Did I play a part in the choice the one I loved made to end his life? It’s a horrible question that comes to mind from time to time. And, unfortunately, it has reared its ugly head again after a conversation I had with a friend. I will honestly tell you that I’m not sure how we got on the subject or where we took it from this point I’m going to talk about, but this is where the question grew again.
My friend and I were talking about how those who are abused tend to protect the ones who are abusing them. She mentioned how I had done the same thing and I had to agree. Most people had no clue what was really going on in my marriage and family. I was very high functioning and walked through life in a wall of protection for myself as well as a wall of secrecy for the abuser. By doing so, I basically made it easy for the one I loved and others in my life to continue to be abusive. I enabled them to continue.
I know it’s true, but I’m not sure why I did it. For some of the time, because I was used to abusive behavior, I’m not even sure I realized completely what was normal behavior for everyone and what was completely wrong and unacceptable. It didn’t just come from my husband either. I had several people who’s natural way of living was to put people “in their places” so that they could continue on with whatever they wanted to do and feel superior without being challenged that their behavior needed to change.
But no matter why I protected them, I did, in fact, live with those abuses left unknown by most around me. I enabled them, in every sense of the word, to continue their abusive ways and pretty much gave them permission to keep treating me in this way. Even though I spoke up to my abusers at different times, it was too much to constantly broach the subject. It’s exhausting because, in general, abusers don’t readily take responsibility for their actions. They are pretty much the most perfect people in their minds and, to point out otherwise, opens up the door for them to further attack and knock you down for “being the one who really has the problem”.
I have heard innumerable times that I was responsible for their actions. I caused everything. But I know I wasn’t. They chose to be hateful and find themselves above reproach when they were totally the issue. I know this is true.
Would Speaking Up Have Made a Difference?
So, to hear I enabled them to do the abusing makes me sick to my stomach. Please understand that I know without a doubt that my friend was not saying I was to blame in any way for all the abuse in my life. But, I did, in fact, enable them and allowed them to keep doing it. This, then, leads me to where I am now questioning if I had called the one I loved out and made it known of his behavior earlier, could I have, in a way, kept him from choosing to take his own life?
I ask this because I know the reason he killed himself was because so much of what he had been doing was starting to come to the surface around the time of his death and I couldn’t keep my emotions in check. Finding out about his having an affair with someone I thought was a friend had taken me to a point I couldn’t hide the hurt and the pain he had caused. I couldn’t hold it together. So, he chose to die rather than face responsibility because there was so much more ready to surface.
However, if I had brought his hidden actions to the surface way earlier in our marriage, would things have ever gotten so out of hand or would he have changed his behavior? I forced him to get help in a couple areas, but he worked at it for a time and then just did whatever he had to do to get out of counseling and then went back to his ways…and I enabled him to continue in the choices he continued to make (some of his actions I had no idea he was doing until after he died). So, did I contribute to his death? I’ll never know the answer to this question for sure and not knowing cuts so deep.
In essence, I’m telling all of you this for two reasons: if you are being abused in any way, don’t hide it – find someone or an organization who can help you – Also, if you commit or even attempt suicide, this is the gift you give and leave with those who love you – the question of what they could have done to change the outcome and what part they played in your attempt, successful or not, with the guilty feelings laying squarely on their shoulders when you are the one who made the choice to die.
I’m hoping there is someday an end to the questions of guilt that keep coming up, but I, evidently, haven’t reached that point yet.
~ Joanna Lynn