The Greatest Love

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I haven’t been here in a while. I guess it began with starting anew and thinking I had to close this book… thinking that if I went on like this, I was giving a window to someone who doesn’t deserve it, who doesn’t deserve to know me anymore. In doing so, I gave away my power. I’m here to tell my story. Not ours, not his, but mine. I forgot that for a while.

Recent events have led me to look back and evaluate, to attempt to be objective, in order to learn and grow. In being objective, I realised that I was in an abusive relationship. I used to think it was just toxic and I confused myself into thinking that’s all it was. In doing so, I did the opposite of making myself feel better. I took away any closure I may have gotten. Calling a relationship toxic and consequently thinking that there could never have been any love was a mistake.

It wasn’t just toxic though. A relationship is multifaceted. It was toxic, true, but it was also abusive. Initially, it was emotional abuse and that led to physical abuse. The abuse and the toxicity went hand in hand. The problem with figuring out you were in an abusive relationship, you, the strong, independent woman who promised she’d never let any man abuse her, is that when the initial shock wears off, what’s left behind is a deep sense of pain and loss. Loss of not just the strength you always thought you had but the total loss of sense of self. A self that now you have to discover all over again while fighting back the judgement you feel for yourself having allowed the abuse to happen. Judgement for becoming the weak person you promised you’d never be.

That’s where the abusive cycle comes full circle and now I feel like this has become a redundant post because I feel like I’ve talked about this already. I guess what I was missing, what I realised today, is that I was doing a disservice to myself. I wasn’t weak for being in an abusive relationship. To call it that is a cop-out; one that didn’t work.

I read an article today on Everyday Feminism by Stephanie Ambroise called 5 Things to Remember When You Still Love the Abusive Partner You Left and it really  opened my eyes. Here are the excerpts that rung true for me:

But no one talks about the time you spend reconnecting with your own values after the end of a relationship with an abusive partner. How wild it feels that the world expects you to keep loving yourself when you don’t even remember who you are.

It took a long time for me to simply realize she was abusive, and then even longer to heal from it. I’ve also never stopped loving her.

This whole time I kept wrestling with the thought because he was abusive, I was supposed to stop loving him…

Because after understanding that you went through an experience of abuse, the worst part is the shame. The feeling of weakness you feel for loving someone who abused you.

It is this thinking that hurt the most because it made me feel weak. Weak that I could love someone who would hurt me. Weak that I allowed myself to think there was still love because, well, how can love exist when there is abuse?

When someone is speaking to another about their abuse, the person who inflicted the abuse is usually stripped of their complexity by the listener.

This is harmful because it encourages questions such as “How could you love someone who would treat you like that?” or “What were you thinking?” – as if that was the only aspect of the person’s character.

There. That’s it. “As if that was the only aspect of the person’s character.” Here I thought that’s what I was supposed to think i.e. that he was a monster and there was nothing else there to love. I could never accept that to be true. He wasn’t some monster and I wasn’t a fool. I must’ve seen something, felt something…

Everyone has the capacity for both goodness and evil-doing inside of them, so always seeing the best in someone …is no more foolhardy than always seeing the worst in someone.

There’s no shame in seeing someone at their full potential.

It’s only dangerous when we commit the act of neglecting our own needs in an effort to get them there, and then they never make the choice to actually get there. It’s painful when the realization hits you, but when it does, it’s okay to not have dismissed it.

To call him a monster was to call me a fool for loving him and in turn, hurt myself further. I saw the great man he could become and I loved him the more for it. “There’s no shame in seeing someone at their full potential.”

Staying with someone to support them cannot come at the cost of self-abandonment – because in the end, someone is still getting neglected.

The love you have for yourself is just as valuable as that gotten from another, so if you must remove yourself from a partner and cultivate the love within yourself, for yourself, this is not a downgrade. Being with an abusive person can make you feel as if your love isn’t valuable, because they make you feel as if you aren’t valuable, but it is and you are.

You have an obligation to yourself first, before you have an obligation to another, because you are the one you are guaranteed to be with for the rest of your life. You are your most important commitment.

You are your greatest love.

That, right there, my friend, is the key. “You are your greatest love.” Read that again. That’s the part that we so often forget. It’s the part that I forgot. In trying to convince myself that I wasn’t a fool for the great love I felt for him, I forgot that the love I have for myself is equally great.

Because of that shame, you begin to associate love with weakness, and then it becomes weakness to love yourself. But love is not a weakness – it’s its direct opposite.

The love you shared was never the problem. It was the abuse.

So here I am, today, finally learning that it is okay to look back and remember that there was love. I felt it, I wasn’t a fool and it is not something to be ashamed of.

…I now know I did nothing to deserve the abuse…

This is the most important milestone we can reach after an abusive partner.

The only way to love yourself is through understanding and accepting yourself. However, that can only happen when we remove the idea that we can cause someone to treat us a certain way.

Now, I start my journey of self-care with acts of understanding, acts of support, acts of self-devotion, and acts of self-love. I choose to love myself like I loved him. I choose to heal.

I am my greatest love.

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