Some time ago, I met a woman who was struggling to end a relationship that was causing her emotional harm. “I can’t leave him,” she said. “He needs me.”
How does he need you? I asked.
She paused. “How?” She seemed surprised by the question. Flummoxed. Her eyes shifted to the left, the right, up, down. She fluttered her hands in the air around her face. “I don’t know… he just does.”
And what do you need? I probed.
She sighed. Shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know… for him to love me like he did when we first met?”
What else do you need? I asked again.
She held her breath as she thought about the question. “I…. I need him to change.”
On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being ‘he absolutely will’, how likely is that to happen? I asked.
She smiled sadly. “Zero”.
And is that what you want for the rest of your life and for your children? To be with a man who cannot change the things he’s doing that hurt you and, also them?
Recently, I met that woman again. Once she faced the truth that to create change in her life she had to change what she was doing, she left him. It wasn’t easy, she said, but she did it with the support of caring people in her life.
Once out of the darkness, she went back to school. Got a certificate in HR and was working hard to create a life of stability, joy and love for herself and her two children.
“I can’t believe I stayed with that creep for so long,” she said after telling me all the amazing things that were happening in her life.
Believe it. You did. I said. But, in believing it, don’t compare it by measuring the length of time. You stayed as long as you stayed, It was neither long nor short. It is simply the length of time you stayed. A moment in your life. Not your whole life.
That woman reminded me of me.
When I first got out of a relationship from hell, ‘couldn’t believe’ was one of the phrases I had to eradicate from my vocabulary.
Saying, “I couldn’t believe” was the gateway to the disbelief of something that had happened that I had participated in. It disempowered me. To build my resiliency, I had to acknowledge it, learn from it, grow through that learning and triumph over it, not ignore it or my role in it.
Saying, I can’t believe’ blocked all access to healing and resiliency.
For that woman, resiliency didn’t help her survive that relationship. Her inherent desire to LIVE did that. Where resiliency became her constant companion was in doing the things she needed to do to build her life after the abuse. With each step into living free of abuse, her resiliency strengthened her resolve to keep creating her own happiness, her own dreams, her own path.
We all come upon sticky moments in our lives, sometimes many sticky moments. Some big. Some small. Some short. Some long. Size and time are not the issue. Believing it happened is.
When we stop saying, “I can’t believe….” we open the door to possibility. We allow our resiliency to step in and strengthen our ability and resolve to grow, prosper, thrive and triumph over adversity.
In that resolve, we grow stronger.