It’s so easy to write off people especially when they make mistakes.
During my tumultuous relationship with my ex who was both physically and emotionally abusive, quite a number of my friends or even acquaintances were eager to label him as this: Batterer, abuser, bad guy etc. They said he’ll never change, he’ll always be in this person who would use his anger in the most frightful of ways. I knew that he had this strong reaction to certain events or words. It made me cower and retreat. I was always so careful with my words and actions should they lead to an all out match between us. But I would see him as more than this man who would fuck up and hurt me so. It sucked and it wasn’t right that I stuck it out so long. That I kept trying to fix myself because I thought that I was the reason he would explode. Sometimes I triggered him and other times I would escalate.
I kept telling myself stop escalating, stop being mean back because it only means he is crueler… I tried to find ways around it. I tried being abusive back, I tried being silent, I tried walking away. He would always remind me, “you’re no angel” and I wasn’t. I never was an angel though I wished I could have been. I was also in the wrong in the way I reacted sometimes. But I wasn’t defined by it because my friends and family saw that I was more than my fuck ups. Despite my ex’s flaws, he was more than his fuck ups too. Yet very few people saw that.
The thing was I had to keep the past a secret between my ex and I. I couldn’t say what he did, he didn’t want to be labeled which I understood but it was hard. This was our reality. He would throw my stuff out, he would get loud, he had tried to choke me once… How can I pretend that when we argue in front of others that I am not scared?
When the breakup happened, I could finally own what happened between us and what happened to me personally. I admit that I did put him in that box, I put him in that label of batterer, abuser, bad guy, etc. But the truth is, I did love him and he was more than that. He did mess up badly, our relationship was so toxic. We were bad to one another, but we had a real love and he wasn’t just some villain. It made it easier at the time to label him so I could try to move on from the man I fell in love with. A man who caused me more harm than good, but there was good. He was a good friend to those close to him, he was clever, he was creative, he would bring gifts to my niece and nephew. He did many favors for people and he was constantly trying to better himself even though it didn’t work out when I was with him.
I was reading more from Brené Brown and how defining someone as this singular thing, it makes people less inclined to better themselves. They believe this is what everyone is telling me I am, they are shaming me into feeling that this is all there is to me… They end up cycling back into that toxic behavior because they believe “I can’t change, everyone says I can’t” but it’s the behavior that is in the wrong… People are too complex to be completely wrong or completely right. If I think of all my past mistakes and they end up defining me… that my worst behavior is all there is to me, that would make me feel dreadful and helpless too. I wouldn’t want to stop the pattern it would feel like I was one mistake beyond being a decent person.
I never want to be with my ex again. I don’t think we’re good for each other. But the last time I saw him, I was brave and kind. I told him, “You’re a good man. I wish nothing but the best for you. I love you.” After all that shit we went through and yes, it was fucking awful yet I somehow found empathy. I am proud of myself for that moment because I can tell you that afterward I still find it hard to find empathy for him. I loved him dearly and despite all the toxicity, there was a man trying to do the right thing underneath.