Most of us project our basic values onto others: kindness, decency, respect. It does not cross our minds that not everyone considers the feelings and needs of people, and would even go so far as to do us evil if possible. Sadly there are far too many of those in the world who think in terms of predator/prey, and since anyone could be considered possible prey, we must be vigilant and recognize predators when they cross our paths. We particularly let our guard down when we enter a romantic relationship. Certainly the person we care for with such tenderness and commitment, wanting to give the very best of ourselves, would not bear us ill will. That they would use, abuse, and discard us without conscience leaves us in shock and with unbearable heartache. Abusers in romantic relationships look for two things: vulnerability and opportunity.
A classic portrayal is the abusive, using man with the co-dependent woman. Here is a female who will give and give and give and tolerate huge amounts of pain to boot. He has found a woman who is vulnerable, but like all predators he now waits for opportunity. Opportunity comes at different times for different predators. It could be when:
She enters the romantic relationship and becomes his significant other. She will give him the benefit of the doubt repeatedly because she loves him. There are good things about him. She thinks, “Maybe he is right about all of my flaws. It’s my fault.”
She becomes his fiancée. Having chosen him he feels he can get away with things he wouldn’t have pulled before. She is an honorable person. She made the commitment. She’ll follow through with going to the altar.
They marry. A friend told me that on her wedding night her husband started beating her. This was the first time she had ever experienced violence of any kind from him. In his mind now that she was his wife he owned her and he could do whatever he wanted with her. He did not expect her to leave that night and file right away for divorce.
When she becomes pregnant. Predators are often jealous of the attention given to the pregnant mother and future baby. He looks ahead to all the time that will be consumed by the baby once the little tyke comes into the world. There can only be one baby, and he wants to be it. In his anger about the situation he begins to punch her in the belly, push her down the steps, lock her out of the house in the freezing cold to act out his rage at her and the new development that will change the relationship.
She becomes a stay-at-home mom with two kids. He thinks, “Now she’s trapped. She isn’t making any money. I control the purse strings. She doesn’t have the resources to get away. I have forbidden her to see family or friends so she has no support. She’ll do anything to keep peace for the sake of the kids. She won’t call the cops on me because she doesn’t want the children to see that. I can be the king of my castle in any way I want to now, and my form of kingship is being a despot”.
The truth is you are never trapped even in the worst of situations. I know of stay-at-home mothers who grabbed the children and ran to a domestic violence shelter with just the clothes on their backs and started their lives over again from nothing. Others like my friend left on her wedding night and never returned. You can get out and you must get out. A predator doesn’t play fair and doesn’t care about your or the children’s emotional, and in many cases, physical well being. You can do this.
For those who live in Dayton the only domestic violence shelter in Montgomery County is the YWCA. Here is their web site: http://www.ywca.org/site/pp.asp?c=elLVJiP8H&b=59174