There were signs he would become increasingly abusive. Like: he had a habit of raising his voice and yelling when we would fight. I would ask him not to raise his voice, it made me feel unsafe, it made me shut down. The last time someone yelled at me like that, had anger at me like that, they raped me. So, if he could please stop doing that, I would appreciate that.
I did indeed say, "please," Readers.
And he didn't stop.
What he was telling me was that he valued his voice and anger and expression of that anger more than my feelings of safety. He was telling me he didn't respect my boundaries as much as he wanted to reserve the right to make me feel unsafe. He felt like he had the right to hurt me in that way. Because when I asked him to stop, he would say, "I have to express myself, I have a right to get out my anger. This is how I need to get out my anger." His needs were greater than mine.
This friendship was the kind that two people cling to when they think it's the only thing keeping them afloat. Instead, it's actually drowning them. But you cling to it till your knuckles turn white and sometimes till the water fills your lungs and sometimes even after that.
I have had more of these relationships than I would care to admit.
The funny thing about abusive relationships, with their cycle of abuse (the gradual slide into harmful behavior, then the bottoming-out, then apologies and kindness and sincere-sounding renewals of love and friendship, until you have committed fully again, signaling the beginning of the slide back into harmful behavior), is that once you let go and take a step back out of the cycle, once you stop clinging to the very thing that is drowning you, it's so easy to swim away. Once you have that perspective from outside the cycle, you can look back on it from the outside, at a distance, and say, "Well, THAT was fucked up." And off you go to find better waters, hopefully.
Which doesn't mean that you are healed and whole and this abusive relationship won't continue to take its toll on your self-esteem, your mental wellness, your strength. But once you have left that abusive cycle, once you have truly let go and seen it for what it is, you don't go back to it. You can't. You understand it was drowning you. And if you had the wherewithal to kick back up to the surface and break free, you are not going to let it drag you back down again.
So here's my dilemma.
The example listed above was just the beginning of the abuse; it became far, far worse once I revealed that I had been raped, that I suddenly remembered and realized I had been raped, that I was having a really difficult time of it all. Needless to say, the friendship is over. However, this person emailed me at the start of the summer with an email that began with this:
I've been thinking a lot lately about what it is that has happened between you and me. I don't know if I'll ever understand it, and if not, then I guess I'll just have to live with it.The fuck, right? He'll have to live with it. As if it is HIS cross to bear, being a hurtful, unkind person to me. ALSO, if he doesn't know what has happened between the two of us, HE HASN'T BEEN HEARING A WORD I'VE BEEN SAYING FOR MONTHS.
I haven't emailed him back. I haven't said a thing. And even though we were the closest of friends for so long, I don't miss him at all. It is a great relief he is out of my life. But what I have found in the space his unkind-self used to inhabit is anger. Lots and lots of anger. Nearly crippling anger, sometimes. At the shit I put up with, his lack of humanity, his selfishness; all of the anger I could not manage while I was in this abusive relationship was all there, below the surface, gathering in pools, and since he's been gone, it's been flooding out. This isn't even, like, a pond, or a crick of anger. This is a VERY BIG LAKE, or even sea-size, kind of anger.
I would just as soon never email him back, because I don't think I could even manage it around the anger, except: 1. I will see this kid undoubtedly when I start school again in the fall; 2. We have some of the same friends (although, they are more my friends than his, so I am not worried about losing them as friends); 3. He will definitely try to bring it up again, force a conversation on the friendship, not let it go (abusive controllers can't get over their lack of ability to control you anymore. It drives them batty).
So I am trying to decide what to do. If I could compose the perfect email that would make him not email back, that would perfectly sever the relationship, preclude any of his attempts to interact again, I would. But he will jump on any opportunity to reconnect, even if it is just to fight. I would cold cut him off, but I can't - we will be in too many situations where we will have to see each other and play nice next year. I could just ignore him all summer and then deal with whatever shit he decides to throw at me this fall, but I don't want that to have to be in person, and I am petrified by this - I get anxious even just thinking about it.
I am trying to figure out how I can handle this in the best way possible for me to assuage my anxiety, not fall into the very deep and threatening anger sea, and not make every time I have to see him next year so fraught I am petrified to go to school. And I am PISSED that he has put me in this position, that I even have to go through this entire fucking exercise, when HE was the douchebag.
But then, this isn't that different from my interactions with men historically, and all the time. Daily, we ladies have to negotiate and plan and minimize the douchebaggy guys. And goddamnit, it is exhausting.
But I can tell you, Readers, the one thing I don't want? Revenge. To hurt him. No matter my anger, I don't need to actually cause him pain. Because once this has been laid to rest, and my anger has run out, I will never, ever think of him again. And if Gayle fucking Force has cut you out of her universe entirely? That is a horrible, sad thing for you indeed.