Others have it much worse than me, shouldn’t I just be grateful?
A Recurring Perspective
One perspective that keeps surfacing from my readers goes something like this, “I read other people’s stories and hear the nightmares they are living. Physical abuse, alcohol and drugs, sex addiction and cheating. Mine simply isn’t that bad. Sure, he gets mean and sharp sometimes, but he is tolerable most of the time. That doesn’t mean he is a narcissist. He often can actually be a very nice guy, as long as we make sure he feels special. Shouldn’t I just be grateful and keep my mouth shut? Shouldn’t I stay in the relationship because it really could be far worse? Maybe I don’t really belong in a support group. Maybe this isn’t even abuse.”
When I hear these things, I start asking them why they ended up in the support group to begin with and what brought them there in the first place. Almost always, they start describing emotional, verbal, and mental abuse. They are beaten down emotionally and mentally. They are confused and exhausted. They feel crazy and want answers. Yet they continue to justify the actions of their abuser, by saying that it really could be worse.
I Used to Say it Too
I totally understand this because I have lived it myself. I know these thoughts personally, “At least he isn’t beating me. I don’t think he would ever hurt me or our boys. I don’t think he is cheating on me. Every marriage has its issues. You know, this could be a whole lot worse. How could this be narcissistic abuse?”
And yet he continued to talk so meanly to the boys and me. He blamed us for everything that ever went wrong and many things that weren’t even wrong to begin with. He verbally and psychologically abused the boys, making them so afraid of ever upsetting him. He never listened to any of us when we tried to explain how he made us feel. He only continued to slaughter us with his tongue, while holding no empathy for his family. We walked on eggshells, always afraid of his anger, for years.
Could things have been worse? Yes, I think someone who is walking on eggshells and terrified for their own life and the lives of their kids is in a worse place. Does that make how we were living okay? Absolutely not!!
Analogy of a Broken Leg
If you have a broken leg, you don’t think, “Well, some people lose their leg, so since it could be worse, I’ll just tough it out and keep my mouth shut about it.” You don’t chose to be grateful and thus not fix your broken leg simply because their situation is worse. This wouldn’t make sense to anyone around you. Your entire family and circle of friends would be all over you to get to the doctor and take care of your leg.
Pain is pain, and healing is needed!
It is, of course, okay to recognize that things could be worse. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being grateful that they aren’t worse. But this doesn’t mean you have to stay or put up with abuse just because it could be worse. This doesn’t even make sense. Yet how many of us rationalize this way? How many of us have family and friends that even try to convince us of this?
Analogy of a School Shooter
If a shooter in one school walks into a classroom and kills just one person, while another in another school kills 30, one of these is clearly worse than the other. However just because the first situation could have been much worse, this does not take away the pain of the family of the one that was killed. That family still suffers and grieves. Their pain is very real. They are greatly affected, and it will take some time to heal.
Because one situation is “worse” also does not take away the fact that both shooters must be held accountable for their actions. The shooter of the one person will still go to jail and face punishment, as they should. Can you imagine a judge saying, “Well, at least you only killed one. It could have been worse. You are free to go?” What!!! Media would have a heyday with that. I can see the picket lines and rioting already.
No More Justification
I think we could all find someone that we think has a worse situation than we do. That’s okay. There is no need for comparisons here. It is okay to be grateful that your own situation isn’t worse. It is okay to feel compassion for those that are in a worst situation. You also don’t have to pretend that your situation is worse than it is in order to justify leaving.
It is also okay to walk away from your situation and your abuser. Please do not use the justification that it could be worse as a reason to stay in an abusive relationship.
Abuse is abuse, and healing is needed!!