The Truth About Emotional Abuse and “Fixing Your Life”

March 29, 2015  |  

While watching the interview between Iyanla Vanzant and Karrueche Tran last night, I got this familiar feeling. It was hard to pinpoint at first, but as I hung onto every word, every question, every answer that was presented in the interview, I no longer felt like I was watching someone else’s life story play out on TV – I was in a counseling session of my own.

As Iyanla pointed out to Karrueche in the beginning of their discussion, Karrueche’s story isn’t exclusive to just her…or even just women in her age range. While it may seem that women in their 20’s are the only ones who make certain decisions when it comes to relationships, a grown woman such as myself has made the same mistakes well into her 30’s and beyond. Staying in emotionally and mentally abusive relationships way longer than we should was something I could totally relate to, and as I watched Karrueche search her mind to understand why she did it, all I could do is see myself in her eyes. She wanted to be heard, but she also didn’t want to be judged. But when you’re in a situation that you know is unhealthy, there is no “good” answer you can give as to why you stayed that doesn’t involve coming to the conclusion that you are broken somewhere inside…and that’s hard to face.

Emotional abuse can be hard to quantify, whereas physical abuse can show an obvious line in the sand. And even when physical abuse is involved, it’s still difficult for some women to leave out of fear. So imagine trying to justify staying when it’s “only” emotional abuse…so far as we could tell anyway. I don’t recall Iyanla asking Karrueche if Chris ever laid a hand on her, but I do recall her asking if she knew about his past with regard to the physical violence against Rihanna. Most of us would say that we’d never date someone who we knew beat up another woman. But like most women, Karrueche thought she’d be the one to change him. She said she wanted to love him, because that’s what he needed. She wanted to love him into being a better person and she felt like a fool when loving him wasn’t enough.

I know, because I’ve done that myself. We think if we love him hard enough, he’ll see “the light.” If we provide a good example of what love is, he’ll have no choice but to love us back the same way in return. And when that doesn’t work, we love harder. We fight to stay with someone who is doing nothing to keep us. And then the dysfunctional attachment becomes “normal” to us until we either wake up and come to the realization that no amount of love can “save” him, or we hit rock bottom within our own soul that we now have to save ourselves.

While I cannot imagine living out such drama publicly as Karrueche has with her relationship, I found myself wishing last night that I had the public scrutiny, gossip and even ridicule she has endured in order to force me to leave sooner. So many women suffer emotional (and physical) abuse in silence for fear of being judged by those close to them. They keep it a secret because they know deep down inside they’re not ready to remedy their situation, so rather than listening to friends and family wonder why you’d stay in a situation like that, you hold on to your pain and shame in silence. It wasn’t until I told my sister and best friend of the abuse that I suffered that I knew I was ready to actually do something about it. I knew they’d support me and hold me accountable. And a weight had been lifted. Hopefully Karrueche feels free as well.

While I’m no therapist or life coach, I felt like even in the midst of all her pain, Karrueche was still trying to protect Chris Brown. I felt like Rihanna did the same when she finally spoke out about her abuse. That is what we women (and some men) tend to do…nurture, protect and be loyal to the very men who hurt us but claim to love us. We want to believe that what they actually feel for us IS love. But while our abusers may love us the only way they know how, you have to come to the conclusion that anything that feels less than love is not good enough. Love shouldn’t feel disrespectful, fearful, belittling, humiliating, retaliatory or physically painful. Love is supposed to make you feel good and build you up, not bad and tear you down. My prayer for myself, Karrueche and all the women who have suffered – and are suffering now – with emotional abuse is that we find the strength to face our situation head on and finally choose to love ourselves enough to leave…for good.

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