Closing the Door on Abusive Relationships

The door is closing – Image courtesy of Brad Mongomery at Flickr

“You show others how to treat you.” ~ Dr Phil

This week I have seen two of the people I love most in the world finally end abusive relationships.  One walked away from a long-term love relationship.  One walked away from their ‘dream job’.

The woman who closed the door on an abusive relationship had been in that space for decades.  For many of those years she was blinded to just how abusive the relationship was.  There was never any physical abuse – it was all the sort of emotional and verbal behaviour that isolates, dis-empowers, controls and terrorises, mixed in with a few dashes of charming, and a few sincere-sounding apologies and cries for help.

Finally, with some help from good professionals, and by listening to the strong and determined voice inside her that had been pushed down for so long, she bravely ended things.

‘Joan of Arc’ by Howard David Johnson

I hope that she doesn’t spend her time grieving over what could have been.  I hope that she now grabs life with both hands and honours the beauty and vibrancy within her that was stifled by that man. There is still time to be all that she might have been.  There is still time for love and laughter and soul freedom.

My other dear friend is a man, who has suffered seven years of physical, emotional and verbal abuse as a regular part of his work day.  He was employed in his dream job, as an advisor to a woman in a powerful position.  He’d believed in her and helped grow her career. She’s a woman who is adored by many. It was strictly a work relationship.  My friend has had a few romances during this time, but life on the road with his work has usually ended them prematurely.  He’s given everything to his job.

The woman he advises and assists has ‘issues’.  But most people don’t know that, and the entourage around her work tirelessly and often thanklessly to make sure that the world doesn’t see that side of her.  In that time my friend has known bruises, cuts, scratches and broken bones.  When finally ended it was a large crystal ashtray to the mouth, which knocked out four of his front teeth. It took a doctor in an overseas ER to make my friend see that this level of abuse was unacceptable. The doctor, also a man, arranged for a police escort to go back to the hotel where the group had been staying so my friend could collect his things.

Despite the woman’s emotional pleading, apologies and offers of more money, he packed up his things, restored his dignity and closed the door on her.

2012 is really shaking relationships of all kinds up right now.  So take a moment and check in.  At home, at work, in love and friendships:

  • are you valued?
  • are you respected?
  • is there part of you that worries, modifies your behaviour, or spends time avoiding potential triggers?
  • does the relationship help you feel good about yourself?
  • do you question your worth and who you are, because of this relationship?

Life is precious.  Life is short.  You cannot be happy in an unhappy relationship.  You cannot know love when your lover gives theirs conditionally, or perhaps doesn’t even know how to love at all.

Take a moment and check in on the relationships in your life.  If they’re not what you need them to be, take action.  Happiness might be just around the next corner.

You might also find these posts helpful:

Knowing When to Let Go

What to Do When You’re Forced to Let Go

Don’t Play the Rescue Game

Oh, and my friend with the minced-up mouth?  He was offered a terrific job two days later, by someone who had admired his work for years and always wondered how long it would take before my friend left the position he’d been in. As soon as he’s had a decent holiday, my friend is stepping up into a whole new life. And I just know it’s going to work out well…

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When is it okay to break a promise?

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I take giving my word very seriously. Promises made are never made lightly, and since childhood I have rarely needed to break one.

But I’m going to break one now. This isn’t information I’d normally share, but I have given so much thought to this that I felt my musings might be helpful to someone else in a similar situation…

A while ago I blogged about knowing when to let go.  Today I realise that for me, with one relationship, it’s time. Why now?  Because where I find myself is not what I signed up for.  Let me explain why I’m walking away.

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When I came to your aid you were drowning. Drowning and calling my name. I jumped into that seething river, (as any reasonable person who could swim might), held up your head, and with all my might I edged us back towards the shore.  As you stopped panicking, as we moved to shallower water and your feet touched bottom, you quit struggling and began to help yourself.  Finally we got to shore. You thought that was the end.  I knew it was only the beginning, and I pledged to stay.

We moved further up the bank, away from the danger. Others came to help.  You were safe. And after a while I quit holding my breath and trusted you.

But you keep throwing yourself back in that damned river.

And you expect that I will keep jumping in after you.

So far I have.  Every single time. And each time you’re sorry.

And then you do it again…

It has worn me out. I can’t keep doing this. I can’t uphold a promise when you won’t value it yourself.

To keep jumping in after you puts ME in danger. As much as I have a responsibility to you, I also have one to myself.

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So I will stay here on the bank. You know where to find me.  I can help you from here. And we’ve been in that river enough times now that YOU know how to navigate the hazards and get back to shore.

I’m not giving up on you. I’m still loving you.  But it’s time to love yourself.  That’s one thing I can’t do with you, and I sure can’t do for you.

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If you give up on yourself I’ll feel so sad for you. But it won’t make me save you at my own expense. I’ve learned to love myself more than that. I pray one day you learn that too. ♥

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