The Intentionally Emotive Podcast with Shaun Karim
Episode 25 - How Do I Leave the Toxicity of Domestic Violence?
Victims of domestic violence often feel unheard or misunderstood. The position that the abused is in is unlike any other; no one deserves to know what that feels like. But if you do, and especially if you’re in an abusive relationship, I invite you to listen to this episode.
Shaun was a victim of domestic violence. It was one of the most difficult things he ever went through, but he managed to overcome it because–at some point–enough is enough, and it’s time for a change.
That change can direct the path of the rest of your life–all the while leaving your abuser behind, where they belong. You can do it. Believe me, and believe in yourself.
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How's it going, everybody? Welcome to the Intentionally Emotive Podcast with Shaun Karim.
New episodes are available every Wednesday, and If you haven’t already, please subscribe on any of the podcast platforms that you use, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and more.
We often see on TV and the news something about domestic violence between partners. As viewers–as people on the outside looking in–it’s easy for us to see what’s happening, and it’s even easier to say something like, “If I were her, I would’ve left right away.”
And that’s the thing. We’re on the outside looking in, with only some of the basic facts and the way all of that is being presented to us as viewers. We’re not in it; we don’t have that relationship, the experiences, and the emotions they’re feeling. What about the person experiencing the abuse? What are they thinking? Why are they thinking that?
Better yet, what’s stopping the abused to pick up and leave? Ask for help? Tell someone, anyone? It’s not as easy as it sounds. If this is you, then you understand; and I want you to know that I also understand.
Hindsight is 20/20. That’s an answer I often give people when they ask me a particular question.
About three and a half years ago when I was still married to my ex-wife, some things started to happen that really confused me. Our marriage was already on the rocks, and it had been for several years; in my head, I thought it was almost over, but the last thing I am is a quitter, and I was trying to do everything I could to keep our marriage going. I didn’t want any of the superficial stuff; I wanted it the way a relationship between husband and wife should be.
We got into a lot of fights about basically everything. As I was back then and still am to this day, when someone gets aggressive with me, I rarely respond in a way that they want. I’m not going to escalate things, so instead I stay calm and don’t respond to questions that are insulting; to her, I’m sure a lot of the times I looked like I wasn’t responding at all. I don’t think there’s much reason to speak to someone or clarify anything with them if they’re not in a space where they’re going to receive anything I say.
So when she screamed obscenities at me? I didn’t respond. When she insulted me and my family? No response. When she lunged at me? Nothing. And when she hit me for the first time? All I did was look at her.
I never have–and I would never–strike a woman. She knew that about me, and so she took advantage of it. The thing I didn’t realize at the time was that abuse was taking place, and my lack of response to the abuse gave her more reasons to allow her to escalate it.
I finally told her I wanted a divorce, and eventually when I told people close to me about it, one of the reasons I gave them was this abuse. Family and friends asked me, “Why didn’t you leave sooner? What did you think was going to happen?”
My answer was always, “hindsight is 20/20.” Now, the thing about that question they’d ask is it’s actually the wrong question. When you’re in a committed relationship with someone, it’s difficult to think about life without them–at least until you get pushed to a certain point.
In my case, I wanted to do everything I could to save this marriage, even to my detriment. I didn’t realize for a couple of months that I was a victim of domestic violence, especially as a man. In our society, maybe up until the whole Johnny Depp/Amber Heard stuff earlier this year, no one really believed this was a thing. I certainly didn’t.
But when I did realize what was going on, I asked myself questions like, “What do I do?”, “Can I stop it?”, “Why does she keep doing this?”
Today, I understand now that the right question to ask is, “How Do I Leave the Toxicity of Domestic Violence?”
One of the reasons it’s difficult to be so objective about domestic violence in a relationship is because of the attachment you have with the other person. This isn’t just any type of attachment. The toxicity behind this was built by design by the other person, and the precision behind their manipulation and cunningness was so sharp that it was going to be impossible for you to detect, just like they wanted.
You hear all the time about how the other person didn’t mean it, they’ll never do it again, and how they start to change their behavior to be really sweet and considerate. One of the reasons this works so well and so easily is because the victim has a good enough heart and opinion of their partner that they’re willing to forgive and move on. Their commitment to keep the relationship going is strong.
If this is you, I sympathize and empathize with you because I did that for a long time. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or woman–all of this works exactly the same because we’re all human, and our emotions are real. Our thinking, love, affection, hopes, and commitment are real, even when we have mountains of evidence to show that we need to get out.
It’s easier said than done. It’s so easy for other people to be objective and say that we should leave, but when you’re in the middle of it, you’ll do whatever you can to make things work so you can move on with the dreams and goals that you two supposedly shared from the onset of this relationship.
Maybe your partner exhibits some narcissistic traits where they switch things around so they sound like the victim in this relationship, saying things like, “I’m depressed and didn’t know what I was doing” or “I overreacted because you weren’t listening to me.” Whatever the case is, no matter what happens here, they are not the victim in this relationship.
The toxic attachment that your narcissistic partner created was designed to trap you in your relationship, but you must muster the strength and courage to identify this for your own safety.
They preyed on your vulnerability and your kindness. Show them that those aren’t signs of weakness, but strength.
Something here that might be difficult to fully grasp is that their survival completely relies on your availability to them. They didn’t just wake up one day and start developing these traits. They went through some type of trauma in their life, and this is their way of showing the ill effects.
That doesn’t make it OK for them to do what they do. The thing about this survival of theirs is, if you allow it to continue for too long, you yourself potentially won’t survive. Whether that means literally, mentally, or emotionally, each word and each strike carries a weight with it that is designed to bring you down.
The weight of their words and strikes against you are to manipulate you into thinking that they care about you, and at the same time they’re also a warning not to leave them. The fear they instilled in you might make you think that you need to stay, but you leaving will be the end of them and the beginning of the new you. This is the classic case of the fact that they need you way more than you’ll ever need them.
Not to say you don’t need them at all. Maybe you do financially or in some other way to maintain the livability you currently have, but let me tell you that taking one step back in this instance will not just allow you to eventually take two steps forward, but it’ll propel you so far ahead from where you are now that you can’t even see it.
And that’s exactly what they want. They don’t want you to see that you’re better off without them, even if that voice inside of you is telling you that. You’ve learned through their manipulation to listen to them more than your instinct. Allow your instincts to take over and guide you out of their lives and into your own.
They’ve manipulated you, convinced you, that both of you need to be together for better or worse, that the last time they abused you will be the last time they do it. That’s all bullshit. It’s not true. They’re bullying you into doing what they want you to do and forcing you to believe their lies.
The more you show them that you’ll continue to be available to them, the stronger their attachment to you will be.
It’s not that you need to snap out of this. You need to be objective and acknowledge what is going on, what has been going on, and trust yourself. Don’t believe what they’ve been telling you because they’re all lies. Some people, either now or in the future, may even misunderstand what happened and tell you something that you know is wrong about this relationship.
You have plenty of reasons not just to leave, but to take care of yourself. No one else is going to do that for you–they certainly haven’t. In this suffering, the acknowledgement you have about your current situation is the first step in building out the next step of your future. No one deserves to go through any trauma, and you definitely don’t deserve the abuse you’ve been experiencing.
Compassion and kindness. These aren’t things that your partner is capable of giving you, but you can give these–and more–to yourself. They can’t give you this because they aren’t strong enough. They’re not good enough. They’re not even worthy of being in any kind of relationship with you.
You deserve these things and more. You deserve someone to care for you, but you need to care for yourself first. The way you project yourself to others is a reflection of what you are inside. It’s your turn to realize that, to be strong, and to take your power back.
A lot of people look at victims of domestic violence and hope for them to escape the abuse. That’s not good enough. It’s not good enough to just escape. You have to be strong enough, to have the will, to actually leave.
What’s the difference?
In domestic violence, escaping a situation is similar to looking at it as a prison.
The ward is in control of everything. The guards carry out the actions of the ward. The prison bars keep you in your cell. Your cell is your limited sense of freedom. Escaping that means somewhere in the back of your mind, somehow there’s a possibility that you’ll be sucked back in, that you’re going to return to that prison cell, that the fear of it will always be part of you.
Leaving that situation means you’ve understood what got you there, why you’re still there, and doing the things that put you in a position–physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually–to know that you no longer belong there, that you want something better for yourself, and you’ll do whatever it takes to get that done.
So let me ask you–is that prison something you want to escape or leave?
I’m not saying your abuser will be OK with you leaving. Far from it. I’m not even saying you advertise it in advance. In the physical realm, you need to do whatever you need to do to get out. Mentally and emotionally, you need to come to terms with everything.
Come to terms with who your abuser actually is and what they’ve done. The attributes that make up their character. The fact that you fell for it, and were manipulated, lied to, deceived. The fact that–right now–you know better, and you want to be better, and so you’ll do better.
There is no shame in what happened. Anyone who tries to do that to you is full of shit and doesn’t belong in your life. They don’t know what you’ve gone through. They don’t understand, and they never will. That’s OK. YOU understand, and that’s enough.
So when you leave that prison, know what you’re leaving behind, and look forward to the rest of your life. You have that voice inside of you that your abuser–or anyone else for that matter-can never speak over again. That voice will guide you.
There are plenty of things–good things–in store for you, and one of those things is the wisdom that your experiences give you.
Later, when someone asks you why you didn’t leave, you’ll be able to say, “hindsight is 20/20”, but you’ll also know that no one is ever going to stop you from achieving whatever you want in your life–because you left that prison.
All right, everyone. Thanks for listening to the Intentionally Emotive Podcast with Shaun Karim. Don’t forget to subscribe, and for past episodes and links to my socials, visit www.shaunkarim.com.