Do you recognize that your guy is not being good to you, but you just don’t feel you can leave? Many women feel this way. They feel trapped between two bad options, 1)leave him and possibly make things worse, or 2) Stay and live in misery. Is this you? Maybe you’ve tried marriage counseling and waited patiently for things to change. Maybe you recognized that you were part of the problem (which is always the case) so you worked on breaking your own co-dependent patterns, but you don’t see him working on his stuff. Maybe he’s made promises he isn’t keeping, or the same old abusive or addictive behavior keeps coming back.
But you decide to stay anyway.
What your friends and family say…
Your friends ask you, Why are you still with him? You don’t deserve the way he treats you!
And you nod and say things like, “I know, I know, but…”
Your mom shakes her head and says, “Sweetie, you shouldn’t put up with this.”
And you nod and say, “I know, I know, but…”
You DO know that he should treat you better, but you DON’T know if you deserve better. Your self esteem has taken a hit over all these years.
So you stay. And stay and stay.
For all the women who are staying, I hear you. Once you get home from coffee with your friend, and hang up the phone with your mom, you start silently answering her questions. They probably go something like this:
Why You Stay
- The kids. You tell yourself that you can put up with anything to keep an “intact home.” You don’t want your kids to go through a divorce. You know that his punishing silence, his verbal abuse, and his coldness will have a negative affect on them, but you just can’t see how divorce would be any better.
- I’m not ready. Oh My Laundry, if I knew the secret to readiness, I would sell it on e-Bay. But I don’t’. Every woman must decide when she is ready for something different, something better, something true and pure and holy and good. I know that I have repeated the same old broken cycle over and over again in my own life. All people do this. I will keep on doing this until one day I say to myself, “I’ve had enough. No matter what it costs me, I’m not repeating this again.” Like the prodigal son having a come-to-Jesus-moment, the switch is flipped and I’m ready for change. I’m not sure how many cycles you will have to repeat before your come-to-Jesus-moment, but I know for certain, when you are ready, it will happen.
- Things will get worse. You say to yourself, “If I start saying no, enough is enough, and stop- he’ll make things worse for me.” You’ve always known this. That’s why you quieted your voice and needs long ago. Intuitively, you have known that if you started speaking up for yourself, following through on your boundaries, and acting as if you really mattered, he was going to pull an even bigger stunt that would trump your boundaries and fulfill your greatest fear of abandonment.
- I can’t make it on my own. You say to yourself that you’ve become so dependent on him financially and emotionally, that you just can’t see how you could make it on your own. You think to yourself that independence would be impossible to sustain.
- I Still See Hope: There are times that the dream of him changing blinds reality. Even though evidence shows otherwise, you want to believe that there is still hope that he will change. That he will really love you the way you need.
I am not writing this to talk you out of staying in a destructive relationship. Those kind of lectures just make a person feel guilty and week. GUILTY and WEAK, you are not! Through my work with women in destructive relationships, they must go through many cycles of deciding to stay-leave-stay-try-stay-pray- before they feel spiritually and physically released from their destructive relationship. I’m writing this to give you some coping strategies while you stay.
- Pray. Everyday. No, don’t pray for your marriage. You’ve done that already. That’s a tired old record with a scratch. Pray everyday to have the mind of Christ. To be aligned with God’s word. To see God’s path and make bold steps to follow it. To be strengthened in hope, in faith, in love. Pray to cast out the worry, fear, self doubt and depression. Pray for spiritual and psychological protection. You ain’t got time for depression and abuse anymore.
- Get Active. Feeling physically strong goes a long way to help feel emotionally strong too. Any act of kindness or effort toward yourself makes a difference, no matter how big or small. Walk, bike, swim, lift weights, join a class.
- Read books on Co-dependency, Love addiction, and destructive marriages. Recognizing some of your own patterns and reactivity will help you make better choices in the heat of the moment. You know you can’t change him, but you can become the smartest, strongest, and best version of yourself possible.
- Pray. Oh yeah, did I mention that already? Well, this time, ask your friends to pray for you too. There are spiritual things, behind the curtain of this material world that will not change unless your peeps pray for you. Call your praying friends to start praying specifically for the things you need. Asking friends for support is essential.
- Invest in Your Own Thing. While you stay, make sure you are giving priority to your life, career, kids, and/or future. Get that extra education you need, go for that promotion, retrain and retool. Do something that broadens your world and your impact in it. Investing in yourself and your future gives you necessary power to re-infuse that syphoned-off self esteem.
Many women who decide to stay in destructive relationships feel impossibly trapped- like no decision they make is the right one. Well, I want to encourage you, that if you’ve decided to stay, for now, that there are still things you can do to help yourself. Any effort you put into helping yourself, even if it feels small, will go a long way.
Abusive, narcissistic, destructive relationships are terribly difficult to survive, and impossible to sustain while maintaining your own mental health. However, until you decide enough is enough, use these tips to help yourself day to day.