Maybe it’ll be different this time
Abusers don’t change. They might appear to; they might promise to; they might even give you guarantees. But they’re only showing you what you want to see.
I said in The Narcissist’s Call that I understand why people go back to their abusers. They sing a siren’s song, luring you onto the rocks. They’re an oasis in the desert, and too late you realise it’s just a mirage. You still love them, so you’re desperate to believe their lies. This time, you think, this time it’ll be different.
It won’t be. Think of who you were at the start of your relationship, and who you were at the end. Then ask the same question of them. You made all the sacrifices and all the compromises; you ended up a shell of your former self. They remained exactly the same.
You can call them abusers, narcissists, sociopaths – whatever terminology you want to use – but the long and the short of it is that abusers abuse. There’s something missing in them, something that they can never have. You can’t fix them; you can’t make it better; you can only stay out of their way.
They’re like drowning victims. We see them splashing about in the water and, being the generous, empathetic people that we are, we dive in to rescue them. That’s when they grab onto us and push us under to keep themselves afloat. We struggle with them as long as we can as they continue to drown us. But eventually we have to make a choice: do I stay, and allow this person to drown me? Or do I let go, swim to the shore, and save myself?
It feels wrong to leave someone to drown. For so many years, your abuser swung from worshipping you to hating you and back again that you got caught in a psychological trap. The love that they lavished upon you was so intoxicating, and the hatred when you didn’t do as you were told so destructive, that your self-worth became bound up with their approval. Making them happy became your job. Your only validation came from their praise.
So when you finally disengage, when you walk away from someone you still love, it breaks you. You still crave their approval. You still want to make it right.
The hard truth is that you were nothing but a floatation device to them.
‘It’ll be different if I go back,’ you tell yourself. ‘I’ll go into it with my eyes open. I’ll walk away if it gets too much. I can’t just abandon them. They need me.’
No. If you get within reach, they will push you under again, but it’ll be worse than before, because you almost got away last time. This time, they’ll hold on tighter; they’ll push you down further; they know what it’s like to lose their floatation device, and they will never let it go again.
‘Carry me across this river,’ says the scorpion.
‘No,’ the frog replies. ‘You’ll sting me and I’ll die.’
‘No, I won’t,’ says the scorpion. ‘If I sting you, you’ll sink and we’ll both drown.’
Seeing the logic to this, the frog allows the scorpion onto his back and starts to swim across the river. Halfway over, the scorpion stings him.
‘Why did you do that?’ asks the frog as he starts to go under. ‘Now we’ll both die.’
‘I couldn’t help it,’ said the scorpion. ‘It’s in my nature.’
Your abuser is the scorpion and you’re the frog.
Don’t ever go back to your abuser. It’s not your job to save them. It’s not your job to fix them. They’re only looking for their next floatation device; another victim to abuse. It was you once.
Don’t let it be again.