You Are Brave
Addressing an abused spouse, Chapter 5 of Should I Stay or Should I Go? by Lundy Bancroft and Judith Patrissi (2011) concludes with important, encouraging thoughts:
You are brave. We know that we are looking with you at some painful patterns that are not what anyone hopes for when they start a relationship. We have a vision for you. We can see your courage. We write this thinking about your finding your way, and getting the clarity and freedom and love that you deserve. We believe in you.
Earlier in that chapter the authors define five principles of healthy relationships:
- In a relationship, each partner is responsible for his or her own actions. You don't cause what your partner does, and he doesn't cause what you do. Neither of you gets to blame his or her behavior on the other.
- Feelings are not an excuse for destructive or unfair behavior. "I was angry," "I was frustrated," "I was hurt," "I was disappointed"—these are all valid feelings, but they don't justify insulting a partner, giving her the silent treatment, or frightening her (even by accident).
- Behavior in a relationship cannot be justified by what the other person did. Two wrongs do not make a right, and one injury can't excuse another.
- A healthy relationship involves roughly equal exchange. Each partner has to do his or her share of the listening, the generous giving, the showing of kindness, the forgiving, the child care, the giving of sexual pleasure, the showing of affection, the making of sacrifices. Within reason, things should come out even.
- For a relationship to be healthy, a comfortable balance has to be found between holding on to the things that matter to us the most, and making some sacrifices and adjustments so that the other person can get what he or she wants and needs. Neither person should have to give up too much.
- The two members of a couple are equally valuable human beings with equally important thoughts, opinions, and strengths, and equally valuable judgment. Both partners have a right to equal say over all decisions that affect both people or affect the family.
In contrast, Bancroft and Patrissi say that abusers believe:
- they have the right to be in charge of others
- their needs and desires come first
- they are better than others
- others don't have the right to stand up to them
- relationships are power struggles that must be won
Near the end of Chapter 5 they suggest:
If you are coming to the conclusion that your partner is abusive, it does not mean that he is a bad person, or that you need to stop feeling love for him. It does mean that you will need to face up to the fact that he is not good for you, that he is a toxic force in your life. He will either have to give up his abusiveness or learn to live without you. You may reach the point where you decide you have to stay away from him permanently, for the sake of your own mental health; but even then you are likely to continue having caring and loving feelings for him–from a safe distance.
Whether you leave or stay, we want to provide you with a way to honor the struggling human being for whom you obviously care while honoring yourself at least that much.
... even when you are successful, when you find answers that provide you with a fairly accurate map of the patterns of behaviors that have disappointed you, you may remain troubled. One reason is that the clearer you become, the more you experience a sense of loneliness and growing distance from your partner, as you come to realizations about him that he is not ready to face up to yet, or has only begun to look at. Your awareness is way ahead of his, and as a result you can see how much work it's going to take for him to fix it. You wonder anxiously, "Can he do it? Will he?"
Your awareness also tends to bring you a sense of loneliness.
Still, hang in there. Finding clear patterns is validating and reassuring of your sanity. This work of clarifying what is going on with him is for you. It is intended to help you see better what is happening with your partner so that you can make your decision about going or staying with more certainty about what exactly you are keeping and what you are leaving behind.
Precisely. It's all about awareness and about the person closest to you: your self. Seeing clearly, knowing deeply, and choosing wisely.