It defies reason, logic and common sense, to want to hang on to someone, who treated you so appallingly. It’s almost addict-like behavior, complete with withdrawal symptoms, cravings and an inability to focus on anything else.
Why We Get Stuck
We call it love, because of the aching feeling in our chest, but the reality is, it’s anything but love. We get stuck in dysfunctional relationships for a variety of reasons, most of which fall under these categories:
Fear – We’re afraid of change, we’re afraid of being alone, we’re afraid of feeling rejected, we’re afraid that no one else will want us, we’re afraid of the unknown, we’re afraid they’re going to be a great partner with someone else after we’ve put in so much time and effort.
You’re caught in a trauma bond – You have an invalid belief that there is a strong bond between you and your tormentor. Shared trauma deepens the connection and feels a lot like intimacy, even if your partner is the one causing the trauma.
We want the peaks, so we’ll put up with the valleys – We mistake the intensity of the relationship for intimacy. The emotions we associate with being together are so strong and feel so good that we are willing to put up with just about anything, as long as we can occasionally get to experience those peak feelings again. When we aren’t getting the peaks, or we’re getting a very watered down peak, we get angry and discontented with the relationship. But if we can experience that high even once in awhile, we can magically erase or minimize all other wrong doing.
It’s where we feel comfortable – Being treated poorly is something we’ve grown accustomed to. It feels more normal to be mistreated, than to be treated with love and respect. We believe that we deserve it, we don’t love ourselves and we fully accept the notion that having someone that we love is supposed to hurt like this.
First and foremost the first step to getting un-stuck is to recognize that this isn’t love. It’s an unhealthy type of addiction.
Ask yourself what is it that I love about this person? Write it out on paper. Your answers will probably be something like: He/She are so good looking, funny, charming, smart, they’re amazing in bed, their personality fills a room, we have great memories…
When you look at your situation logically you have to take off the rose colored glasses and see things as they are not how we wish they were. If your reasons for staying with someone are because of the way they look, or how great they are in bed, we have to understand that these things are superficial and not stable. We’re all going to get old and slow down. There are lots of good looking people out there that are more capable of giving us a happier and a more fulfilling relationship,.
We make the mistake of only remembering the good times and only focusing on the parts of a person that we like, while completely disregarding all of the aspects of the person that has brought us here in the first place. When we look at a person’s compatibility we have to look at that person as a whole. It’s not enough to say, “He puts me down all the time and shreds my self-esteem, but man that Joe is a hoot at parties. What a sense of humor.”
To ignore the bad, is to ignore who the person really is. If your mate is great while he/she is with you, but then ignores you for weeks, until they want to see you again and then are on their best behavior again, when it’s your turn in the batting rotation, you have to really grasp what is going on here. If this is your situation, you have to admit that you are not in a relationship with this person, you’re just another brick in their wall of conquests and understand that the intense feelings that you are experiencing are not the same feelings that your mate is feeling. The few great hours that you are spending together along with the occasional text message, don’t make up for the days and weeks that are awful, while you’re painfully awaiting your next hit of them.
We have to also understand that in relationships where you’re Jonesing for your lover and you never know when they are coming or going, there is not going to be a happy ending. The odds aren’t in your favor. If your relationship has started off with lying, manipulating, cheating and a cycle of heartbreak, it’s not going to suddenly do a 180 and start being healthy and mutually fulfilling.
Once you are able to take them off the pedestal, the next step is to take control of your thinking. It may take some discipline on your part, but the thoughts that arise and permeate in your mind are, most definitely, under your control. The goal at this point is to get angry. While it may seem odd to advocate a negative emotion like anger, it is part of the recovery process. Living with anger is not a place we want to stay at permanently, but we do need to pass through it on our journey back to health. Anger fuels change, so at this stage what we want to do is start to associate your addiction/mate with negative thoughts and negative emotions.
For instance, when a thought pops into your head – a song, a memory, any trigger that takes you to feeling heartbreak and longing – you instantly put the word – JERK – in your head, or – BITCH – or ASSFACE….whatever words work for you and instantly go to that angry feeling.
So, it should work like this: Emotional/painful thought comes – you interrupt thought with an angry word and emotion – (JERK) and then you discard thought immediately and think of something else – preferably your goals and your future.
You control this. You know if you want to stop a thought you can, so any faltering is a lack of discipline on your part. You have to make the choice every time that you are going to be in control. You may slip at times, but you have to get right back to it. The key is to stop the thought before it takes you to that painful place where you don’t want go. To paraphrase Michael A. Singer, author of The Untethered Soul, it’s a lot easier to stop a thought at the beginning of the thought, than it is once it’s played itself out and brought you to a place of pain. So stop it early.
This negative association acts like a crow bar, separating us from the strong emotional ties that keep us stuck. In time we may want to feel compassion for the one that hurt us, but right now, it’s more important to allow yourself to be angry with them, to give yourself that emotional distance you need in order to break free.
We’ll talk about the next steps in next week’s blog, but the bottom line is, you can’t stay stuck on someone and a relationship that is causing you emotional harm – this is not a place that you should stay –ever. It’s like being stuck in quicksand, you can lie to yourself and say that you can get out whenever you want to, you can say that you’re making progress in the relationship, or even that you like it, but the truth is, you’re sinking and you need to break free and move on.
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Image by Mark Roy