Saturday, June 4, 2011

Making a Better Man Part Two: The Woman in the Mirror

Part of my coaching involves a radio program called "The Bottom Line" where I take calls from people all around the country  who are struggling with issues they can't seem to overcome.  One such call I took recently involved a woman who was - according to her - 'stuck' in a toxic relationship that she couldn't seem to break free from... one that was damaging her 14 year old son.  She knew the abuse she accepted from her husband (not the father of her son by the way) was doing damage to her son's world view and she called me to help her out of it.

But as soon as I got her to see what the real issue was - the fact that she would never leave her current husband because he fulfilled in her a deep seated need for abuse - she got furious with me and began to yell at me, telling me I didn't know her and that I was dead wrong.  "How dare you assume who I am!" she exclaimed.

I then asked her a few simple questions: "how long have you been in this abusive relationship?"  She told me 8 years.  "Was it always abusive from the beginning?"  She admitted that although the abuse got worse as the relationship progressed, that it was violent from the beginning.  Finally I asked her the most important question - the one that most people simply can't answer: "Why haven't you left?"  There was silence after that one.  I then turned the mirror on her:  "You've been in a relationship that was abusive from the beginning... you've stayed in the relationship despite the damage its done to you and your son... you refuse to leave or make the situation better, and yet you find it very easy to scream at me when I point out the one thing you refuse to see:  "You need to be in that relationship because it serves you in some way.  If that wasn't the case, you'd be long gone."

There was a long silence as I could tell she was contemplating the truth I laid before her.  Finally she spoke up:  "So what am I supposed to do?"  Again I confronted her with the glaring truth that had been slapping her in the face - literally - for 8 years.  "LEAVE!" I said.  "And not just for your sake, but for your son!  Do yo really want him to grow up thinking that its okay to hurt women, or disrespect women?"  She answered a soft "no."  "Well then, I said, you're doing a pretty good job of it.  Whatever you need out of this relationship is not as important as what your son needs to learn and grow in this world."

Ladies, life is tough and we make difficult choices based on the needs we have at the time in our lives.  But deciding on a partner based on a need which is based on a past pain, mistake, or abuse can only lead to more of the same.  Relationships are not fixes for the past - if you treat them as such, you will simply repeat the past, not cure it.  And remember... if you have children, you're not teaching them to learn from your mistakes, you're teaching them to repeat them.

Know yourself, don't NO yourself.

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