[Please note this is not my own article. I didn’t write this. It was written by a friend of mine who gave me kind permission to share it as I wanted, but didn’t want their name attached – hence no specific credit being given.]
Emotionally abusive partners aren't bad all the time. That's literally what their partners will tell you. It's what you'll tell your friends and loved ones, every time the bad happens.
"There's good in there!"
"You just don't hear about the good times."
You're just waiting, really, for the bad times to stop happening. Each time the terrible thing happens—the thing that you promised yourself you'd never let happen again—you remind yourself of how good things have been, and cling to the good moments, and ask yourself: Do I really want to say goodbye to the person who's responsible for all that loveliness? You hear about other people struggling in their relationships and go: See, it's not just me. This must be normal. Who doesn't struggle? Who doesn't have to work on things with their partner? Who isn't habitually reduced to tears by the person they say "I love you" to? Who doesn't live with a knot of misery twisting in their chest?
The good times happen. The good times mean the one you're with is good.
Thing is, abusive people aren't moustache-twirling villains. They don't start every day calculating how to cause you misery. They just don't care if you're miserable. They have ways of behaving, modes of being who they are, and if they fuck you up over it... honestly, it doesn't bother them too much. Maybe they'll even apologise afterwards! But that won't keep it from happening again, and again, and again. Sometimes they're wonderful. Every day, you get to wake up wondering if they will make today magical for you. Some nights, you'll go to sleep feeling like they have. But when things go wrong...
In some relationships, they go wrong more often than in others. Could be most of your days are good—but the bad ones are just rotten. In other relationships, well, you're just trying not to drown, trying to keep your head above water, catching those glimmers of light as the dark, cold waves batter you down to the place where you may never feel light or warmth again.
But in both cases, you stay hooked. Because there's always that chance. Because, if you pull the lever one more time, this could be that opportunity to catch one more moment of happiness. And the honest truth is, if you stay there forever, the good times will never stop coming. Who knows when they'll come, and who knows what you'll endure to get to them, but you will in fact have new happinesses waiting for you.
It can be addictive—for the same reason that gambling is addictive. Because you're not just playing for the good moments. You're playing for the thrill. Past a point, the uncertainty is a part of the experience. That wretched moment where you await your future with bated breath, full of dread and hope all at once... that can be addictive in a way even happiness itself isn't. When people try to leave abusive relationships, they're usually—understandably!—hurt and angry and upset. Furious, even. They often want to lash out, and hurt their abuser like their abuser hurt them. They want to get even. They want to take back all the power they feel like they've lost. They want to prove to their abuser that they're alright. That they're happy. That they're better now. And that impulse, frighteningly often, is what brings them back to their abuser.
Because you can't get even with someone whose fundamental tactic was apathy. They hurt you because they didn't care about you—but your attempts to hurt them prove that you do care. The more you lash out, the more they see what they've meant to you. It's like a love letter, really. They'll take hate or love from you—because either way you're giving them more of you. You're trying to win the battle, but you're losing the war. Because your efforts to get back at them are just another round of slots. You're planning out your moves, choosing what to do... and waiting for the right response. Maybe you'll hurt them and get away with it. Maybe they'll find a way to hurt you back? Who knows? You're still gambling on that uncertainty—and you're still following the same old patterns of your relationship, even as you tell yourself you're moving on.
This is not a game of love and hate. It's a game of presence and absence. Either you care, or you don't. Either you're passionate, or you're letting those feelings slowly ebb away. Your abuser doesn't care if you win a couple of hands. They don't even care if you're on a real winning streak. They know that, the longer you play, the more you lose.
The game is rigged. The house always wins.
I don’t expect this to be a shining beacon of positivity, but what the hell...
1. What did you do in 2020 that you'd never done before?
Started my own business. I’m now working part-time as a freelance business assistant.
2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I didn’t make any and, to be honest, didn’t even have any specific hopes for this year. Maybe my spider sense knew it would be pointless. I’m not going to make any resolutions for 2021, but I’m at least going in armed with some valuable life lessons under my belt I can use to come up with a list of goals.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Shit. I don’t think so. However, my thready presence on social media might mean I missed some spawnings.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
Very thankful to say no.
5. What countries did you visit?
Only the ones in my head.
6. What would you like to have in 2021 that you lacked in 2020?
A FUCKING SOCIAL LIFE AND AN EXISTENCE BEYOND A TWO-MILE RADIUS OF MY HOUSE.
7. What dates from 2020 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
March 16th. Mainly because it’s lasted for 291 days so far...
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Not dying, from a variety of hazards.
9. What was your biggest failure?
Blaming myself for the crappy behaviour of others.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Mental health was in the toilet. Fibromyalgia is still in remission so I can finally stop reporting that in this section. Aside from that, I don’t think I’ve been ill once. I’ve just got this fucking mystery cough which started in the spring of 2019.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
Klaus. Only a handful of people will know what that refers to. For the rest of you, I’ll go with this, which was a Xmas-Gift-To-Self...
12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
My Friday Night Club. Honestly I don’t know how I would have made it through this year without that team of reprobates to trade bullshit with. And not just on Friday nights.
13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
That list is fucking LONG, even if you strike off various world/political figures. What remains can be entered under the title “People I thought were my friends but it turns out they probably wouldn’t have even noticed if I’d died from COVID”.
14. Where did most of your money go?
Rent. Bills. Very little left over for anything else.
15. What were you really, really, really excited about?
I was really, really excited about seeing Pure Reason Revolution in October. But unsurprisingly it’s been postponed until next October. I did lose my noodle over a number of TV shows throughout the year.
16. What song will always remind you of 2020?
Pressure, by Fifth Dawn
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) Happier or sadder?
Sadder, by miles. I’ve lost friends (or more accurately, people I liked who I thought were my friends), financial stability, self-respect/worth, direction, motivation, most of my trust in anything. However, all that shit has at least shown me some things very clearly, and I like to think I can turn it into being more discerning when it comes to where I put my efforts.
b) Bigger or smaller?
Unbelievably, I think on average I’m about the same. Which is insane considering the misery eating I’ve been doing. I’ve probably widened a little around the mid-section during the festive period as I was ignoring my IF schedule.
c) Richer or poorer?
I was much, much poorer for most of the year after the DWP screwed me. Like, living off less than minimum wage poorer. Now I’ve started The Office Witch, I’m just about back to where I was before, except now I’ve learned how to live off less than minimum wage, so I feel like I’m fucking rich.
18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Reading. I can funnel my full attention at cross stitching for hours, but I don’t seem to have the capacity to pick up a book at the moment.
19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Constantly trying to pick apart the actions/inactions of others, when there was probably no reason to any of it.
20. How did you spend Christmas?
Alone. Hungover. On the sofa. In fact, I was so knackered from Christmas Eve over-indulgence, that I put off all feasting and further drinking until Boxing Day (upside of only being responsible for myself).
21. How many one-night stands did you have in 2020?
Hrm… this one is going to come down to semantics. If you count sex with someone, because it’s fun, when there’s no expectation of it happening again (even if it does), then three. If you mean randomly hooking up with someone new and never seeing them again, none.
22. Did you fall in love in 2020?
Still in love, much to my fucking displeasure, but that’s nothing new. I have met (online) a rather splendid handful of potential FWBs, and am determinedly working away on another online acquaintance who may even have relationship potential.
23. What was your favourite TV programme?
I’m only going to count new ones. So that would be Wayne. Which was incredible and you should all watch it.
24. How will you see in the New Year?
Alone. Drunk. On the sofa. Probably sending a vivid array of questionable texts until I pass out around 4am.
25. Do you hate/dislike anyone now that you didn't hate/dislike this time last year?
I’ve had pangs of hate towards one person for hurting me worse than anyone has ever hurt me before. That’s dulled now to ongoing contempt. The dislike list is long. See Q13.
26. What was the best book you read?
27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I discovered a fucktonne of new individual tracks, but as far as new artists I listen to regularly, the only one which comes to mind is Aesthetic Perfection.
28. What did you want and get?
The motivation to write. Unfortunately it’s all smut which is confined to Fetlife.
29. What did you want and not get?
30. What was your favourite film of this year?
31. What did you do on your birthday?
Spent at home with my sister, eating good food and watching the live broadcast of Tim Minchin’s new album.
32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
If I’d been able to skip it.
33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2020?
Is it comfy? I’m wearing it.
34. What kept you sane?
Cross stitching whilst binge-watching TV shows. Overhauling my garden.
35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Just don’t fucking start...
37. Who did you miss?
Someone who I’ve come to suspect never actually existed. And all the awesome people in my life who I can't see for gods know how long.
38. Who was the best new person you met?
In person? Like WHEN WOULD I HAVE DONE THAT? But see Q22.
39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2020.
Quality, not quantity.
40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
"If this plane goes down, remember me as someone who went down with fair results, but grand intent."