Have you been conned by intimacy?

Intimacy pic (1) Intimacy is not confined to sexual intimacy. Relationships are for us opportunities for healthy intimacy that can be found in the touching of one’s hand, the knowing of family dramas and a sense of a history shared.

What was astounding to both Sue and I was a conversation we had this morning. I described the beginning of all my abusive relationships. In each one on the first date the relationship was a kind of confessional. Each one told the story of their lives in which they had been a victim of their parents or previous relationships. Each one “confessed” their pain and anxiety in which they lived. My response was to be profoundly flattered and moved and honored that they had chosen to share this information with me. I quickly and whole heartedly supported their view 100% for which my reward was a member of the A team, and secondly the complete belief that I was the answer to their prayers. I felt needed, profound and strong. It was this conversation that sealed the deal. With every betrayal it became increasingly clear that what I believed to be a sacred bond had in fact been a well rehearsed con to which I had fallen victim.

Sue tells me that despite having had several relationships herself she has never ever been on the receiving end of that kind of confessional on the first date or the first month. She calls it false intimacy. I asked her how one would know if intimacy was real or false.

“If somebody trusts you with their secrets on their first dates they are either incredibly stupid or this is false intimacy. Trust can never develop without time and ongoing proof of the other persons honor.”

With hindsight I see that in places where the intimacy could have been expected there was none. Sexual intimacy was almost completely non-existent and I never felt honored or treasured. Each man seemed to be in competition with his predecessors’ and it was my job to applaud his performance. Each time I allowed him to believe that he was the stag of all stags. It seems that our bed was a crowded place.

At the time I really believed that I was the only person with whom he had shared these secrets. I was the only person strong enough to protect him from his demons. The confessional was in fact as sacred as I imagined a confessional should have been. With the wisdom of hindsight I understand that the confessional was also a performance.

Nobody’s secrets were safe with us. We did show and tell to each other constantly. Neither of us respected the confidentiality of our previous relationships. We both mocked and ridiculed our previous partners oblivious to the obvious facts that we would be next. Our secrets, our shared memories, our experiences would be a feast for the next partner to feed off.


I was married to not one abuser, not two, but three. I fled from South Africa and from an extremely violent and traumatic marriage to a very well-known Johannesburg personality and resolved to learn a lesson and be more careful next time. In America I met a man who, on the surface, was everything that my second husband was not. Until I owned her own contribution to the dance of abuse I was destined to repeat the pattern. My story exists as proof of this. I am driven to help abused women as I know all too well what it feels like to be misunderstood and ashamed of my inability to let go of a relationship that was killing me. “It’s like wanting to hug a shark – why on earth would anyone do that?” I understand because I have been there, emerged damaged and broken from there and then – heaven forbid – went back! I know what it feels like to yearn for the love of a man who pulled out your hair, spat in your face and tried to choke you. I know what it feels like to tell people you are back there and watch their faces and see them thinking, “then you deserve what you get!” By telling my story, I hope to lift the veil of shame off abuse and encourage women to do the same. Un-silencing the voice is where true healing begins.

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Posted in abuse, codependency, domestic violence, healing, love, marriage, obsession, relationships

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