How Many Red Roses is too Many?
For women who have lived through domestic abuse, Valentine’s Day can trigger difficult emotions. Survivors of abuse may feel more than just alone, the day can breed feelings of resentment, anger and sadness. Confused emotions will also be felt when the perpetrator of abuse buys red roses and makes a big play of affection, attempting to put right the black eyes and humiliating put downs of the past year.
Perpetrators of abuse are good at manipulating emotions with insincere gestures. These gestures are intended to confuse, like an intermittent reward system, you can never predict whether you’ll get a red rose or a bloodied nose. This behaviour not only leads to insecurity, but like the slot machine offering unpredictable pay-outs, it keeps abused women hanging onto a bad relationship in the desperate hope of good times.
In a healthy loving relationship, we should expect to feel valued, respected and cherished by our partner on every day of the year. Elaborate gestures of love made too early in a relationship can be warnings signs that abuse might follow. Domestic abusers are very often exceptionally charming in the early stages of a relationship. They will make grand gestures to demonstrate their love, and sometimes appear too good to be true. As soon as the woman falls for them, the abuse begins. Sandra Horley in her book ‘The Charm Syndrome’ talks about this behaviour.
This ‘love’ is fake, never real. These abusers are excited by abusing, controlling, humiliating and torturing women. But to snare women in the first place they need to put on a show of love. No one would entertain a relationship with a man who revealed himself as a monster from the first date. They are the super charmers as a means to an end, they are motivated to fast track the early stages, so they can quicker get to the point that they enjoy, giving punishment. To women this is very confusing, they believe the early gestures were sincere and have difficulty understanding it was all a sham. They will talk about how magical the start of the relationship was and believe that good times will come again.
Whatever your feelings on Valentine’s Day, this year you might use it as an opportunity to remind yourself that you deserve to be loved not only by other people, but by yourself too. Treating yourself with kindness and respect will also lay the foundations for stronger, healthier relationships with others. Caring for yourself is of vital importance to happiness and self-esteem. The way we treat ourselves has more impact on our feelings of self-worth than the way others treat us.
Even good relationships have ups and downs, it’s not realistic to expect a bed of roses all year round. If, however you are concerned you are suffering abuse, or have left an abusive relationship and are struggling to cope with the aftermath, we at Broxtowe Women’s Project would like to help you. We understand domestic abuse, we understand the impact it has on survivors, and we can work with you to make things better.