To the woman who is choosing to stay in a bad relationship, I have good news and I have bad news.
The good news is: you deserve better.
The bad news is: you don’t believe it.
You’re waiting for him to change when you’re the one who needs changing.
You need to become the kind of woman who knows what she wants and doesn’t settle for less, the kind of woman who’s discerning enough to recognize poop when she steps into it and smart enough to change course so she doesn’t do it again.
You’re afraid of being alone. Newsflash. If you can’t stand being with you, why would a good man want to?
You’re afraid there’s not going to be anyone better out there. There are many.
You’re afraid to rock the boat. “Maybe I’m too picky, you say. Maybe my standards are too high. I need to be realistic. Maybe that’s how all men behave. I just have to get used to it.”
Maybe…you’re WRONG! And I’m saying maybe only to be nice.
In ten stupid things women do to mess up their lives, Dr Laura Schlessinger writes that “all decisions should be made from the head not the heart”. Wish someone would have told me that when I was fifteen.
As a teenager, I went out with a boy who did not treat me right. I took tremendous emotional abuse during the year and half that we spent together. I left my parents’ home to be with him. I lived on the streets when the school dorms were closed. I cannot count how many times he dumped me. Sadly I was always there to make up and be dumped once more. I would wait and hope that he would change (He’s 42 and I heard through the grapevines that he has not). It took him beating me up one day for me to accept that he wasn’t the right person for me. When I graduated college, I moved and we (thankfully) lost touch.
Then I met a good man. Sweet, smart, sensitive. Handsome too. Tall, dark hair, light eyes and broad shoulders. Yet part of me hesitated. I was unsure of my feelings. It seemed almost too perfect to be true and to be completely honest I may have found the relationship a bit tame at times. But on paper, he was everything I had ever said I wanted in a man so I decided to trust the logical side of me and gave it a chance. I’ve never regretted that decision.
Eighteen years later, our love is stronger than ever and I am still very happy indeed. But this love is very different from what I had with my teenage boyfriend.
My husband and I rarely argue. We don’t fight and we certainly don’t break up and make up repeatedly.
My husband has never made me cry. He’s never been anything but gentle with me.
Still, in the first few years of our marriage, I struggled.
I struggled with thinking that we lacked passion.
I struggled believing that our relationship was boring.
I struggled wondering if I was even in love.
The experiences of my younger years had imprinted my brain with a twisted definition of love. My teenage self had learned that Love hurt, that passion involved drama, fights and tears. Even after I’d made the smart decision of marrying a good man, a gentle man, a man who treated me kindly, a man for whom my comfort was a priority, a man who had made my happiness his mission, it felt so unfamiliar I didn’t understand it and couldn’t appreciate it as I should have.
My heart took longer than my brain to change.
With my brain, I had set a higher standard for myself and allowed the right person to come into my life. With my brain, I had decided to marry that person.
With my brain, I then realized that I needed to heal and open up to the goodness that was now my reality.
With my brain, I finally understood that the way we loved each other was real love. I am so proud of myself for recognizing this, breaking the cycle and setting a new path for my life. If you’re in a bad relationship, it is my wish you will do the same.
Maybe your scenario doesn’t involve physical abuse and cheating. Maybe your guy is not all bad. Maybe it’s just that you don’t share the same values and goals. Whatever it is, he’s not the one for you. And you KNOW it. You don’t have to ask yet one more person about it. You don’t need to find one more way to rationalize it. You don’t need to explain it and you certainly shouldn’t excuse it.
If he’s bad for you, leave him.
It does not matter how much you (think) you love him. Leave him.
It does not matter what other (few) qualities he has. Leave him.
It does not matter what your (irrational) heart tells you. Leave him.
If you want a chance at a better future, it’s up to you. What is bad now is only likely to get worse.
Sure being married to a great guy doesn’t mean you won’t have your share of challenges. But with a great guy by your side, chances are you’ll overcome any obstacle you’ll face. But if, while you’re dating, you encounter red flag after red flag, you’re a fool for continuing that race. Crossing that finish line is no victory.
Do yourself a favor and listen to your brain! Use some sense, even the non-common type. You are choosing the father of your future children. Make a list of what you want in a man. Decide how you want to be treated. Do not settle for any less.
You worry that you aren’t smart enough, thin enough, pretty enough to find someone better.
But only if you believe it.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
1 Corinthians 13
Next week’s essay is titled “Beware of the Munchy Monster”. Subscribe using the widget below and it will be waiting in your inbox as soon as it’s published.