Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New Year’s Resolution: Love ‘em BEFORE YOU Leave ‘em

"Did I make a mistake marrying my partner?"

The cycle of violence can be so confusing. Things can be great one minute and so horrible the next that you can find yourself – well I found myself – trapped for a long time in a cycle of “should I stay or should I go”? For me, this struggle was excruciating. In some ways, this in between time was worse than leaving itself.

Two things made leaving possible for me. The first was that I knew I had done everything I could to make things better. The second, is when I left, I didn’t hate my husband. Years of courtroom drama later, I still don’t. And that’s what I want to talk to you about today: Don't leave him until you love him!

Confusing? Well here's how the logic goes. You don't love someone for them. It's not a favor you do for someone. You love someone for you. Love is a generator. If they love you back or treat you well, that’s just the gravy - that's not WHY you do it.

Love is an action you take. A decision you make. You decide to love someone and then you do it. FOR YOURSELF. FULL STOP.

Now, let me be clear, if you are in emotional or physical danger and you have found a safe way to leave, go ahead and leave, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do this work. Loving someone doesn't mean you stay married to them. It just means you love him - for YOU. And then, from that place, of total love and total compassion, you make the decision about whether to stay or go.

Trying to love someone for his sake or because of what he does or doesn’t do says more about you than him. You miss the facts because you get so tied up in the story. These are your issues he is bring up. And this is your big opportunity to learn these lessons. If you leave without learning these lessons, you are just going to face them again with someone else. The goal is to love your husband and not have him change one thing.

I know I know – you can’t. I don’t understand. If I knew how horrible he was or what he did I would never ask you to do this, right? I was SOOO there! So let me make it simple for you. Answer this questions: Would you RATHER love him or not love him? Ignoring his behavior (which I’m willing to assume is unacceptable!) - would it feel better to love your husband?

To help you see what I mean, try writing a wildly romantic love letter to your husband. Only write about him, take yourself out. One thing that helps me do exercises like this is to imagine I am his mom, or to think of him how you saw him when you first met.

Here's a letter I wrote (but never gave) to my husband about 6 months before I left him.

Dear R*,

You are a breath of fresh air. And I mean that not in the cliche way, but truly everything about you is fresh, clean, untouched. I love your innocence, your openness, and your curiosity. Mostly I love and admire your wild sense of adventure and your passion to create adventure in your own life. And, I love that you brought that in my own life.

You are a child of the wind. You go where the spirit blows you, and DAMN it blows you on some crazy journeys. I love how you dive into new subjects you care about and make them your own. I love your passion for new technology and your commitment to shaping a career for yourself that you are wildly in love with.

I'm sorry, that on a day-to-day basis I find it hard to appreciate all the wonderful things about you. I'm sorry, that in the midst of my story and my pain, I can't celebrate your carefree spirit easily and that I worry about money or other logistics.

I think we have so much to learn from each other in this unpredictable journey called life. I want us to be on the road together. To share our adventure story, like Ram and Sita. I want to come out of the forest stronger, wiser, and more committed to a miraculous shared truth.

I love you - just the way you are,

While everything in that letter was true, it left out much (but not all) of my own story. I was able to see him as he truly was – doing his best, not always succeeding, but wanting all the same things we all want – excitement, passion, and happiness.

And so with this letter, I began a journey I hope you will begin. I began to separate loving him from loving myself. And I started to take control of my thoughts and my life so that I could love my husband but realize I loved myself enough to let him go. Once I did that, the letting go came from a place of love which has made me stronger, happier, and more confident my next relationship will be with someone who respects me and treats me well.

***** Angela Lauria is a domestic violence survivor, a blogger, and a life coach. She helps women create more empowered lives and she runs Journey Grrrl Publishing which is a small press dedicated to producing books & media that help people build bridges between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. She has a B.A.& M.A. in Media from The George Washington University and a PhD in Communication from The European Graduate School. She can be reached at angela [at] journeygrrrl [dot] com or on twitter at @alauria.


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