*** This Piece Was Originally Written For The Mighty on 8/7/20 ***
I’m admittedly a hopeless romantic at heart with a strong Florence Nightingale effect. I’ve always been drawn to the misunderstood, wounded soul with the tragic backstory, ultimately wanting to help save them from both their hard lives and themselves. I stayed in a dysfunctional relationship for 11 years, tolerating both repeated abuse and infidelity, because I firmly yet mistakenly believed it was my responsibility to stay the course and make things work. I desperately wanted to help him heal from the hardships of his past. I believed if I just loved him enough and was supportive enough, somehow we could make it work.
I spent years giving of myself and chipping away at my own self-worth until I completely lost myself in the process. In the end, no matter how much love or support I gave, no matter how many times I forgave his transgressions, the relationship ultimately failed. And even though it was his cheating and his abuse that destroyed everything, I was left with the overwhelming feeling that I had somehow failed, that if I had tried harder or loved more, maybe things would have changed; maybe he would have changed.
It took extensive therapy to accept that I was not at fault. In my desire to save everyone else, I had forgotten to bother trying to save myself. In wanting to help fix him, I had broken myself almost to a point beyond repair. In loving him despite all the abuse, I had stopped loving myself.
That’s why I know model Tess Holliday was completely spot-on when she recently said, “women shouldn’t be responsible for rehabilitating men,” and that, “women often get blamed for not doing ‘enough’ to ‘save’ their relationships. Guess what? We don’t have to carry that. We are only responsible for ourselves and our actions.”
And that goes for all people, not just women toward men.
We can love someone to the moon and back but it doesn’t change the fact that abuse is present. Abuse is never acceptable, nor is it a fee anyone has to endure and pay in order to eventually be worthy of love. It is not anyone else’s responsibility to love someone else enough that they eventually decide to change for the better. Nobody deserves to be abused and nobody has the right to subject anyone else to abuse.
Change has to come from within and the person doing the changing is solely responsible for both their actions and their choice to change. Nobody is required to endure abuse in order to be loved or save anyone else from themselves. The only person each of us is responsible for, the only person each of us has an obligation to save, is ourselves.
These days, I have found myself with another tortured soul who has had a relatively hard life. There are quite a few distinct differences, however, between my last relationship and this one. For starters, I will no longer tolerate anyone being abusive or otherwise treating me poorly because I understand now that abuse is not love. Secondly, I am no longer trying to save him, nor am I asking him to save me, but rather we are loving and standing by each other as we both attempt to save ourselves. Last, and perhaps most importantly, I have learned both to accept responsibility for my own actions and to refuse ownership of his or anyone else’s. I also know now that it is not solely my responsibility, nor his, to make this relationship work. Make it or break it, we both must be all-in and committed. Relationships are a partnership, not a rehab.
Originally Published on The Mighty on 8/7/20.