Returning to Unhealthy Relationships
“It has happened to them according to the true proverb, ‘A dog returns to its own vomit,’ and, ‘A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.’”
•2 Peter 2:22
I’m a life coach and weight loss coach in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. I often find myself helping people leave abusive, painful and sometimes dangerous situations. Here are some common themes I encounter weekly:
1.Toxic work environments.
2.Dissatisfying intimate partnerships.
3.Abusive family systems.
7.Verbal abuse; and
There’s not enough space in this blog to explain how I coach people in each situation. There are common themes that run across all of them, however, and I’ll touch on these here.
The Recipient of the Abuse Feels They Can’t Leave
Often the sufferer has an overwhelming sense of guilt: “If I leave,” they reason, “I’ll upset/hurt so-and-so.” In an abusive relationship, the person suffering the abuse worries only about harming their abuser. They take no heed for themselves. This is not fair. Can you see that?
If you find yourself in this situation, whether the abuser is “harmed” is irrelevant. They don’t deserve you. Period. And you have a duty to take care of yourself first. See my blog on self-care to learn how to do that.
The Abused Feels They Don’t Deserve Better
When I help people discover why it is they don’t want to leave, the answer is often this: They don’t believe they’ll ever be able to find better than what they currently have. Whether it be a job, a relationship, whatever, they believe that they’re only worth what they’ve currently got.
Often, they’ve been repeatedly told exactly this, by one or more people. Parents, lovers, husbands/wives, or bosses. They’ve heard the same message over and over: “You’re a piece of sh*&, and you’ll never find better than what you have with me.”
This is a lie. You are better than that. You deserve better than that. The very fact that you care so much and want to make someone else’s life better means that you deserve people who will do the same for you.
But to get there, you must take the bull by the horns and start by trying to make your own life better first.
The Abused is Afraid to be Alone
Often abused people stay because they can’t imagine being alone. The thought is terrifying, because they don’t know what they’ll do with themselves. They’re identity is so tied up in the other person that they can’t imagine who they’d be without them.
The key here is to help them find an identity separate from the other person. I usually recommend that, no matter how hard it is, they remain single for a good chunk of time before they enter their next relationship. They need to learn who they are as an individual, and not who they are as a partner in a relationship. They need their own identity separate from anyone else.
Many have never had this identity. The family system they grew up in controlled them to the point where they weren’t allowed to be their own person. Since this is all they knew growing up, they choose a partner who is more than willing to continue the unhealthy pattern. And the unfortunate part is that they can’t see it’s unhealthy. To them, it’s just normal.
The quote at the beginning of this blog suggests that it seems to be our inclination to return to a situation we know isn’t good for us. I have helped several people leave abusive employers or toxic relationships. I’ve helped others set appropriate boundaries with family members. Some have chosen to simply be clear about what they need from their family. Others, fewer in number, have had to remove someone from their lives for a time. In a few rare cases, they’ve chosen to remove people permanently. Sometimes, a relationship is simply too toxic to maintain.
I’ve watched as their lives improve, and their waistlines diminish, because they’re taking care of themselves for once. Their stress levels drop, because that little kid inside of them now feels safe. Their inner child has finally found peace, because they now know that they’re being taken care of. And the anxiety decreases markedly.
Sometimes, though, the person gets scared. They’ve removed someone from their life, but they start to backtrack. They second-guess all the hard work we’ve done. They start bargaining with the past, re-writing the script of the relationship in their minds. “It wasn’t so bad,” they tell themselves. “S/he was nice to me sometimes,” they reason, “There were good times.” And so, they start to forget about the pain, and they begin to believe a lie.
They then go back.
If they do, they usually learn – the hard way – what the title of my blog today suggests: “If nothing changes, then nothing changes.” People don’t change unless they set themselves on a path to change. That usually requires hard work and effort, time spent with professionals who give them hard tasks to complete towards becoming better people. Change does not happen because someone says they’re “working on it.” Watch their feet: what are they doing? Are they doing anything different? Seeking external help? Honestly trying to be better?
If not, then I’d advise you to stay far away from them. To change the way we are requires both time and hard work. If someone isn’t doing the work, then you can be sure they won’t be changing.
So why go back to a situation that kept you stuck and miserable? It’s not worth it. A successful weight loss project requires serenity, peace, freedom and happiness. To go back would jeopardize that, no?
So don’t do it. Be good to yourself. Take care of yourself. Honour yourself. Love yourself. Know that, while the pain of change may be significant, it will pass. On the other side will be a strong, happy, healthy you who’s ready to call in to your life people who will build you up, and not tear you down.
Anything less is unacceptable.
If you think you’re stuck in an abusive, unhealthy relationship, there is a way out. I can help you. Feel free to reach out to me at 647- 677-6025, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. The answer you’re looking for is out there. You are worth it. Happiness can exist for you too. You may just need a helping hand to get there. I’d love to help, if I can.
Note also that exercise can help get you the confidence you need to do what you need to do. I do online personal training and weight loss coaching, as well as personal training in Mississauga and in the GTA.
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