I love my abusers. I feel compassion for them. I can rise out of my own hurt feelings to see their humanity. I understand the challenges that shaped them, and I grieve the abuses that happened to them. However, none of this means I ought to be in a relationship with them. Loving them does NOT excuse their behavior or make them safe to be around.
As an empath, I’ve always had a big, tender heart. I feel everything deeply, whether I act on my feelings or not. Whatever emotions swirl around a room are magnified within me. This gives me a great capacity to feel love and compassion, and it also gives me a great capacity to feel pain and suffering. Like many other empaths, my spidey-senses were honed through childhood emotional neglect. In my formative years, picking up on the thoughts and feelings of others was a survival skill. It gave me a split second advantage on whether to hide from my angry, alcoholic father or to fawn for attention from my emotionally distant mother. I learned how to please others by anticipating what they wanted. Usually, in my childhood home, giving my family what they wanted meant entirely disappearing.
In a way, by going no contact with my parents and sibling means I’m still giving them what they want. The difference is that I now see it as a key component to a healthy life. In the early years of going no contact, I was still doing it for them. I took on all the responsibility for it. It wasn’t their abuse that made me leave, it was my inability to deal with it. I carried all the guilt and shame for it. I felt like an ungrateful freak and a loser who couldn’t handle her own family.
What compounded these feelings of shame for me is that I didn’t know how to frame it for others. The other day, I was listening to an audio recording from just three years ago, where someone asked about my parents. My answer was suspiciously vague and dodgy. I struggled to explain that I wasn’t in contact with them, and my voice was dripping with guilt. I tried to describe something my mother did, but it came out sideways. My unprocessed shame made me sound like a liar. I sat there in agony because my inadequate explanation prompted the person who asked to lecture me on trying to reach out to them. He didn’t get it, but there was no way for him to get it, because I couldn’t say the most obvious thing: My parents are abusive and it’s unsafe for me to be around them.
I think many of us struggle with these scenarios, and it doesn’t help that parental alienation goes against societal expectations. I’ve come an astonishingly long way to reclaim my voice and put the responsibility for the dysfunction where it belongs, and I need to remember that. However, I still have days where I struggle. I know I am trauma bonded to my abusers. There are yet-to-be-healed parts of me that ache for a family that does not exist. Exactly zero of my life milestones have been witnessed or celebrated by my family of origin, even ones they physically attended. It’s a giant wound that explains why I struggle with recognition today.
Sometimes I’m angry about it, but most of the time I’m sad. Even though I know it’s essential, holding this boundary of no contact is tough to do. It’s especially tough when others don’t understand why it’s important. It’s also tough when I allow myself to feel my love for them, in spite of everything. I’ve let go of any possibility that they could change into some sort of loving, evolved version of themselves that could give me what I need in a relationship. Fully accepting them as the abusive people they are is essential to my growth. Abusers need firm, impermeable boundaries. No contact means I accept reality. It means I am not trying to fix or save them. It means I am now free to form healthy bonds with others who are capable of love.