I took a sip of my soy chai latte as I listened to the woman sitting across from me. She was attractive – long hair, lovely figure, bright eyes, and a big smile. It wasn’t just her looks though. She was vivacious, bouncy, and friendly. This woman was smart and motivated. She had many interests and had recently started her own business. She certainly wasn’t the type of woman you’d expect to be crying about an abusive boyfriend over coffee.
I’ve been in this situation many times before. Sitting across the table for coffee with smart and beautiful women who are stricken with the stress of their abusive relationships. Not all of them have bruises and scars you can see. Their injuries are on the inside. Cuts in their self-esteem. Punches to their self-efficacy. Slaps to their dignity. Blows to their pride. All eating away at them from the inside, festering until their emotional pain splits into a gaping, gangrenous fissure.
I could see the emotional pain in this woman as we talked. I felt the warm prickles of tears welling in my own eyes as she rationalised to me why she was staying in a relationship when she was being treated like shit. I felt sadness welling up inside me as I saw her mental anguish. I knew that nothing I could say or do would change her mind about this man, no matter how hard I could reason, or how much I tried to change how she saw herself. She loved him, and was committed to doing everything she could to make it work.
She deserved someone who genuinely loved her and would treat her like the beautiful woman she was instead of someone who manipulated and used her, but there was nothing I could say or do to convince her of that until she was ready. As we spoke, I realised that I was looking into an old mirror. The woman in front of me embodied the pain, anguish, confusing addiction, and fear of being alone and never loved again that I had once felt. I was talking – reasoning – with my former self.
I remembered how I had felt when I was in her situation. I’m the most stubborn person this side of the Milky Way. When I was in an abusive relationship, there was no way in hell that I was going to admit to myself that I’d been wrong about a person’s character. To hell with being an emotional wreck and getting head-butted in the face – proving myself right was clearly a more important pursuit.
To get out, I had to come to terms with the fact that it was okay to let go. I had to accept that by letting go of a relationship that didn’t nurture me didn’t mean I had failed. I had to accept that it was okay to be wrong. I had to accept that I’d been tolerating less than I deserved. I had to let go of the irrational fear that I wasn’t good enough, or that no one would ever love me again.
I had to be willing to let go before I could move on. So does she. And so do you.
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