I. The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

Of course, we had a few heart-to-heart talks, and of course you said that I was right, and of course you said you would try to change, and of course I wanted to believe you. La-di-da. Yes, I will give you credit for making some improvements--instead of being snapped at every hour or every day, it was maybe every other week. I realize that you had to start somewhere. But this was only one improvement in your surface behavior. You still continued the attack-withdraw stuff. Snapping at me at the EMS store. Still reluctant to apologize for anything. That time you "apologized" in front of my apartment complex after I took a cab home from Mary's--that didnít seem like a sincere apology at all. I think you were scared of my reaction and your almost frightened response was just another attempt to win me back.

I became keenly aware of the cycle we always seemed to go through. After an incident, after we "kissed and made up," so to speak, you would act kindly and lovingly for a while, and then once you had me "back" you would just revert to your old behavior. I referred to this as "the honeymoon period," and whenever we were in this phase I had the distinct uneasy feeling that it was "unreal." This reminded me a lot of what I had heard and read about abusive male-female relationships in the past: The familiar scenario of the man beating his wife and then apologizing profusely with flowers and tender behavior, only to "relapse" and beat her again. I found myself in a similar situation, only with verbal rather than physical abuse, over and over again. Here are some specific examples from this particular period of our relationship.

1. After not staying at your house for several weeks, and you not having yelled at me, I finally softened and stayed over one night. Not 48 hours later, did we have another episode of your berating me over something or other!

2. After another "honeymoon period," I started feeling once again that we were getting it worked out. One afternoon I was at the store, saw a greeting card display, and looked for a nice one to give you (remember how I used to give you cards periodically?) The only reason I didn't get one was that I didn't see the perfect one. But I was feeling warm, positive thoughts toward you at the time. Wouldn't you know it, later that night you were extremely rude to me when I called you happily on the phone. Your excuse for yelling at me: You had just banged your knee. (At this point it was almost eerie--it seemed like you had a sixth sense" about knowing exactly when you "had me back", just so you could yell at me again.)

I could understand, if you really had been in excruciating pain at that time, why you might be a little short on the phone. But it is what followed, that made this episode stand out. When I told you how I felt, instead of saying something like, "Iím sorry, I was in a lot of pain, I didnít mean to yell at you," you were not only unapologetic but downright hostile!

What made this episode even worse, when I told you afterwards it hurt to be yelled at like that when I hadnít done anything wrong, you immediately turned the tables to make it seem as if it were my fault for being yelled at! You did this by furiously snapping at me for even calling you at that time. I distinctly remember it was ten minutes before eight when I had called you. You snapped, "Why do you always have to call me first!!? I was going to call you in twenty minutes anyway!!" In the past, I had been yelled at for calling you too "late." Now, instead of being yelled at for calling you too late, I was being yelled at for calling you too early, even though it was nearly eight oíclock. Can you see, that there was just no fucking way I could win??

Finally, I would like you to tell me, would you have yelled at, say, your Aunt Carol, if she had been the one who called you at that time instead of me?

During this period I began to see that it was detrimental to my emotional well-being, to put myself into a position where you could hurt me. I still loved you, but I realized that I would have to begin taking self-protective measures to avoid being hurt further. (As it was all along, I could not even address these concerns with you because this would only result in your furiously pushing me away, and the situation becoming worse.) So I did two concrete things.

First, I realized that I simply did not feel at ease or safe in your house anymore. The constant bickering between you and your mother made me uncomfortable, and there was always the possibility that at any time it could explode, but I felt that I had no right to say anything since it was between the two of you. I also felt that I had to constantly watch every little thing I said or did in order to avoid being nagged or snapped at. I realized that it was up to me to take myself out of this unpleasant situation. But I still wanted so much to be with you at night, because I loved you! I loved being close to you and holding your hand as I drifted off to sleep. I loved being able to talk with you and spend time with you. But at the same time, I also realized that if I stayed over, I would just be setting myself up for hurt and disappointment when you did not reciprocate. As you can see, I had very mixed feelings about staying over. So I made a compromise with myself--I still stayed over, but less frequently, only once or twice a week.

The second concrete action I took, concerned our daily phone interactions. Certainly, most of the times we talked on the phone at work, were pleasant. Many times our little chats uplifted me and made me smile a little more the rest of the day. But the few extremely bad interactions we had--when you would suddenly pull your attack-withdrawal behavior (snap, then fall silent and refuse to respond to me)--more than cancelled them out. I could not help being upset when this happened, especially when I felt your behavior was completely unjustified. After several of these episodes (my colleagues once saw me completely hysterical), I realized that it was just not worth the risk to speak with you that much. Then when I got my caller ID unit it was a rude shock to see, when I got home, that it was registering "General Hospital" (i.e., me) twenty times a day! I realized that I was only victimizing myself in this regard, allowing you so much power and opportunity to upset me at work. So I literally began forcing myself to only check my machine once or twice a day, and to only call you once a day. I had to somewhat withdraw from you, in order to protect myself.


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