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    OnAndonAnon
    Participant

    Inspired by reading something @avacad0 wrote and shared, I decided to share something that I wrote for Neshamas.

    —————

    You know me.

    I’m put together, I dress well, I’m attractive and I’m happy. I’m educated, I’m smart, I’m friendly and I’m respected. I’ve got a good sense of humor, a positive outlook on life, and a listening ear.

    You’ve seen me walking my kids to school. You’ve seen me shopping for groceries. You’ve seen me attending school functions. You’ve seen me at work.

    Yet you don’t know me. And you’ve never seen me.

    You see, I came into my marriage with a deep desire to connect, to give and to please. Having dated for a brief period, there was no way for me to truly get to know what sort of relationship I was entering. There was no way for me to realize that my willingness to give, was to be used against me.

    When dating, I doubt I would have been able to see it even if I knew what to look for, as I came with my own baggage. For better or for worse, I was attracted to dysfunction.

    It took years of marriage until I truly realized something was wrong. There were times I intuitively felt it, only to bury the idea deep in my heart. All I had to do was simply remind myself that it was my fault as I’d been told many times before. I’ll never forget the first time I knew nothing would change. Yet, for a few more years, I still tried to believe that I could do better. And that I could be better.

    Only after doing my utmost to heal our marriage, and doing much work on my own various defects, did I begin to realize that I was being emotionally abused. It took even longer to begin learning what a healthy relationship would look like and to set boundaries to protect myself. It took courage to do so despite the many voices telling me how selfish I was being.

    The smiles in our portraits, the guests coming through our home, the friends and family that looked up to our relationship all would tell a very different story. They never knew me.

    For any mother, father, sister or brother; to any cousin, colleague, friend and classmate; to every neighbor, teacher, Rov and Rebbetzin – you do know me, you just don’t know who I am.

    To those that are me, know that you are not alone. Know that there is help for you. You can heal and grow in spite of all.

    In reality, my essay should end here. But I need you to know one more thing about me that has held me in the grips of this relationship: shame. I had shame of not being able to handle this on my own. I had shame of what you may think of me. Or if you’d even believe that I’ve been emotionally abused. And yet, I lay myself in front of you to break that shame. Now I can be free.

    Thank you for getting to know me,

    “Avraham”

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    avacad0
    Participant

    I can so relate….I have also been attracted to the drama of dysfunction. I now know that when a relationship is too intense and takes up too much room in my brain it is a huge RED FLAG. I need to be very cautious when connecting to powerful people who have the nature to be controlling.

    I can so relate to the picture perfect impression. I think part of our shame is that  we need to portray the perfect image to the world that we are “worthy of existing”. But what a sad existence…..there’s no inner peace.

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    OnAndonAnon
    Participant
    Topic Author

    Thanks for sharing that you identify with it!

    Thankfully I’ve been changing in many ways these last few years. I’m more dependent on myself for my feelings and less on others – particularly less on toxic people!

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    anonymous
    Participant

    I too can very much relate having grown up with emotional abuse …. especially to the feelings of shame for not being able to pull through “like everyone”,  and to the constant feeling of guilt ,lots of guilt, on the one hand for not being able to protect/save my younger siblings, while at the same time feeling bad for hating my parent, boy do such people confuse us!

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    OnAndonAnon
    Participant
    Topic Author

    Yup.

    Part of my sadness about my marriage is in how my kids may have learned to tolerate bad behavior from a partner.

    All I can do today is continue to show up as the new me and give them a future.

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    anonymous
    Participant

    The fact that your getting stronger , will help your kids! B'”h my other parent is now in therapy, and getting stronger, that in itself helps me heal, and gives me hope.

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    OnAndonAnon
    Participant
    Topic Author

    A few years ago I would have said I’m getting healthier just so that I can be a better father.

    I now know that an attitude like that is not healthy. I need to continue being a better me and that’ll make me a continuously improving father.

    Theres a reason my kids throng I’m awesome :)!

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    Banana
    Participant

    Wow, @onandonanon! I am in tears from your beautifully written piece!! You have great talent in your writing. May HaShem continue to give you the strength you need. It’s ironic how those of us who look so perfect on the outside are the most tormented on the inside. How foolish are those who are jealous of the picture perfect families.

    I know this sounds crazy and selfish, but as I read your post, I think to myself – how does one know if they grew up in dysfunction and are attracted to dysfunction- or if their upbringing was normal difficulties? What do I look out for? What are the signs you refer to (even though you mention they wouldn’t have helped you)?

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. It definitely gives courage and opens a dialogue in a community where that is so limited.

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    OnAndonAnon
    Participant
    Topic Author

    Thanks for the feedback @banana.

    I’m not comfortable giving too many specifics on the public forum as I’m sure you can understand. However, one example that comes to mind that is generic enough;

    While dating, I found the fact that my ex didn’t acknowledge anyone doing anything for her as some form of confidence and ‘high-society’ type attitude. In my heart, even at the time, I knew it smelled of entitlement and disregard for others. But I needed it to fit my fantasy of who she was and found ways to make it work.

    As to growing up in dysfunction; the hard part is not making too much of that word. It becomes scary and then I’m on the defensive on behalf of my parents and teachers etc. An alternative is to just look at my childhood objectively (if that’s possible) and see when/if there were things that as an adult you know were just not right. Without judgement.

    With the suicide of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, the very idea of a picture perfect life, continues to prove to be a lie. Happiness is an inside job.

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    Chavy
    Participant

    OnAndonAnon,

    That was beautifully written! I’m happy to hear that you’re healing from the pain 🙂 I have the same question as Banana. Generally, what classifies as regular family problems versus being emotionally abused. When we say “emotionally abused,” are we talking about not feeling understood/validated by family members, or is there much more to it?

    I hope I’m not coming across at too naive.. I’m just trying to understand.

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    Chavy
    Participant

    One more point, I have to agree 1,000% that happiness is and inside job. And, like Avocad0e said, it’s ironic how we think that ones who put up a “perfect image,” are having it hard too. The perfect image is an attempt to hide the real us. I’m not sure how to counteract the perfect image, but inner happiness is definitely the key!

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    OnAndonAnon
    Participant
    Topic Author

    Thanks for the feedback, Chavy!

    Emotional abuse can come in many forms. Again, I don’t want to get into specifics on this public forum. If you (or anyone) want more detail, I’d be happy to answer in PM.

    Generally, I think it is important to come to ones own conclusions. Transposing someone else’s experience onto my own is dishonest and harmful.

    That said, there is a big difference between emotional abuse and ‘not feeling understood’.  In that context, my experience was more like not knowing my own wants/needs/desires any longer as I was confused as to what I wanted and scared to have my own needs and certainly not to express then.

    I so bought in to the idea that I was wrong and bad, that even when I read books on emotional abuse and related, I concluded that it just can’t be true and I must be the problem.

    After hearing from several objective people that they felt that way about the relationship between my wife and I, I couldn’t ignore it any longer.

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    OnAndonAnon
    Participant
    Topic Author

    So very true!

    The more comfortable I am with myself, the more comfortable I am letting myself be. Just be. How ironic that we show others a fake us, to be accepted as us. And in truth, by opening others up to the true us which we fear they’d run from, we attract people to the real us!

    I have many friends that know of my life in ways that I’d never imagined I would open up. Some know I’m in therapy. Some know I’m diagnosed with Anxiety. Some know that I’m on medication for it. Some know a lot more.

    And I’m okay with it. Heck, I’m proud of it!

    But I promise you, the moment I stop working on myself, I’ll start digressing. And then all that confidence and comfort will start to slowly disappear. Or maybe rapidly.

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    Banana
    Participant

    Wow. Just wow. The discussion here is priceless. Thank you. I think I have a better understanding of what you’re referring to with dysfunction.

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    Chany
    Participant

    wow, this is so helpful and on point. I have to say i have the same questions as banana and chavy. i think its hard to tow the line between abuse and normal family dynamic issues in some cases. I think people may not know their real desires and needs or not be able to effectively express them out of personal issues and struggles but not necessarily because they’ve been abused or are in an abusive relationship. Does that make sense?

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