Safety, but Not Freedom from Guilt

Survivors, of any sort of trauma, carry with them the ability to bear “survivor’s guilt.” During active abuse we pine for calmness, safety, and security — even boring and mundane; however, we when FINALLY achieve it, it becomes scary and unfamiliar. For the person who has never survived trauma and violence, this can truly be a foreign concept.

After a while, the security and safety and calmness that we once prayed for and now have worked so hard for, starts to feel normal. I am there, currently. I do not fear for mine or my children’s safeties and there is peace. We still struggle financially, but that is a havoc that takes MUCH longer to “fix.” However, I am secure with someone who treats me with gentleness and love. I am beyond blessed!

Every so often, my Ex-abuser will text me to see how I’m doing, to remind me of the anniversary of our first date, to say how much he misses cookouts with the kids and I — all of this, as a test to see if I’ll crack. He does it periodically and I have to answer him, or he will continue on and on with the questions. I usually answer with one word answers, like, “fine” or “thanks” or “awwww.” I’ve reminded him constantly that I really do not want contact from him, unless it has to do with our teenage son, or a legal issue from our past marriage and together-debts. I usually am answered with, “Oh, ok. Sorry,” which is all well and good until he decides to reach out again with something random and out of the blue. (Insert *eye roll* here).

I was thanking my lucky stars that I had not heard from him for two months, when I went over to my adult daughter’s apartment for a hair trim recently. As we were talking, she mentioned her father told her that he now had a girlfriend of a few months. Had he asked her to tell me that? As she cut my hair, I decided to say, “Well, good for him,” with my face as nonchalant and unimpressed as I could feign. Game face! Did I really mean that? Actually, I did! Relief literally washed over me. I was content in my existence and was glad that he had something to distract him from torturing me long-distance and by proxy.

“Mom,” she mused. “He asked me when he should tell her he loves her. Isn’t that funny? Me? My Dad is asking me. How cute!” I listened and nodded. Hmmm…I almost felt a pang of jealousy, but silently scolded it away. I was the one that had to say “I love you” first, when our relationship started, and to keep saying it, so he would say it back — insurance, I thought, that he still cared. But first, and foremost, he is a narcissist. They do what they feel they need to do to in order to keep their current supply hooked. And, as I found out from my own personal trip through hell, narcissists lack the capacity to love; they are essentially actors and actresses that have to “emulate” love. He was legitimately asking our daughter for advice on convincing his new girl friend and techniques on how to do it.

Later on that evening, I reflected back on being relieved. I then felt guilty for being amused that this mystery woman was taking the spotlight off of me. This woman could legitimately be in imminent danger! I knew what he was capable of. I knew the cycle of his abuse and how, over time he’d come to show anger when she show any independence or opposition. I also feared for young children she might have. Could he be trying to re-create his “normal” of having a family to rule over? I prayed to God that I was wrong, but I still prayed for her. I would wish the treatment my children and I received on NO ONE. I did not hate her, I feared for her and hers. I was glad that he wasn’t currently focused on harrassing me, and prayed he had changed, but knowing in my heart that he truly had not.

My daughter and youngest son would soon be going to visit their Dad a few states away in a short period of time, for the Fouth of July holiday. “Mom,” asked my teenage son. “Do I have to like Dad’s new girlfriend?” I thought about how to answer that comment. Again, I did not harbor hate or jealousy toward her. “Sweetheart, I want you to treat her with respect and kindness, just as you do to me. You want your Dad to be happy, don’t you?” He agreed, but shrugged his shoulders at the same time. I was NOT going to be that mother that hoped her children hated their Dad’s significant other. That would be something their Dad would do. I am not going to that dark place. My children could draw their own conclusions, but I’ve taught them to show kindness and respect.

I owed my children continued peace. We’d lived without it for SO long. I also owed it to myself. Hate no longer has a place in my house.

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