Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

Love is warm, fuzzy, gooshy, yummy. Next week I’ll discuss that kind in honor of Valentine’s Day. But today I want you to think the other kind of emotion that masquerades as love:

* The kind that sweeps you off your feet, making you blind to your love’s abusive ways.
* Feeling love that isn’t loving.
* Using love as an excuse to be hurt.
* Feeling very unloved in the love you convince yourself you’re getting.

I have a very special guest today—Janine Latus, author of the NY Times bestseller, If I Am Missing or Dead (Simon & Schuster). It’s not a fun, pretty article. But it’s very real. Janine’s sister Amy was murdered by the man she loved. Janine was also in an abusive relationship. Her book is a very candid look at how Janine and Amy ended up in relationships that made them victims of abuse.

Abuse is rampant, yet many of us turn the other way and hope it goes away. People in abusive relationships go into what I call protective denial. They rationalize it away by holding onto the shred of pleasure they get from their manipulative partner. They accept blame when their partner explains why it’s their fault they got beaten or ripped to shreds mentally.

Friends try to convince abuse victims to leave, to no avail. Mind games are often too strong to win. And so it continues. I think most women will recognize at least a small part of themselves in If I Am Missing or Dead. We all have times in our lives that we succumb to the rush of chemistry with someone that we label love, dive in head first and let it override common sense.

Janine, bless her heart, is trying to make a difference. In conjunction with the release of If I Am Missing or Dead, the National Network to End Domestic Violence has changed the name of its Direct Assistance Fund to the Amy’s Courage Fund. They offer assistance to women who don’t have the resources to leave an abusive relationship. Keep your eyes open.

I encourage you to forward a link to this post to any man or woman who might be getting abused by their partner, or doing the abusing. Men get abused too but are usually too ashamed to admit it and don’t know how to take action. No matter who’s doing the violent behavior or messing with their partner’s head, victims need to learn how to escape it safely. I thank Janine for sharing, both here and in her riveting memoir, If I Am Missing or Dead.

If I had spoken up, she might still be alive ©2007
by Janine Latus

When my sister Amy was 37, she fell in love. He was her cowboy, the man who set the clock radio half an hour early so they could snuggle before rushing off to work. Sure, he made belittling comments about her weight, and he didn’t want to meet her friends or family or let her spend time with us, but he left her love notes. Amy hadn’t gotten enough love notes.

She told me all about that part of their life — about the snuggling, about the slips of paper she’d find on her pillow or the mantle, about the dinners at home and the movies in front of the fireplace. Eight giddy months they’d been together. Amy was happy, so I kept it to myself when I called and she wasn’t home, and he told me he had chopped her up and buried her in the backyard. I thought he just had a lousy sense of humor, and that he was socially inept. And I kept my mouth shut when she told me he had joked that he was going to kill her, and how she had told him it wasn’t funny. Nor did I intervene when she bought him a truck or loaned him money to help him get back on his feet, or cancelled fun times with her friends to stay home with him. Otherwise, she said, he got jealous. I understood that, because my man was jealous, too. Besides, I wanted to trust her judgment.

Then he strangled her. He squeezed her throat shut with his hands while she kicked and fought. Later he wrapped her body in a tarp, threw her in the back of his pickup, and buried her at a construction site.

It took weeks to find her body. Weeks of helicopters and cadaver-hunting dogs, weeks of searching riverbanks and bushes and alleys, weeks of hoping she had merely been in a horrible accident and gotten amnesia. By the time her body was found, the coroner needed dental records to make the identification.

While we were looking, detectives found a letter taped to the inside of my sister’s desk drawer at work. It was not a love note. It was a cry for help. “If I am missing or dead,” it said, “pick up Ron Ball.” The letter was dated ten weeks earlier. For at least that long she had been afraid of her cowboy. For at least that long she had kept that fear a secret. For longer than that I had kept silent for fear of hurting her feelings.

If I could go back, I’d risk making her mad. I’d tell her the truth about my life, about being kept up all night with an accusing finger stabbed over and over into my chest as I denied infidelities I didn’t commit. I’d tell her what I now know, that jealousy is not love. Belittling is not love. Controlling is not love. If she was alive I’d tell her she could stand on her own, that it is far better to be without a man than to be with a bad one.

She wouldn’t have listened. I know that. When you’re in the throes of melodrama and passion, you can’t hear outsiders. Outsiders don’t understand, they don’t feel the fever, the need. They’re boring. Tired. Dried up.

I know, because I was a drama junkie, too. My heart used to thud before my man came through the door, in lust and anxiety, in anticipation and fear. I thought that was love, and that the gentle caring and respect in my best friend’s marriage was bland and colorless.

My man didn’t hit me. He didn’t have to. He had enough control with just his voice. But that was not the big difference between my sister’s relationship and mine. The big difference was, I got out alive.

Thank you so much Janine, for allowing me to post this!
Check out If I Am Missing or Dead and Amy’s Courage Fund. And, keep your mind and common sense on a higher level of awareness.

If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment and/or click on the bookmark and write a short review at some of the sites, especially Stumbleupon and Digg. Thanks!

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