Disclaimer: Jen Childs is in an open/polyamorous marriage. This is about her experience in a relationship that took place for 2 years during 2019-2021. This article is NOT about her primary partner of 14 years.
Reflection, Acceptance, & Healing
The day that my relationship with my abuser ended was the day that my life started over.Two years of the most intense, passionate, painful, and toxic relationship I have experienced crumbled before my eyes. That last wave of verbal and emotional abuse was different from all the others. For the first time I saw him for who he truly is, a veil was finally lifted. I understood there is no such thing as unconditional love – because love can only survive when conditions in which you are treated with kindness, respect, and compassion are present and upheld.
The hope that he would ever give me love that could resemble what I gave him disappeared in an instant. I kept repeating the last words he said to me before I walked out. “I don’t need you. I never did. “When you walk out that door, I will never think about you, I will never even miss you!”. I held on to those words – they became my new mantra – one that I had to repeat any time I started to question myself or what had happened between us.
When I got home, I was in shock – numb inside but shaking on the outside. I knew I had to harness whatever strength I had left and use it to close every line of communication so he could never make his way back into my life. I knew him well enough to know that a fake apology and more promises of change would be coming in a few weeks if I allowed him to come near me.
So, I blocked him immediately on social media, my phone, email and every app we are connected through.
I gathered everything he ever gifted me and threw it away, I burned every single love letter, I deleted all photos of us or that he took of me and unfollowed all playlists he had made for us. This time I was not going to walk down memory lane and reminisce on the good times, I was not going to allow myself to miss him, I was not going to hope he came back a changed man. No.
The reality of what love meant to my abuser was finally clear – When he said, “I love you” he meant “I love what you do for me, I love how you make me feel, I love that you belong to me and I can treat you however I want.” He never genuinely loved me for the person I am. He had no intention of loving, nurturing, or caring for me the way that loving partners do. I finally understood that once I had gone, he would move on to the next woman and groom her to receive his abuse the way he had done with me.
When we love someone, we want to see the best in them, we want to forgive, we want to have compassion and empathy. We want to go back to the good times. We tend to justify and excuse bad behaviour because it is easier than accept, we fall in love with a version of the person that never truly existed.
First, I sat alone and cried for almost a week. I was too ashamed to reach out to anyone in a real way. When I had no more tears left, I went online and read articles on how to survive abuse inflicted by a loved one. I ordered books about toxic relationships, narcissism, and psychopathy that helped me identify the abusive patterns I had been caught up in and I clearly see several of the personality traits my ex-boyfriend displayed throughout the time we spent together. The more I read the more sense it all made. I had been in a toxic, dysfunctional, codependent, distorted, and abusive nightmare. I was finally waking up!
The journey to healing
I started journaling for the first time in my life. Everything that he did to me, everything that he said to me, every feeling I had about him or the various incidents he put me through, anything I wanted to say to him – it all went into my journal. Pages and pages were filled up within weeks. That was going to be my written record so that I never forgot what I went through.
The mind has a way of distorting and smoothing over traumatic experiences so we can live with them. Sometimes this helps us move on but other times it allows us to go back to people that will only destroy us again and again if we let them. I began to slowly speak my truth. I started to talk about my experience to my therapist, my friends, and my family. I realized I had isolated myself from all my support networks the last year of the relationship. I had used COVID & Quarantine as an excuse – but the reality was I had been too ashamed to reach out to anyone for fear of what they would think of me. I allowed this man to treat me in a way that I would never condone for anyone I care about, yet I did not walk away. It was hard to admit, but it was the first step to truly healing.
My therapist gave me homework – articles to read, talks to watch, even art therapy I could do to help me process the trauma. I was going through very heavy emotions and a lot of darkness I had suppressed from the abuse was coming up. The first two months I had nightmares during which I would wake up in tears. It was so painful to work through the memories (consciously and subconsciously) , but I had no choice.
It is NOT your fault
I joined a support group for abuse survivors where the stories I was hearing were almost identical to what I had gone through. Everyone had the same realization – no matter what they did their abuser kept abusing – the pain, shame, and anger all the survivors were processing was overwhelming. Some had only been in an abusive relationship for a few months while others had given their abusers 5, 15, 30 years of their life. It was amazing to realize I was not alone, and it was not my fault.
Once I understood what I had gone through more clearly and I had reestablished my support network of friends, family, and a therapist; I started to focus on building myself up again. I was now moving past the stage of grieving, reflecting, and accepting and entering the stage of recovery.
My Health – Staying fit is something I have always done but now I had time to do more of it, I incorporated yoga and meditation into my weekly routine. I made sure not to fall into habits that could affect my self-esteem or suppress my emotions like drinking alcohol, eating unhealthy junk food, or having too much screen time. More than ever, I made sure to eat better and drink more water. I got more rest and better sleep. I cut back on any bad habits like coffee and smoking cigarettes.
My family and friends – I spent more time with family at home. I made time for social distance hangs with my friends on a weekly basis. I started talking to my distant friends and family regularly on the phone and on video calls. I made sure that everyone knew what I had been through all the while reassuring them, I was now in a much better place where I could be present and available for them if they needed me. They all said the same thing – “we are so sorry you went through that and we are so glad he is out of your life.”
My Career – I focused on my own business, redesigning my website, coming up with marketing campaigns, and developing my relationship with existing and new clients. Within a few weeks, more work started coming in and my efforts started to pay off. I have new projects coming my way that I am really excited about.
My Passion and Hobbies – I focused on my Burlesque, reformed my chair dancing troupe, and contacted promoters that immediately booked me for gigs in the coming months. I contacted a photographer and did a fun photoshoot. I started going back to my Aerial studio and practising on the Lyra once a week.
Self-Love – I started to love myself and put myself first again. I booked time at the spa, my favourite nail place, and with my hairstylist. I went out for nature walks, planned my garden, cleaned and organized my home. I created empowering music playlists. I did all the things that made me feel good and had nothing to do with my ex-boyfriend.
All of this made me realize how much time and energy I had given to him and how little I had given to myself. Through this process, I had two pivotal moments of validation and self-empowerment.
The first – meeting up with a woman that had dated my ex over a decade ago. We had been acquaintances up to that point. When I told her about my experience she immediately said “It was the same for me. He is a real Narcissist, and he knows how to manipulate and hurt people in ways I never thought possible. It is not you. He does this to everyone he dates!” That was confirmation and validation that many victims of abuse do not get to hear. I was grateful to her for listening to my story and being honest with me about her own experience.
The second – having the chance to write this story and have it published. Coming out publicly without shame, empowered and not broken by this experience, knowing that what happened to me could happen to anyone – all of this was deeply cathartic and gave me closure. I truly hope that sharing all of it may help someone else recognize the signs of abuse so they can take a stand and leave their abuser.
I have told myself I will wait before I date anyone again.
Taking time to heal
The process of healing after such a traumatic relationship should not be rushed. I want to be sure that I learn, process, and heal fully before I allow anyone new into my life. I know it will take time to trust anyone again. However, before anyone else – I must learn to trust myself again, heal my relationship with myself, be my own best friend and show myself love, patience, and kindness through this journey.
There is a saying that I am choosing to view my experience through “This did not happen to me, this happened for me”. I am moving towards a much stronger version of myself and I am on my way to becoming who I am meant to be.
I need to go within with honesty and courage – why did I allow myself to remain in such a destructive relationship? Why did I continue to give my love, time, and energy to someone who so clearly did not deserve it? What was it within me that recognized this pain as love? These are extremely hard questions that I hope one day I will have real answers to.
You are not a victim, you are a SURVIVOR
For now, when I go to bed at night and when I wake up in the morning, I say this in the mirror to myself “I love you, I have got you, you are going to get through this. You are strong enough and resilient. You are not a victim you are a survivor. He can’t hurt you ever again because you will never let him.”
For More About Jen Childs, You Can Visit Her On Instagram by clicking HERE.
Jen Childs is an Interior Designer who runs her own firm in the Detroit metro area. She is also Burlesque Dancer & Lyra Aerial Performer.
This article was originally published here in the Astonishing Tales digital magazine on March 12th 2021
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