Why Can't I Leave??
I can't even count the number of people, both men and women, who have sat across from me asking "why can't I leave?"
Some have been married, some living together and some dating. Regardless, they all had one thing in common – an inability to leave an unhealthy relationship.
So what is it that keeps people trapped in these situations?
There is no one answer for this question yet there are common threads. The most common of all the threads I have helped unravel is fear. Often we don't recognize the fear but trust me it's there.
We use excuses such as ... I love him/her, what about the kids, we have a history, s/he is just moody, tired, hungry etc. But the deeper issue is fear.
Number one on that list is the fear of not having enough money to make it on your own. How many women would be living alone or in healthier relationships if money were not an issue? I say women because typically women are in an inferior financial position to men. Women have not yet achieved equal pay for equal work and they have more gaps in their careers based on child/family care needs and preferences. These issues put women in a position of dependency. Often financial leverage is used to hold women in this position reinforcing the fear they already house within.
Men are not off the hook here as they have their own issues around money. Typically they stay in unhealthy relationships to avoid sharing it when money is at the core of their fear. Of course these are realistic considerations yet I have found that most people allow fear to cloud over viable options and creative solutions to their financial matters.
Another fear that is all too common is the fear of an uncertain future believing it could be worse. Yes this is true. It can always be worse but the converse is true as well … it can always be better!
Uncertainty does not have to be fearful. Uncertainty can bring with it opportunity and unimaginable options! What would be worse than being in an unhealthy relationship; feeling alone; feeling lonely; being filled with anxiety and panic? How is any of this worse? These are feelings. Feelings come and go like the wind. An unhealthy relationship is steady and constant. It may have cycles and patterns yet it remains the same over time.
We have a tendency of minimizing these cycles because we get caught in the the trap and cycle of hope. In unhealthy relationships we fall in love with a mask. Once we are hooked the mask falls off but it is too late as we have already made the investment. We ignore or minimize behavior, make excuses, take responsibility and when we finally get to the point of seeing clearly the mask returns! So too do the feelings of what we define as love and connection only to start the cycle all over again.
Let the wind blow! Once you realize you have stayed too long and for all the wrong reasons prepare yourself for a tornado.
Know that leaving will bring with it difficult and challenging feelings.
Know that there will be days and nights of paralyzing fear and sadness.
Know too that these feelings will pass.
Know that you will survive this period in your life.
Find support from loving family members and friends. Journal! Especially in the beginning when you can see clearly why you need to leave. So often the pain of the storm minimizes the pain of the relationship sending us back into the cycle. Reading your own story will help you create the happy ending you so deserve!
Or write yourself a letter as if you are telling your best friend what is going on and all you are going through. Include details about specific situations so during those trying and painful moments you can reread that letter. It will help keep you from returning to the pain you are trying to leave behind.
As always – if safety issues are present develop a safety plan with a professional! Do not leave without a plan in place to protect yourself and your children from harm!
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