Abusers are people too, and if you’re an empath you have likely given them thoughts and feelings they don’t necessarily deserve.
In the past few weeks, I’ve read a number of posts and had a couple of conversations that revolve around the feelings involved with leaving abusive partners. I’m not referring to the feelings we generally encounter in leaving such a relationships, such as fear. I’m speaking of genuine concern and love for your (ex)partner. And, like so many things I’ve encountered in this new journey I’m taking in life, other people’s current situations bring back memories of where I used to be.
I could be wrong, but I believe that I often forget these “good” or “mushy” feelings as a form of self-defense. But even though I have since blocked them from my general repertoire of discussion topics on abuse, they were very real barriers that I faced as I left my abuser and worked to move on.
I remember walking into our old apartment, when he was at work to pick up some last items, and seeing how dark and bland everything was. If I had removed knick-knacks, nothing was put in their place. The quilt that was gifted from my parents had been replaced by a boring brown comforter that matched the walls and floor. The counter was empty, the fridge lacked food, and the walls were bare where I had taken down family pictures. The whole apartment was depressing. I felt an overwhelming feeling of sadness that his living arrangements were so empty. I imagined him coming home from work and sitting alone on the couch, sad (because he had told me how miserable he was without me). I imagined him climbing into that boring, colorless bed and being numb. A part of me thought that I should be happy that he was miserable, but most of me simply felt bad for him and imagined how hard it would be if he had chosen to leave me (assuming I was happy in the relationship).
Later, after he stopped moping and went back to demanding and trying to control me from afar, I had another similar experience. I was out shopping and he text me. I don’t remember what it said, but I know it was hurtful. I was drawn to the Hallmark store, where I stood and stared at their special Christmas ornaments – a favorite of his – fighting tears that he was still able to affect me months after the divorce. I recall standing in the store and texting back that I was done having him contact me and if he had something important, he could email me. I then blocked his number. You would have thought that I had lost someone very dear to me as I stood there sobbing in the store. But I guess, in some ways, I did.
You see, no matter how cruel an abuser is, they are someone we loved. And anytime you say goodbye to someone you love, no matter how good it is for you or how much happier you are without them, it is a loss. It is only normal that you should feel bad for them, wonder how they are doing, and have some fond memories.
I believe that it only becomes an issue when you allow those feelings to linger and affect you, to draw you back, or to interfere with your future relationships. So, when you have a kind thought about your abuser, feel bad that they turned out to be the person they are, or find yourself concerned over their well-being, treat it as any other toxic thought. Remember that they don’t necessarily see the world the same way you do and you are likely projecting your own feelings onto them. Tell yourself the thought has a place, acknowledge it, and let it go. Don’t dwell and don’t guilt yourself. Instead, take that kindness and love and share it with those who are deserving of it.