What happens when you “settle”?

by Annie Kaszina on September 4, 2012

What happens when you “settle” – by which I mean, when you tolerate the first big upset in your relationship? 

I’d like to illustrate what happens, with a story – my own – and an image that may well make sense to you. 

Early in our relationship, the future wasband staged a rehearsal, a mini-tantrum, a small scale disruption in the relationship that he used to test the waters.  From his point of view, the test worked perfectly.   My intuition told me exactly what I should do: “Leave and never go back”, while my heart-based Attachment started yodelling a different song altogether: a song about love, and Wonderful Men, and Once-in-a-Lifetime – you know the kind of thing.  Then he smiled and pretended it hadn’t happened, and we swept it under the carpet, and carried on as before… 

Until we married. 

The wasband chose our honeymoon to stage his first humdinger of a temper tantrum.  Abusive men love high drama so they have a habit of selecting key life events.  It means you won’t forget the time, thought, and trouble they put into staging a memorable drama.  

To his credit, he’d worked flat out.  He’d gone to the necessary lengths to see that I had to choose between my parents and him.  My parents – mild-mannered people that they were – had responded by disowning me, as had my brothers.  Which meant I was 100% invested in…

Prince Uncharming.  

After a few days, he tired of being Mr Nice Guy, and threw a mega-sulk, refusing to speak to me, or have anything to do with me.  Which left me in a curious predicament for a newly wed.   Joking apart, it nearly destroyed me – I nearly destroyed myself –  and Prince Uncharming, suitably gratified, went back to doing his best impersonation of Mr Wonderful until the next time. 

The next time wasn’t very long in coming.  

But here’s the thing: something shifted in my head, and in my emotions with that first terrible meltdown and the fall-out from it.  

Think of a train, in motion.  The train is actually going quite fast when, all of a sudden, it’s  shunted onto another track.  

That’s exactly what happened in my relationship. 

At gut level, I knew something had shifted and was profoundly wrong. 

But at the same time, that train was still chugging along a track, and it had all happened so fast, I didn’t know it was a different track.  

As far as I could see, the landscape still looked as I would have expected.  There were still stops at stations etc. etc. 

But let’s face it, when I signed up for marriage, I didn’t really know where the journey would take me.  It wasn’t as if I’d been privy to a trip on the Orient Express, with my parents’ marriage.  

So, I couldn’t know whether I was on the right track, or not. 

The train kept on going, didn’t it?  So, that probably meant it must be right. 

Do you see what I’m saying? 

Maybe you have a great sense of direction; in the normal way.  I don’t.  For me GPS has been the 8th miracle of the world.  I’ve spent so many real life journeys wondering whether I was on the right road, and whether the next left, or right, or crossroads, would bring me to the right place.  (In most cases, I’ve wasted a ton of time in pointless detours…)  But it’s always been clear that stopping the car wouldn’t get me to my destination, whereas carrying on driving probably would… eventually. 

That lack of a sense of direction was exactly mirrored in the most important area of my life; my relationship with the wasband.  

Once you get shunted onto the wrong track with an abusive partner, it’s normal to feel completely disoriented.  The only sign-posts you’ll ever see say, approximately: “Go back to where you started from”.  

You’re aware how difficult it would be to turn that speeding train around.  Besides, since you haven’t a clue where you are, how can you possibly find your way back.  

So, what do you do? 

Chances are, you keep on ploughing on, veering onto a track to the left here, and the right there, in the vain hope that, sooner or later, you’ll end up back on the right track – when, in reality – you found your way into another country,  No (Decent) Man’s Land, a long time ago. 

It’s a vast, desolate country.  It’s so vast it makes Siberia look petite.  Too many people find their way in, never to find their way out again.  

Don’t let that be you. 

How do you make sure that won’t be you? 

How about this? 

You quit trying to turn that damn train around.  Instead, you jump off it.  When you jump off it, everything changes.  You can connect with people you barely even saw, as the train hurtled past.  You can connect with people who’ll show you the short, fast way back to your desired destination.  

There are far better ways to travel than run-away trains. 

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