Many women are searching for romantic relationships that provide love, acceptance, respect, desire, emotional security, passion and intimacy, and understanding. These are building blocks of what is perceived as a “healthy” relationship. Why then, do women everywhere, choose to stay in relationships that no longer meet these basic needs? Several factors may contribute to this process, which will be further explored and discussed in this blog. I am dedicating this blog to all the women who need words of encouragement and motivation towards empowerment and self advocacy. This involves engaging in a process of growth, in which one recognizes that living a happy life is based on making decisions aimed at achieving one’s own goals, needs, and expectations. As Oscar Wilde said, “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance”. The pursuit of happiness lies in the pursuit of our wants and needs, in accepting a relationship that is in sync with those needs, without settling for anything less.
The creation of a relationship, and its maintenance, is a process that is shaped by childhood experiences and attachments, the existence or absence of role models that define interpersonal interactions, and general life experiences. Because we are all derived from a great variety of these, maintaining a healthy, loving relationship is not an easy task. Many issues arise that often lead individuals to the often times dreaded question: Should I stay, or should I go? In this blog I will address topics of infidelity, emotional security, and co-dependency.
All relationships require a level of integrity in order to grow. Trust is one of the most important aspects of a relationship. It indicates respect, value, and understanding. Once trust is broken, it affects the dynamics of a relationship, resulting in a loss of emotional safety. Oftentimes, women who begin to lose trust take on the role of a “detective,” inciting behaviors such as checking their partner’s phone or unlocking password-protected information. Ultimately, women begin to feel out of control and develop self doubt, crossing boundaries that result in invasion of personal space for the partner.
Reestablishing trust is not an easy task. The first, and most important step, is to accept what has happened and decide whether the relationship deserves another chance. The decision may not come easy but it varies from case to case. Some helpful points to consider in this decision include:
* Was this a single incident?
* Is he receptive to listening and acknowledging your feelings and emotions?
* Is he willing and open to seeking professional help?
* Is his guard down when you have discussions connected to the infidelity?
These are all important questions that need to be taken into account in order to move forward and create a safe space for the healing process. If these questions are not easily answered, then you have to ask yourself why do I put myself in a situation where I am not being appreciated and respected? What am I thinking and feeling that’s keeping me from moving forward? Why don’t I deserve more?
It is best to let go and leave with your integrity than to stay in a relationship where you will experience self-doubt, lack of control, and worsening paranoia. The first step towards change is awareness, once you are aware of the situation, the steps to follow are simple, decide what’s best for YOU!
“You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it” – Albert Einstein
Emotional security and co-dependency
Why is it so hard to leave a relationship that no longer fulfills your values, dreams, wishes, and goals?
Women stay in not-so-great relationships for many reasons. Many believe that they can “change” their partner. Others are afraid of being alone, preferring any company to no company at all. Still others are hoping to relive that “high” that fueled the relationship for the first 3-6 months. Of course, many other reasons exist, such as children, financial stability, and the comfort of being comfortable. Also, women seek emotional security, and may stay in the relationship to protect themselves from the painful emotions that a break up may cause. What’s most crucial is to define the reasons why you are in a relationship, and more importantly, why you are continuing to devote your time, thoughts, and energy into a relationship.
Many women who are in the endless pursuit of emotional security may end up in co dependent relationships. Co-dependency is defined as making the relationship more important than yourself. At times, women begin to consider their happiness only as it is related to the relationship. This limits ones self-efficacy and autonomy, allowing for external sources to serve as the foundation of emotional stability and growth.
“As long as we believe that someone else has the power to make us happy then we are setting ourselves up to be victims” – Robert Burney
Women fall into these types of relationships for many reasons. To some extent, a co-dependent relationship provides one with a locus of control. In other words, the woman feels “needed” and may take on a role of “fixing”, devoting time and energy to accomplishing any given task to strengthen a “broken” relationship. They believe that being in a relationship is the primary goal. In reality, the primary goal is more challenging, and includes ensuring one’s own happiness and finding reciprocity.
Co-dependency can also rise when a partner is self-absorbed or uninterested. The co-dependent partner may find some reward from this as well. “The most significant theme is a sense of control. The other person plays the out-of-control person and so they get to be the person who is in control and thus is respected.” -Dr. Bucher, WebMD
In this case, it is important to consider the following questions:
* Is this relationship more important to me than I am?
* What price am I paying for being with this person?
* Am I the only one putting the energy into this relationship?
* Have I isolated myself from family and friends to please my partner and take care of my relationship?
Some magical/automatic thoughts that may arise include:
“If I have this person, my loneliness will disappear
“If I give give give, I am a good person or I am a quality person.”
“If I have you, I am whole or I am appreciated.”
“If I bend my values for love, it is okay.”
“If I have you, I know who I am. I have a purpose, identity.”
It is important to challenge these thoughts.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves” – Victor Frankl
Women begin identifying themselves with the role of the one who is in control, but coincidentally out of control. They feel “strong enough” because they are able to deal with the situation at hand. They gain confidence in being able to maintain a situation that has ignored their wants, requests, and overall self care and autonomy.
Women that present with low self-esteem may also engage in co-dependent relationships. They may believe that they do not deserve to be in a healthy relationship. As mentioned earlier, many factors play a role in forming relationships, including early life experiences and attachments, both secure and insecure, which may ultimately result in a predisposition to engaging in co-dependent behaviors. Women’s self-esteem, self-image, and self-worth are very often influenced by childhood experiences. Growing up in a chaotic, non-validating environment where their feelings are neglected or minimized may lead to a co-dependent atmosphere, difficulties with emotional expression, and lack of self-identity, which leads to comfort in dysfunctional dynamics.
“It’s not me its YOU!”
Ending a relationship is a difficult concept to grasp, but in certain situations it is very necessary. There are many reasons for experiencing difficulties in ending a relationship. For many, the concept of breaking up may result in feelings of loneliness, depression, distress and a sense of loss of self (as defined by self within the relationship).
To start, it is very important to be aware of your own behavior patterns, not only in romantic relationships, but also in other aspects of life, such as work, finances, and friendships. Be aware if “letting go” is typically an easy task, or how comfortable you feel with being assertive to obtain what you may need or want in any given situation. It is not uncommon to be able to relate a behaviors in which you fail to advocate for yourself in different realms of life. In many cases, fear can be the driving force for one’s actions and reactions. The fear of experiencing undesirable feelings becomes the sole rationale of staying in a relationship that is no longer satisfying one’s needs.
Some important points to recognize and help you begin the recovery process are to remember that you are doing this for YOU! Even though the negative feelings may be intense and frequent, it is vital to recognize that these feelings will not last forever. As humans, we are not physiologically equipped to experience intense emotions forever, instead we are meant to adapt. This adaptation has allowed us to survive for years. It too happens at the end of a relationship. Accepting that the relationship is over will help the healing process unravel and open the path to emotional healing.
Accept and expect that not all of your questions will be answered. In some cases, closure may not be attainable, and this is okay! Talk about the loss and start working on self-growth. Recognize how the relationship could have been different. Acknowledge factors in the relationship that you could not change, but wanted to, things that were missing, and define how these factors failed fit in your own schemas and values. Apply these thoughts to your next relationship. Don’t forget about yourself. Make better choices in your next relationships.
“Wherever you are-be all there”- Jim Elliot
“Courage is like a muscle. We strengthen it with use.” -Ruth Gordon