Familiar patterns

That Old Familiar Smile…

Annette Youngby Annette Young

You’d think  it would be easy to spot the warning signs and to nimbly side-step them.  After all, didn’t I promise myself….never again?

The problem is, irrespective of past experiences, we all want to have the ability to develop a good romantic relationship in life. Even those of us who say we prefer to be on our own would secretly love to welcome in that perfect other who compliments our lives rather than seeking to destroy it. But, where there have been toxic relationships, or emotional or physical abuse,  it’s likely that you’ve not only raised the barriers but nailed them shut.

That’s what happened to me on a recent trip back to the UK. I encountered someone who had once been an incredibly enticing and, intoxicating part of my life. When we were together all those  years ago, I was going through a very bad time in my life. I was under a great deal of stress and was grieving, so for some gloriously claimed moments, I had clutched at the chance of a distraction from my life, forgetting about everything but those moments and to feel truly alive again.

Years on, that flash from the past came back into my  life promising good ol’ familiarity and in a way, a safe haven from loneliness and the fear of having to meet someone new and, starting the whole ‘get to know you ‘ process again.

Even though I am an advocate for women recovering from any type of abuse because of my own experiences, I’m quite tough, mentally and emotionally these days, but I know all too well the temptation of succumbing to that old familiarity. The smile that still melts, the accent, the scent and remembering the simple pleasures of holding hands, it’s potent stuff. It’s a spark that ignites, it’s a hint of a promise and a reminder that life is for living and yet, it’s also less fearful because you remember so much about each other.

We both said it would be different. The years had taught us that life moves on, we’d grown and matured. He liked my positive spirit, my mental toughness and he recognised that I was whole again. But that didn’t stop those old ways emerging and infiltrating the simple pleasures and I began to remember why I had left him all those years ago.

There was no physical violence or scathing words, but, a failure to truly appreciate or to, I think,  value our connection. He wasn’t and still is not, a bad person, but shallow, and unfeeling …maybe.  He lacked depth, or the ability to really give of himself. Although I will never regret time spent with him, he did after all, provide a lifeline during some very gloomy days, it’s just not a good connection for someone who has endured the emotional pain of manipulative relationships. Frankly, the realisation that you still come way down the list of priorities is a stark reminder of how easy it is to make the same mistakes.

After the initial excitement of feeling flattered and alive in his presence, the vibrancy of our re-connection began to fade and my brain started calculating, noting age-old patterns and yes, I started to feel de-valued. With a sinking heart, I finished it again, emotional but determined that we all have times of weakness, we all have moments when we want to be loved but most of all, we want to be valued. There was no big drama as the sunset faded away on years of what might have been….just general acceptance that I am worth  so much more.

Have you suffered from emotional abuse? You are not alone. You can read my story here.