Thank you so much for your comment Rachel! As a fellow domestic violence survivor, I just want to echo that coping with abuse, and the recovering from it, is a full-time job in and of itself! I hope that there are moments when you can take a step back, look at all that you have done and juggled, and feel pride in what a badass you are, rather than shame that you aren’t doing “enough”. It used to be that managing a home and family was the full-time job of multiple people per household — and in the homes of people who are really well-off and really lucky, that’s still the case. Maintaining a family and a home (and one’s sanity!) doesn’t always leave room for tons of professional work, an academic career, and all those other “shoulds” that we feel burdened by.
I think it is compassionate of you to also extend the logic of this piece to your ex. But I also think that we abuse victims already tend to err on the side of justifying and forgiving behavior that harms us, and that there is danger in it as much as there is love behind it.
My abuser was himself an abuse victim. He has a mental illness. He has lots of reasons for why he did the things he did. So there is a part of me who feels compassion for him and understands that there were outside factors that led him to do the things he did. At the same time, he never stopped being abusive, in fact he has only escalated as the years have gone by, and he is nothing but a danger and a threat to me. So there is a part of me that hates and fears him and that tells me to stay as far away from him as possible.
It’s strange to carry both those truths inside me, but that’s how I reconcile the complexity for myself. Sometimes, a person is failing or doing harm because of factors outside their control — but if that person is harming us, or is failing to be there for us in important ways, it still may be best to separate from them. I could not love him into not abusing me. It was something completely out of my control. I tried to be compassionate towards him, but it became apparent that he was not going to stop being violent, that it was not a problem or a barrier that I could solve. I could only distance myself from it.
An example that comes to mind is dating someone who is deeply depressed, but spends years never seeking treatment for the depression or taking any steps to work on it. There are a lot of reasons why a person might get stuck in that situation. And we can do all that we can to support them and care about them, and work very hard to not blame them for their situation, which is not their fault. And, at the same time, we cannot control how they feel or what they do, and if it becomes damaging for us to be close to them or to date them, sometimes the correct choice for both parties is for that relationship to end. But it still really really hurts when that happens.