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.
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.