Just let me love you…

I’ve never understood why abused women – or men, I guess – all too often remain in relationships with their abusers. What is it that makes them accept that kind of behaviour? What could possibly possess them? Why would they stay somewhere they are being treated so appallingly? But, the last six or so months of motherhood have given me a glimpse into the mind of an abuse victim, a hint at understanding their reasons.


It’s 3am, the early morning silence (and my sleep) is shattered by Fletcher’s distressed cries from down the passage. He hasn’t been sleeping well lately and we haven’t quite nailed down a reason. We think he’s exhausted – he doesn’t nap well (or at all, really) at school and consequently is completely broken (and disgusting) by 5pm. We fly through bath and bedtime routines before he gets over the hump and crashes down the other side into over-tired. If that happens, it’s hours before he finally winds down and it’s a generally unpleasant experience for everyone. But this tired, over-wrought brain of his means he has trouble switching off and really winding down for a good night’s sleep. Consequently he wakes anywhere between two and six times a night, and sometimes it takes us over half an hour to settle him again. It’s like having a newborn in the house…

I sluggishly pull myself from the bed and stagger into his room, he’s crying on his bed. I sit carefully on the edge of his floor-level bed and quietly ask, “What’s wrong, my boy?” “Eeeeeeee!” – and more insistent crying – is the only response I get. I try again, extricating his banda from under his pillow, untangling his blankie and pulling up his duvet to cover him; trying to gently sooth him out of this disturbed patch. He immediately throws his banda across the room, pushes his blankie away and kicks his duvet off, yelling, “no!” and making some more “eeeeee!” noises at me.

I try everything I can think of to placate him – ask him if he wants to come to our bed, offer him a nice warm bottle to settle him again, nothing works. Eventually, Becs drags her exhausted self through to his room, having heard I’m having no joy from him. I move so she can sit on the edge of his bed. Although he’s still crying, he manages to explain to her that he wants a bottle. I go through to the kitchen to warm one, while Becs supervises a toilet wee in the darkness.

I get back to his room and try to hand him his bottle, but he turns away and says, “other mama!” This is the norm in our house these days. I’m not allowed near him. When I get home from work, he wants nothing to do with me – I can’t talk to him, I can’t feed / bath / change / read to him, nothing. It’s the same in the mornings and during these nighttime visits. The other day, he’d come to our bed in the middle of the night, Becs had an early start, so she went to sleep in his bed for a few hours. When he woke up, he told me to get out. Of my own damn bed!

Don’t get me wrong, I know parental favouritism is a normal phase, I’ve read a bunch of articles about it. Some give helpful tips about changing up the routine, swapping activities so the “non-preferred” parent has more time with the kid. Others tell you to hang in there, don’t pull away, but lean in (fuck, I’m over hearing that expression!). Others still claim it’s a sign of cognitive development, and say he’s pushing me away because he feels safe enough in my love for him, that he knows he can do that and still be welcomed back (great!). One even went so far as to essentially tell me to grow up, that it’s not a child’s job to validate a parent.

All the articles though give sound advice and let me know that I’m not alone, but honestly, I do crave that validation. I desperately want him to let me do things for him the way he lets Becs do them, to cuddle me the way he cuddles her. And when he does… oh, the ecstasy! This is when I glimpse into the mind of an abuse sufferer, when I begin to understand their motivations. He pushes me away at every twist and turn, he uses me as a punching bag – literally and figuratively – he shouts at me, he throws things at me, he breaks my heart. But, when he curls into me, or comes to me with his “eina”, my heart swells with love and joy and gratitude, and hope!

Mostly, it’s the hope, I think, that keeps people coming back. The hope that he’s changed his mind about me, that I’m not a second-class citizen anymore. The hope that he loves me as much as he loves Becs. The hope that he’ll stop pushing me away and just bloody well let me love him! It’s generally short-lived unfortunately, but all the articles do agree on one thing: it’s a phase and it will pass. So, I guess, I just have to hang in there. Doesn’t make it any easier though.


What’s your experience with parental preferences? Let us know in the comments.

5 thoughts on “Just let me love you…

  1. Those reasons might be the reason some abused stay with the abuser, but oh I had other reasons. When he would beat me I could go into the bathroom the next morning and see the evidence of the night before all over my face, around my neck, all over my arms and legs, and broken ribs. Seeing this damage it was not hard to believe him when he would tell me if you try to leave I will kill both your kids while you watch and then you. Fear for your children is a very strong motivator for staying. Sure I could have called the police, but all someone had to do is bail him out. I did call the police once when he broke my ribs and one of the cops told me to stop pissing him off and he would stop hitting me. I ended up living in a woman’s shelter for 3 months because he was looking for me to fulfill his promise to kill my kids and then me. I did eventually get away from him with the help of another man he was afraid of but that took 3 long years. So I don’t know why others stay, but that is why I did.

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    1. I commend your bravery for eventually taking that incredibly daunting step. I am one of the lucky ones who has never experienced true abuse at the hands of a partner – certainly not physical abuse. The fear for our children’s lives is an incredibly strong motivator. As mothers, we desperately want to protect our children from harm, and if that means we take the beatings for them, we will do it. All too often, the abusers do ultimately turn to abusing the children as well, and the very people we have taken beatings to protect then fall victim as well. And so the cycle perpetuates. Well done to you for being brave enough to get yourself – and your children – out.

      P.S. I hope you reported the hell out of the cop who told you to stop pissing your abuser off. Disgusting!

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      1. Thank you it wasn’t easy but then nothing worth it ever is. He would had to kill me to hurt my children and I told him so many times. Luckily they were both young enough not to remember it at all. I did live in fear for about 2 years that he would come after me but he never did. I did find out he went to prison twice for beating two of his other wives so bad they were in the hospital so I think I got out just in time. I did report the cop, but my hometown was small and most of the male cops looked down on women and thought it was okay for men to “discipline” their wives when they got out of line. I no longer live there I moved to Texas 14 years ago. I am glad you never had to endure anything like that. Don’t worry your son loves you he is just trying you just keep at it. I know it sounds redundit but I can tell you my own son went through that faze. I actually remember when he was 4 he told me mama I hate you and it was like a knife in my heart it made me cry then he cried and said he was sorry. I will say when you are with him try to control your frustrations they can feel it and so may unsettle him more. Best wishes.

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      2. Oh absolutely, we try very hard to keep our emotions managed when we’re around him. We are also very conscious and intentional about the way we speak to him / share with him. We want him to learn to deal with emotions constructively – positively – and the only way he will do that is if we role model the behaviour ourselves.

        I’m glad you managed to get out of that relationship when you did and that your kids were able to come out of it without scars – physical or otherwise. It’s disappointing that some people still believe it is acceptable to “discipline” others. But that is a far larger, culture shift that needs to happen across the world. 😦

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      3. Good it sounds like you both have a handle on it and it will be good for him. I remember when my daughter had her first child and she got colic she would bring her over baby screaming and her in tears. She would say mom help I can’t do this. So I had to teach her to swaddle her baby and then calm down. The first couple of times I put her baby to sleep and then had her try it and once she was able to control her frustration she was able to calm her so she could sleep. So I am glad that you are able to stay calm for him. Children are precious and beautiful and they deserve the best we can give them, but I can tell you know that.
        I was fortunate and they were too my son was 4 and my daughter was 2 at the time so thankfully they have no memory of it.
        It is awful that the mentality of “hitting discipline” still exists but I chalk it up to ignorance I just hope he learned how wrong he was and how he would have felt had I been his daughter.

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