Get out of abusive relationships
I’ve been in several long-term relationships in my late 40s, and it was always me who made the decision to leave. It wasn’t always the abuse that made me leave, but it usually had to do with my question, “Why am I here?”
Relationships, to me, should be something that enhances our lives and adds to them, like frosting is added to a cake. We shouldn’t expect a relationship to be the whole pie and meet all of our needs, but there are some needs that we naturally look for a relationship to meet; a need for intimacy, sexual expression, nurturing, nurturing, and companionship.
I learned a long time ago that it’s not healthy to be overly dependent on one person, but in an interdependent relationship we develop a healthy dependency on each other.
When I asked myself the question “Why am I here?” I usually concluded that I was in that relationship more out of a sense of duty or obligation than choice.
Tina Turner has a song called “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” We may think that we stay in a relationship out of love, but love often has very little to do with why we stay. In fact, sometimes we show the greatest love, for ourselves and others, by making the decision to leave a relationship that is no longer working.
We are well into the new millennium where our society supports divorce and short-term relationships, so we don’t need to stay in a bad marriage because we took an oath “till death do you part.” I have come to understand this vow to mean “until the death of the union rather than the death of one of the parties.” What would be the benefit of waiting for someone to die, especially if the syndicate is already dead? If the positive qualities that brought us together are no longer present, it would seem that both parties are committed to changing things up or dissolving the relationship.
My answer to the question “why am I here?” usually it was because he was a coward and afraid to leave. There were economic reasons, a child, obligation or the most important “fear of flying alone”. The reasons really had nothing to do with that relationship contributing to my life in a positive way. On the contrary, at that point I was usually draining my life from the sheer expenditure of energy it took to stay in the illusion of a relationship.
In my relationships with narcissistic partners, I have considered leaving many times before doing so. There were times when I was separated for a short time and found myself sucked back into the relationship by some unseen force. There was always a bond that I interpreted as love that seemed to stick like glue to the relationship on some deep soul level. Leaving was not an option because it would have required a crowbar to lose the bond. It felt like we were conjoined twins not knowing which part belonged to me and which part belonged to him.
Since narcissistic lovers have no real boundaries, our relationship with these charismatic charmers is more like a complete soul fusion. When he wasn’t in my life, I felt like a piece of my soul was missing, so leaving him was like leaving a piece of my soul behind. My tendency was to romanticize this all-powerful bond and develop a belief that we somehow belonged to each other. However, intuitively I always knew that I was better off without him. He never took any of the emotional responsibilities in the relationship. He was always right and I was always to blame for everything. I served an important purpose in his life because without me, who would he project all of his deep-seated shortcomings onto? It only made sense that my feelings of inadequacy would only deepen in the relationship. The image I had of myself as a strong, capable, loving and caring woman slowly eroded to where it was now just a shadow of my former self. Meanwhile, his confidence seemed to be increasing. His life was getting better! He was fulfilling his dreams while mine were falling apart. What was wrong with this image? Was it really that flawed?
The bottom line was that there was a serious lack of balance in this union and it was affecting me negatively. It was usually too confusing to figure everything out within the relationship, so the only option was to leave. In both of my narcissistic relationships I told myself that if love was real, it would last, even through a breakup. After all, true love prevails, right?
However, both times I left the relationship, the truth I had been hiding rose to the surface of my awareness like a tsunami. While I towed the line in the relationship and was a good, nice, likable girl, it was all relatively quiet. But when I dared to question the integrity of the relationship and take back my power, all hell broke loose. How dare I! How dare I be strong and capable and take back my power! I was driving with my power! The part he was giving her! He felt almighty and I felt powerless! So taking back my power would mean upsetting their fragile balance. He would have to punish me by showing me how expendable he was; how unnecessary it was and how downright useless it was.
The shock for me came from realizing how little love there really was. If this man ever really loved me, why would he treat me like this? Why would he go out of his way to show me how little he cared? Why would he wait until this moment, the moment he decides to retire me, to show me how he really feels about me? And the big question is “Why did I doubt myself all those years, somehow believing that he really cared?” How many years have I lost? What if he had just left me, long ago when I started getting those intuitive clues?
Now I work with so many women who tell me “but I love him! We have such a powerful bond. I can’t leave! I can’t get away! I can’t stop thinking about him!” I remember those feelings very well! What is it about this man that makes me want to stay, even knowing that he is killing me at the deepest levels?
It’s like a death to go! And it is also a rebirth! I feel like in these kinds of situations we merge so unconsciously with this narcissistic being that we get lost in the union that was created. We forget ourselves in it! We give ourselves completely to this entity, and yet there is a little voice within us that tells us that if we don’t get out, we will die here. And this is the truth. We die there! It may not be a physical death, at least not immediately, but it is a slow, cancerous erosion of ourselves that results in the complete loss of who we once were. Little by little, we sacrifice ourselves for this man who feeds on our energy, who stumbles upon his superiority and reminds us of our inferiority, albeit subtly. We give our power to keep the peace and above all to maintain the illusion that we are in a loving relationship.
When we’re just a fragile little shell, how much power can we muster to start our lives without it? We have built our life and our dreams around him. He had become our reason for living. We would have died for him! Oh… we’re dying for him.
Do you have us right where you want us? Powerless! Insecure! Fragile! Scared! Financially dependent! Oh yeah!
When we are without our power, he has control, which equals security in his life. When we leave, he goes through an initial period of hostility or rejection towards us, and maybe one or two attempts to recapture us and put us back where we belong. But once we leave it is very difficult to return to that place. We’ve tasted freedom and it’s bittersweet. We long for what we have always longed for; the love of him and his positive affirmation of us. But we know we can never get it! Not precisely! He can temporarily anchor us back to our place, but that’s all. Or he may not want to waste any more energy on us and just find a suitable or “better” replacement. We see him flash his beautiful new love before us, reminding us how little we matter to him and how easily we can be replaced and feel our own uselessness.
Oh, to be her, the new woman. We are reminded of what she was like in the beginning when we could do no wrong. We remember how she rushed into our lives and she fulfilled all our dreams by restoring our faith in love. Before the fall! And this is what we see when we look at it. She is us, before the fall! She is still in the glory days and we are in the dark night of the soul. It doesn’t seem fair.
No matter how hard we try, we can never get back those moments when love was fresh and new. It’s been too long! Trust is gone! We’re gone and we have to face the truth that it was never real! It was a false love built on an illusion. Surely he may have believed in the illusion at first too. He may not have been faking it. He might have seemed real to her a long time ago. But when the illusion cracks, it exposes the truth, and those who don’t want to face the truth run.
In any healthy relationship, there comes a time when the initial romance of a new love gives way to true love, which is based on honest, open communication and caring. It is based on the honor and respect of the other and the commitment to work on oneself and on the relationship. Those who believe that a relationship is going to come riding into their lives like a knight on a white horse and sweep them away are in for a downfall. True love is not something we fall for. It is something that grows with mutual trust and commitment. If we are with immature partners, there is no hope for true love unless they have a personal commitment to grow.
The problem with narcissistic individuals is that they simply don’t see themselves as they really are. They don’t think they need to grow up. They think you’re the immature one and you’re the one with the problems. So there really is no hope of change. Our departure doesn’t send the message that maybe they should do some self-reflection. Otherwise! Our departure only confirms that we have a problem and that they need to find someone better so they don’t have to continue being abused.
I believe the key to leaving an abusive relationship is simply making up your mind to leave and giving the details to God. Every time I decided to leave, things just happened to get me out of there. It wasn’t pretty or easy, but it got the job done. So if you are waiting for an easy way, you may be waiting a long time. Breaking these seductive negative emotional leaps is often the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but it’s the most important thing you can do for yourself.
So I tell my clients to gather all your strength from the four corners of the earth, make up your mind to go and do it! Do it! Get out of there. If you doubt yourself, then tell yourself the same thing I did. If love is true, it will endure this separation. It usually ends up being a lie we tell ourselves, but whatever works.
Surround yourself with friends and support groups that will help you make this transition. You don’t have to do it alone. There are a lot of people out there going through the same thing.