This is an incredibly sensitive topic; a woman choosing to leave a relationship because it’s toxic, abusive, or neglectful. Having experienced this personally—when my first marriage folded—I can see why women need to leave a relationship where they perceive they cannot get through to their unresponsive men. At that time, I was hard to get through to, as it seems on reflection. That changed the moment the marriage ended—God shocked me into becoming a better, more perceptive listener. But, for that marriage, it was too late.
Women do reach a time when their patience runs out; or worse, in the case of abuse, when they finally realise it’s no longer safe to stick around.
Unfortunately, however, many women who do this end up becoming enemy number one with family members, especially when said family members have an opinion and take a side. What results out of an action the woman feels she must take, is the inevitable fallout. She may suffer ongoing losses and pain as others (unfairly) fix ‘the blame’ on her.
This article is focused on helping such a woman re-establish her emotional equilibrium, and recover her identity without the scarring of others’ vitriol spoiling the process.
Understanding Relationship Pathology and ‘The End’
Many people endure many years of unhappy relationship before they eventually decide to sever the arrangement. It is more often a woman who will do this—who is inclined to wait patiently amid sometimes hopeless situations until the bubble truly bursts.
There are two issues of concern: neglect and abuse. Neglect we can handle first.
Characteristically, her male partner has long forgotten to communicate; there may be other issues (alcohol, other drugs, gambling, pornography, adultery, etc), but his failure to communicate—his failure to want to communicate—is commonly the issue of her distress. She feels neglected and has felt neglected possibly for years, even decades. She has endured the mental and emotional tussle long enough. Well before she consciously plans the departure, her unconscious mind unintentionally imagines what life would be like without him. Her grief process has already begun.
In cases of abuse, the timeline is dramatically shortened. Things may come to a head quicker. Decisions may be made abruptly due to concern over safety. And especially where children are involved, many abusive relationships need to end.
Most women do not make such bold and lasting decisions unless they feel their hand has been forced. There is the inevitable guilt they carry for having ended the relationship; for having ‘caused’ his pain. But, of course, the reality is many times he, himself, has brought on this pain.
Learning to Let Go
Women in these situations are surprised to learn that things usually get worse upon separation. Whilst the neglectful or abusive relationship may have ended, the fallout can be much worse. There are broken relationships strewn everywhere.
Anxiety is the key indicator at this point. In amongst the confusion of having had to do something so drastic, an action which has caused collateral pain, the profusion of feelings is overwhelming.
Learning to truly let go of one’s corrosive emotions is a long and arduous process—but it is necessary, in these cases, for the management of conscious and unconscious anxiety.
Learning to let go is about honesty—this recovery process is not simply about grieving the relationship, which may already have taken place. Learning to let go is grieving the collateral losses of the other relationships that are now torn, as well as other extraneous issues.
Learning to let go is coming back, time and again, to the truth that we tried our best; we tried to get through and could not do so. We gave the relationship everything we had. There is now no logical reason for guilt.
But it is not as simple as logic.
It’s an active process, day after day, month after month, and into the years, to recover. Let us continue on the pilgrimage of letting go. On this letting go pilgrimage we must eventually accept the collateral damage is beyond our control. We cannot change the way people feel about the situation. We can only learn to accept that less emotionally mature others will cling to their views—right, wrong or indifferent.
Ours is to look to the future. Ours is to create a new vision. Ours is to believe God’s promise that he has a plan for us; a future we hope for.
When the relationship has finally ended, and we know we have tried our best, given the circumstances, we are best off striving to let go. When we can let go of guilt, anxiety eases. Why feel guilty when there is little to feel guilty about—when we tried our best?
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.