This (modified) letter is inspired by a stranger who reached out for help about leaving an abusive partner.
Since I’m not a professional therapist, comments from those who do have credentials are welcome and appreciated. I hope there’s a nugget within these words that is useful.
This is the gist of what this person wrote to me:
“My partner is a jerk to me. I’m lied to and called names and degraded. I know I’m not these things and deserve better than this. I don’t know what to do. I need help and advice!”
I wrote back without thinking and with much of what is in my (modified for ej) reply below. It might be worth a read for anyone struggling with change, whether in a crappy relationship, job environment, or just busy saving the bees and dealing with the political BS that goes with that.
Thank you for taking the time to reach out with your feelings—that takes courage and strength!
First, I must mention that I’m not a professional therapist. I’m a lay person who’s been pretty mixed up and has tried to learn why, and how to change it.
I, too, was with someone who couldn’t be trusted—he got perfect marks in fibbing for sure, but he was a charming one, and that kept me going back for awhile. He was never verbally abusive and he didn’t call me names or degrade me. But there was a lack of trust and respect. We all deserve better than that, whether in our love relationships, friendships, or work environment.
I can’t direct you with what to do in your life specifically—that would be irresponsible of me—but I can tell you my motto: If it feels good, do it, and if it doesn’t feel good – knock it off, already. Big picture feel good.
Often in life we are faced with seemingly only not-feel-good options, but one decision in a new direction can lead to a better place.
We usually know what action we need to take deep down inside ourselves. It’s a matter of having the courage to trust ourselves and take those first uncertain steps.
This doesn’t always mean leaving a relationship, friendship or job. Sometimes, it means making scary changes while staying in the same environment. Redefining the status quo.
Change must always start with us.
It’s that old ripple in the pond cliché. If we change our behaviours, other changes will occur as well and be reflected back to us – maybe not overnight, but eventually, if we are consistent and don’t fold and go back to our old ways.
If we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll always get what we’ve always gotten.
Sometimes things get worse before better. Sometimes they don’t get better at all and we are faced with finally making a radical decision we weren’t ready for before.
Sometimes we don’t have that courage and so we die a little every day.
All I can suggest is to start looking for ways to love you.
Reach out to understanding friends and if it’s within means, talk to a professional. Thought habits and our resultant behaviours run deep and can take time to change, even when we want them to. It can be a physiological brain thing that therapy does help heal, redirecting those neuropathways to healthier habits.
We need to remind ourselves that some of these habits took years to build. They will take time to dismantle. By practicing patience, kindness and loving understanding with ourselves it will make the road to get there a little less pot-holed.
In the meantime, try not to take others’ behaviours personally. Their attacks or unloving actions are about them, not us. Hurt people hurt people.
Even when feel we must take action to change things, lead with love and compassion. When challenged like this I remind myself that something awful must have happened to this person to make them project so much anger and pain.
If we can’t go straight to compassion, we might start with pity.
Compassion feels better than bitterness, anger, hurt, resentment, victimhood and even complacency—but that doesn’t mean condoning.
Leading with love still means leading. And we must start with ourselves. Whether we embrace, or at least accept, the responsibility of leading ourselves to a better love, life, planet or attitude, taking action with passion (and compassion)—or with a quivering but empowered baby step—means we are leading ourselves in a loving, self-respecting direction.
And if love begets love, which it does, that’s good for everyone.
Even if it means we must leave an unloving situation behind. Even when that choice is painful for us to make.
Hugs and love.
Save the bees!
P.S. If someone is in physical danger I strongly suggest talking to a professional therapist and/or the police, especially if children are involved. We must protect the innocent.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renee Picard