Loyalty, Obligation and Making Your Own Rules
“Well, he wasn’t happy,” our mutual friend said with a shrug, like it made perfect sense. In my head I kept thinking, ‘I’ve put up with his cruelty, his selfishness and all of his issues for seven years and HE’S not happy? ’
I’m a big fan of the quote, “What you feed grows,” my partner made the decision to stop watering our relationship and to start watering his co-workers garden. By the time I had become aware of it, he had emotionally checked out.
Ours was a typical Narcissist/Codependent relationship, where everything was all about him. The thing that threw me was that despite my unhappiness and mistreatment, I still wouldn’t have left. The idea of leaving never even occurred to me. It was just the way it was. It honestly, would have taken a crow bar to get me out of it. I was going to marry this man, regardless. In fact, we were just days away from our engagement party and a month away from our destination wedding, when he decided to end it.
Once the sting of it wore off, I started to ask myself some important questions, like – Why wasn’t I the one that left? Why wasn’t he the one sitting there hurting, wishing he would have treated me better? Why did I stay? What was wrong with me?
I was calling my decision to stay loyalty. I believed that you were supposed to work on your relationships, not just throw them away when you ran into some obstacles. The problem for me was I was involved with a Narcissist and Narcissists don’t do loyalty. If they catch a scent of something that better feeds their ego, they’re gone with the wind, with an arsenal of justifications – like, “I’m not happy.”
His behavior was so perplexing to me, because in my family you stayed together – happiness wasn’t something you thought about, or even talked about. You stayed together because you made a choice and you were obligated to see it through. God knows my parents weren’t happy. I can’t recall ever seeing any affection between them. They didn’t sleep in the same bed, never touched, or said loving words to each other. That was my model of what a relationship looked like. So the question of why didn’t I leave was answered with, because it didn’t even occur to me that I could.
His abuse was usually subtle. I couldn’t point to anything major, like cheating, or lying and say, “I’m leaving because of that.” So I didn’t really feel like I had a good enough excuse to leave, besides he had convinced me I couldn’t make it without him, nor could I do any better. That fear was very real.
Staying together is what couples did in our grandparent’s day, or our great-grandparent’s day. people weren’t disposable, like they are now. Back then, once you made the commitment, you stayed together, through thick and thin. I like that idea in principle, but there is a line.
The best way of ensuring a successful and lasting marriage is to make sure you’ve made the right choice in the first place. Your spouse is the single most important investment you will ever make in your life. If you’re going to tie your hitch to someone else’s wagon you better make sure that you both want to go in the same direction and that both of you are committed to doing the work.
If you’ve got issues and concerns early on – that’s the time to act. Time doesn’t make those issues go away and it doesn’t ensure loyalty. Just because you’ve invested x number of years, doesn’t mean you continue if it’s not working. I’ve compiled a list of reasons that I think are acceptable reasons to break your commitment.
If there is abuse of any kind: Physical, emotional, psychological, sexual – This should be a no brainer. Often when we’re involved in it, we tend to miss the forest for the trees. If you are physically assaulted, if there is blatant and recurring cruelty, disrespect, manipulation, or belittling – all of these are acceptable reasons to end your involvement.
If there is addiction of any kind: Drugs, alcohol, porn/sex, gambling or shopping, if your partner can’t control their behavior, then any of these issues are an acceptable reason to say adios. Some people may choose to stick it out and help their partner overcome these problems, and some do kick their habits and live normal lives, but for me, I really like stability. I don’t want to be surprised in the middle of the night that my spouse was drinking and driving and killed someone. I also don’t want to wake up one day and find out that my sex addicted husband hit up every prostitute on the block and has given me HIV, because he couldn’t control himself. I don’t want to invest on an unpredictable investment. I’d stay clear of anyone with these issues.
If they have mental health issues: Anti-Social PD, Narcissistic PD, Borderline PD, Schizophrenia, Dissociative Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder…. There are a lot of illnesses I could list here. Just like with addictions, there are people that choose to stand by their partners, who are going through some of these ailments and if it works for them and makes them happy that’s great. I know a man that suffers from Schizophrenia, who is married and has 4 children. He had a very rough time of it several years back and spent a lot of time confined to an institution. They’ve been fine now for about a decade and are very happy, but for me, for the same reason I site with people with addictions, I like stability and I don’t want to live my life wondering if the medications are going to stop working, or if they will stop taking them and something unthinkable happens. If you want to have children, passing on the impairment to any offspring also has to be a consideration. If you’re involved with a psychopath, or a narcissist just get out, there is no reason for you to stay.
If there is infidelity and a lack of trust: Some people can get past infidelity. I’m just not one of them. I’m a firm believer in Dr. Phil’s statement, “The best indicator of future behavior is past behavior.” If you could betray me one time, you’ll betray me again. If I forgive you for your betrayal and take you back, I believe it gives you a green light for more of the same, because there were no adverse side effects other than hurting me, which you didn’t have a problem doing in the first place. Some spouses do cheat once, learn their lesson and never cheat again – it does happen, but I wouldn’t want to bet on that pony. The anguish and the self-doubt that goes on inside the partner that was cheated on, is not something I would wish upon my worst enemy. I’ll pass.
Likewise, if your partner is a compulsive liar and you can’t trust a thing they say, I would suggest that that is an acceptable reason to break your commitment. There is no stability without trust and if your relationship doesn’t have it – it’s not a relationship. It’s a disaster waiting to happen.
If you’re the only one trying: Sometimes people can be married and yet they live completely separate lives. When I was in school I worked part time as a waitress, I’d notice the same guys sitting at the bar, night in, night out and I mean from the time work ended to the time they had to go home to bed. Most of these men were married, but seemed to, for whatever reason, have no interest in going home and spending time with their families.
Some spouses will go home from work and immerse themselves in their hobbies and not say two words to their spouse. They don’t participate in family functions, there is no physical relationship and they live just like roommates. If you’re both okay with this then great. I personally would rather be single. The problem arises when one partner wants more from the relationship and the other spouse isn’t willing to put in the effort. If that is the state of your relationship and you’ve tried repeatedly to re-engage your partner without success – then I would say it’s an acceptable reason to end it.
When you make a commitment to someone and they make a commitment to you, you should both have a reasonable expectation that there will be trust, stability, respect, companionship, and love.
As a codependent I hadn’t been taught about boundaries and self-worth, nor did I have a healthy relationship model to follow. I didn’t have the tools to discern the difference between healthy relationships behaviors and unhealthy relationship behaviors. Perhaps if I would have watered the seed that I can leave if I’m not happy, the outcome of my relationship would have been very different
All of this is just another example of the kinds of things I had to teach myself as an adult. Had I known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have invested seven years of my life in a doomed, dysfunctional relationship and I would have definitely been the one to end the engagement.
At this stage of my life, it’s all about risk management. I’m more willing to take chances with my financial investments than I am with my emotional investments. Life and love is a lot easier if you know the rules. It’s even better when you make them.
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