Congratulations! You have been selected to be a service animal. You’ve been trained to behave, to react and to de-escalate any situation. You are prepared for any situation that may arise. As a service animal you are to assist your master to ensure that they can go on with their routines and activities without any incidents or problems. Above all, you must ensure their owner’s safety and health as it can become a life or death situation….for you.
Your master needs someone who will look after them. Because of their inability to take personal responsibility for themselves they will use you to as an outlet for all their life woes. You must be prepared to accept all blame in quietness and submission with a cheerful countenance.
Do you remember when he came looking for a likely candidate to fill this very important role in his life? First, the animal must be moldable. That means trainable. You must be lovely to look at, because his pride will not live with someone ugly. You must be smart, because he doesn’t date stupid people and being smart gives him more satisfaction when he gets you trained. You must be loving, because he needs you to love him unconditionally. You must be kind, caring and considerate, because he needs you to lavish him with all the kindness. You must be innocent and naïve, because he couldn’t hoodwink you easily if you weren’t. He starts looking, testing the waters and finally finds you and you fit the bill!
Once he’s targeted you, he sets about creating the perfect fantasy life to lure you in. He is charming. He is kind. He listens well. He loves the same things you love. He is respectable. He loves you, wants you, can’t live without you! Soon, you are completely in love. You’ll do anything for him and you are ready to make your life together as happy as you can. You ignore any red flags that might show up and you fall for him.
He marries you or moves in with you and you begin your life together. You expect happiness. You expect joy. You have dreams and hopes. You expect to work together, to grow together, to love together. You begin your training protocol and are so happy to do all you can to ensure a happy life together!
He begins the process of training you. Training you to look after him. Training you to anticipate his needs. Training you to take the blame. Training you to try harder. Training you to work harder to fix his issues. Training you to look at yourself instead of at him as the problem. Training you to overlook little things. To excuse slight abuses. To stay silent about large abuses.
You become his service animal. You are fully trained to respond to his needs at any moment. You can, in fact, anticipate much of what he will want and what you cannot anticipate, you dance around in an attempt to figure it out before he has to tell you. In his mind, he owns you. You are his supply, his property who he uses to keep him happy, content and in control.
You are so wrapped up in his life, that you hardly have one of your own. This is appropriate though, as you are his service animal. You work really hard at meeting his every need. Its hard though because he seems to change his mind a lot. You try to always be there for him but sometimes he gets mad if you do or say the wrong thing. You are really careful not to break any of his many rules. You are becoming exhausted and confused as you try to figure out how he works. Its chaotic because you seem to keep messing up! You’ll figure him out though, you love him!
Your primary concern is for his safety, and for his fragile feelings. He’s been through so much in his life. There are so many people who’ve been mean to him. His own family was horrible, you can’t imagine growing up like he did. You begin to stay away from your own family. You have to focus 100% on him and how can you do that when they keep interfering? You are fully aware of how many people let him down and hurt him in his past. You don’t want to be one of those people. You are even more determined to help him feel loved. You will be the one who comes through for him.
You are caretaking him. That’s your job, right? If you fail, then who knows what will happen! You have a sense of urgency about the whole situation. It isn’t going well. He gets mad a lot. He has quite a few expectations and rules for you to learn. If you fail, then you hurt him and he yells at you. You deserve that though, he did warn you. He has done his best to teach you but you just can’t seem to get it right. He has to fix you so often. Its sad that you are so stupid. Why can’t you get it? What is wrong with you?
You keep working at making him happy. You know he loves you. You know he needs you. You need him too. How would you take care of yourself without him? Your only job is him. Your only income is his. Your only source of just about anything comes from him. He’s so generous to share with you. You’d be a horrible person to not be thankful for his help. He only corrects you because you need it. He’s helping you become better. You need his help and instruction so you can function. If only you would learn…
You ask yourself “If I don’t look after him who will?”
If you stop playing your part then what will happen to your hopes and dreams? Maybe he’ll change? You aren’t really happy though. You feel sad a lot of the time. Confusion and depression are also common feelings. Things aren’t going well and you wonder what is wrong with you. You turn to your church for answers. Your church and pastor says that sacrificing yourself for your husband is the godly thing to do. They tell you to submit more, pray more, be a better wife. They ask you what you do that makes him so mad and then instruct you to stop doing those things. They tell you that your concerns are pretty petty, that you are nitpicking and nagging. You should be silent, joyful and a keeper of your home. So, you start to read books to teach yourself how to be a better wife, how to save your relationship. You become more compliant, more silent. You work harder at loving him unconditionally. You study the Proverbs 31 wife and become even more discouraged.
You feel confused! Didn’t he promise to take care of you too? Didn’t he share your dreams and hopes? Wasn’t it him who made promises about your happiness together?How can someone who says they love you treat you this way? How can he be so calloused? His actions don’t match his words and you are starting to think it might not be all your fault.
One day, you have the Ah-ha moment. You realize, clearly, for the first time that this is not what you want and it isn’t your fault. Maybe someone said something or asked you a pointed question. Maybe you saw something on TV or heard about it on the radio. You wake up to the fact that he uses you, daily. That this is not the role you want to fill. You realize that he isn’t just using you to help him but that he is hurting you with his demands and control.
The more you discover what kind of control and power he uses to keep you looking after him, the more you begin to resist the role of being his service animal. The more you resist, the worse his behavior becomes as he tries to re-train you and force you back into service for him. At some point, as you learn more and more about his tactics and techniques of training you, you really start to unravel the mystery of your relationship. His tactics stop working. You start to untie your heart strings from his. You begin to create emotional distance from him to protect yourself. You realize that living as his service animal doesn’t make you happy. Living as his service animal is destroying you!
He tries all the normal tactics to get you back. He love bombs you. He honeymoons you. He becomes kind and generous and charming. When that doesn’t work, he gets mean. He may not have been physically hurtful before but now he is. He throws something at you. He pushes you. He blocks you in a room or body slams you out of the way. His verbal and emotional abuse escalates too. His words are harsher. His attitudes are more damning. You sense that things are getting worse. You have a choice, go back to being his service animal or take steps to get out and get safe….what will you do?