“Out Of The Relationship, But Not Over It”

by Annie Kaszina on August 10, 2011

“Dear Annie, What can you do when you have been out of the relationship a while and you’re on a sort of plateau?  Life is better (obviously), and you no longer need to “fight” as much, with yourself or him, but you know you’re nowhere near over it? How do you move on from there?”  Deb

Deb, it sounds as though you’ve reached the place of wanting more and not knowing how to get it.

Life is no longer the hideous, nightmarish experience it was but, still, you’re existing, not living your life to the full.

You’re gazing out across the plateau of frustration and dissatisfaction – and, sure, those feelings aren’t bad enough to destroy you, you’ve known so much worse – but you know you want more from your life.

Why wouldn’t you?

But what do you want?  And how do you get it?

My guess is, you want to feel fully alive, to engage happily, even passionately, with Life.  I imagine you want love and intimate connection.  I suspect you feel you haven’t yet grown into your full personal stature.  You still don’t believe you are a wonderful, engaging, gifted woman who is a gift to the world.

Maybe you have yet to stop feeling like a frightened child in a hostile universe.

It’s far more enjoyable, I have to say, to feel like a powerful woman who can choose her own path in the world, and walk it with confidence…

You say you know you’re nowhere near over your abusive relationship.  I’m sure you’re right.

You say you’re not fighting “as much” with him (or yourself) but my guess is that you are still living in the world of his making, the world he imprisoned you, in during the relationship.

Now, if that sounds overly dramatic, it’s not intended to be.  Having worked with many hundreds of women – and struggled through the whole process myself, unsupported – I know what happens.

When you finally eject an abusive man from your life – or, for whatever reason, he puts himself out of your misery (and, most likely into someone else’s) your life does not suddenly become a bed of roses.

Of course, there are immense satisfactions, like being able to go to bed at night, and wake up in the morning, without the fear of an emotional assault.

But the chances are, you aren’t free.

The way it works is this: your abusive partner imprisoned you in the jail of his worldview.  Now that worldview may well have been a reflection of your parents’ worldview or, at least, the worldview you grew up with; or it may not have been.

Still, that worldview led you to believe you didn’t matter.

However you choose to look at it, that was the bottom line: you didn’t matter. That made it a dangerous, hurtful world.

One way or another, your abusive partner has moved on…

But he has left you the legacy of his world.

No doubt you don’t want those beliefs in your life.  They don’t fit with who you are really are, how you treat people, and how you would choose to see the world.

But the thing is, you aren’t free to choose how you see the world.  Because you are still living in his worldview.

Even when external circumstances change, you still have his old views and values echoing in your mind, telling you a different story.

And, at bottom, you believe them.

You’re not stupid, of course.   Not at all.

You know it doesn’t have to be like that for other people.  But you still believe it’s different for you.  You still believe that life has to be hard for you, and thankless for you; and, quite possibly also, joyless and loveless for you.

It is as if you are looking through a glass wall at happy people who live in a safe, manageable world, knowing that you have no right of residency in that world.

That is the jail of an abuser’s making that you are still living in.

As long as you live in that world, as long as your feelings are conditioned by those lies, you will never be over the relationship.

So, what needs to change?

And what can you do to make it change?

As you well know, ‘if you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on getting what you’ve always gotten’.   For as long as you carry on giving the old thoughts, fear, and negativity headspace, nothing is going to change very much.

Not uncommonly, I hear from women who have found a loving partner and a good relationship.  Their life should – could – be as near perfect as doesn’t matter.  Their life is good, yet their inner world is not.

Because they still have not exorcised all the demons of the past.  That emotional jail is still a place they know all too well.  It may have become more like an ‘open prison’, but it is NOT emotional freedom.  They are not free to rejoice in the moment.

Phrases like: ‘rejoice in the moment’ and ‘living in the moment’ are, I think, difficult to make sense of at the emotional level, if you have been in an abusive relationship.

An abusive partner specializes in trashing life, moment by moment.  So, you could not be blamed for learning that a lot of your moments are worthless.

Yet where else can you possibly live in peace and joy, if not in the moment?

As you may, or may not, know, my beloved partner has recently been through a life-threatening experience.  Times like that bring home to you that the only true safety and joy are in each moment.

And despite the trauma, there have been many, many moments of true joy and peace in these testing weeks.

You – and I – were taught that before we could be happy, ‘everything’ had to stack up, all the conditions had to be right.

That’s a lie.

You can be happy no matter when, once you step out of the prison of abuse.  I know that because I’ve done that for myself, and that is what I teach other women to do for themselves.

So, dear Deb, you have a choice.  You can continue on this half-life plateau, out of the relationship but with the relationship still inside you.  Or you can say: “Enough of being deprived of experiencing my share of joy to the full.”

If you haven’t been able to get beyond the plateau by yourself, it may be time to acknowledge to yourself that you need help and support.  But not just any help and support.  Working with someone who specializes in helping women along their journey back to wholeness and happiness is the best guarantee you have of swift and lasting progress.  I hear from too many women that, months down the line, their counsellor – who is not a specialist in emotional abuse recovery – is sticking labels on the problem, rather than resolving it.

Compared to the jungle of abuse, the half-life plateau may be quite bearable.  For the foreseeable future.

But is bearable enough?

Or do you want more enough to make it happen?

 

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