The Thing About Abusive Relationships

[Content Note; physical and emotional abuse, domestic violence]

The thing about abusive relationships is this:

When they are good, they can feel very, very good. As if someone else loves you with their whole heart and mind, as if the two of you are an invincible team, as if the other person "gets" you like no one has ever, or will ever, "get" you. It can feel like destiny, like unabridged happiness in a storybook, like your entire existence is being validated by the happiness you bring someone else. This feeling has been described as a "honeymoon" phase, but that's misleading in one sense, because these times comes not only at the beginning of a relationship. They can be frequently repeated, and it's easy to feel as if they are the "true" relationship, the real norm. The bad stuff fades in the glow of the dizzyingly good times.

It can feel as if there are only two people in the world. And that is a wonderful thing.

And when things turn bad, they can turn very, very bad. All that closeness and intimacy can suddenly explode, as the person who knows you the absolute best turns that trust into an arsenal of weapons for shame, for manipulation, and for abuse. Whether physically or verbally, or both, the abuser uses all of that knowledge against you to trap you, to defeat you. Someone who knows you that well can convince you that you are crazy, you are wrong, and frankly there isn't even any point in talking to someone else about this, because the fault is yours. You may not even think to look for "help," because the problems are within you (you think). Only you can solve this, by being better, by trying harder.

It can feel as if there are only two people in the world. And that is a terrifying thing.

So please, world, spare me the certainty of outsiders about what Reeva Steenkamp's life looked like behind closed doors. Because the thing about abusive relationships is, they can be very, very hard to recognize, even from the inside, let alone the outside. If you don't understand that, then perhaps you don't understand domestic violence at all.

[See also: Liss' excellent commentary in this post.]

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