Monday, August 23, 2010

And, Which Personality Am I Speaking To At The Moment?

I was talking to a friend yesterday about something that has come up a few times lately - does a friend or lover or family member's behavior towards us change when a third person is around? (Out in public, etc) This can go either way, nicer to us, or ruder, but it's the change itself that is the important thing to recognise and identify.

I've been on the receiving end of both of those behaviors in my life, and having "ruder" first, was under the mistaken impression that "nicer" was different, or better.

It's nothing of the kind; they are two sides of the same coin.

Either way, there is falseness in the relationship.

Either way, there is something happening which isn't healthy. My first husband liked to be verbally and emotionally abusive to me in public - showing off how tough he was -  he could treat his wife like dog poop, and get away with it. (He didn't always get away with it, he once received a beating from a total stranger, who took offense to the words he was using to describe me, and pounded him into an apology.)

In retrospect, I find it hard to believe that I tolerated that behavior, but I've come a long way from the childhood which set me up to accept that sort of thing, as "just the way life and people treated me."

I've also experienced a relationship in which the person was nicer to me in public than in private - so that other people thought this person incredibly charming, and me incredibly fortunate to be with them - that's a wierd place to be, let me tell you.

There is nothing quite so guaranteed to make one feel as if one is deep in the midst of a Fellini movie, than to be in this sort of relationship. Most other people, (unless they've been in one themselves,) refuse to believe that this beguiling, marvellous person they like so much, could be being abusive behind closed doors. One gets strange looks, as they try to fit this information into the slot labelled "charming, kind, wonderful person named _____,"  and then, when it won't go in, discard it completely, and decide the person giving them the information must just be an ungrateful whiner, or much worse - barking mad.

One can be living with quite the disconnect between the public self, and the private self, when one's partner is this way. We can begin to doubt the information we are receiving from our own senses, and start trying to bend and twist ourselves to fit into the shape the abuser insists would cause the abuse to stop.

It can be a stunner when we realise - hey, wait a minute here, this has nothing to do with me, this is all about them.

That realisation can be the beginning of change and growth, if we are brave enough to grasp onto it with one hand, put our other hand into the outstretched hand of our Higher Power, and allow ourselves to be pulled from the pit, up into the sunshine.

It's a choice. (Maddening program this, always yarping off about how everything is a choice, but it is. There you are. Accept it or don't, that's a choice, too. I've made that choice many times.)

I choose freedom. I choose sunshine, even when it's so bright it makes me blink, my eyes water, and my head hurt. I know from experience, and the experience, strength and hope of my friends in Al-Anon, that if I just stand my ground, and keep blinking, my pupils will contract enough to allow clearer vision, and then I will be able to see life in its full beauty and wonder. I'll be able to view myself the same way - as a creature of beauty and wonder, lovable, and deserving of good treatment, just because I exist.


  1. I've also been on both sides. God bless the stranger for standing up for you. Even though, in the times where people said something to my ex, it made things worse for me :\

    This is a really good post. Thanks for sharing it. It gives me some good perspective.

    I really like the sunshine metaphor, too.

  2. It seems that the character defects come out in private. Most people are civil in public, unless they are actively drinking. I too have been on the receiving end of public and private unacceptable behavior. But I have choices today. Thank God.