Leaving a Toxic Relationship
Greg talks to a woman who thinks she can't leave a toxic relationship because she is afraid she hasn't done enough to help her partner or make it work. This “Nugget” is a short segment from Video Chat 269.
Living with a Toxic Partner
I know a woman who's in a relationship with a huge victim. The man just bleeds victim. I've tried to reach him myself. Nothing. Impossible. He blames her and the world and his job and the weather and politics and me and whoever else is on the horizon for everything in his life.
Well, she lives with him, she's his partner. So she's racked with just pain and fear because he just goes at her all day long. Everything's her fault. He requires that she plan the day and then if she makes a mistake in the planning if anything goes wrong it's her fault. If she says well why don't you plan the day then? Well, then that's her fault because she is refusing to participate in the relationship. In other words, she can't win no matter what she does.
Why A Woman Chooses to Stay in a Toxic Relationship
So I said, “This is the real question. Why do you stay in a relationship that's this terrible?” She's not married to him, she's just been with him for a while and she said, it took her longer than this, I'm kind of distilling what she said. She said, “Well I'm afraid that I haven't done enough and that if I leave I'll look back and go wow if only I had done more then the relationship would have worked.” She was afraid that if she left, then he would have nothing because he was miserable and alone before she came along. She's afraid that if she leaves, that he'll go right back to sitting on the couch and doing nothing and drinking and being miserable. She's afraid that he might actually be learning Real Love but that maybe she's missing it.
Stop. What would possibly lead you to conclude that he's getting it? She said, “well the last couple of days he's been nice to me.” Yeah, that's called the wife-beater syndrome. Um, man beats his wife. He's been doing it for years and she finally packs up her clothes to leave and he gets roses and he kisses her and he says, “Oh, I'm just so sorry, I'll never do this again.” So all it is is he's sensing that you're getting ready to bolt.
And so he's been nice for the last couple of days and as soon as you say, “Oh, I'm so sorry, I would never leave you.” Then he'll go right back to what he was doing before. In fact, I can predict that at 100%. That sounds arrogantly certain. But see, he hasn't learned any principles that would actually change the way he behaves or the way he feels. So once he has you back to the fold, so to speak, he'll go right back to beating you up. But in this case emotionally. So he'll always be just sorry enough to keep you there.
The Fears that Keep Her in a Toxic Relationship
I would suggest another fear that she didn't describe. I told her, I said, "You'll be afraid that you will be seen as the one who abandoned him while he was really trying hard to get it. But just when he was right on the verge of having a breakthrough poof, you dumped him."
There is another fear that's associated with this. You want him to do some really terrible thing like I don't know, hit you, get put in jail for drunk driving. You want him to do something terrible that makes your decision to leave obvious and easy. When I said that, she in tears said, "Yes, that's what I want."
We want it to be somebody else's fault. If we've got a particularly unloving and victimy partner and we can't take being with them anymore, we just can't take being the one who's blamed. You know the victim will then take out an ad on the front page of the New York Times and tell everybody that you're an awful hateful person.
You Have a Choice to Stay or Leave a Toxic Relationship
It's up to you honey. But he's not going to do something that's going to make this easier for you. He loves the arrangement he has. He has a companion to be around so he doesn't feel lonely. He has somebody to cook his food, has somebody to travel with, has somebody to have sex with. He has somebody to listen to his stories. He loves your company, he loves blaming you because you let him. He loves making you feel guilty and you allow all of it.
I noticed that the real reasons that you stay in the relationship, you didn't mention the word “love” once. You stay for at the very least four distinct and powerful fears. Fear is not the basis of a relationship. So I pointed this out to her just so that she could see that she was staying out of fear.
I didn't tell her to stay or leave, but her relationships were based on absolutely nothing. And now she's going to have to decide whether she's willing to stay in a relationship where all she gets is emotionally beaten up and where she is motivated by fear. Her choice. It's always our choice.
Find genuine happiness now and forever.
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