How do you rescue the survivor?

Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance.

Samuel Johnson

Sitting in the waiting room of my doctor this morning, I was listening to a lady talk about her Estate Planning. She was telling the girls at the reception desk about Advanced Health Directives. I chimed in to assist, but she was holding the conversation pretty well.

The talk then turned to her Will.

The lady explained how it had always been simple and straightforward. That she had a daughter she trusted and was very close to, and she was comfortable in the knowledge that she would rightly administer her Estate when she was gone. However, her daughter had started a new relationship. And through this new relationship, she had seen her daughter change, their relationship strain, and she now had to rethink what would happen when she passed away.

There was something about the story that didn’t add up. I could hear this mother’s pain in losing her relationship with her daughter. I heard her blame the breakdown of their bond on the choices the daughter was making, and how she was prioritising this man. This alcoholic. The man who didn’t want her until she was ‘skinny’ because he didn’t like ‘fat’ women.

I probed.

The daughter had never been in a relationship before. She was a mature aged woman, who had lost significant weight, and entered into a relationship with a man to whom she was very quickly fully invested.

A man who drinks too much.

A man who openly shares his disdain for ‘fat’ women.

A man who had spoken disrespectfully to the lady when she dared question how he might be treating her daughter.

“I’ll never get her back, she’s gone.”

I didn’t want to have to share. It’s humiliating, sometimes. But this lady seemed desperate.

“You’ve lost your daughter, and that hurts.” I said.

“You’re going through change, huge change.” She nodded as I said this.

“So is your daughter. She is experiencing huge changes, and it will take her time to adapt.”

She finally has someone paying her attention. I know what that’s like.

“He is isolating her from the people who love her. He is cutting her off from everyone.”

The lady nodded again.

“I took 7 years to get out. It isn’t simple, or easy. There’s so much to it. But don’t give up. Don’t lose hope.”

Then the doctor called me in. She had so much more to say, but the doctor called me in.

Where I am leading is this: persevere.

Domestic violence is cyclic. Control and coercion is cyclic. He will charm her so that he is right and everyone else is wrong. Then he will manipulate her ‘because if you really loved me you would (insert whatever they want). It will escalate when she questions what is happening and he will lose it – verbally or physically. Then he apologises, promises to change, and it begins again.

I don’t write this with any professional background in human behaviour or psychology. Purely as someone who has been there.

Everyone has different thresholds and different temperaments. Woman are socialised to people please. So they stay. They keep trying to help him and support him and fix him. So they stay. Until they can’t.

For me, the difference was support. I left when I was supported by the friends and family that I had otherwise been largely isolated from. Finally, they were there, they could see what was happening, and they caught me when I was falling.

So, if you feel like you are losing someone you love to this, like the lady at the doctor, please stick it out. For yourself, because you miss your loved one. But for that loved one too. They need you. They just don’t know it yet.

JP

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