By Teresa G. Carey
“I’m confused. Why didn’t you just leave?”, a friend questioned with a pure spirit and curious intention after reading my book about unhealthy relationships, The Attractive Trap™. That’s a valid question. Why did I stay in a relationship that was so undeniably toxic looking back at it on the other side of it many years later? Well, there are reasons I stayed. And they are not good reasons or ones that I’m proud of.
Today I’m even more affirmed in leaving because I have lots of company. Every time I watch or read the news, I see my tribe. I don’t know them and they don’t know me, but we are intimately familiar with each other’s stories. While it may seem like a BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious) that women who have been emotionally, verbally, mentally or physically abused should get out as soon as the abuse occurs, it’s not that easy. So, just in case you’ve asked or wondered, here’s why we stayed:
We’re ashamed of our circumstance. After all, what will others think of us when we finally come out and share the truth? What kind of judgment will be imposed? Come on – how could an educated, smart beautiful woman be caught in such a trap of lies and abuse? In shame we stayed.
We’re deceived throughout the dance of the relationship, and eventually we believe the lies. This is referred to as grooming. The deceit is so gradual that it subtly works its way in and is quickly disguised as truth. It starts to feel natural. The abuser escalates their controlling and manipulative behaviors over time, so eventually what’s abnormal seems normal. When we call them out, they call us crazy or explain why it’s our fault (known as “gaslighting”). In our confusion, we stayed.
We don’t see a way out because we’ve forgotten we have options. After all, “the devil we know is better than the one we don’t.” What if the partner is right? What if we can’t get a divorce because it’s wrong? What if no one else will want a woman with three young kids? When hope occasionally surfaces in our minds and hesitantly asks, “Is there really a better life on the other side?”, the glimmer is quieted by the exponential heap of doubt that’s been reinforced over and over by the abuser. In distorted reality, we stayed.
We think we’re doing those we love a favor by staying – especially the kids. How could anyone want their kids to be the product of a divorced family? Won’t they be damaged forever? Is the emotional trauma of what a broken home does to a child worse than being surrounded by toxic behaviors? And, of course, there’s the reputation of the extended family that’s at stake. Who wants the stigma of being the first divorced in the family? It seems a daunting and impossible choice that is rinsed and repeated nonstop. Since it seemed to be a no-win proposition, we stayed.
We worry about what the message of us leaving sends to our church or what it says about our faith. We were taught divorce was wrong. Articles flood our social media feed from Christian friends claiming marriage isn’t about our happiness. Rather, it’s about sacrifice, serving and forgiveness. How dare we be so selfish to want a fulfilling and happy marriage. The book of James in the Bible tells us that we’re supposed to enjoy troubles of any kind that come our way and count them as joy. In legalism, we stayed.
Until we couldn’t anymore. There came a time when we realized, based on any confluence of events or people, we knew without a doubt life wasn’t normal. Like a splash of cold water, we saw the truth of how it was harming our family, our children and us. And the epiphany continued to shine through that we deserve much, much more.
To those of you who have chosen to reveal the truth and leave, welcome to this place of freedom. I’ve been waiting for you to join me. I’m not famous – so you won’t see me in the news. But I am courageous, so you can read about my story and the story of ordinary women in my book, The Attractive Trap: Freeing Yourself from an Unhealthy Relationship (2016).
I knew you were coming. It’s about time.
#metoo #timesup #itsabout time