Society glorifies romantic love, but is rather harsh toward those who do not succeed at it. The lonely. The heartbroken. Unfortunately, many abuse victims fall into this category. Strangers to real love, we tend to stumble in our pursuit of it.
There used to be advice columns for the lovelorn. Miss Lonelyhearts – a Depression era novel by Nathanael West about such a column – has been the basis for several movies, an opera, and a Broadway play.
There is still a great deal of poetry written about lost love. Just Google the topic.
These days, anonymous sex and hard core pornography are readily available. Craigslist has discontinued its infamous “adult” section. But ads for prostitution (included among them ads trafficking children) can easily be found online .
While pornography and anonymous sex reflect on the decadence and dehumanization of our society, they offer no real solution for problems of the heart.
Relationships – challenging enough for non-victims – can be a minefield for abuse victims. This is an overview of the problems victims may encounter with relationships and intimacy.
Having been repeatedly violated, we are likely to have difficulty with boundaries. We are either wholly without defenses or guarded by high walls.
The first (a total absence of screening, since our childhood boundaries were so often ignored) allows others to take advantage of us easily. The second (over-compensation, in an effort to protect ourselves from further violation) makes it hard for anyone to approach us.
Consistency and faithfulness were not modeled for us. We, therefore, expect betrayal; see enemies where there are none. This can result in needless insecurity, jealousy where there is no cause.
Even the most loving partner will tire of proving his/her devotion in the face of repeated, groundless accusations.
But accusations need not be limited to infidelity. We may experience innocent statements as hurtful or insulting; may strike out at a partner who is at a loss to understand what s/he has done wrong. We, in turn, may be at a loss to explain.
Of course, there are individuals who are genuinely controlling. Abuse victims may, unconsciously, select for partners like this – responding to what is familiar to us from our families of origin. Continue reading