I Used to Think Abuse was Love
- Anne Peterson Poet and Author
- 2017 28 Nov
Dear Mom & Dad,
I know you won’t understand this letter, but I’m hoping you will at least try. I wanted you to know why I chose to stay in my relationship with Tom. Why I put up with things that other people wouldn’t put up with. I know you don’t understand. I’ve lost a lot of my friends who also don’t get it.
But I thought abuse was love.
I saw how you two always looked forward to being together, and doing all kinds of stuff. You’d go out with your friends together, go to ball games. And you don’t even like sports, Mom. You spent a lot of time together, and I wanted the same thing.
Tom told me that out of everyone in the whole world, he wants to be with me. So when he wanted me to spend less time with my friends, I thought it was because he wanted to be with me. I wanted to believe that. I didn’t see that only wanting to spend time with me was more of an obsession.
I gave up spending time with friends after a while, because when I’d get home, he would make me feel guilty; like I had done something wrong, like I had neglected him. So I decided to be with him all the time. It was just easier that way. But all he wants to do is lay around and watch TV. It doesn’t feel like he’s with me at all. I’m kind of lonely.
I watched for years how you two showed each other respect. You’d wait until the other was finished before you would speak. And you taught us that same lesson—
That each person has value and should be respected.
But I felt like no one was respecting Tom. I thought I would be that person, that I would believe in him when no one else did. And when it wasn’t mutual, I figured that eventually he would reciprocate. But it hasn’t worked.
You don’t say, “Shut up!” to someone you respect. You don’t take their belongings and break them. I forgave him because they were only things.
I remember reading in Romans 12:10 that we should honor those we love. I tried doing that for Tom, but I don’t feel honored at all.
It says love is patient. And I’ve been patient with Tom, I really have. But I don’t think he is patient with me. I try to be understanding when he comes home late. But if I’m even one minute late, he rants all over the place.
It says love is kind. I try my best to be kind to Tom, even when he’s angry. But Tom is not kind to me. He yells or makes an angry face when he talks to me.
It says love is not jealous, but Tom is. Even if I’m talking to a coworker, he doesn’t like it one bit and has told me so. It makes me feel like he doesn’t trust me.
It says love is forgiving, that it does not take into account a wrong suffered. I forgive Tom when he hurts me, but it’s not a two-way street. Tom has a closet and remembers every single thing anyone else has ever done to hurt him. And he brings them up over and over again. I think he has them memorized.
It says that love is not easily provoked. But if I say the slightest thing wrong, or even look at him wrong, he gets angry right away. His gauge is set so that the smallest thing can bring out his rage.
It tells us that love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth. I feel like the movies Tom makes me watch with him are evil ones. He told me if I care about him, I’ll watch them with him, so I do. But I don’t feel good inside.
I thought I was loving him because I was trying to hope; to hope he’ll change, that my loving him would change who he is. I was trying to believe that it was possible, because I read that all things are possible to him who believes. And I thought if I put up with all the stuff that ties my stomach in knots, that I was doing what the Bible says in enduring all things.
But now that I read it again, I don’t think so. I think I’ve been trying to see something that isn’t there, something that may never be there. And even though I thought I was in love with Tom, I think I was in love with the idea of being in love.
I’ve been ignoring what my gut has been telling me all along—that this is not loving.
Mom, Dad, I thought abuse was love.
I’m coming home now. Please forgive me.
Father, we bring our relationships before you. Heal us, Lord, so that when we seek to go into relationships, we are seeking healthy ones. Help us to know there is a difference between love and abuse. Father, if we are in a relationship that is not safe, I pray that you let us know. And that you would give us the courage to get out of them. We pray this in your Son’s precious and Holy name. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/g-stockstudio
Anne Peterson is a poet, a speaker, and an author of 14 books. Anne understands abuse as she has written a memoir, Broken: A story of abuse and survival. You can see more of Anne’s work by checking out these links. And although Anne has many titles, her favorite is still ‘Grandma’ to 4 grandchildren here and one in heaven. Download a free copy of her book Real Love by joining her email list. Visit her website at www.annepeterson.com. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google