What if he does it again?
That’s what I always think.
When one of my friends tells me she’s taking back he abusive lover, those are always my first thoughts – and words too, sometimes.
Oh no – he won’t.
She’s always so sure.
I think perhaps that’s the part that surprises me most. Her belief is rock solid.
Is it just that she’s trying to convince me? Or maybe it’s she who needs convincing.
Usually she does such a good job, they’re back together in a week. Sometimes two. No matter who they are. No matter what happened before. No matter what.
I mostly don’t say what I’m thinking anymore. I keep it in. I’m kind and supportive. If pressed, I’ll speak in broad terms about stats and success rates and probability factors. And I’ll always be there. And I’ll never, ever judge.
Because who knows what crazy things “love” will make you do. And who knows how hard it can be to be nursing your baby, in the middle of the night, alone – again – and hearing a noise outside the window. Or down the street. And you’re down to the last two nappies and Monday, with it’s packed lunches and petrol-guzzling school runs and early no-matter-the-night-you-had-before mornings, is still two days away and it’s a two man job (at least!) and there’s just one of you (and you’re a girl!) and you really can’t imagine how you’ll get there sane. Nope. That can’t be easy.
So perhaps it does make sense, after all.
But I still don’t get it.
If you’ve had a fight, and he’s stormed off in an irrational huff – maybe taking the car and leaving you stranded – and you can’t find him for days … if, then, you DO find him, and he’s been stoned and pissed for those two days, utterly wrecked because you couldn’t agree on a basic standard of work/life balance … do you really, truly, deep down inside, BELIEVE that he won’t react in the same way, to the same provocation, again?
“No really. He’s changed. He knows he was wrong. It won’t happen again. We’re going to be together, and there’ll be no more of this. You’ll see. He knows what he did.”
Really? Does he?
All your taking him back has done is teach him that he can get his way by behaving like that. It’s two-for-one: feel better now with mind-altering substances, and get what I want tomorrow simply by promising not to do it again.
What I wonder is, why wouldn’t he do it again?
Bear in mind, we’re not actually talking about a rational adult here. He may well have persuaded you he was such with his charming and convincing “real person” routine when you met. But no, a person who reacts that way to stress is not a rational adult. He’s a child.
I’m not saying he’s not deserving of love and compassion – and help. What I AM saying – asking, really – is: should that be from you? With your kids and your life and your future? Should that be spent on Mr All-Promises and his dysfunction?
Because that dysfunction really, truly works for him.
So why wouldn’t he keep doing it again?
If anything, how can he possibly stop? it’s all he knows, apparently.
And one day, when things are all patched up and you’re living together in whatever arrangement suits you both, and you disagree over the default position of the loo seat, or where to squeeze the toothpaste tube, what if he does it again? What if he belittles and berates you? Or beats you? Or goes on a bender and who-knows-what-nexts you? And what if your kids are there? And they see? Or worse?
What if that happens? Will that be the point at which enough is enough? Will that be the point at which you decide, actually, he’s NOT going to get better. He’s not going to stop this broken behaviour. And it is going to damage us.?
I can tell you, because I know: that will be too late.
He will always behave badly. He will behave worse each time than the time before. And it will damage your kids in ways you cannot begin to comprehend. And by the time you decide that it is no longer safe and it won’t get better, the damage will have been done.
Little tiny fractures will make their imperceptible eggshell lines across the souls of your precious charges, and many decades later, every part of their lives will still be touched by the brokenness.
If you’re telling yourself it’ll never happen again, it’s probably already too late – whether it happens again, or not.