What keeps anyone in any kind of unhealthy relationship?

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I like reading the advice columns in the Guardian online. What the readers say to the person with the issue (the “OP”, original poster) is fascinating. A few readers play the jerk, but most engage with the issue in good faith and really want to assist the OP. Regularly, people offer profound and generous insights from their own lives.

The following quotation is what one reader said in response to an OP a few months ago. The OP was a woman in her 20s talking about her relationship with her father. The reader’s response is a tour de force. What makes it so good is that he or she has discovered that freedom is a function of responsibility, and love, a function of acceptance.

In one of my relationships, I’ve been through all the places the reader describes. In the last week, I’ve gotten free. From the outside, nothing has changed, on the inside, everything. It doesn’t necessarily mean the relationship has ended. What’s ended is the attachment. To celebrate, I offer you these wise words from A Reader.

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“What keeps anyone in any kind of unhealthy relationship?
A few things are common …

Somewhere deep down, the person has a strong conviction that in this particular situation, there SHOULD be respect, love, etc …Their conviction is so strong that they hang in there trying to make their belief and conviction come true. And when it doesn’t, there’s huge pain.

(Who on Earth ever taught us and convinced us that “family” automatically meant love or like or respect or acceptance or honesty or friendship or “niceness” or support etc …? Whoever it was, either they didn’t really understand human beings and relationship — or they deliberately lied to us!)

Next, the person has already invested a great deal of their own positive energies into the relationship/family. They’ve probably shown their love, respect, kindness, support, friendship etc … and probably done it over and over and over again.

Wherever (and with whomever) we invest our energies, we all of us, always, are expecting or seeking or hoping for a positive “return” on our investment.

Anyone who ever tells me “No, I’m not!” I say to them “Pardon, but YES you ARE! That’s why you’re heartbroken. That’s why you’re angry and resentful. That’s why it’s all so very painful. You didn’t receive/are not receiving a positive return on your investment.”

Next, “forgiveness” will feature strongly, somewhere and that’s because the person deep down, believes (or has been convinced or been “blamed”) they they are the cause of the lack of love, respect, honesty etc … It’s THEIR FAULT! They are not “good enough”. They are not “lovable”. They are not “deserving” of the relationship/family “goodies”.

Thus, in an attempt to “prove” to the relationship/family that YES – they ARE really good enough/deserving enough/lovable enough/kind enough/nice enough/godly enough/religious enough/spiritual enough/better enough/whatever enough, the person bends over backward to “forgive”. And they hang in there, wishin’, hopin’ and prayin’ for that love and like and respect and kindness and support and honesty etc … which somehow, never seems to come their way in the relationship/family.

So, they continue to “forgive”...

That is, until one day, they stop believing or accepting or being “convinced” that they’re not (fill in the blank space) “enough” and they look with two eyes clear and wide open at the relationship/family as it actually IS – rather than how they believed it SHOULD be or hoped it WOULD be and kept on hopin’ and wishin’ and prayin’ that it might be.

Then, they release and free themselves from all the heavy burdens and pain and struggles of all their false truths and past false beliefs and convictions and they can leave it all.

Then, “forgiveness” is no longer any kind of “issue”… and they stop blaming themselves for not receiving something which in truth, was never ever there in the situation/relationship/family in the first place for them to receive it …

Then it’s ….“Hallelujah LORD and LADY LIBERTY! Free at last…..free at last….free at last….
Thank God Almighty…..I’m free at last ! “……..”

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Image: A photo my phone took.

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10 thoughts on “What keeps anyone in any kind of unhealthy relationship?

  1. “Hallelujah LORD and LADY LIBERTY! Free at last…..free at last….free at last….
    Thank God Almighty…..I’m free at last ! “……..”

    YESSS, what a beautiful feeling, darling Narelle. xxxx

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  2. Wow! This person knows of what she (I take it) speaks.

    I’ve been through this and saw myself in all of it…each step of the way. I thought I was so righteous by being compassionate with him (and, yes, forgiving him for the sake of our marriage). Nothing worked. Go figure. All along I told myself I was being selfless. All along I was deluding myself. I was invested in a specific outcome and he wasn’t delivering. He couldn’t deliver what I needed. It was never about him or even about us…it was about me. Funny thing was that he kept telling me it was me, not him…

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  3. You describe the process very well, and I doubt that many people have escaped having this dreadful experience at some time in their lives. Another way to look at it, and one that once helped me a lot, is as a kind of reverse projection, where I project all of my own admirable qualities onto another person, and then find myself “forced” to go to that person again and again, trying to regain those qualities for myself.

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    • I agree. Most people will have experienced it, and it’s difficult because one can’t easily see how one is creating it.

      On the other hand, it’s possible to see others doing their version, for example, I’ve learnt that the people who want to pick fights with me are usually people who have the “I’m not smart enough/I’m stupid” story about themselves. Being around someone like me (who doesn’t have any story about being smart/unsmart) has their story about themselves come up strongly, and naturally enough they think I’m the cause of it. They don’t see it’s their story about themselves that’s giving the pain.

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