Recently a friend of mine posted a meme to Facebook. It said something along the lines of, “I might get angry at you but I will never abandon you.” It stung.
See, I used to be the one who shared that stuff. I’ve had a lot of people close to me die suddenly and unexpectedly, so to me cutting people off seemed too risky. After all, when you cut someone off, often you have the hope that things will get right again. But you never can know for sure. What if you lose that person without reconciling? I could not understand people who said things like, “One and you’re done” or “If you don’t treat me right you’re gone.” It always seemed so cold and unfeeling.
That awkward moment when life kicks your butt
As is so often the case, when you walk around with a solid idea in your head, life finds a way to make you reconsider. Such is the case for me. Life gave me a couple of people whom I had to cut off because my dynamics with them were just not healthy. I knew, and still know, that cutting them out of my life was the right thing to do.
That meme though, and that word abandonment, stings. The fact is, society stifles our desire to put ourselves first. If you escape out of a bad situation, you are abandoning the other person, or you are giving up. Sure, people might not know the whole story. They might not know that she lies to you so much your head spins. They might not know that he has you walking on eggshells day in and day out. You left that person alone. You abandoned them. You’re the bad guy.
That magic color grey
Like so many things, knowing when to leave a bad relationship or friendship is not a matter of following rules 1-7. Every situation is different. I can’t tell you if, in your situation, you should cut and run or try to stick it out. But the point is nobody can tell you such things. It is very difficult not to internalize the guilt that society asks us to have. Even though our heads know that we are doing the smart thing, putting ourselves first, and getting out of a very bad situation, our hearts may still tell us that if we wait it out a bit longer, things will get better. Maybe if we try a little harder, it’ll get easier. Sometimes that may be true. It is amazing how things like stress and fatigue can color everything and make it look worse than it is.
But sometimes those guilty feelings are symptoms of the bad dynamic we’re in. You have to dig deep inside yourself and decide if you are truly being unfair or if you are being manipulated. Defer to people close to you. If you feel that something is not right, usually there is a good reason you feel that way.
Guilt no more
My fear is that people who are in abusive situations may succumb to that guilty “I’m abandoning them” feeling. It can be a no-win proposition. I think society punishes people who stay in abusive relationships by showing a lack of compassion (You must not have felt it was that bad), but then society also exerts high pressure on men and women who decide to leave, particularly, their spouses. “How could you do that?” they ask. That word “abandonment” gets tossed around.
Ultimately, nobody knows your situation and how you feel better than you. It sucks to have to cut people out of your life, especially because that seldom means your care for them just randomly stops. But if you feel like your life is being impacted negatively, or if you have kids who you feel are being impacted negatively, you need to overcome those worries that you are abandoning your partner. Remember instead that you are rescuing yourself. You are worth it. Don’t worry about what anybody else says. It is not your job to explain yourself or rationalize for others. If you are in trouble, survival dictates you try to get yourself out.
I think we need to change the way that we talk about some of these issues. We need to be more forthright about the fact that not all relationships are the same. Sometimes you need to try to hang in there and sometimes you just need to go. If you don’t know where you are seek help from either friends and family or professionals. Just remember, you are worth prioritizing. You are worth saving. By a long shot.
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/paulchapmanphotos/16212174006/ via Creative Commons