It’s funny how being on the other side of the fence makes you see things from a completely different point of view. It is easier watching events unfold, you can second guess what will happen next, you know the characters involved. It can be the same as watching a play over and over, but just with different actors, locations and directors.
As much as I really do enjoy my job it is also teaching me so much. Things which I suppose in a lot of ways really should be obvious to most people, but they are easily forgotten it seems once you have been exposed to certain aspects of manipulation.
The main thing that seems to evaporate is boundaries. It may be second nature, a no brainer, but boundaries are eroded over such a long period of time that you hardly notice it happens. Tolerating more and more unhealthy behaviour, to keep the peace, as an act of compromise, in the hope of losing this battle to win the war. As children we are taught about sharing, sacrificing what we want in order to save someone else’s feelings but promoting harmony. We carry this through, along with empathy, into adulthood and when you add an emotion such as love to the mix, you can begin to see how easily it can happen. Initially in the first flush of love, you want to do all you can to make that person happy. Men are not immune to this either, obviously.
But there comes a point where you think “actually I am not very happy about this”. It’s at that point that the relationship can go either of two ways. You either stand up and say “this is a hard line, and I am not doing this! I don’t really care what you think about it at this point.” Or you say nothing or allow them to talk you round. You may tell yourself you’ll let this one slide, but not again . . . but you do.
One of the hardest things to do is to stand up to someone who you are trying to impress! “Hi – yeah I am attractive, funny and intelligent, and a nice person – but I am also going to be a bit of a pain in the ass by moaning at you for the way you took the piss a little bit!” But it is one of the most important things you can do. The problem is that when you meet someone you like, you don’t always want to admit that there may be something wrong with them, and you don’t want to upset them necessarily.
I found myself talking to a 19 year old girl about boundaries after her boyfriend had stalked her obsessively for several months. I advised her to take a break from social media, as this seems to be a stalkers paradise and explained some other tactics to keep her safe. She said one of the hardest things was when he threatened suicide if she didn’t speak to him. I asked her if she really believed that he would do that. She explained that she didn’t know, but she didn’t want that on her conscience. I suggested that the next time he texted something like that, to screen shot it, send it to his friends and family, with a note to say that she was concerned about him, could someone please check on him. This would make her feel like she was doing something to help without actually having to get involved.
Another lady explained that her abuser was so ingrained in her head that she couldn’t help but react to his provocations. I explained that a lot of these men feed from the reactions you give off. If you are reacting to something, even negatively, you are feeding them, they know you still have feelings towards them. The worst thing for them is when you no longer care. Cut off communication, become unreachable, remove yourself from their world. It’s easier when there are no children involved, but even then there are still ways around it.
It is strange to sit there and hear these things coming out of me. Things that I have learnt. They must think it’s so easy for me to sit there with answers and suggestions. But it took me a long time on a difficult journey to learn and understand how important boundaries are.
I also understand how hard it is, in a brand new relationship, with infatuation and butterflies, to then stand up and say “so this is what I won’t stand for!” But it is the one thing you can do to protect yourself. They may even respect you more for it!