Was I born a masochist or did society make me this way?

Tag: abuse


This feels cruel to say. Sometimes I wonder if my mental health would be improved if I were an orphan. Unlikely in a place like China where I was born, but perhaps I would have stood a chance if I wound up here somehow, or if my father had a chance to discover himself without the constant belittling.

The strange thing about growing up with abuse is the inability to recognise it. When it’s the only norm, only truth that you know, how are you to expect anything different? Why would you think it should be any other way?

It wasn’t until late into adulthood, when becoming a parent seemed less of a distant future and more of an inevitable development, that I started to skim through all the “helpful” guides being shared by every new parent around me. Every article about harmful parenting styles read like a full transcript of my childhood.

I am afraid to share good news. It becomes either something she could take credit for, or something not worthy of being celebrated. I could never share the bad news. It becomes something that I must have caused, or deserve, something that could have been avoided if I could just be less lazy and more obedient. My fault, my fault. All the wrongs are mine. I must be grateful for every bit of good in my life. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for their sacrifices. Oh don’t I know it.

I don’t want anyone to misunderstand. My mother is kind, generous, good hearted, caring. But somehow, through some misguided attempt to be a “successful” parent, she couldn’t offer me the same kindness she provided to strangers. Perhaps because on some level she believes I ruined her life. I remember her telling me so. “My life would be so much easier if you and your brother were never born.” I took gratuitous pleasure imagining the satisfaction of fulfilling that wish. I considered the possibility of finally having the last word. I’m still uncertain if it was weakness or strength that led me to stay.

Why do you let her hurt you?

You’re too old to be seeking unattainable approval.

What do you want from her?

I want freedom from her spell.

I want to be loved unconditionally.

I want you to make me believe it.

But not all wounds heal, darling. You don’t know how much I’ve bled.


It takes a special kind of toxic selfishness to alienate someone from those who love them the most. It takes a total absence of empathy to resolve to a level of possessiveness that can only be explained by deep insecurities. You absolve yourself of all your mistakes by claiming that you were wounded, but weren’t we all? No one has ever escaped the tragedy that is life. No one has ever lived a life without loss, without pain. But suffering does not entitle you to wound others. Your pain does not excuse the pain you deliver, two wrongs don’t ever make a right. Some mistakes can never be forgiven. Death does not release us from all our sins.

There is terror to be found in arrogance. The sort of egoist who will only think of themselves, their love for you is merely an extension of their narcissism. You make them feel good, so they love you because you make them feel good. Your existence enriches their life, you exist to make their life better. You don’t understand the difference yet, but you will. You think a love composed of romance is foolish, I think your love has no substance.

I understand the appeal, it would be hypocritical for me to assume I would make better choices under the same circumstances. I have made worse choices before. There is a level of perverted comfort to this experience, when they have carefully manufactured your surroundings to make you feel that you’re the centre of their whole world. What more could you want than to be the centre of your lover’s universe? There is no escaping this sort of infatuation, we all fall.

But darling I see cruelty in his eyes, you see it too. You could have said “I love him, damn it”, and I would have understood, I would have done my best to. But how could you love a monster? You have to absolve him, you needed a defense more than he cared for. It wasn’t difficult to recompose the narrative. It’s always easier to blame someone else.

I understand, but I guess I had still expected better. Some betrayals are worse than others. Some cut you to your bone. You bleed even when you’re smiling. But I miss you still. I miss you so much I think I might be dying. You’ve always told me I’m sentimental to a fault, you’ve never been wrong about me. But I could never change, I never want to. Once upon a time you would have understood the hurt. The best thing about people is that they change. The worst thing about people, is that they change.


he says i’m all teeth and sharp edges
and soft skin doesn’t make up for the bruises i leave in the mornings
we fight we scream we kiss and wait for the guilt to wash in
we pretend we never wanted any of this to happen
i smile so much these days my cheeks are always aching and i never tell him that i have to bite my tongue to keep in the poison
i don’t show him the bullets under my skin

i tell him purple is my favourite colour but i don’t explain the reason
he watches the bruises blend in and tells me i’m too broken
i’m fractured i’m fragments but i’m stronger at the seams
i’ve been sewed up and smashed to pieces and glued together again
so maybe i am impossible to live with but you will never see me give in

he says i’m jagged knives and sinking stones but there’s no turning back now
and still waters run deep but he’s still waiting to see me angry
we poke and prod each others wounds till we’re both raw and bleeding
he tries to kiss it better but pride always get in the way of healing
i don’t show him the hollowness in my chest

i tell him rainy days are my favourite because i get to stay in but i don’t say i miss him
he shows up on my doorstep with roses at 10pm and i yell at him for no god damn reason (i yell at him because i love him)
i ask him if my hands are steady and i play a tune that can’t be forgotten will he still remember me when his shirt has finally been washed so many times that my scent is no longer stuck to the fabric
i just wanted to be his favourite

he says i’m tired of your crying and manipulation
i didn’t fucking sign up for this (i’m sorry, i’m sorry, i’m sorry)
i laugh and laugh and laugh and it comes out in frozen stitches and silence completes the spaces he used to fill in
we pack our bags we never say goodbye and i forget our composition
i don’t tell him that i love him


this time last year
i was your lover’s ghost
it wasn’t long till your hands slipped
and when you threw me against the wall
my head cracked open
blood splattered on the musty plaster
unveiling all our flaws

this time last year
you had me down on my knees
confessing to a life of sin and tragedy
you picked me up and dusted me clean
held my hand and watched me scream
i woke up to your smiling face
and loved you an eternity

this time last year
you taught me a brilliant lie
if you want someone to stay
whisper i love you in the most sincere voice
promise to heal and make sure you take
steal their heart then cast it away
keep her in her place


It was dark, it was always dark in his room. Even in the day time, his curtains were always drawn so he could pretend that everything was at a standstill, and life wasn’t moving on without him. It’s easier to kiss strangers in the dark, it’s easier to self destruct unnoticed.

Control, that was his drug. He liked to blame the alcohol and the little white pills, but she saw right through that. He didn’t love people the way he wanted to, the way he wished he could. But he loved control. Even those who were immune to his superficial charm couldn’t ignore him, and when all eyes were on him that was when he felt most at ease. He discovered from a young age that you can get away with almost anything if you do it with enough confidence, and he knew that when everyone was looking, no one was really seeing him for what he was. She saw him, but she had turned a blind eye to his invisible crimes, she had loved him with a criminal passion.

He had built a career out of lying and cheating beautiful women into loving him, and used it to reassure himself that he wasn’t lonely, he wasn’t broken, because the one who loves less controls the relationship. The one who loves less doesn’t get hurt. He was addicted to the power he had over those silly girls, but at the same time he despised them for making it so easy. He’d send them off early in the morning before he’d even made himself a coffee. He said they were bad company, but she knew he just didn’t want the shame. It’s harder to look at them when he’s sober. It’s harder to act oblivious to the damage.

She was supposed to be one of those stupid girls, someone who didn’t matter. But she showed up with all her jokes and optimism about changing his life and it knocked the wind right out of him. He kept trying to figure her out and she kept changing every time he thought he got close to the answer. When he told her he was the devil she smiled a wicked smile and insisted she was Satan’s mistress. When he tried to scare her off with his twisted plots she asked to be his accomplice. Even with his hands wrapped around her throat, she wondered if she could still save him from himself. Even as the bruises set in, she thought she could rescue him.

When he had her pinned against the wall with nothing but whiskey breath between their lips, she couldn’t figure out why the same man who made her laugh, who had a smile that made life look easy, could also be the source of most of her nightmares. There was no shocking finale, no tearful goodbyes, she left as suddenly and as she had appeared in his life. Now he looks for her in every girl he brings home, but every kiss tastes like her shadow, every kiss is her curse.


We lose ourselves in our desperation to be kept. We lie and beg, pretending we can get past our fundamental differences, but late at night we question why we never said ‘no, that’s not true, I know better’. She doesn’t have to leave to leave you, did you know that? You lost her the first time you raised a fist, and she stayed for the sweetest kiss, but you lost her all the same. Each bruise takes away a little more spark, and none of that ever gets replaced.

The first time you raised your voice, she burst into tears and you stormed out of the room, still livid, even though you’d forgotten what made you angry in the first place. Did you ever know the reason, and was she ever truly to blame, or was it easier to make her sad than to admit your own failures? The phone rang and she fought to keep her voice neutral. She was a brilliant actress, no one ever suspected anything. She never wanted to turn anyone against you, in case she had to defend herself against them too.

The first time your hand struck her face you both looked surprised. She stared at you in shock as your rage crumbled down and you begged her forgiveness, promising to change. The first time you left a bruise, you swore you’d meant to punch the wall, and you didn’t miss on purpose. She bit down on her bottom lip and drew blood rather than scream, because no one should have to know about this.

But bruises fade and she was never strong enough to say ‘enough’. Clever monsters never bare their claws in front of witnesses, and they know how to say ‘I love you’ in the most sincere voice. So she stayed, and stayed, and stayed.


There was enough hate in those eyes for him to drown and choke on the spite, so he looked away and pretended not to feel her anger. We learn to turn a blind eye because wilful ignorance is easier than bearing witness to invisible bruises and listening to sad tales that leave a bitter taste in your mouth. Being around her was like being around a jagged knife, he never knew when he might slip and feel the harsh ridges of dangerous living. Empathy is often undesirable when it’s needed the most.

The two of them sat in silence, she smoked away the daylight while he drank away his feelings. Every once in a while they’d look at each other and study past injuries, but never dared to touch the open wounds. He hated how she still remembers his name and spoke it with the gentleness of a wounded lover, and she hated how he could never let go of the girl who clearly loved him still, if only he weren’t such a coward. Two wretched souls bound together by the sums of their past and too terrified of love to reach out and grab it.

It didn’t matter whether he showed his strength with an open palm or a closed fist, the answer was always going to be the same. She was the incomplete novel that required editing, the book with pages torn out and twisted, sentences crossed out in red ink, the cover stomped on, the spine bent; he tried to read her out of pity but gave up in the end. But every time he left another mark she told herself that at least he was feeling better, and when he put out another cigarette on her skin she smiled and asked if he was quitting.

The lies we tell ourselves in times of desperation can outdo the speech of any politician.


It took time to learn that acceptance is not the same as accepting defeat, that losing you is the first step towards gaining everything. I had allowed myself to become addicted to the shallow satisfaction of turning heads when we walked into a room together, and for all our smugness I suppose we both deserved a rude awakening. But there was kindness and understanding caught between the madness and disappointments. I haven’t been able to forget how perfectly we fit into each others arms during those nights when we spent more time kissing than breathing. There are moments between falling in love and being in love when two people become more than just the sum of their parts, and when we were good to each other, you looked like the solution to every riddle that had plagued me in the last decade. 

I cannot bring myself to blame you for leaving, for craving distance and solitude. You were always too intelligent to be anything other than selfish, and if I had been more vigilant I might have seen the warning signs. If I had understood your nature sooner,  I would have forgiven you for wanting a peace that did not include the chatter of femininity. If I had not been blinded by the familiar portrait of who we pretended to be, I would have recognised the quiet anger that had been burning in your eyes, slowly engulfing what fed our co-dependency. The masochist in every woman does not crave pain, we crave for violence, for rebirth. The strength, the dominant, the masculine, all that we can never be, we look for in the arms of a dangerous man. We see red and we fan the flames, we love the way it burns. So I could not blame you because I was the key. I fell in love with a monster and helped bring out the worst you could be.


We played such a beautiful game and I lost so disastrously. Every trap, every bite, every time you dug your claws under my skin and drew blood with your malice, it will follow me till the day I die and leave you with a story you could never share. I hope you are proud of your legacy, and for your sake, I pray that victory tasted as sweet as you dreamt.

Some days I look at the happy strangers in our old photographs and wonder what happened to them. I wonder why I keep wanting to say I’m sorry when I’m still so angry about the past. It’s like learning how to hate something you love out of self preservation. I guess you’ve turned me into a coward too, so afraid of getting hurt that I insist on delivering the first strike, as if that will make a difference. I worry that karma will never leave us alone and we’ll be doomed to repeat this curse. I fear that you’ve dealt a blow so deadly I might spend the rest of my life regretting our last kiss.

Sometimes I feel sorry for you and all the others who will never experience the exquisite pain of loving someone who only dreams of leaving. I tell myself that I will survive this, and though a life tolerated is different to a life lived, the ending will always be the same.

But if I could kiss you again, the boy who set my world on fire and watched me burn into ashes; I’d be sure to soak my lips in poison, and promise that your final memory will be the sweetest.