Leaving a bad relationship

photo of Gwen Randall-Young

by Gwen Randall-Young

What makes them stay in a bad relationship? Often, they may not have felt loved and secure in childhood and are not used to being valued.

by Gwen Randall-Young

Sometimes, it’s better to end something and try to start something new than imprison yourself in hoping for the impossible. – Karen Salmansohn

Over the years, I have worked with many women in bad relationships. Often, the previous relationship was bad too and it took her a long time to leave. I am not talking about relationships that have their struggles but are still okay; I am referring to ones in which the woman is disrespected and emotionally or physically abused. It seems women can more easily leave a physically abusive relationship. What makes them stay? Often, they may not have felt loved and secure in childhood and are not used to being valued. They may have low self-esteem and when criticized or put down, they second-guess themselves into thinking maybe he’s right. They may not truly love themselves and only feel valued when someone likes or loves them.

This can lay the groundwork for a Cinderella story. She meets someone and falls in love. The feeling of being in love is so powerful it blinds her to any character flaws. He is in love with her too, so wants to impress her. He wants to show he is way better than her last partner. Both put their best foot forward. It is perfect or almost perfect.

He feels like her prince and she his princess. They share visions of living happily ever after. This feeling is intoxicating, an emotional high.

Over time, they both begin to fall off of their pedestals. They start seeing things they do not like. When they try to talk about it, they fight. The coach is slowly transforming into a pumpkin.

They are now coming down from the high they shared in the beginning. They see that the other is not all he/she seemed in the beginning. They trigger more negative behaviours in each other and they both feel they were duped. They are angry that the wonderful loving feeling they had before is now elusive. They take out their anger and disappointment on each other.

Their behaviour continues to deteriorate and now the relationship is more about struggle than about joy. A guy may simply walk away or he may begin to attack and denigrate her. A strong woman will take herself out of the situation once the behaviour becomes abusive.

A less confident woman, or one who needs to feel loved to be whole, will try to “fix” the relationship even though the partner continues to berate her and blame her for everything. She will try to reason with him, defend herself or just keep quiet so as not to anger him. Slowly, she loses herself, often becoming very depressed.

Even if they break up or she knows she should leave, she continues holding on, looking for that little sign of the love she once thought was there. She does not want to let go just in case ­the pumpkin turns back into a coach.

It never was a coach. It was a pumpkin all along. Sure, in all relationships, the romance can become less intense, but in good ones, even when the flames turn into embers, they still provide light, warmth and comfort.

Women must learn to love and honour themselves – to neither be abusive nor allow themselves to be abused. We tell children to stay away from bullies. As adults, we must have the strength and courage to do that too.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For articles and information about her books, “Deep Powerful Change” hypnosis CDs and “Creating Effective Relationships” series, visit www.gwen.ca and also Like Gwen on Facebook.

Be someone’s valentine all year


by Larry James


To be a special Valentine to your partner takes lots of energy, time, attention and love. Let’s all give some thought about who we are being in our relationship, what we can do to make them better and who we will have to become to have them be healthy and successful. Let’s make every day Valentine’s Day for our partner.

V for Validate: Your relationship with your partner must be an equal partnership, one that mutually supports each other in their dreams and visions of what is best for one another. Make it a point to let your partner know that you value their opinions, ideas and especially their feelings.

A for Attention: Paying attention to the little things is not always easy. It takes practice and is one of the most important aspects of a successful and healthy love relationship. It is the little things that count. If left to simmer without attention, eventually they may erupt into major conflict.

L for Love: Be consistent in expressing your love for your partner in “words” and deeds. While the gift of a rose, a box of chocolates or a special greeting card is an expression of love, it is important for your love partner to hear the words, “I love you” at least once each day.

E for Enjoy: Make the best of being together. Be present when in the presence of your partner. Enjoy each precious moment. Couples who enjoy each other’s company are happier and more satisfied with their relationship. Do fun things. Go fun places. Place a high priority on enjoying life together.

N for Nurture: To nurture is to nourish. Nourish one another with love. Encourage each other to openly communicate your needs. Accept your partner for who they are and support them in their individual needs and endeavours. Offer understanding by being an attentive listener. Acknowledge your partner’s goodness!

T for Time: Spend “quality” time together. Make a promise to have a date with your mate no less than once each week. No excuses, please! Pretend you are on your very first date. Reminisce. Hold hands. Make eye contact. Talk. Really listen. Focus on your partner. Make each moment you are together count.

I for Intention: We usually get what we place our intention upon. Synergize your intentions on what you want, never on what you do not want. The combined effect of two partners working together on similar things is much greater than the sum of individual effects. Highlight your intentions to one another and concentrate on the specifics of those intentions.

N for Needs: We all have individual needs: to be loved, accepted, understood, trusted, respected, appreciated, encouraged and the list goes on. Acknowledging our needs and the needs of our love partner gives purpose to the relationship. Learn to express your needs in ways your partner can listen to and understand. Erich Fromm once said, “Immature love says, ‘I love you because I need you.’ Mature love says, ‘I need you because I love you.’”

E for Energize: Breathe new life into your relationship each day by consistently focusing on new ideas that keeps the fire of love burning. Partners feel energized when both are dancing to the same tune.

To describe love is very difficult, for the same reason that words cannot fully describe the flavour of an orange. You have to taste the fruit to know its flavour. So with love. –Paramahansa Yogananada

Copyright © 2011 Larry James. Reprinted with permission. Adapted from Larry’s books, How to Really Love the One You’re With, LoveNotes for Loversand Red Hot LoveNotes for Lovers. Author Larry James presents seminars nationally for singles and couples. Subscribe to Larry’s free monthly LoveNotes for Lovers eZINE. Contact: CelebrateLove.com, P.O. Box 12695, Scottsdale, AZ 85267-2695. Email Larry James via www.CelebrateLove.com

The perfect relationship

by Devrah Lavall

A very wise meditation master once said, “The greatest suffering in the human form is that we are not seen as already perfect and divine.”

I’ve recently spoken with many people, all from very different cultures, who feel that they can no longer bear the conflict and pressure in their relationships. Such complaints are reflected in our divorce rates, which are unprecedented, and they beg the question “What is the real purpose of relationships?” Many people are coming to recognize that relationships based on externals such as sex or power or just not wanting to be alone, are like houses built on shifting sand. They won’t hold up when the waves and the storms come. The delirium of romance can be intoxicating, but once the honeymoon stage has passed, unless we deepen our connection to the real essence of Union, we will only flit to other partners, never experiencing the deep rewards arising from relationships based on true love.

The turmoil of personal relationships is exacerbated by stress arising from the acceleration of time and the proliferation of technology and is reflected in the violence and wars in the world, and in the destruction of our planet. The Hindu scriptures speak about this age as Kali Yuga – the dark age of man or the age of quarrel and confusion. At such a time, all of our ego tendencies are amplified, which is problematic on one hand, but also poses a unique opportunity for our souls to evolve more rapidly than they would otherwise. Just as coal, when subjected to intense heat and pressure, can become a diamond, the human being, subjected to the intensity of Kali Yuga, can become one with the God Self, which is the true source of relationships.

Our soul work starts with the ones we love, the ones who know our deepest secrets and our worst fears. These close relationships are the primary stepping stones to learning how to love unconditionally. But bringing love and compassion to one another in these dark times is more easily said than done. Our insecurities, disappointments or expectations that the other person is responsible for our happiness can get in the way. No wonder we want to run from or push away the relationships that most strongly reflect our darkness.

Just as Kali Yuga is an opportunity for the individual soul to evolve, it is also an opportunity for our relationships to evolve as we learn to embrace one another and to have compassion for the human foibles we all share. Those who have been in long-term relationships know the rage, hatred and disconnection that can arise as we mirror each other’s deepest pain. How can we bridge such separation? How can we become one with those we love? How can we transcend the endless conflicts about finances, domestic routines and intimacy issues, never mind the cultural, religious and political disagreements that create even more reasons for us to push one another out of our hearts? Communicating our feelings about these things may not necessarily help if they are not shared in an openhearted way, or if the other is not ready to hear what we have to say.

Perhaps we can take our cue from the 13th century mystical poet, Jalaluddin Rumi, who said, “Wherever you stand, be the soul of that place.” This applies to our hearts as well as our physical surroundings. It expresses the “perfect” relationship to others and to life itself. When we can be the soul of the relationship we are in, when we can remember that this person whom we might be upset with just wants to be seen through the eyes of love, we can change the lens through which we are looking. Instead of seeing only the problems and accompanying flaws in the other, we can see their inherent innocence and divinity.

We can often shift out of our dissatisfactions in relationships when we focus on what we are grateful for rather than on what is lacking. When we focus on our complaints, we will reinforce others’ shortcomings, but when we focus on love, gratitude and forgiveness, we empower the other. This applies not only to our personal relationships but to our world as well.

Another practice that helps transcend blame and hatred in relationships is to ask ourselves this question: “What part of me is he or she expressing right now?” This is an effective way to own the deficiencies we so often project onto others. None of us is free from darkness. This contemplation can help us develop compassion and love for the other because it reminds us of our own foibles.

Where there is love there is no ego. When we make our love stronger than our greed, we will be able to protect each other as well as our Earth. When we make our love stronger than our judgements, we will listen to and understand the unique beauty and intelligence in others. When we make our love stronger than our pride, we will see God in everyone, even our enemies. When we make our love stronger than our criticism, we won’t sweat the small stuff. When we make our love stronger than our doubt, we will never feel alone. We will have a constant relationship with the Perfect One, who knows our every thought, word and deed and is closer than our own breath. Every day, we will see the whole world and each person in it as a part of us and we will experience the sheer joy of being in the most perfect relationship of all.

Devrah Laval is author of The Magic Doorway Into the Divine. She is a spiritual counsellor and has facilitated groups and workshops for over 25 years. www.themagicdoorway.com

Growing a relationship

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

The greatest degree of inner tranquillity comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. 

– Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

If we look back over past generations, we see many areas where progress has been made. Whether we think in terms of technological change, advances in medicine, environmental awareness or human rights, we can see how things are much better than they once were. We are infinitely better off than our grandparents and great grandparents.

Ironically and surprisingly, there is one area in which little seems to have changed. That is the area of intimate relationships. Certainly, there is more equality; women work outside the home and men change diapers, but I am not talking about these things. I am referring to the patterns that occur between couples.

Communication is still often an area of difficulty. Couples still get into cycles of conflict, anger and withdrawal and still have great difficulty understanding the other’s point of view. Often, they are not even interested in how the other sees things, so determined are they that their view is the correct one. They get stuck in adversarial positions and are unable to move past them.

Most marriage vows include something about loving, honouring and caring for the other. When a relationship is new, the individuals are excited to have this person in their life and tend to treat them well. Over time, when the newness is gone, sometimes things shift so the relationship becomes more of a competition or a contest and less of a cooperative venture.

So what happens to move things from wedded bliss to the divorce courts or to lives of quiet (or not so quiet) desperation? Ego happens.

True love is unconditional. Think of the love we have for a baby or a favourite pet. They may inconvenience us at times or make messes for us to clean up, but we take all of that in stride because we accept it will not always be perfect. We forget those things quickly and easily return to a place where we can give love freely.

Although we may start out that way in relationships, ego takes us off course. We may have baggage in the form of old hurts or defensiveness that we bring to a relationship. Ego may have ideas about what it should receive and how it should be treated, without too much thought about what it should give to the other and how the other should be treated. Ego has tunnel vision that way.

When we are in conflict, ego has taken over. Even if things happen in the relationship that cause distress for one or the other, in an evolved relationship the sense of love and caring for the other allows for real listening and working it out.

Conflict tends to come when the other is not taken into consideration and is neither heard nor valued. When ego is busy defending itself or going on the attack, it is completely unavailable to the other. Often the one in distress ends up feeling even worse after bringing up the issue for there is an added sense of rejection and abandonment in the face of an unsympathetic, uncompassionate ego.

It is not surprising that this same pattern has existed for generations. Effective communication and relationship building seem to be a blind spot in our culture.

In school, children learn to write essays and solve math problems, but not how to solve interpersonal problems and verbally communicate in a productive way when there are differences.

At home, if parents are still reliving the old patterns of their parents, the children will not learn new ways there either.

We have a long way to go. If we could simply grasp that we do not kick the dog or hit the baby and similarly we should not be harsh with loved ones, it might be a start. We must value the happiness of others as much as our own and sometimes even put their happiness first. And not simply to please them, but rather to show genuine compassion.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For articles, and information about her books, CDs and new “Creating Healthy Relationships” series, visit www.gwen.ca. See display ad this issue.