Here is part six of my blog series ‘why do we stay so long?’ I am writing this series in response to the question I have been asked several times following the publication of my book ‘Poetry for the Newly Single 40 Something.’ (www.stairwellbooks.co.uk)
Each fortnight I have been dealing with a different aspect of why we stay so long and in this instalment, I look at the fact that we may stay because we are chasing the partner ‘they used to be’ and hanging on to that glimmer of hope they will become that person again.
Yes, people can change but usually as time progresses within a relationship, masks ‘slip’ and each party becomes their ‘true’ self. We are all on our best behaviour in the early days and strive to present our best selves.
Over time we reveal our faults and follibles and within the course of a healthy relationship, hopefully these will just consist of leaving wet towels on the bed or poor timekeeping. As masks slip within a toxic or abusive relationship, poor behaviour may consist of belittling, controlling, temper tantrums or physical and verbal assault.
It is possible that we can find ourselves in a vicious circle whereby we fear these onslaughts but equally welcome the subsequent ‘making up’ where our partner is sorry for their conduct and goes to any lengths to display the side of themselves which we fell for in the first place.
So this becomes the ‘glimmer of hope’ that we find ourselves chasing when clearly, the ‘real’ character of our partner is revealed each time they control, belittle or worse. We dread these times but the glimmers become almost addictive. We feel sure that eventually they will change and become that person again all the time.
I can only speak from personal experience and that of people I’ve known over the years to say that abusive partners rarely change unless they do some serious work on themselves. This would usually involve therapy which addresses the root cause of their anger and insecurities. People predisposed to treating their partners badly will usually act the same, relationship after relationship as soon as they have allowed their ‘mask’ to slip.
A toxic partner may also revert to behaving like their best self following a separation, usually as a ploy to return to the relationship they have just sabotaged. Once it has worked, they will revert to their old behaviours as soon as they have their feet back under the table. The more they are forgiven, the weaker the ‘wronged’ partner will become as they run out of reasons to justify why they keep forgiving and returning.
The drama and angst can become almost addictive and the abuse becomes a normal way of life. But it’s not and nor should it be. Life is hard enough without trying to live on eggshells and under a cloud of threat.
There is help out there to break the vicious circle. No matter how many times you have tried to leave before, you will always reach the time when it is the last time. When you know in your heart of hearts that enough is enough. And that that your partner will never change. You will find yourself when you’re single again.
© Maria Stephenson
Loss needles at me as I say goodbye.
Onto these walls, I painted my dreams,
No amount of pain, could the colour hide.
A hopeful promise when I first arrived
will be carried forth by another, so it seems
Loss stabs at me as I say goodbye.
Warmth and comfort may have been mine,
now blinds cover where the sun should stream.
No amount of pain could the curtains hide.
Closing doors for the final time,
trying not to think what might have been.
Loss slices me as I say goodbye.
I recall the shouting that caused me to cry
I yearned to escape, to be safe and at peace,
No amount of pain could the music hide.
The flowers I planted will wither and die,
rotting into the ground before they’ve been seen.
No amount of pain could the colour hide.
Loss lays me to rest as I say goodbye.
Taken from Poetry for the Newly Single 40 Something (www.stairwellbooks.co.uk)
The opinions expressed in this blog post are that of the writer and are not intended in any way to replace professional advice which can be found through https://www.idas.org.uk/