Here’s Why You Can’t Leave An Unhealthy Relationship Right Now
Here’s Why You Can’t Leave An Unhealthy Relationship Right Now
Today we’re going to talk about your relationship. Why you may be staying, why I stayed, and why I eventually left. And why you might be staying in an unhealthy relationship too.
The global pandemic is still going on – which means that we’re all at home. Anyone who can work from home is. And if you have children, their schools and daycares are closed, and they’re at home too.
As always, we want to take a moment to thank the health care workers and those on the front lines, at grocery stores, delivering food, and running essential businesses.
Listen to the podcast episode here:
Read the transcript and find more details here:
Here’s the truth: when we love someone suffering from addiction, our days (and nights) are already hard enough. Adding this additional stress with the coronavirus, possibly the uncertainty of your job, children being at home needing help with homeschooling, and potentially your loved one being out of work, or home all day and out of their routine may just feel like too much.
Can you relate? Please remember that there’s no judgment here, and we’re here for you. When you feel alone, come here and read these words and listen to these podcast episodes for your support.
Today I want to talk about why you’re not leaving an unhealthy relationship.
When you’re in love with someone suffering from addiction, and you know deep, deep down inside your gut and your soul that you need to leave the relationship. You know the relationship is unhealthy.
You might not have that feeling all the time, day in and day out. Or maybe you do. You might just feel it in certain moments. Or maybe in certain traumatic circumstances after a huge fight or when things are feeling particularly chaotic.
Maybe you feel it when you try to call your loved one, but they’re not answering their phone. Or maybe it’s when you text them, but they haven’t answered you yet. It could be when they’re supposed to be staying at home, but they’re still out, and you can’t get a hold of them.
It’s moments like that where you have a reality check.
And you say, “yeah, this is not something I should be in. I need to leave. Need to get out. I deserve better; there’s someone out there that can treat me better than this.”
And even if there isn’t, even if I’m alone for the rest of my life, it still beats being rejected and lied to and manipulated over and over and over again.
It feels like you’re going insane, and it feels like you’re going crazy. That’s actually the definition of crazy when you do the same thing over and over again but expect different results.
The point is when we’re in this type of relationship, we have moments where we want to leave. But here’s what I wanted to talk about today: you also have these wonderful, glorious, intimate moments of love and relief and intimacy.
There are good moments though.
It’s not all bad; at least it wasn’t at the beginning for me. That’s the whole reason why we fell in love with these wonderful people. For the most part, they are truly wonderful people at their core, right?
They were made beautifully and lovingly, and they have many gifts and talents.
We can’t get them to see that. As Oprah would say, “live their best life all the time.”
And here’s the loving truth: the longer the addiction goes on, the less you see of that beautiful, wonderfully made person.
So you hang on harder for hope.
Your grip gets more firm, and you pray and wish that these moments of goodness come more frequently, although usually, they don’t.
And so, my question is, why? Have you ever asked yourself that question? Why am I still in this relationship? This relationship that’s hurting me so much… why do I decide to stay? Why don’t I have the courage to walk out the door once and for all?
Why don’t I follow through with that appointment with the lawyer or the conversation that I’m going to leave?
And really mean it.
Not just threaten to leave, but really, really mean it.
I remember when I was married to a great man who was struggling with addiction. I’d threaten to leave, and part of me really wanted to. I had three young kids at the time.
We didn’t have much money. I didn’t have any friends because if you have friends, you have to let them in on what’s going on in your life.
And I was too embarrassed to let anyone know that I was allowing this type of behavior to go on in my home, particularly with three kids.
I was in this conundrum.
In this constant state of, ‘should I leave or should I go?’
And I think there was something alive inside of me, a hope, that believed that I could do better. That my kids deserved a present father that came home when he said he would come home and not stop off at the bar.
Or that would show up for their soccer practice consistently and even be the husband that would remember to pack the snacks.
That I deserved a man that would lay next to me at night sober and look across the bed at me with his eyes and tell me he loves me. Tell me there’s nobody else in the world he’d rather be with.
And I deserve to actually believe that.
I wanted to feel like I deserved to trust somebody.
I’m so tired and exhausted of feeling like I couldn’t trust anyone.
I couldn’t let my guard down or relax. To really lean into a relationship, but I couldn’t.
I felt torn between always having one foot out the door and one foot in the marriage. So I would threaten to leave. But really, I was full of it. When I was saying those things and making those threats, I wasn’t ready to leave.
Here’s the deal: I was using the threat of leaving in order to try to manipulate him to get sober because I believed that if he loved me enough, he would change.
I was threatening to leave as a form of manipulation.
Here’s the other thing: I married him. I agreed to this relationship. I wore a ring, and I said yes. All the while knowing that there was a probability of addition here.
I had seen warning signs, but I thought I tricked myself into thinking that love wins, love conquers all.
And those kinds of expressions honestly drive me nuts when I hear them or read them because you and I know we love the heck out of that partner, but it’s not helping them get sober.
Our love is not winning. Our love is not conquering everything.
And I know this may be hard to hear, but I believe this: Love, sometimes, is not enough.
It’s not enough to love them in order for them to get sober.
Sometimes we can actually even love somebody to death, meaning we can enable them and deny them and cover up for them and lie for them all the while slowly hurting them, right?
And let me be super clear here, I’m not saying that you are potentially responsible for the demise of your partner, when I say you love them to death. I’m not saying that at all.
What I am saying is that you need to take inventory and take a look at the belief, perhaps the false belief, that you think that your love is enough to help them get sober for good because it’s not at all.
The only way that they are actually going to get sober for good is when they learn to love themselves.
They’re in control of whether or not they get sober or not.
That’s the very first step when they actually learn to give themselves permission to forgive their past, whatever lies in the past and move forward with a far more accepting, loving attitude for themselves.
And then, and only then, can the chance of real sobriety happen.
You can’t control that. Love can’t control that. There’s nothing you can do to expedite that process. And some people never do, right? Some people don’t ever get the beautiful opportunity to fall in love with themselves. And so, therefore, they don’t ever enter into long term recovery.
Now, going back to what I was saying about me being incredibly manipulative, trying to bribe my husband into getting sober, I would threaten to leave.
I’d grab my keys and my purse, and I’d head out the door, and I’d get in the car in my slippers and pajamas, usually late at night because that’s when, at the beginning of our relationship, all the drinking happened.
I’d leave the house.
And I drive my Volvo with usually my baby in the backseat, in a car seat, around the neighborhood, in the dark, and not have anywhere to go.
I didn’t have a bag packed. Nor did I have a toothbrush. I didn’t have diapers for my child. And of course, he was probably in the house going, “Michelle, you’re not leaving. You’re going to have to come back. So I might as well just keep drinking.”
And honest to God, I would say nine times out of 10 I walked in the door thinking, okay, I scared him. I did it. I taught him a lesson that we really could leave one day.
One day we’re never going to come back.
And I’d walk into the house and there he would be happy as a clam with his gazillionth beer watching TV or sports or sometimes even passed out, frankly, not showing an ounce of concern that I had just driven around the neighborhood for an hour with this child.
The only person I was fooling about leaving was myself. I didn’t fool him. He had my number.
There’s only so many times we can try and manipulate and trick our loved ones until they actually catch on to our games.
They’re quite smart because they manipulate and trick too. So they know, they became aware.
They can tell when we’re bluffing.
I was so frustrated every time I came back into the house because I would set my bag down, I put the baby to sleep, and I would hate myself, absolutely hate myself because I would think to myself, why?
Why can’t I just freaking leave? Why do I have to keep pulling into the garage and parking my car, knowing that I don’t have the guts or courage to walk out of this really unhealthy relationship?
I thought about all my old friends that I had or my family members and thinking they’re not driving around the neighborhoods on Friday or Saturday nights thinking about, scaring their husbands into getting sober.
They’re not struggling with this. I knew that this was not normal. So if it’s so unusual and it hurts so bad and it’s so unhealthy, why am I still here?
Why am I still putting up with this?
We’re smart women. We’re intelligent human beings. And we are capable of living our own lives. We are independent.
So why is it so difficult for us to leave? That was the question that I struggled with. I struggled with it for ten years. For ten years.
And every time without a shadow of a doubt, when I came back, and I submitted to staying with him after threatening to leave, I shamed myself.
My self-confidence, my self-esteem got lower and lower because I was just a sucker.
I would think that I was just some weak little girl who doesn’t stand for anything and who is stuck in this relationship.
I thought I was weak.
And it wasn’t until the 10th year that I actually figured it out. And this is what I’m going to tell you. The reason why we stay in an unhealthy relationship, whether it’s addiction, whether it’s verbal abuse, whether it’s physical abuse, whether it’s financial abuse, I mean there’s many different abuses out there.
Any type of unhealthy relationship, even if there isn’t abuse, the reason we stay so obvious, and we make it so complicated, and it doesn’t need to be, is because we love them. We love them. We are still in love with the person who is treating us poorly. And that is why we cannot leave.
So we justify. We sit there, and we convince ourselves in different ways that what we have is worth staying for. Think about it. If we didn’t love them, it would be so much easier to leave.
If you don’t love somebody, then you’re not willing to put up with all of their shenanigans, and you sit there, and you go, “ah, yeah, no, this doesn’t feel good to me. I’m out the door.”
It’s love that’s holding you there.
And it is possible to love somebody who’s unhealthy for you. It’s very possible. There are no rules or laws about what your heart is capable of.
And plus, you love the goodness in them. You love their potential. You love the person that you see with their gifts and maybe their humor or their charm or their good looks or their brain and their ability to be incredibly intelligent or their creativity.
There are things about your loved one that you believe are worthy of love.
So love is actually what’s keeping you here in this unhealthy relationship. And that is nothing to beat yourself up over. That is nothing for you to feel ashamed about.
Here’s the key: Can you leave somebody and still be in love with them, knowing that you have to leave because leaving is the right thing to do? And the answer to that, of course, is yes you can. You can, and you probably should. Right? And you know that.
How do you leave somebody you love? Well, for me, and I can only speak to my particular situation. I actually saw how addiction was hurting my children because when drugs started being done in my home where my kids were. I realized that I could actually lose my children. The court could take my kids away from me in the state that I was living in if they found drugs in our home.
The idea of my kids going to foster care, being raised by the state, or being taken away from me was enough of a drive for me to fall out of love with him.
My babies were my drive.
And I remember the exact instant it happened. It probably was a gradual change, now that I look back on it. There were probably moments that I don’t even realize that nudged me to fall out of love with him a little more and more.
And then there was that one moment where he was smoking pot, and my daughter was too close. She was breathing it in, and that was it. I thought, “I’m done.”
At the time, I didn’t necessarily realize that I’d fallen out of love with him right then and there, but I knew that for the sake of my children, I would actually leave this time.
I knew I had no other choice.
After that experience, the choice was easy.
And when I say easy, I don’t mean the process was easy, because it wasn’t. If you’ve heard my story, you know I had to get a restraining order. I had to call a shelter. I had no money, no friends. My family didn’t know.
It was the hardest year of my life.
But it became absolutely the necessity. It became so obvious and so clear to me that leaving was the only choice that I had, that I was willing to go through whatever it took.
Does it mean that I didn’t have moments throughout that year, that I was leaving, where I didn’t get in touch with my loving feelings towards him? No.
There were definite times, and I remember one in particular, where we were exchanging the kids. But I don’t know why it took me off guard actually. We exchanged the kids, and he looked so healthy and happy. He was being funny, which I loved.
He was so funny. I loved that about him. And it was just a moment.
After that exchange, I remember driving down the highway and having the thought that there were still feelings there.
I must have detached.
I must have fallen out of love for survival.
But there’s still remnants of love there.
And you know what’s interesting? He picked up on it, and he called me ten minutes after we’d exchanged the kids, and he said, “are you okay?” And he knew. I knew he knew that I was having a weak nostalgic moment.
And I didn’t even let onto him because there’s no point in that.
It wouldn’t have been healthy, and it could have turned into something. And I’d worked so hard to get to this place of independence and to leave. I just said, “no, no, I’m fine. I promise I’m fine.”
He asked me if I was sure and said that I had looked really sad.
And you know what the truth is? I was sad. And that sadness, it wasn’t a sadness wishing that I would go back to him.
It wasn’t a sadness that I had made the wrong choice.
Instead, I was mourning. I was mourning our marriage. I was mourning the death of the hope that I had hung onto for ten years, thinking that maybe, just maybe, we’ll pull through this together, and this will have a happy ending. This might work out. I was mourning that.
And so for those of you that think that you’re leaving or maybe you’ve left, or you’re in the middle of leaving, I will never lie to you.
I try to be as real with you as possible. And I will tell you, it’s completely normal to feel a roller coaster of emotions after you’ve left.
You think, or at least I did, I made the mistake of thinking if I leave addiction, everything will get better. And although I’m so glad I left addiction, it was a long process to heal.
It was a long process. And so the lesson here is to be kind and gentle and loving to ourselves, no matter what feelings come up, and to understand and accept that it’s normal and that it’s going to be okay.
Understand that you made the right decision.
So if you thought that it was your fault, you’re weak, you’re not strong, or courageous enough to leave right now, stop it. If you’re beating yourself up about that, just please stop.
Stop that ridiculous negative thinking because it’s not true. You’re not weak. In fact, you are full of courage. You’re full of strength.
You’ve got exactly the arsenal and the tools and the gumption and the grit and the determination to leave if you want to.
You have all of it inside of you. You’re a smart person. You can do this. You know you don’t need them in your life, but the reason you’re staying is because you’re still holding onto love.
You’re in love with them.
And that’s why we hang on, and that’s why it’s difficult to walk away.
I hope that you found some help in this message. And most of all, I hope that you don’t find judgment.
I hope that you don’t think that I’m coming from the perspective of me telling you that you need to leave because, honestly, that’s not the healthiest thing that you need to hear from anyone at this moment.
You’ll leave if you think you’re ready to leave.
The time will come where you will discover that walking out of your relationship might be the best thing for you. Or maybe they will get sober, and you will have that happy ending, unlike me.
It is very possible. So instead of beating yourself up over whether you should leave or stay, let’s just reserve the judgment.
Remember that we’re staying today, but that we reserve the right to change our mind tomorrow.
Stay strong during this crazy time in our world.
When should you leave the relationship?
We believe that you shouldn’t leave your relationship until you’ve done adequate work on yourself. You need to fall in love with yourself all over again, or for the first time ever, before making major decisions about your relationship.
First you must heal and recover, and that looks different for every single person. Once you’ve healed you can consider leaving your relationship.
Remember that we’ll never tell you whether to stay or leave your relationship, that’s completely up to you. Instead we’ll give you the tools you need to make the decision on your own.
What is a toxic relationship?
By definition a toxic relationship is one that damages either partner by way of emotional, mention, physical, financial, or otherwise abuse.
Remember that abuse can take on my forms and doesn’t have to always be physical. There’s a cycle of abuse that’s very common with addiction. The cycle is manipulative and tries to trick you.
Is it okay to stay in my relationship?
Of course it is. That decision is completely yours. Trust your intuition. You know in your bones when you should stay and when you should go. And if you are feeling uncertain just give yourself space and time. You will know when the time is right.
Michelle Anderson has over 10 years of personal experience with loving someone who suffers from addiction. She was married to a good man who suffered from addiction to alcohol, illegal drugs, and pornography. She's used her experience to create powerful resources for women in the same circumstance. Using her own personal experience, combined with years of research and studying, she presents ideas, tips, and tools on how to handle this disease, and take care of yourself, and your family.
Explore the Love Over Addiction program
Remember being fun? Laughing? Feeling giddy? Being carefree? Addiction can take all those things away from you and replace them with worry, anxiety, fear, and anger. It doesn’t have to be that way. Discover how to change your life and your relationship today.
Explore the Love Over Addiction: Stay or Go program
Have you ever wondered? Or maybe you know… but you don’t know how. Staying or leaving your relationship is a huge decision. There are questions you need to ask yourself, and ways to prepare no matter what you decide. Find out how to make this decision, even if you’re not ready to make it today.