What I Mean When I Say I Want To Be A Better Person

What I Mean When I Say I Want To Be A Better Person


[Trigger Warning: Domestic Violence/Abuse]

I wrote last month that I was going to re-assess in January about my next steps for dating. Well, it is now January and I have decided I’m still not ready to be proactive about dating. I really would like to be as close to being the person I want to date as possible. I want to “be a better person.” Really, I want to be able to meet my own three requirements before I meet someone else who does.

Those ‘requirements’ are:
Someone who I have a physical/emotional connection with
Someone who respects me
Someone who respects others

I’ve come to realize, I don’t always treat people with respect (to put it lightly). How can I expect to find someone who respects me, when I can’t respect them?

This behavior, alone, wouldn’t mean so much to me, but it comes with a lot of negative emotional weight.

I'm not worthless

Can You Ever Truly Escape Childhood Abuse?

I spent my teenage years living with an abusive alcoholic step-father who regularly called me names, pushed me around, and manipulated my emotions. I lived in fear of making him angry. Everything he said was hurtful and was to make him feel powerful. Calling a teenage girl names and shoving her around – that’s some power. But he definitely held power over me and that was all he wanted. He tore me down verbally and emotionally. Instilled so much fear in me, I kept everything a secret. Telling lies just because I didn’t know what would set him off.

Growing up, I learned “when you love someone, you hurt them.”

While I did manage to escape living in that abusive environment by going off to college; that lesson remained instilled in me. Post-college I began dating a guy who was emotionally & verbally abusive right from the beginning.

My boyfriend hurt me and that was how I knew he loved me. We dated for three years.

Overtime, this “it’s not so bad” abuse escalated to physical incidents. After the second major one, I found the strength to leave. Then immediately put myself into therapy. I saw the pattern. I saw what was happening. I thought about raising children who would see their father hit their mother. I thought about what if he were to hit our children? That was the thought that gave me the strength to end it.

From my perspective, I needed therapy to make sure I did not date another abuser. And through therapy, I have been able to learn what I deserve and don’t deserve. I don’t deserve to be hurt by someone who is supposed to care about me. I deserve to be treated with respect.

Among all this, what I hadn’t realized, is not only was I dating someone who hurt me because that felt “comfortable.” But I also had been exhibiting these same negative behaviors to those I love.

I hurt people because I love them. Because it is a “comfortable” behavior.

It’s not uncommon for me to get angry on a dime and yell viciously at a significant other. When I am angry like this, I feel like I’m a different person. Like, I can’t control anything and my mind is somewhere else. I say extremely mean & hurtful things. I am, to put it lightly, very disrespectful to the person who I sincerely love and care about.

And I hate it. I hate knowing that this residual toxin from my childhood still remains. Despite my leaving home, ending a relationship, and going to therapy, old habits are still there.

I cannot comfortably enter another relationship, expecting a connection and respect, until I know that I will be able to return the same. I have been working hard at becoming “a better person” since I left home at 18. I do want and deserve to be happy. I do want and deserve a loving relationship.

I realize I can’t say “I’m not ready” forever. I will never “be ready.” We are works-in-progress. But I do not want to bring this type of negativity into another relationship. I never want to hurt someone I love, in this fucked up power-trip way, because of some “comfortable” behavior I picked-up from an abusive alcoholic as a teenager.

Sometimes, it truly feels like I can’t escape the environment I grew up in. No matter what I do, there is still something there holding me back. But then another feeling is stronger. The feeling of knowing that I’ve come this far – things have gotten better. I have gotten better. I am closer and closer to becoming “a better person.”


8 Replies to “What I Mean When I Say I Want To Be A Better Person”

  1. Thanks so much for writing this post. I know you went back and forth about whether to do it or not (from Twitter).

    I also grew up in an emotionally abusive house and didn’t realize how much my anger and “just yell until it’s okay” habits had damaged my life until WELL into my 20s. Working on these ingrained things hasn’t been easy — especially when, as you described so well, I accepted that behavior as “normal” even though it really was hurtful and damaging — but it’s worth it.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing. Sometimes it feels like I’m the only who experienced that type of thing growing up but really I just don’t get to hear enough stories from others. It takes a long time before we can see ourselves from the outside, I’m glad to hear you are at that point and wish you luck in the process.

  2. I’ve felt like I lived my whole life with blinders on. And the minute I chose personal growth as my engine is the minute I began truly living.

    It’s not about the individual results or the financial gains or losses, it is dealing with me everyday; It’s learning what’s good in me, it’s learning my weak points. More than that though it is gaining access to my true goals, aspirations, and desires through discovery of self in terms of my interactions every single day. And if you don’t understand the knife life is, then that is seriously the best way that I can put it.

    Wherever you are on the timeline of your life, whatever challenges you may be facing. I hope that you get the chance to feel the passion that I am feeling even for just a few moments. I always thought that life was about what you left behind – I have been startled and astonished to realize it’s what you learn, how you’ve applied yourself, and potentially (at least in my case) how you teach your children: AKA the simple things in life.

    The true dream: the best you. Learn to love growing into her!

    I love living into her!

  3. It’s so hard to have healthy relationships when you haven’t had good role models.

    My experience has been opposite (no violence and little yelling, more like zero communication). It’s so hard to hold on to the good behaviours and let go of the negative ones and not repeat patterns. <333

    1. “Learning how to communicate” is probably the best way to put it. Because yelling definitely isn’t communicating either.

  4. Brave post, Leslie. It’s so great being at the point of awareness that you are, ready to take action. I have been divorced twice and it was largely to do with poor partner choices and poor communication skills (mine) that I learned in childhood and didn’t develop good awareness of. In my case it was dealing with a parent with a hot-and-cold temperament who was easy to set off, so I felt I was always walking on eggshells.

    1. Thank you. I hadn’t realized you were divorced twice – it’s nice to see that you are very happy now even if it was a process. It’s easy to forget these things take time, I’m so impatient sometimes.

  5. Leslie, you’re a beautiful, awesome person and as I read these words, it’s hard to even imagine you had to endure so much abuse because of how sweet you are to your friends. It’s nice to know that despite the pain you went through, you’re choosing not to bring out that anger and hatred in your friendships. You’re a strong person and I am proud of you for looking within to figure out who you are and what you want in life.

    I can’t say enough how awesome you are!

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