The Deadly Undercurrents of the Potomac River
The blazing DC sun caused steam to rise from the pavement of nearby streets and walkways along the mighty, yet majestic Potomac River. I was mesmerized by the gentle blue current which inched peacefully along the bank.
As I stared into the calm depths of the river, I could not help but think of how refreshing it would be to dive in for a short swim. I felt the summer heat caress the back of my neck as I contemplated the idea. That moment, a red warning sign along the path jumped out at me. It read: “Danger! No Swimming!”
Locals to the DC area are well aware that the “danger” of the Potomac River lies in what is not seen. Although the friendly flow of the river appears serene and easily manageable to any amateur swimmer, one should note that in the last month alone the unseen undercurrents once again claimed the lives of two victims–one of which was an Olympic swimmer.
It does not matter how strong a swimmer you may be. If millions of gallons of water are sucking you into its depths, the strength of Olympic arms are like a pair of toothpicks for all of the support they’ll give you.
The same is true of abusive relationships. No matter how serene the waters of your love may initially appear, your emotional and physical well being are in danger if you get caught in the undercurrents of one of these relationships.
Lola’s Experience with an Abusive Relationship
(Name has been changed to retain privacy.)
Lola, a dear childhood friend of mine, went through seven years in an abusive relationship. What began as a fairytale-like romance quickly evolved into countless nights of tears.
From the moment they met, their story was full of flowers and candies as Lola’s “love” catered to her every need. There was nothing she would ask for that he would not attempt to do for her. He wanted to spend every minute of his day with her even though he barely knew her. Some worried that he was coming on too strong.
“No, he is simply madly in love!” Lola protested. She was very taken with his constant attention.
Within a short period of time, their relationship became more defined and committed. After this, the love mysteriously disappeared.
The man’s incessant affection turned into incessant complaints, insults, and outbursts of anger. There were no more words of gratitude and appreciation. Lola felt more and more like everything she did was wrong.
Lola felt that something was wrong with her relationship. She could sense infidelity and dishonesty from her partner, but every attempt she made to express her concern seemed to cause him to erupt in anger even more.
To him, all fault for his anger belonged to Lola. She was the one questioning their relationship. She was the one asking all the wrong questions at the wrong time. In fact, she was the one “talking to a male coworker the other day.” His anger was justified, he believed, by a jealousy which he called love.
Soon enough, Lola started to believe that everything was indeed her fault.
“When I felt mistreated, my mind wandered back to the bliss I enjoyed in the beginning of our relationship. I often concluded that ‘it must be me who did something to interrupt our romance. He used to love me so much, he would do everything for me’.”
Lola began to obey all of her lover’s demands in an effort to revive the initial romance. He asked her to quit her job, isolate herself from “suspicious” friends. He even asserted that contact with family would have a negative influence on their relationship.
She left behind the social life she once enjoyed. She lost interest in familiar hobbies, and felt she was losing the joy of life. She lost her appetite and began to lose weight. She stopped caring about how she looked.
People who knew Lola started noticing her change, and expressed their concern. She always assured them that everything was fine, but no one knew of the tearful, sleepless nights spent in her cold and lonely bed. No one knew about how he treated her when they were alone. From the outside, he seemed to be the same young man, “madly in love” with Lola, demanding every minute of her time.
Lola had been swept away by the grandeur of the obsessive love that came in the very beginning, and carried into a world of daily torture and misery of abuse. On the surface, his love seemed enticing and refreshing–like the waters of Potomac River in the summer. But the undercurrent of selfish motives and dishonesty from her partner pulled Lola down into social death and loss of her self-identity.
The Warning Signs Defined
As you have been reading this, your mind may have wandered back to a time that you and your significant other got into an argument. You may even have raised your voice once or twice. Does this mean that you are in an abusive relationship? Absolutely not. It’s normal for you and your partner to fight now and then. Don’t worry.
It is not my purpose, in writing this this article, to scare readers away from all romantic prospects in life–far from it. However, I wish to identify a handful of useful warning signs which can protect you from negative and potential abusive relationships, if heeded.
Life is full of warning signs. Just like the literal warning signs that line the bank of the Potomac River, there are figurative warning signs that line the banks of an abusive relationship.
1. Coming on too strong early on
The fact that a young man brings your flowers is not a sign that he is abuser. However, if he quits his job in LA and drives all the way to Seattle within the first week of having met you, “just because I wanted to see you,” there is some reason for concern. You may be tempted to believe that it is very romantic or that he is just “madly in love.” But in reality, this kind of rash behavior is not reasonable coming from someone you just met.
2. Feeling that everything you do is wrong
While it is unrealistic to expect complete agreement on all issues, it is also unreasonable for someone to convey to you that everything you do is wrong. Any type of blaming in extremes is cause for concern in a relationship.
3. Isolation from friends and family
Upon entering into a serious committed relationship it is likely that your lifestyle will change. Studies show that big life events such as these will cause a person’s daily routine, purchasing habits, and even social life to change. Now, just because you don’t spend time with some of the friends you used to does not mean that you are in an abusive relationship. However, if you are forbidden from contacting friends and family, this is a sign for concern.
An abuser will forbid you from engaging in old relationships to increase his or her control over you. This is because he or she knows that if you are in frequent contact with people who love you and are concerned about your welfare, they might alert you to the fact that you are being controlled and abused.
If you feel that you are in an abusive relationship, and you have identified with some of the warning signs listed above, please seek help. Please know that seeking help is not a sign of weakness!
It might seem too dangerous and even impossible to get help. But just remember, like the Olympic swimmer who was dragged into the depths of the Potomac River, you may be dealing with something bigger than you can handle.
When you clearly understand the warning signs that pertain to an abusive relationship, then you can move forward and find a healthy relationship without fear. Truly unselfish love is based on the principles of mutual respect, forgiveness, gratitude, wholesome communication, cooperation, and freedom.
Someone once said, “Love is a bird. It needs to fly.” Pure, unselfish love is one of the greatest sources of happiness experienced by mankind.
May you have the courage and strength to get out of an abusive relationship before it is too late–hopefully before you even get in one! Once out of the bad relationship, may you have the courage and strength to seek for pure, unselfish love again. And may you never give up!
Lola’s New Life
About a year and a half ago, Lola made the decision to get out of her abusive relationship. The process was not easy, and it took a lot of courage. It was very difficult at times. She was re-entering a world that she had forgotten existed. At first, she did not know who she could trust or turn to. But she made the decision to not stay in the relationship any longer, and that made all the difference.
After leaving her partner completely, Lola slowly but steadily began getting her old self back. Now when she calls me up, she frequently says, “I feel free. This is best feeling in the whole world.”
Lola currently works in a law firm, and has once again found the courage to seek true love.