For, what else is there to truly regret in life???
Everyone makes mistakes. And, while all mistakes can be forgiven, not all can be forgotten. That's not a statement of judgment; it's more about survival. Mistakes that include abuse and abandonment may have context (or reasons) but the partner who was used, abused and abandoned cannot afford to make herself vulnerable again--no matter how much love she still carries in her heart. That doesn't mean closure is impossible. In fact, it's just the opposite.
Partners who are no longer physically connected need to move on, and in order to do so successfully, closure is required. Closure allows for new beginnings--something we create when we replace what was once romantic love with friendship. Friendship implies deep care without obligation beyond that sensibility. As friends, former partners may wish each other peace and joy on their separate, albeit connected, paths. But without closure, there is a lack of completeness, which can cause anger and resentment for both parties. If you have ever truly loved someone, it is hard to let them go. Yet, I still love who I love and that means, I want that person to be happy. To live a good life. Even if I'm not in it.
Real love sometimes means saying goodbye, even when all you want to hear is a lifetime of hellos....
However, as necessary as closure is, it may be difficult for the partner who did the abandoning to willingly confront the person he hurt. How do you look at a face that only looked at you with love after committing crimes against it? The truth is, you don't. Hence the abandonment. The partner who left without warning did so because, deep inside, he felt unworthy...he also felt that, eventually, because he was unworthy, the relationship was going to end anyway. In the abandoner's mind, leaving without warning was akin to ripping off a Band-Aid. Of course, that's not the reality of abandonment....
The reality of abandonment is financially, psychologically and emotionally abusive to the partner left behind, and acknowledged as such under law. It's not like breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend in high school. When you have a physical love relationship that includes sharing your lives, a home, expenses, planning a family, and a future, you don't just walk away. It's cruel and unusual to do so. Any individual who thinks that disappearing is a good idea is suffering from some form of mental illness. And, anyone who encourages another to abandon someone else is equally sick. There's no reasoning with people who lack the capacity to understand what is basic ethics and emotions. All one may ever do is try to have compassion and understanding--grace--in the midst of the madness.
Suffering from mental illness does not remove regret. Or, love. When a regretful person chooses to not fix things it has more to do with ego and pride than any form of illness. Apologizing for the unthinkable means having to see your own reflection in the eyes that once loved you. You are afraid that you will not see approval or love, like you once did, but instead, will see fear, hatred and derision. Your pride tells you to leave it alone--avoid the "drama"--but that drama only exists because you created it, then, disappeared. So, you're not really trying to avoid drama--you're trying to avoid responsibility. Ouch.
You feel humiliated when you think of what you did. You imagine facing the person you did it to will also be humiliating. But, it's not humiliating to take responsibility for yourself. That's actually really brave. And yet, you continue looking backwards, humiliating yourself in private. Why? Because your ego and pride dictates that you would rather die than admit to your mistakes. And, you will. Die, that is.
Choosing ego over love guarantees you will one day die unhappy, alone and full of deep regret for lost time--time you could have spent in the arms that cherished you. That's not a curse; it is human psychology. Our worst enemy is always the one who stares back at us from the mirror. Even if you eventually find your courage, you wait so long to make contact that it no longer matters. You want to believe the delay was unintentional, but it wasn't. A deeply embedded pattern of self-sabotage is at work. You delay, knowing it will lead to your continued victimhood, continued self-punishment. But also, you delay to continue punishing the partner you betrayed. Why? She had the audacity to give you joy, happiness, and a peace you never thought possible...that is the very reason you sought to destroy it, and her. You justify not making contact by saying things like, "She's better off without me," and, "I hurt everyone I love."
But, those are just more excuses....
Your insides are bloody and bruised, torn up by things you still can't seem to understand. You feel so conflicted--both loving and hating the person you betrayed--not even knowing anymore why you really left. You're not evil. Or, bad. Neither is the person you betrayed. You've just been abused. That's why you're prone to hurting others. You're vulnerable from abuse, and vulnerable people are never in full control of their own lives. That's the truth. The awful truth, because--even though you're vulnerable, even though you've been abused--you are still responsible for the pain you caused. No one else.
I've been betrayed before. But in order to successfully betray anyone, the person being betrayed has to trust the traitor. And, trust equals love. I don't care who you are or where you are from, if you have ever felt real love for another, even if you were betrayed beyond your imaginings, that love goes nowhere. You can only feel pain about betrayal because you still feel love for your own personal Judas. It makes me think of an acquaintance I once had, and our ill-fated dinner at an overtly American chain-eatery called Longhorn Steakhouse--not my first choice. We sat down, ordered drinks, and then, my dinner companion proceeded to ruin a perfectly good evening by talking about his ex. Even as he sat in a restaurant with a beautiful woman, he could not stop thinking about the ex he left for "ruining his life" and how she had been "living it up" at...you guessed it, Longhorn Steakhouse.
Firstly, when you're out with a girl who's sexy-as-fuck, never bring up an ex. Second, going to Longhorn Steakhouse is a FAR cry from "living it up." And, finally, you are also at a Longhorn Steakhouse "living it up" with a companion ten times hotter than you (or, your ex)...what is there to be jealous about?!
Though my dinner companion may have been physically separated from his ex, he had not yet emotionally separated from her. This guy shouldn't have cared at all about what his ex was or wasn't doing; if half of what he told me was true, he was lucky to have gotten away with his life. But instead of feeling lucky, he sat there, steaming--envious because his ex never wanted to go out with him. He was in pain, still attached to the woman who lied to him, cheated on him repeatedly, and ultimately, abused him--all the reasons he left her to begin with. You see, it is our abusers who always have the power--even if we are no longer physically connected to them. Therefore, our abusers are always in control. This was the case for my dinner companion, who could not see two feet in front of him. All he could see was what his abuser wanted him to see. Even when she was 20 miles away.
By the way, this tainted-love story does not have a happy ending. When this guy walked away from his toxic ex, he likely did it just to get her attention, not to truly move on with his life. He expected his ex to start crying, begging--things that never happened. Instead, his ex was glad to be rid of him; she discarded him, ignoring him for months until her job was in jeopardy. Then, she suddenly needed him again. Even though he was in a healthy, loving relationship with someone younger, hotter, and more successful than his ex (for over a year at that point), the moment his ex showed up at his work with a box of chocolates and an apology, he was like an abused puppy. So grateful to get her positive attention, he was willing to do almost anything to keep it--despite the fact that she was clearly using him. Again.
Constant abuse and rejection from my dinner companion's ex during their relationship left this man psychologically- and emotionally-vulnerable to her. Even though his life was infinitely better without her, he still craved her acceptance. That's a sign of severe neglect, abuse and (at least emotional) abandonment. Society expects people who have suffered domestic violence to get themselves out, but human psychology makes that nearly impossible. It's hard on women, but we are looked at as weak anyway and it's accepted that men are stronger, bigger. But imagine being a man abused by a woman? Humiliating. It's not like he can report it to the police...who would believe him?
All of the above is why getting closure from an abuser is not always possible, regardless of your gender. Once you've been made vulnerable by an abuser, you are never not vulnerable to that person. The only way to end what is an established cycle of abuse (and probably violence, too), is to walk away and never look back. Like quitting smoking. Or, giving up alcohol. You can't be around it at all, or you'll end up going back to bad habits. But if you're tied in financially to your abuser, leaving isn't easy. Not just because of money either....
Part of the insidious nature of abuse is how it causes codependency--in other words, a kind of psychological and emotional addiction. My dinner companion believed his toxic ex suddenly wanted him back for love. The thing is, if she really loved him, she would have let him go. She had only caused him pain in their time together--holding him down and back. After he had the courage to leave, he was able to start over with someone new. Eight months or so later, he and his someone-new had moved into this perfect little house in a great neighborhood, doing fun things, living a good life. But the moment his ex saw that on social media, she became enraged. Jealous. Because, he was not a person to her; he was a possession. A toy she had forgotten about it then suddenly, wanted back. Codependency is like that.
So, how do you prevent yourself from becoming the victim of a past, present or future abuser? Avoid repeating the mistakes of my dinner companion, whose tongue (and tail) were wagging in anticipation of his "owner" petting him, giving him treats and letting him back in the house.
If you don't want to be treated like a discarded pet, stop acting like one. When you let an abuser pull you back with their proverbial choker chain, you are allowing yourself to be domesticated, like a dog. If you think the petting, snuggling and sweet talk will continue after that, you're in for a rude awakening. You will be kicked again. Abused again. And, in this particular case, being a dog at the whim of a person who can only be described as a malignant narcissist--at best--means you will one day be found dead at your water bowl.
I really hope this helps people in abusive situations to at least identify patterns of behavior. It took me years to figure this stuff out. Why do people who love us also do shitty, crazy things to us? It can't just be that we always choose the crazies...yes, that may be part of the problem, but the biggest obstacle is a lack of communication about how mental illness starts, where it starts, what it is, and why it progresses. If you live with a malignant narcissist long enough, you take on narcissistic traits yourself. You may not be a total psycho, but if you self-sabotage on a regular basis, keeping yourself a victim, you're a narcissist, too. Except, you don't kill dogs (or people), so psychologists would call you a "covert" or vulnerable narcissist. You hurt yourself, and, of course, anyone connected to your (constantly) sinking ship. None of it is ever your fault. It's always something or someone else. Circumstances beyond your control. Except, if you are not in control of your own life, who is?
Hopefully, you all never have to live through abandonment--but I'm sure there are a few who have dealt with worse. Writing about the psychology of abuse and abandonment is not as cathartic as I'd like it to be, but it does make me feel good when I hear something I've shared has helped another soul. That's really why I expose myself like a streaker at a college football game...or, if you prefer, Will Ferrell in Old School.
Say it with me: "Frank the tank! Frank the tank!"
Ah, doesn't that feel better???
You can stop holding your breath now....
*completed at 2:29