Abuse, in any of its forms, takes its toll not only on the survivor but on those who love the survivor. I've found from personal experience that one of the hardest things to do is to watch someone I love suffer. I want to do something— anything— to take away their pain. The frustration of not being able to do so can be overwhelming, manifesting in a short temper or angry words at someone who doesn't deserve them. Even with the intellectual knowledge that I cannot take
that pain away from them— that they have to grow through it in order to heal— my heart still aches.
Often realizing how deeply a loved on is hurting, and knowing we can't stop it, we seek a way to at the very least not add to it. In an effort to make things easier on our loved one, we tend to get so caught up in their healing that we forget about our own needs. We tend to place our needs on the back burner in order to meet the needs of our loved one. While we all have the best of intentions, if this goes on long enough, it can seriously damage the relationship with the loved one.
How? By denying that our own needs are as important as the needs of our loved ones, we send ourselves on a huge guilt trip when we even consider asking our loved one to something for us. Therefore, we ask rarely, if at all. Eventually, the unmet needs that we have will either find a way to be fulfilled (maybe through alcohol or ending the relationship) or we end up resenting our loved one for "not healing fast enough" or "not being able to see past their own pain." Even when we know the healing can't be rushed, or that at times a survivor cannot see past their own pain, we want our loved one to be different.
While it sounds selfish to say that we have to tend to our own needs first, even before those of our loved ones, if we do not, we can be assured that sooner or later, we will find ourselves unable to give anything else to our loved one because we never took the time to replenish our own emotional stockpiles. We cannot give someone our best if we are not at our best. If we deny our own needs, there is no way we can be at our best.
Yeah, it all makes sense on paper in black and white, but life is not black and white. Believe me, I know from personal experience how hard it is to follow my own advice. I have submersed myself in my loved one's healing— usually even without them asking me to do so. And while it may take some time, it inevitably led to what came close to being a complete breakdown— no appetite, sleep deprivation, no motivation, short temper, emotional outbursts for no apparent reason, headaches, nausea....
It's so hard to step back when one is in this state and see that what is really needed is to forget about the suffering our loved one experienced— to walk away for a bit. At that point in time though, we're more prone to dive even deeper, arguing that we won't walk away because our loved one doesn't have that option.
While this is very noble, it is also the worst thing we could do. No matter how much we make ourselves suffer, we can never make ourselves suffer as much as our loved one has. For me, the guilt of not having gone through the abuse was, and still is, at times debilitating. Why should I be able to walk away when my loved one cannot? Why should I be able to forget about the abuse for an hour or a day or even a week, when my loved one cannot?
To these questions, I finally had to answer myself with another question or two: What good is it doing my loved one for me to get to the point of a breakdown? If I cross that line someday, then what good will I be to my loved one at all? The answer to both of these questions is very simple: Nothing.
So how does one go about letting go of the guilt of not being the one abused? Well, I'm not sure completely. I'm still in the process of doing so myself. That's one of the reasons for the Loved Ones of Survivors of Abuse pages. So that others can learn from me as I go through it and that I might find others who are going/have gone through the same things and can help me through this difficult time in my life. And I will get through it, because I know I can be a much bigger help to my loved one if I feel whole and complete and healthy all the time, never knowing when they might call on me to help them in some way.
Following is a list of links to pages I've found on the web that have to deal with being a loved one a survivor of abuse— from suggested reading lists to a list of things we want our loved ones to know about us to sites by other loved ones of survivors. If you find a page you think belongs here, please let me know. There are also links to resources for survivors— both to offer as suggested reading to your loved one and for you to read in hopes of better understanding things from the survivor's point of view.
|Incest Links||Rape Links||Email Lists|
|Helpful Tips for Loved Ones of Survivors||Child Abuse Links||Spiritual Abuse Links|
|Help for Offenders||Male Survivor Resouces||Links for Loved Ones of Survivors|
|General Info on Abuse||Women's Resources|
NOTE: Many of these links will overlap. I have classified them in groups, but there may be some that are useful in more than one group. If you have a link you would like to see here, please let me know.
Please notify me of any links that are not working. Thanks!