I lost count of the women I have agonized with about when and how and why to get out of a romantic relationship that’s gone sour. The truth is that “getting out” and “moving on” actually goes against our nature.
While it’s not popular to say, it is nonetheless true that since your brain and mine was marinated in estrogen for the first two years of our lives—and all through puberty—we are ontologically wired to attach. It’s the best part of how God made you. Your great gift is about building relationships and caring for people—not leaving them. Leaving is not your strong suit.
So you can give yourself a break here. It’s wrenching stuff to invest in a relationship with a man—and then realize you have to let go. As in, you have to let go.
In my last blog, I mentioned that there are a few flaming red lights in dating relationships such that when you see the pattern repeated, you need to look past how charming this guy is on a good day…and find your exit. (Maybe not even a graceful exit).
· Is the relationship all about him? That’s shades of narcissism.
· Can he bear to be seen as wrong or flawed? If not, that’s an even more fragile version of soul-deep immaturity (put as nicely as I can).
· Has he found a purpose in life larger than you? That’s a bit like asking has he found his own sense of self in the God who created him, so he’s actually able to give to others.
When a woman sees red lights in a relationship—even if they aren’t totally flaming—the big question is why does she stay. And stay. And stay. What keeps a woman’s feet glued to the floor long after she should be running for the back door?
I should mention here (because I love this story) that one of my funnier friends, at the point where she realized this relationship absolutely could not work, picked up the groceries she brought to fix this guy’s dinner and waltzed out the door with this immortal comment, “honey, you’re going to miss me when I’m gone.”
If you knew the story, you would cheer her chutzpah.
Okay…back to my point. Why do we stay when we need to leave? This question deserves a whole book, but let me attempt to boil it down to one bone-deep thing.
In what musty corner of your soul and under what circumstances did you come to the crazy conclusion that you just weren’t worth it? As in, you aren’t good enough, smart enough, pretty enough—something enough—for a good man’s time and attention?
You might answer that question ten ways. The one I hear most often is some form of earlier sexual experience. That’s the stickiest glue on a women’s feet. I’m convinced for many good reasons that when we experience the sexual outside the context God intended, our deepest self is made vulnerable to a lie. There’s something irretrievably wrong in me.
This is not because sexual sin or sexual abuse is more awful. It’s simply more primal. Sexual experiences leave an imprint on the psyche. They just do. What was meant to be actually sort of healing inside marriage gets twisted, in a fallen world, into little daggers that chop up your heart in pieces. From which you draw terrible conclusions that just aren’t true.
Actually, however you might have swallowed The Lie, you swallowed it without knowing. Unaware. And that gives the lie a lot of power.
This is yet one more good reason to get out of a bad relationship sooner—rather than later. The longer you stay, based on the lie, the more that lie seems true. Your true truth, in a crazy kind of way. You’d better hang onto this guy because there won’t be another. Which, then, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
When you stay too long, your internal radar gets scrambled. You lose a sense of what to expect as normal treatment from a man. You wouldn’t even think to tell this guy that he’s going to miss you when you’re gone.
In what I consider to be the best current advice on dating, Dr. Henry Cloud insists that finding someone you want to marry is mostly a question of getting yourself out there (How To Get A Date Worth Keeping). In a man’s inimical way, he says it’s a numbers game (forgive his analogy). I understand his frustration. He’s talked to so many single people who swear there is no one—as in, no one—to date or marry, only to discover how severely they’ve limited their range of contacts.
But then, you and I know the drill here. In order to join the groups where there are guys to meet, you have to be able to leave the bad relationship. You have to wade into that initial sting of aloneness where you so miss the companionship of a guy. Even a ‘bad’ one.
This is exactly why I say the indispensable word in a woman’s vocabulary is “next.” God, I know you have a better “next” for me than this. It’s time to step out onto the dance floor of life on His arm.
So the woman who knows she needs to leave a bad relationship must do battle with the unconscious lie of “not being worth it.” If you do your work you’ll make the best conscious shift of your whole life.
You will mark this as the place in your life where you laid hold of the Love beyond any human love. The love of Christ precedes, and outlasts, any man’s love—past, present, future.
On the hill where Jesus died there lives a Love that supercedes any man’s attention—any trauma, any sin. The whole universe screams the gospel, if you have ears. You are already loved. Already loved. An old Irish priest made famous that phrase. Can you take it in? Before this man came along and way after he is gone. You are already loved.
You don’t have to wait around for anyone to make you “worth it.” Indeed, as long as you hang that question around any person’s neck it will go begging. It will feel unanswered.
Being “already loved” is a reality that you must claim quite consciously, though—with God and perhaps, even in prayer with someone you trust. And then, as you set your feet to act on that reality, a deep knowing will make you strong where you’ve felt weak.
Yes. You will be able to walk out the door, when all good sense says you need to go.