Being in or leaving an abusive relationship is exhausting.
I spent my precious life energy tiptoeing around an “overly-sensitive”, “moody”, and “hyper-reactive” partner. That was on his good days. Words that come to mind are: walking on eggshells, hypervigilant, cautious and wary. While I was actively trying to figure out how I could survive, not thrive, in the relationship, I was also constantly trying to figure out a way to make the relationship work. What I didn’t realize is that it takes two willing adults to look deeply at their behavior and patterns. My X didn’t think he had any problems. Not one. None. It was all in my head.
How could I work with that? I couldn’t.
I lived in a constant state of fear, worry, and problem solving. I made myself small and acceptable and insignificant. It was a tiring and soul-draining existence.
When you have children and create a family, you try extra, extra hard to make the relationship work. I lived in a constant state of psychological evaluation. Is this issue me or them? Is he overreacting? Am I overreacting? Is this a bad day? Will he improve? Do I need to be better? How can I be better? How can I make this relationship work? For me? For my children? What else can I do to save this family?
I clung for a long time to the belief that I alone could fix it. I circled back again and again to the same hopes. But my hopes went nowhere.
When I made the decision to leave, it created another exhausting scenario. He wanted me to leave. He didn’t want me to leave. He let me go. He didn’t let me go. He held me and my child hostage to his ever-changing desires. Although I’d left the abuse, the fear of retaliation was always on my mind. Will he try to take my child away? (Yes.) Will he make me look like a bad person, parent, mom? (Yes.) Will he use personal info to manipulate me and the judicial system? (Yes.) Will he exaggerate or lie? (100%)
Perfectionism then became my reality. It’s tiresome and debilitating to pretend that you are perfect, but that’s what courts and judges and counsellors and mediators expect.
In the end, mothers are held to a higher ideal than fathers. We are expected to be holy and pure and selfless. Men on the other hand, are fallible. Their imperfectness is cute and honorable. They are seen as making the best of it, considering their gendered circumstance. Where as women’s fallibility is scorned, and admonished, and condemned.
The level of exhaustion is surreal.
To all the moms in the thick of it, I care for you deep in my heart. I know exactly how you feel. I am so sorry. May your suffering and fathomless exhaustion end with a positive conclusion.
Sending you love. Always.