There is a definite predictable cycle that occurs in abuse situations. Like dancing, the participants two-step their way through this cycle until it becomes a well rehearsed pattern on perpetual repeat.
In January of 2016, shortly after I left and went to my parents, I asked my friends to help me come up with a list of “truths.” This list was to serve as a compass. In the first two weeks after I left, my husband entered full blown “repentance.”
After his anger over my leaving had subsided and he saw the seriousness of the situation, he started saying all the right things. My head was spinning. I couldn’t believe how well he was responding, nor his rush to implement changes immediately. I even starting thinking I would be returning home in 2-3 weeks.
I look back now and what I thought at the time was sincere urgency turned out to be more like an energy burst that one gets at the beginning of a race. Whether it was an energy burst or just panic/recovery mode, I don’t really know, but I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt at the time. I was encouraged.
There were, however, some voices of reason that spoke to me in my fog. I had been trapped in the endless cycle of hurt→remorse→improvement→ slow decline for so long that during his improvement phase, I responded with my own phase. I will call it the “hope phase.” It became a programmed ingrained response to his remorse after an acute crisis or injury.
I was ecstatic at his response, especially given the nature of my leaving, but I had people hanging onto my ankles to keep me from floating away. The higher you go, the harder the ground feels when gravity finally pulls you down and there is always a down in these situations. It is a self perpetuating cycle and as long as you are stuck in its undertow, the narcissist has no reason to change it.
One of my requirements was for him to get help, both of the counseling and psychological kind. For the latter that was delegated to me (we both attempted to find counselors for him). That should have been my first clue. He “didn’t have time” to do the research and make the phone calls. So what I had considered a willingness to do whatever it took to make his family whole again, was really his delegating the requirements I had given him, to me.
I see it now, not so much then.
One thing I did know was that I was done with the cycle. I didn’t want to go back to it ever again. Though I was thrilled over how he was responding, I was cautiously optimistic. We all used this term. It was wait and see.
In the meantime, I asked my friends to help me with this list of “truths” to help keep me grounded. This is what we came up with:
- He is still broken and an abuser. All “repentance” to this point (prior to my leaving) has been proven to be just him playing the game.
- He would be worse if Becky was more in his control (if she were in the house with him). If he can’t control himself in this situation when he has no real control, he would be worse in her presence.
- Becky is afraid of his anger
- Becky is still fooled by him as Jekyll
- Becky is still highly susceptible to be controlled by him even though he has no way to control her, especially as Jekyll.
- He is 100% at fault for his abuse regardless of whether or not Becky has enabled it
- Even in his Jekyll moments, he shows a lack of contrition and a lack of understanding. He is very worried about fairness even though this is his fault.
- He continues to break the rules about communication, demonstrating that he has no respect for Becky’s boundaries.
- He has forfeited the vast majority if not all of his right to any authority over Becky because of his abusiveness.
- He has no right to try to control Becky. Even in a legitimate marriage, that is not an appropriate use of authority.
- If Becky agrees to give up her friends, it does not fix him. Rather, it enables him.
- If Becky agrees to give up her friends, it will not reduce friction. He will just move on to another area. (Moving the goalposts)
- He has no legitimate reason to not like the family that helped Becky. The only threat that they are to him is accountability for his actions.
- Both Becky and her friends believe that their relationship is beneficial to the situation even though he disapproves.
- Choosing to refuse his demands that she not to talk to the them is not choosing them over him. Rather it is refusing to allow him to control her in illegitimate ways.
The friends referenced here several times at the end are the couple that helped me. They were there for me when things were getting unstable at the end. They were ready to pick up at a moment’s notice to take the kids and I away if the situation required. They were my life raft and the only ones who knew everything that was going on before I left. Not even my family was aware to the extent that my friends were.
This list of truths was just one of the things that kept me from making a decision to return prematurely and entering back into the cycle. My counselor, the reading I was doing, biblically sound articles that my family members and friends were reading and passing on to me, all helped open my eyes and kept me from hastily accepting his apologies and returning without seeing any true repentance. There was a great resource that my counselor gave me about true repentance. I think it will be most helpful to you. I will find it and post it soon. One of the tenets of true repentance is that it can only be proven over a period of time. It is easy to change just long enough to get what you want, but once obtained there is no need to keep up the charade.
For a more specific description of the abuse cycle check out this link: http://outofthefog.website/top-100-trait-blog/2015/10/21/abusive-cycle . It describes both the perpetrator and the victim’s roles in this cycle. After all, it takes two to tango.
Coming up soon: How to break the cycle.