Introduction to the third edition
Love is meant to be supportive. We expect our partners to provide strength and comfort to us. But what happens when love hurts? What if your partner betrays your love by hurting you through his words or actions? You may feel confused, angry, sad or even depressed. It can be hard to know what to do or who to talk to. Perhaps you’ve told yourself, “My situation is not that bad” or “I’m exaggerating the problem.” Maybe others have told you that your experiences are part of the normal ups and downs of a relationship. Maybe you think that the problem lies with you and you’re the one who needs to change. You may have tried many times to make changes within your relationship, but you continue to be hurt.
This book is for women who have experienced abuse from their current or past male partner. If your partner has not physically hurt you, you may wonder if you have really been abused. Maybe others have suggested to you that if you haven’t been hit, it’s not really abuse. We do not think this is true. Women have taught us that all forms of abuse are devastating and so this book recognizes that there are many types of abuse, including verbal, emotional, financial, sexual, psychological, spiritual, and physical.
We hope the book can help you make sense of your experiences and provide you with more information and options. You’ve probably been feeling alone and overwhelmed and we hope this book can be a companion on your journey. Women are used to being told by professionals, family or friends what they ‘should’ do. Women are advised to leave the relationship, change themselves, fix the relationship or simply accept their partners’ behavior. We believe you are the expert on your lives; only you know what is best and safest for you. Women have told us that the book provided them with a new way of understanding their situation. We are not suggesting you stay in your relationship, and we are not suggesting you leave. Our goal is to provide you with information and support so that you can make your own decisions and gain greater control over your situation.
In this book, you will meet other women who have been betrayed and hurt by their partners. You will hear these women describe the pain and confusion of their relationships and their journeys to find answers. We have included women’s stories for two reasons. The first is to help you, the reader, feel less alone. Many of the stories in this book will ring true for you. Up until now, you may have felt completely isolated in your situation. You are not. Second, we know that women learn from other women’s experiences—drawing strength and insight from each other. We hope that, in hearing other women’s stories, you will begin to hear your own story more clearly.
The exercises from our counseling program are also laid out in this book, and it is designed for you to write in. Recording your experiences can help you to clarify your thoughts. However, if you are still living with your partner, you may be concerned that he will find this book and use it against you. If this is a concern, you may decide not to include your personal thoughts. You may even want to hide the book entirely from your partner.
We encourage you to read this book at your own pace. Some women read this book quickly, feeling relieved to have finally found something that gives words to their experience. Other women read it slowly, wanting to absorb it bit by bit. Do what is right for you. If you start feeling overwhelmed or find the material difficult to read, it’s okay to give yourself a break. If you have a trusted friend or professional, you might want to talk with them about what you are experiencing.
We want to say a word about safety. You might think of your safety as only physical safety. We always include both emotional and physical safety because both are equally important. Women have taught us that emotional abuse can also be so damaging and sometimes lead to very unsafe and life threatening situations. If you feel that you or your children are in danger, safety concerns need to come first. This might mean leaving the relationship, even if only for awhile. Find a safe place, such as a women’s shelter, where you can assess your safety and explore your options.
If you are being hurt by the person you love, the fact that you love him may no longer be enough. It takes tremendous courage to begin to ask deeper questions. We trust that this book will help you find answers as you search for a brighter and safer future.