When you come out of an abusive relationship you still yearn for something. And that something is not the relationship itself or how things were — you want closure. An apology from the abuser and acknowledgement of what they have done.
And just to be clear — wanting this closure does not equate going back to what was. It’s about allowing ourselves to move forward and onward, closing that chapter of our life. Perhaps wanting this closure is actually wanting validation. We need to know that we weren’t crazy all those years, that someone really did treat us wrongfully — abusively — and it’s okay to be free from it. If the abuser would only apology and acknowledge what they did and how they treated us then we could finely be free to let go and move on.
Unfortunately, this type of closure which depends on something you want or believe you deserve, will likely never happen.
While you are trying to find this closure the abuser moves on with life caring little to next to nothing about you and what you want, as was probably the case while you were still together. And you — well, you end up paralyzed from living life to the fullest because of holding out for something that will likely never, ever happen.
And even after the relationship is over, the divorce papers signed and the house sold, the abuser may still do things to draw you into their game of control and manipulation, especially if you have children together. But giving you closure like you expect they should? Apologizing and acknowledging what they have done? Not likely.
The only one who is tormented, is you, the victim. Carrying around anger and resentment and a whole host of other emotions which do nothing except weigh you down. And you know what? Sometimes…you just gotta let go. Give up the expectations or perhaps the feeling of entitlement to an apology. Stop waiting, stop being angry — just stop.
Finding closure cannot be dependent on getting an apology from the person who wronged us.
Only we can make the choice to break out of the chains of unmet expectations which keep us from letting go and moving on.
My son, who has a strained relationship with his father — well, basically no relationship for over a year now because of something his father did — was talking about how he wishes his father would just leave him alone. I simply said to him, “You’ll never get what you’re waiting for.” As he cocked his head to the side looking at me quizzically I went on to say, “You are wanting an apology and acknowledgement so it will make it easier to forgive. But you have to realize that it’s unlikely to happen so now you have to make the decision to forgive anyway and move on with life.” My son said his counselor told him the same thing…and I thought to myself that day perhaps I should take the same advice. 😉
Holding on to resentment and anger was something I had been doing for many years. I had been holding out for an apology which played over and over in my mind, and which somehow I was so sure he would one day give. After all, he had to truly know deep down how wrong his actions and words towards me and our two sons had been for all those years. He had to truly know how soul-deep those hurtful words had cut us all. He had to truly feel remorse for the pain he had caused. Therefore, he would apologize because that’s what people do who acknowledge what they have done and how much they have hurt someone. Right? Was I wrong! Because the first step in apologizing is acknowledging what we’ve done, and he never saw anything he did as wrong.
I kept holding out for him to just say, “I’m sorry.” But it was time to realize there would never be that kind of closure. There would never be an apology or acknowledgement, only more lies and manipulation. It was — it is — time to put closure to a chapter of my life which has ended and to do that means to fully forgive, let go and move on.
As I was reading through my journal the other day I ran across this entry written several years ago, not long after my ex had walked out:
“God, help me to forgive, yet let me continue to remember, not so that I can continue living as a victim, but so that I may learn from the past and move on.”
“Forgiveness is a powerful thing, bringing a comforting calmness. With it, we can enjoy harmony with God’s people; without it, the storm continues.”
Forgiveness can be a tough thing and something I struggled with for so many years and obviously still do. I had this wrong idea of what forgiveness is. Somehow I had come to believe that forgiveness meant forgetting what had been done and reconciling with my abuser. It meant letting the abuser off the hook or somehow lessening the abuse. Forgiveness meant he won and I lost, again. And honestly — I could not forgive and forget! That would mean that all I had lived through was not real, that my life did not matter, well at least that’s what I thought.
Fortunately, my counselor at the time helped correct those false views of what true forgiveness means. She helped me understand how forgiving the abuser did not mean I had to reconcile. It does not mean we forget as some would have us believe — “Forgive and forget!” Remembering the past is important in order to not repeat the same mistakes. It would be foolish to remain in or go back to an abusive relationship. Forgiving does not mean forgetting the wrong committed against you or letting the abuser off the hook. Forgiveness is setting ourselves free from carrying unhealthy emotions such as bitterness which only allow the abuser to continue to have power and control over us.
Forgiveness frees the victim from the bonds of resentment and anger so they can move forward while releasing the abuser to God for Him to deal with.
I believe that forgiveness is a process, a lot like the grieving process someone goes through when someone they love has died. We need time to process what has happened and be patient with ourselves as we seek to forgive this person who has stolen years of our life.
I know in my heart I have not truly forgiven, although I’ve tried praying it silently at a church service or after reading my morning devotion. But then suddenly those unwanted feelings of anger, resentment and bitterness creep in when something or someone reminds me of the past and it is then I realize the control I still allow that person to have over me.
My hope and prayer for this new coming year — my goal — is to seek closure in the right place, God’s Word. For when we seek closure in all the wrong places it will never occur. As the new year approaches may we all find the peace and forgiveness necessary to live life to the fullest, and may the Lord bless each of us with gratitude and contentment in all that we do!