Tuesday, May 1, 2007

"I'm Sorry" Should Never Work

A few days ago I posted about abusive relationships because it is something that I am very familiar with and very offended by. My entire life, I have been: A) in an abusive relationship, or B) surrounded by them. And they never go away, even when you get out, they never go away.

Finally, after two step-parents who literally were physically, emotionally, and verbally abusive, and three romantic relationships that were all of the above or some combination of the three abuse varieties, I am in the fifth memorable relationship of my life that is actually more healthy than not. Not many for a 22-year old who's been surrounded by people since she was born, huh?
So ... who are the five? I'll give you just brief intros for now ... and you can have the scoop on each of my five in later posts. So without further ado ...

First and foremost there is my father, who has always been my role model and one of my all-time best friends. He is the one who taught me to never take less than the best from any man because I am smart, I am beautiful, and most of all, I am worth it. I can't imagine my life without him in it, and the knowledge that someday I will live that life is utterly terrifying to me.

Second, my best friend Jessica. She has been one of the rocks in my life, always someone that I could depend on. She has been the person I could say anything to, no matter how gross or how scary or how weird; she'd always listen and usually find a way to help me straighten it out. She's always been there for me in one way or another. Even in the sixth grade when we had our first big fight and it was over a boy. The fight was big enough to stop us talking to each other for a long time, and ultimately it was almost big enough to ruin our friendship. But even through that, she was there. Maybe not talking to me (for the moment I had "won" ... I got my turn to "lose" later on) but she was there. I saw her all the time, I thought of her every time something good or bad happened to me ... and today? We live about 15 driving hours apart and she's more "there" than ever. We talk all day every day online, we talk occasionally on the phone, and even after all these years I still think of her whenever something good or bad happens to me. Even in the years when we were out of contact, somehow she was there. Jess, I love you sis.

Third, my daughter. She is amazing. I don't know how to wax poetic about her in only a short paragraph, and all I can think of even right now as we battle the last stages of terrible two's and I am so often angry with her, is that she is amazing. Beautiful, intelligent, precocious. Just amazing.

Fourth, Fiance. He comes on the heels of relationships riddled with lies, women, violence and drugs, and has never been less than patient while dealing with the baggage that those past relationships left me with. Fears, insecurities, jealousies. And he's always ready to lift me up, to try to make me feel better. To reassure me. To love me, just for being me. His only flaw so far is his lousy work ethic and a minor lack of responsibility. But I cut him slack, those are things that all spoiled little kids have ... and he was VERY spoiled. He was never taught that you have to work and earn what you want, that you have to think and plan for yourself, because there isn't always going to be someone who's got your back. Those are lessons that our life together has begun teaching him, and he's a good learner, though he's chosen the hard way a few times. But come on ... who's ever heard of a man who listens on the first try?

And last but most definitely not least, Brian. This is one of the relationships that has shaped my life in so many ways that they are sometimes hard to count. He has set the standard for every relationship I've ever been in with a boy/man ... and so far, they have all fallen short. Yes, even Fiance is lacking something that would bring him to the heights of Brian's pedestal. This boy is the one Jessica and I fought so hard over, the one because of whom I still have an inner battle raging every day. The boy whose loss (which was my own stupid fault) led me to a lifetime of romance novels, perhaps seeking to return again if only for a moment to what I once had and lost. My time with him taught me also how to be a friend, what I wanted from a friend, and how to be one myself. When I was with him, I lost my best friend in the world because we both wanted him, and I just happened to have been brave enough to win a childish race to him. It taught me what I lost though. I'd lost someone to talk to, to share with, to cry with, to learn with, to confide in. I'd gained those things in Brian but it just wasn't the same. Never the same. But that loss also taught me what to be as a friend. It taught me to be there when I am needed, because I know what it is like to need and have no one. When Jessica and Brian finally had their shot at being together, it taught me to be happy for someone I loved even when their happiness was killing me. There is so much more that I took from that than I can ever say.

And Brian, if you ever come across this and figure out who I am? For your part in those lessons and so much more ... even if there is no more to our story, even if the last pages have turned, and there are no more chapters to be written ... Thank You.

But the point wasn't for me to talk about those great relationships ... I set them out for you to glimpse, only so that you can see the horror of the other side.

On the other hand ... there was a stepmother who was verbally and physically abusive about my existence in general, my relationship with my father, and more specifically my weight, possibly having a part in why my weight is now an alarming number. Ironically, after all these years, she could afford to lose some too. There was a stepfather who was violent and drug-ridden. I spent a lot of my childhood bruised, literally, by his hands. Or his weapons. Or his words. Or just emotionally bruised from the fact that I watched him beat my helpless mother on so many occasions. Thanks to him, my oldest brother is now almost blind in one eye.

And that's only a little taste of the adults brought into my life ... by the adults who were meant to protect my life.

Those relationships on my parents' parts that I witnessed far too much of when I was young also played a part in my future. In my future romances, to be precise. After Brian, the next big one was one I was sure would last forever. For a while. Eventually, things were pretty different from the beginning ... there were times he told me things that made me so down on myself ... he once mentioned a friend of mine that he'd thought about in a sexual way. When he slapped me one day, he got away with blaming me with it for a while. I blamed myself. For waking him up, like he'd asked me to It took me a long time, but now I'm set in the thought that any man who touches me like that, ever, should never sleep near me, ever again. Because it would be his last sleep. Follow him with Larry, the king of mind games. And then Ex-Husband, the cheater, liar, druggie.

I have been on both sides of abuse though, not just the one in it. I have now learned to recognise it through my friends.

One friend that I had was with a guy who straddled her big, eight-month pregnant belly and choked her until she almost passed out. When she got away and ran out of their apartment and down the stairs screaming into the parking lot, he chased her down and dragged her back inside by her hair for another round. She's still with him.

And then there's Dana ... Dana. Another of my best friends, another of my greatest loves (in a family way, we're cousins, the only two in our family who are actually friends aside from blood). And now I'm watching her deal with it. She's been lied to, she's been beaten, she's been sexually abused by this man she's with. The thing is ... this guy is nothing. He has never even pretended that he would ever be anything. When they first got together, he gave her no pretty words, no promises for the future. He said, "I've never been anything other than trailer-trash. I'll probably always be trailer-trash ... and if we ever have anything decent it won't be because of me. In fact, I'll probably trade it off before you can even get used to it."

And he lived up to his word.

She's still with him. Why? Because he hurts her, makes her cry, makes her miserable ... and then makes her believe his lame-ass apologies.

"I'm sorry" and "I love you" do not belong in the same sentence more than once or twice in a lifetime. When you love someone, you shouldn't ever do things you've got to be sorry for. They are not compatible. And if you think "I'm sorry," and "I love you," are okay to come together all the time ... then you are one of the many to whom neither of those phrases mean anything.

And maybe one of the ones to blame for the tolerance we have these days for domestic abuse.

Think about it.