I have not been very comfortable talking about this topic. However, now that I have been in a violent relationship and by God’s grace was able to escape it, I feel as though it is only right that I share my experience.
Many people begged me to leave my relationship that was violent. I stayed for about 3 years before I had the courage to step out and start over. However the physical component of domestic violence is just the obvious indicator of what is going on. Underneath the bruises and swelling there is a mind of chaos. There is incredible manipulation and control and a sense of possessiveness. I can recall many times I would say something to my ex and he would fly toward me. I can remember times that I didn’t “act right” therefore I was subjected to my head getting slammed against the wall. I can recall blacking out with his hands around my throat and thinking my last memory of life would be him telling me “it’s okay, you’re dying now”.
The violence is just the outward expression of what’s going on within the inside involving both people. The violence seems so gruesome but there is so much more to these kind of toxic relationships.
Isolation is an enabler to the domestic violent relationship. Prior to my relationship with my ex, I enjoyed being around my family. I saw them several times a week and I also checked in daily through a phone call or text. I grew up with this huge network of support that was my source of encouragement and rejuvenation. My friends-I cut them off as well. Isolation is used by both people in the relationship, but it doesn’t mean both are isolated. One uses it for regulation while the other person uses it for control. This has been my experience anyway.
Isolation was so much at the time. I was the person to use it for regulation. Not only did I isolate myself because sometimes yes, I had to hide bruises, but I did so for other reasons. It was a coping mechanism. After enduring a physical fight from someone almost three times your size-you are tired physically. After enduring a fight like that with someone who supposedly you shared a love with-you are exhausted mentally and emotionally. You are trying to make sense of the things that happened, trying to place blame, dealing with apologies and trying to synthesize how it all made sense. I’d isolate myself because after dealing with something on this level you don’t feel like mentally, emotionally, physically- you have much to offer your loved ones. Worthless is pretty accurate.
I used isolation to preserve my relationship. Even if nothing physical went down for several days, I’d isolate myself to preserve the good thoughts I did have about my ex and the relationship. Most likely being around friends and family they want to talk of course and you want to talk back and interact. Talk of my ex was bound to come up and because I didn’t want to reveal what was really going on through conversation, it was easier to isolate myself. This way I didn’t have to discuss my life and my reality with those people in other instance I would do so normally.
My ex used isolation for control purposes. If I was isolated that meant he got to control pretty much all my moves. Encouraging me to quit my job when I got pregnant allowed him to become my only source for money, which becomes an avenue of control through money and isolation. Isolating me from friends and family allowed him to control the chance of exposure to what was really going on. It also meant I didn’t hear wisdom and any type of encouragement that could shed light on the situation. Simply put, isolation enabled us stay in our reality and in the relationship.
As a DV victim, you’re asked “why do you stay?”, understand there are mechanisms in place that enable your decision to stay put. Isolation is just one. What we also have to understand is that participating in domestic violence is not just an act-it’s a whole lifestyle, and isolation is just one component of that lifestyle.