Sorting Through Loyalty to an Ex-Spouse, Emotional Abuse

  • The emotional tapestry of a breakup can sometimes make an ex-spouse miss being in a dysfunctional or abusive relationship.
  • The display of loyalty to an abusive ex-spouse can often be considered Stockholm syndrome.
  • An ex-spouse suffering from this emotional damage can sometimes find themselves missing the dishonest behavior of their previous marriage.

"Even though you may no longer be in the marriage, the love you once felt for your ex-spouse still may be there, and that is okay. What is not okay is how that emotion can be used in a manipulative fashion."

When you go through the stress and anxiety that being in an unhappy relationship entails, it eventually becomes your norm. You become desensitized to the environment that can include a daily argument about something substantial, overreactions to something trivial, or some sort of combination of the two. As you wear down, you start to become socialized to believe that this is the way relationships and marriages work, because you begin to forget being in any type of relationship that did not include the toxicity of this environment.

When you finally feel ready to do something about the unhealthy life that you are living, due to the dangerously unhappy marriage you are in, your mental health already has suffered, leaving you to pick up the pieces and trying to find a semblance of normalcy in relationships moving forward.

This can leave you in a place of confusion, where you may begin to miss the life of dysfunction and abuse out of a sense of love. The cycle of abusive behavior can become a normal environment that feels safe, even if it is not. The uncertainty of life after your marriage can cause a great sense of fear, to the point where many find themselves wanting their marriage back.

Loyalty to the abuser

Many find themselves drawn to their abusers, it is often considered to be a form of Stockholm Syndrome, according to Counselling Resource. They miss a level of consistency that the occasional small kindness that the emotionally abusive spouse does, and they fear that they will not receive the same in the future. The unknown is less attractive than the unhappiness of the former marriage.

There are many types of behaviors that logically do not make sense to miss in an unhappy or abusive marriage. However, logic can sometimes take a backseat to someone still in love with their ex-spouse. One of which is a pattern of lying.

Loyalty to dishonesty

According to Psychology Today, being in a relationship where one partner is consistently displaying dishonest qualities can endear the other partner to them, in the same way that those who have been in abusive relationships endear themselves to their abuser. Relational familiarity and desirability benefits deceivers making those who have been deceived in the relationship and victim to the pattern of lies miss the one orchestrating the deception.

This occurs due to the notion that the one in a relationship would rather look at the relationship positively than honestly. In order to do this, a partner’s negative traits can become pleasantly obscured or misperceived. This was proven in a study titled, “Positive Illusions in Marital Relationships: A 13-Year Longitude Study,” and was published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

In this study, it was found that idealization was operationalized in marriages, as the tendency for people to perceive their spouse as more agreeable than would be expected based on their own reports of their spouse’s agreeable and disagreeable behavior. The study also found that newlywed levels of idealization between spouses were not a predicting factor of divorce.

Decline in realism

This is important because there is a notion that the couples who find themselves infatuated with one another after their wedding and at the start of their married life often have farther to fall, when the monotony of everyday life takes over and they no longer find themselves experiencing the same level of feelings as they did previously. That type of decline is thought to spark the stagnant interactions that might lend itself to destructive marital behaviors, like cheating or various other forms of marital deception.

Declining marital satisfaction or even sorting through the uncertain emotional landscape of life after a divorce may encourage the rose-colored glasses of yearning to return to a dysfunctional or abusive relationship. It is part of the emotional scarring that can occur after any type of toxic relationship, according to The Huffington Post. Acknowledging that through self-reflection is a healthy step in moving forward.

Decline in emotional health

Despite the gendered predisposition to not confront any mental and emotional issues that may arise, it is important to consider them when evaluating the way ex-spouses and the marriages that they come from are perceived. It is just as easy to think that you will not have as good of a future relationship as the one you are exiting, as it is to emotionally withdraw yourself from experiencing any of the feelings involved, due to the notion that men often interpret depression or any other type of negative emotion as stress and that the discourse of help-seeking is gendered.

If you do not feel that you are equip to confront the emotional issues involved in an abusive or dysfunctional relationship, then it is vital that you seek help for the ailments that you suffer from. Seeking help is not something to be ashamed of, nor is it something to avoid when needed. Emotional support creates a dialogue with the events and issues that keep you up at night, and during or after a divorce, emotional support can be helpful in getting you out of bed each day.

Even though you may no longer be in the marriage, the love you once felt for your ex-spouse still may be there, and that is okay. What is not okay is how that emotion can be used in a manipulative fashion. The ex-spouse that you miss does not deserve the loyalty or emotional effort that you are showing them, and it is not conducive to your future to be so focused on what is behind you. Whether you are divorced or divorcing, married or single, it is not worth showing reverence for someone that in the past would not show the same to you.

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