(In ‘The First Time’ I wrote about being conditioned and if you haven’t read that post, please click here and read it, then come back!)
The word Condition is defined as to train or accustom (someone or something) to behave in a certain way or to accept certain circumstances.
I want to take the time to describe some of what the conditioning process was for me.
In ‘The First Time’ I wrote about being conditioned to feel responsible for what happened. Not only for the things in our household but also for the things that took place within our relationship.
Most believe that domestic violence begins with loud arguments and black eyes, but this actually isn’t the norm to the beginning of a domestic story.
There’s a Conditioning that happens before the first swing ever hits you. And it’s that same Conditioning that allows you to pick yourself off of the floor, go straight to the kitchen and make his plate for dinner like nothing even happened.
Somewhere along the way, you were Conditioned for this.
Conditioning you in a variety of ways…
From allowing you to constantly remember the “good times” and feel that “despite this ‘setback’ I know he’s still a good man” to blaming yourself for even being hit in the first place.
And it’s this very conditioning that keeps women and even men in their violent relationships!
It always starts small. Usually, something you can explain away but don’t let those sweet explanations fool you, It Grows and Spreads like a fire in a dead forest.
Although I can count many ways that I was conditioned, I believe there were 2 major facets that Conditioned me the Most.
1. Feeling That Everything’s My Fault:
I remember feeling that I couldn’t do anything right! He seemed to complain about everything I did.
Every time he’d mention some new irritation, I’d do my best to find a way to fix it. I was so stuck on being this perfect wife to him; that it never dawned on me that he’s never going to see me as good enough or that he’s always going to point out something.
When I cooked, he’d complain that there isn’t enough salt or that there are too many vegetables in the dish.
Solution: I started letting him taste everything before I put anything on a plate.
If he was already awake and in the living room and I got up to brush my teeth, he’d walk into the room and ask “why haven’t you made up the bed?”
Solution: I’ll make the bed as soon as both of us are out of the bed, and if he’s still asleep, I’ll just make up my side.
We were driving to a meeting one night and his throat was sore, I asked him, “You think you’re getting sick?” He looks at me and says, “No, I think you just forgot to make my tea this morning.”
Solution: I’ll make tea every morning, whether he asks or not.
The cell phone bill was late one month and both of our phones were disconnected. Although he was responsible for the bills (his idea, certainly not mine), he asked, “Why didn’t you remind me to pay the bill?”
Solution: I’ll set a recurring reminder to pay the bill every month.
These are just a few small things, but they Conditioned me to accept the blame.
His constant belittling was whittling away at my defenses and self-esteem; never realizing I was falling for the okie doke every time. I was literally convinced that if I became “perfect”, he’d be his old self and have no more reason to treat me this way.
So I took the blame…
In our relationship, not only was I conditioned to always be the scapegoat and to take the blame, but I was conditioned to be Isolated from everyone. Total dependence on him and our relationship were necessary in order to make it possible for the things that happened, to ever take place.
Predators love attacking when their prey has seemed to somehow wander away from the pack.
There’s a loneliness that comes in Isolation.
I was never able to go see friends or go out with the girls. Anything we did, we had to do as a couple. (Couples events can be so lame at times. There’s always this secret war to be the “best” couple in the room. And who has time???)
I’m certain you’re wondering, “how could he have done that?”
He simply had an excuse every time he’d see me texting or if someone called, to get me off the phone.
Now, I won’t lie, it was cute at first. In the beginning, it felt like he just wanted me all to himself. But by the end, all I felt was smothered by his constant need for me to be by his side.
That even included family…
Before moving back in with my mom for that month, I remember feeling that it had been so long since I had seen or talked to my family. I’m sure they thought that I was away, living in wedded bliss and happiness and just too busy to call them. When in reality, I was just too afraid of the judgment that was sure to follow with the truth. (Note: Never be so afraid of judgment that you neglect your own concerns for your happiness and safety.)
Isolation gives you way too much time with your own thoughts. When you would think that things should become clearer while you’re alone, in actuality you may have lost a piece of your sanity in the process.
Through all of this, I was learning all sorts of tricks to keep him happy… Don’t talk about this or don’t try to argue when he mentions that!
What I wasn’t realizing, was that I was driving down a one-way street. That this hard work that I was putting in and stressing over was in no way being reciprocated!
I wasn’t happy, not even in the least bit. I was miserable and feeling more alone than ever! And He didn’t seem to be phased by this fact. I was putting on a strong face but I knew he could see right past my fake smile, he just didn’t care.
So here I was, holding on to the great memories that were embedded in the foundation of our relationship. Begging them to reappear and be in our present. Wishing that I could do something to force those days When the Good Times Rolled but they were long gone.
I Thought Misery Liked Company