Anonymous said: can you explain why Emily went back to Jim and didn't want anyone to get involved in Manifolds? I really don't get it... she was so scared and he was so horrible, yet she was so adamant about going back and didn't stay at Naomi's house
This is a really long discussion about abusive relationships actually.
I’ll try to be as concise as I can.
To understand Emily’s behaviour there you have to understand that she was infinitely different from the Canon Emily. This Emily for 1, never came out. In this story line, the only time she really connected with a woman (in this case Naomi/Julia) she was rejected badly. She was rejected and therefore never came to gain the confidence to face Katie and Katie’s original disapproval. She didn’t face her parents either. So when she got to University (where, if I remember correctly, she met Jim), she was already extremely different from the Canon Emily. She wasn’t comfortable in her skin and she was, I think, ashamed of herself in a way. Then came Jim. Jim who, in my head, was charming and handsome and funny and sweet. Jim who was interested in her and Jim who was the first in years to make her feel like she mattered.
It’s important in this case to realize that, usually, abusive partners aren’t complete assholes from the get go. Abusive partners actually tend to be very good talkers. That and they choose their partners well. Mousy/insecure Emily was always, in my humble opinion, a good target for abusive partners. Wasn’t Naomi a bit abusive in the beginning after all? And I love Naomi to bits and pieces, but she played a lot with Emily’s feelings and I think Naomi is only forgivable because she didn’t mean to hurt Emily even if she undeniably did. Still, the way I figured things in Manifolds was that it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to imagine an Emily who had never found the courage to be herself and had been pushed further into herself instead. She was pretty much a doormat when we met her, wasn’t she? Sure the Canon didn’t go that way, but I think Emily had the potential to.
So yeah, Jim came into her life and made her feel like she mattered. In my imagination, their relationship and marriage was based and worked on the fact that Jim was the ‘boss’. He was the provider and decision maker and, again in my own head, Emily didn’t really challenge that. She was already repressing herself completely by being with a man at all.
In my head, Jim was psychologically abusive and became progressively worse. Like it started with a jibe here and there and evolved into a bit more. But since he was never challenged he never got into the physical abuse.
And then came Naomi. Naomi who knew that Emily could be so much more than that. Naomi who pushed Emily to be more than that, to be herself. My idea was that Naomi would be the catalyst that Emily needed to “wake up in a way”. The one person who would make her feel so much that she couldn’t ignore it, couldn’t repress it. Because they are special.
But then, I imagined it so that Emily’s new found confidence would have repercussions at home. It was especially hard to put that point across since I was writing the story from Naomi’s pov solely, but in my imagination, as EMily gained confidence, she started to speak up more in her marriage. And upon losing control, Jim’s abuse increased.
Could Emily have left him? In my head no. As liberating as Naomi was, she was also brand new. And lets not forget the only thing Emily had ever known about women was reject. Jim, on the other hand, had been the one stable thing in her life. And sure Emily didn’t love him like that, but I always imagined that she did love him. He wasn’t a complete asshole, until he was.
In my head, it didn’t make sense for Emily to drop everything she’d ever known for a woman she barely knew. In my head, after years of psychological abuse, she didn’t have the strength to act. There’s a real story of desperation here and I always felt like having Emily- beautiful, brave Emily- be the source of so much despair was very poignant. But that’s the thing about abuse and especially psychological abuse. It fucking sneaks up on you. It drains your energy and your life force. It feeds on your own weaknesses and creates more. It honestly fucks you up in a way I hope you can’t even imagine, anon. But it does and you’re left with a shell of what you’re supposed to be. You’re left and you feel like you’re not even yourself anymore.
And as powerful and meaningful as Naomi was and as important as her love was, after years and years of holding on, I could only imagine Emily breaking. After being betrayed by the one person Emily had always trusted (as much as Jim turned out to be a prick, he was still her husband and I do think Emily trusted him), I think Emily just didn’t have any more strength.
And I mean, why didn’t Emily realize that she didn’t deserve the physical abuse? Well, sadly, most victims of abusive relationships are so destroyed by the time it gets there that they do come to believe it’s their own fault. Mix that with the fact that Emily knew that she was cheating…. I think she very much believed she deserved Jim’s wrath.
She deserved his punishments and she didn’t want to leave the only person she felt like she ever had and then he betrayed her. That was enough.
I hope that helps Anon! It’s not gospel, but that was my reasoning.