All abuse relationships are a trade. A poor trade, an unfair trade but still – a trade. Looking at abusive relationships in this way frees us from both the victim and the survivor labels – but it’s controversial. Why? Because blame is always lurking at the door if we consider these relationships in the light of give and take. Surely they are simply one evil person abusing a victim. This isn’t enough for me. I believe that this isn’t enough to make a full recovery.
Dance away the heartache
How about if we saw it as a dance instead? You can’t dance with a partner unless they expressly consent. Anyone can leave the dancefloor at any time. Or can they? Maybe at the start of the music- but not when they share a home, the care of children, a mindset where both agree that you are ugly and, fat, broke and useless….. no one will love you. Not then. That ugly, fat. broke, useless person is stuck on the dance floor and no one loves them.
Ready to face the mirror?
Hear me out. If we can truly face ourselves in the mirror, we can begin to ask ourselves – what did we get from that abusive relationship? And if you are completely honest with your dark side you will admit to that shiny silver screen that you did indeed get something, It was trade.
What did I get in the trade off?
Hmmm…face the mirror with me and choose from…..Money. Bills paid. Security. A house. Not being alone. Status not stigma. Not being a single parent. A drinking partner. Someone who agreed with your piss poor view of yourself. Someone to numb you with sex. Someone to stop that lonely feeling, To not be alone. Someone to say and do what you lacked confidence to say or do.
What lies Beyond?
This is not victim blaming. The 361 Recovery programme asks us to consider – victim, survivor, what lies beyond? Organisations that wish to keep us in victim mode are pretending to help us but are actually controlling us. They are doing us no real favours. And survivor pride can limit us too. It isolates us from a wide range of people who don’t understand abuse and never will if we stick to our survivor group echo chambers.
So what other options do we have? 361 asks us to ‘Find the one’ the one step out of our 360 circles that we know so well. In our circles we may call an abuser a monster, taking no responsibility for our part in the abusive relationship. 361 asks us to step beyond and ask – what was the trade? What did I get out of that abusive relationship? Why did I ask someone so unpleasant to take away my power?
Only by facing ourselves in the mirror and asking ourselves the ugly questions can we move forward and step fully into beyond. I can’t explain what it will be like there but join me on the path and let’s find out together.
Leave the story. Leave the labels. Let’ s go.
Alice Smith is the founder of 361 Life Support. We are a 100% user led organisation delivering the award winning 361 Recovery programme to women survivors. More information at 361lifesupport.co.uk