It’s Not a Mistake

Rihanna and Chris Brown have both released a remix today featuring the other on it. This is, I would guess, their public acknowledgment that they’re back together–a situation I find depressing and scary.

It’s depressing because it’s so predictable. People return to their abusers all the time. And some of the reasons “I can’t live without her” or “If I can just learn how to communicate better with him” will break your heart in one way. The other reasons–“He can’t live without me,” “I’m really the only person who understands him.” “She won’t do it again.” “It’s nothing I can’t handle.”–will break your heart in another way.

What’s scary to me is that, in the police report, Rihanna says that Chris Brown repeatedly said he would kill her. I believe him. I believe him because, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, is that people always tell you the truth about themselves, eventually. Often without realizing it. Even the people who you think and who themselves think are so mysterious and inscrutable, they tell you the truth about themselves. The guy who tells you that he will kill you?

He’s probably not lying.

The thing about abuse is that, though the “excuse” for it is that you’ve brought it on yourself by being unreasonable or jealous or nosy or provoking, there’s really nothing you can do to deserve it. It’s not a matter of “deserve.” No one deserves to be abused. But accepting a dynamic of “it takes two to tango” or “he wouldn’t have done that to her if she hadn’t…” tells us that we all kind of think that there’s some better way of living that the abused person could take up that would end the abuse.

Tie this in with the “but she loves me! I know it!” notion–the idea that an abuser can value you enough that he or she will eventually understand that he or she is making you unhappy and making you feel unloved and therefore the abuser will change… Let’s just stop a moment to consider this, because it sucks. Here’s the thing. Abusers can love you very much. And they will still abuse you. In non-abusive people “love” has a huge “I want to keep you from harm” component. For abusive people, that connection is not there. How they abuse you has nothing to do with whether they love you.

This is why, though love is great, it sucks. We want it to be powerful enough to motivate people who harm us to stop. It just doesn’t work that way. We put a lot of faith in the idea that, if we can make a person feel loved, she will stop hurting us and, in return, love us. But again, those just aren’t the same thing.

People do change. But the idea that you can make of yourself a perfect negative of the love you wish to receive–that you can shape yourself into a form–that will cause the person you love to change her shape into a person who doesn’t hurt you in order to fill it is, at best, magical thinking.

It’s a superstition designed to make you feel like you have some control over a situation with an out of control person.

People are who they are. For better or worse. They can change, but you can’t make them.

Anyway, the situation sucks.  And I hope for Rihanna’s sake that Chris Brown is a liar. I just doubt it, you know? I think once you’ve crossed a line where you can do that and say that to someone you love, there’s only very rarely a coming back from that. And it’s not a chance I’d wish for my friends to take.

6 thoughts on “It’s Not a Mistake

  1. I’ve known a lot of abused women. Heck, I WAS an abused woman. And I don’t know of one single case of a woman going back to her abuser where it ended well. If anybody does know of one, I’d be interested in hearing about it.

  2. I hate so much that this is so public, because it sets such an awful example. Here they are rich and famous and popular and “beautiful” and I can just see so many girls, women, boys and men (gay relationships can be abusive too…) just looking at this and using it to make all their excuses for staying come that much more easily.

  3. I think it also becomes a really great way for abusers to continue to manipulate–“look, what I’m doing isn’t as bad as what Chris Brown did and I am really sorry and he never really was and Rhianna forgave him.” Ugh.

    Rockycat, I’m no expert, but just in what I’ve seen, no. I’ve only a couple of times heard of men ceasing to abuse and they had to lose and never get their partners back in order to do that. I have never heard of an abusive woman stopping. (I think this is, in part, because abuse by women just isn’t taken that seriously. Men are expected to take it. There’s a kind of bizarre idea that lesbians either don’t abuse each other or are equally matched. And children grow up and can leave, so what’s the big deal? They just have to tolerate it for a little bit.)

    In my opinion, if you are with an abusive partner and you want him or her to stop abusing, you need to come to terms with the fact that that’s probably NOT going to happen and, if it does, you’re not going to be the one who enjoys a non-abusive relationship with him or her.

  4. if there’s one thing I’ve learned, is that people always tell you the truth about themselves, eventually. Often without realizing it.

    Yes. But there is also the reality that we each teach others how we will tolerate being treated.

  5. Abusers can control themselves. They don’t walk up to someone with a gun and start punching — like a cop, for example — because they know they cannot get away with being abusive. Sadly, they specifically figure out who they can victimize and in what circumstances. Once they identify victim material who they do not have to fear or respect, then they will not bother to control their impulse to harm.

    And as B says, once you have looked like a victim to your abuser…it’s extremely unlikely that he or she will have a spontaneous attitude adjustment.

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