympathize or empathize with people who keep going back for more. I’m strongly considering cutting ties with a friend for this very reason.
While I value the friendship and absolutely adore her,.she obviously lacks the ability to hear what I’ve been saying to her from day one. You can’t agree with me and say you know I’m right, but continue to do the exact opposite of what we’ve discussed. It’s unhealthy, and I won’t perpetrate that unhealthiness back into my own life because it inevitably results in a phone call at 4:00 a.m. where I then have to calm this person down and get them to agree that this is the end of the relationship, that they deserve better, that it’s making them sick, and that they need to focus solely on themselves for now, and that they need to start by making a clean break.
Ultimately this person is an adult and can do as they see fit, but I can’t listen and be there for anyone if they are constantly refusing to follow through on sound advice. That’s a waste of my time and quality oxygen, not to mention it disrupts my sleep cycles. I will give 110% of myself if you’re actually going to listen to what I’m saying and hear me, but I am NOT going to waste my time if you keep going back to your abuser. If you truly want out, I will be there for you. I will help and I will listen, but if you’re going to go running back to what’s comfortable, to your version of “normal”, then I’m out until you get your shit together.
Having written this, someone will inevitably read it and call me, feeling betrayed. If you have to call me, please re-evaluate your circumstances before attacking me. I did not name names, nor has anyone’s confidence been betrayed. I could be talking about ANY of my female friends and/or acquaintances, or even myself (Yeah, not likely.), so before attacking, get off your high horse. This isn’t about you, it’s about facts.
I don’t think it’s bitchy to question a friend’s motives on this level. I am happy you trust me enough to come to me, but be honest. If the relationship is SO horrible, why keep going back? Are you that deprived? Is that what you truly believe love is? Call me crazy, but I cannot be with someone who has zero respect for me and makes that clear. I cannot be with a person who tells me he is going to keep cheating, and that I should “learn to accept it”. Those are DEAL-BREAKERS. No sane person stays around for that kind of trash-talk from anyone. I’m more apt to knock a guys’ teeth out for talking to me like that. No truly smart man would EVER say that to my face, either. He might very well hide behind a computer screen or a text message, thinking such things will keep him safe. They will not. My mother didn’t raise a fool. I will hunt his ass down.
The same holds true in reverse, gentlemen (When I use that word, I’m pretty much thinking about Tom Hiddleston. He’s my visual example of a classy gentleman.). If your partner is disrespecting you, cheating on you, lying to you, etc., then I fully expect you to pick your ass up and walk away, even if it is terribly painful. The only issue on this level is if you have children in the picture. If you do, file for joint physical and legal custody immediately. Don’t hold back. Don’t stop fighting for your kids. Even if you’re angry with the other person, do not let your children know that there is a huge issue. They already know, because they can feel the tension and they’re not stupid. Do NOT speak ill of the other person in front of them, even if you are utterly blind with rage, be sure to hold your tongue as much as you are able. That person may be a great parent, and a horrible partner, but you don’t want your children to see you as unwilling to fight for them, or hear you talking trash. Children repeat things and they don’t truly forget.
While my life was quite different in this respect, I can tell you that my father was physically present when I was growing up, but was never emotionally present. He worked hard, he provided, but there was zero love or warmth whatsoever. I can count on one hand the times he genuinely spent caring about his children. Overall, I feel he viewed his wife and children as nuisances, nothing more. If we were sick, he’d yell about the money being spent on a doctor’s visit and/or medicine. Talk about unrealistic. Kids get sick and accidents happen, that’s life, be it with children or anyone, really. When I fell on a sheet of ice and fractured my elbow, he had a tantrum over the fact that I did it early in the year, before the deductible was met. At the time, I knew NOTHING about such things, I just knew I’d fallen, couldn’t feel my elbow, and that the pain was awful. My Mom took it seriously because she was the responsible parent. Always. I didn’t fall on purpose, but to hear him yelling at her over the phone was downright ridiculous. She cared more about me having a potentially broken elbow, but he cared about the doctor’s visit and the x-rays at the radiologist’s office. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized we were by no means as poor as he implied to my mother, blaming her for years about not working because she just “had to raise HER children”. Not even “our children”, always “HER children”, spoken with pure disdain. We were upper middle-class, but my father mismanaged finances in terrible ways. My mother raised her kids and went back to work, and she did that to gain financial freedom from my father, because he controlled finances the same way he tried controlling all of us.
He was the type of person who should have stayed single and never should have had kids. My mother was the type of person who followed the list of pre-set rules placed before her (Get married, have children, live your life even if it’s not perfect, etc.), mainly because she wanted to get married and have children more than anything in the world. Her marriage may have been horrible, but her children were truly her world.
I was raised entirely by my mother & Grandmother. At about age thirteen, I began raising myself (I fully believe this was a smart move because it definitely helped shape who I am today.) and I helped raise my brother. My father never once asked me to spend summers with him or asked me to visit after we were safely away from the abuse. My brother spent every summer with him (I chalk this up to him being younger and Daddy’s boy.), and did not experience anywhere near the level of abuse I did because, for years before we left, I physically put my mother and brother behind me to protect them. I never knew when things would escalate to extreme physical abuse, so I took my role as protector quite seriously. It was not perfect, but I did my best. You can hit me, but I’ll hit you back, and once my father discovered I wasn’t afraid of him, it only made him angrier. It was a physically, mentally, and emotionally abusive environment and this went on for years. No matter what my mother said or did, her words and actions would never have stopped him. Walking away changed things, but the abuse did continue in a different way.
I would spend years hanging up on my father when he’d get abusive with me over the phone. I had to reiterate to him that I was an adult, and over a hundred miles away from his abuse and wasn’t going to take it because I no longer had to. Sometimes he’d wait five minutes and call back, and other times he’d simply call the following day, as though nothing had happened. He’d turn me into the bad guy because I placed boundaries on the relationship.
Thankfully, in my intimate relationships, I do not look for a father figure. I had a couple of good male role models to keep me from going totally off the rails, but I definitely notice red flags in pretty much every relationship I witness, especially people I am close with. I have warned my brother that if I ever witness him treating a woman or children the way we were treated that I will personally remove them from the situation. I would never allow him to become my father. I hope he knows he’s better than that, because he’s likely reading this.
Sometimes my friends will call me, upset that a husband or boyfriend isn’t where he said he’d be. “He’s ignoring my calls. He’s not answering my texts.”, that sort of thing. I 100% know when someone has hit DISMISS or DECLINE on their phone. It’s a total douche move. Unless you’re in a business meeting or you’re performing life-saving brain surgery, there is no need to hit that button. Let it go to voice mail. Don’t be a douche bag..
I will grant someone a low battery excuse here and there (it happens), but how many grown men do you know who turn off their phones completely unless something is up? Not a single guy I know over the age of twenty. They might silence their phone for work purposes, they might put it on vibrate or airplane mode, but ultimately if a guy hasn’t called you in 6-10 hours, you talk regularly each day, and have left multiple messages, he’d better be in a fucking hospital because there’s no quality excuse he can provide.
“I lost track of time.” Mm-hmm. “Uh, my battery died and I lost my charger.” The words are spoken as a blatant lie, not as a statement of fact. Especially when you find a working charger in his glove box or center console. Or when he returns and his battery is at 75%. Dishonesty is dishonesty. The first time a man lies should be the first and only time you accept it. It’s your sign, do you need it to flash in neon and sparkle?!
Men are men and women are women. We’re very different indeed, but smart women are practically trained from birth to smell the lie. If ever the government truly wants ISIS stopped, they need only recruit military teams full of fierce women because once we lose our patience, we’ll take you down with little remorse.
Here’s the difference on my end in a relationship of any kind; I call to say I’ll be late. It’s called RESPECT. Hell, if I was going to be five minutes late to anything, I’d call whomever I was meeting. The same is true for my hair stylist, nail technician, etc. I firmly believe in being polite and respecting people’s time and concern for my well-being. If someone tells me they’ll be here at 6:00 and it’s 7:00, I am going to call and make sure they’re safe. Granted, very few people care about me, but those that do would definitely notice if I didn’t show up at all. In truth, it’s probably 80/20. Most people wouldn’t notice unless I disappeared for over 48 hours. They still wouldn’t be able to tell the police what I look like, what color my hair and eyes are, how tall I am, what I was wearing, my approximate weight, or if I have any identifying marks or tattoos. My height is incorrect on my ID by a good inch or so. You have to LOVE other people’s awareness and attention to detail.
I make sure my phone is fully charged before I leave the house. I keep my ringer on, even when I really want it off. I never know when there will be an emergency and quite frankly, that’s why I have a cell phone. For emergencies, and to communicate with family and friends out-of-state and overseas. Sometimes the best part of a person’s day is getting a text message to let them know you’re thinking of them. It’s a mood-booster.
I always tell my brother “If you don’t feel like talking, text me so I know you got there safely.” I always, always tell him to be safe. I always tell my friends to be safe and to text me when they arrive at destinations, just in case. A few months ago, when a close friend was worried about a trip and how it might turn out, I let her know I’d contact a friend in the same state if she needed to get out of the situation, and I did that without even asking the other friend because I know she’d have done it in a New York Minute. It’s important to check in with people.
My brother will be the first to tell you he KNOWS I care, even when I say otherwise, because no one else would ever send him fifty texts and twenty e-mails for dropping off the grid for six days. He misplaced his phone and the ringer was off, so he and several friends couldn’t find it. They were calling it for days and it kept going straight to voice mail. He knew I’d be pissed. By the time they did find it, one friend saw my last text message on the screen which was something along the lines of “I am calling the cops and having your phone tracked, you KNOW BETTER than to ignore me for six days without expecting me to react.” Poor guy freaked out and ran to my brother to say “I found your phone. HOLY SHIT, your sister does NOT mess around. You’d better call her immediately. She’s scary, but at least you know she loves you.” They were literally ALL apologizing to me at the same time. What can I say? It’s a gift. 😉
My real point is this; if someone is harming you with words, actions, hands, fists, etc., then you do NOT stick around for more. The nursery rhyme “Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” is absolute BULLSHIT. It’s a terrible lie we tell children, which only sets them up for disappointment because at a certain age, many children become vicious little replicas of their parents. Words and actions, among other things, are the reason most people are in therapy trying to heal parts of their psyche. There is zero shame in that.
One of my rules is that if you hit me, I will 100% hit you back, and you’ll be sorry you pushed me that far. I’ve been told not to be proud of it, but here’s the thing; I was taught to defend myself, not to lay down and allow someone to harm me. I may not beat you to death (unless I see red, and then I make no promises), but I’m not going to allow myself to come to harm if I have the ability to stop it. And if you’re using words, I’m going to walk away. You’d have better luck bringing a knife to a gun fight.
When you see red flags, please pay attention. I’ve known people who didn’t pay attention, and they paid horrible prices for ignoring the signs, and/or their intuition. An old friend was once “engaged” to a prisoner she became pen pals with, and inevitably began visiting several hours away each week while going to school full-time and being a single Mom to a young child. When he finally got out of prison (and it took her quite a while before she admitted the prison part to me), she eventually found out she wasn’t the only person he was “engaged” to, and she called me hysterical, because she now had to wait weeks for the results of an HIV test and was being tested for other STDs as well, and she was really scared. Sometime during that waiting period, she dropped off the face of the earth and I never heard from her again. Suddenly her phones were both disconnected, she stopped answering all correspondence, and as a last resort, I tried contacting her Mom to make sure she was safe. No answer. To this day, I still worry. I’ve searched over the years and have never found her. I never found a missing persons report for her or her son, and she lived with her mother, so I feel like a report would definitely have been available and/or made public to find if something bad had happened. For me, that is quite scary and I often worry about it. Could I have done more, said more? I will probably never know, but I genuinely hope she is alive, happy, healthy, and thriving. She was a good person with poor judgment, but she was also someone who simply wanted to get her degree, raise her child, and enjoy her life. She deserved that, and more.
When a person cheats on you, it has nothing to do with you. There is often something wrong with them, it’s not something you’re doing wrong, or not doing right. I can’t fake a polite hello to someone I hate, but there are people faking entire relationships! I’ve never understood it, and I likely never will. If you experience the sense that you’re being cheated on, you’re probably right, or quite possibly paranoid, you be the judge on that one. Just remember this piece of advice: Your intuition never lies to you. Unfortunately, some people mistake firm belief for intuition and they wrongly accuse people of heinous things, so be careful and do a little research before confronting someone.
One thing I’ve noticed about every ex of mine is that none of them are married or in happy, healthy relationships, so it’s safe to say I wasn’t the problem. Okay, to be fair one IS married, to the person he cheated with, and I openly admit I pray for the poor soul that has to put up with his psychotic shit.
Early on in their marriage, I was informed by close, mutual friends that he was cheating on her. She was pregnant with their first child at the time. I felt bad for her, because I’m sure she believed in him. He was, at the time, a VERY good performance artist when it came to lying in a relationship. He could have shit on someone and told them it was raining, and people would have believed him. That’s how good a liar he was. I don’t believe those things ever truly change, but I’m glad it’s not my responsibility to deal with. I pray for her, but I do not owe her anything. She & I only met once, briefly, but I immediately knew something was wrong when she looked me in the eye. I said something incredibly uncharitable to her, and, at the time, completely unlike me. Instead of denying it, she put her head down in shame. She said nothing, because she obviously had no defense. Apparently she didn’t see that as a red flag though, because she’s still with him.
Since he was the abusive relationship, I try not to think about it too much. I’m clueless how he was able to walk away from me and be engaged to her and married almost instantly when a ring was still on my finger. Yes, these things DO happen, and YES, I questioned my sanity for years after the fact. However, I’m also proud of myself. He didn’t take me down with him. Having dignity and self-respect saved me. I don’t have to take care of a narcissistic control freak who refuses to admit his faults. I have zero ties to him, and for that I am eternally grateful. I dodged a bullet. I wish I could say the same for so many others who put themselves through such complete and utter hell because they’re not strong enough to truly put their foot down and walk away.
Be honest with the person in the mirror, because that’s who you have to live with. Know your worth. You don’t have to be an adult reliving his or her childhood experiences. I’d rather go to therapy and work on me, than stay in a relationship that gains me nothing but pain. I already suffer enough without some asshole making it worse, so I’m going to keep making the right choices. I’m going to keep good, solid people in my life who would never dream of causing me such heartache. The types of people who are smart enough to realize that I’d cheerfully rip their heart out if they hurt me in such a manner.
The descent into hell IS easy, but you can make better choices. You can choose to ascend. You can choose not to allow someone to break you. Hell does not have to be “normal”. Let’s face it, there’s nothing “normal” about any of it. Be true to yourself, and don’t ever let someone drag you down to their level. You’re better than that.
copyright © 2017 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED