Do You Worry Maybe You Didn’t Try Hard Enough?

15 Nov 2016

What “I didn’t try hard enough” really means

Do you worry maybe you didn’t try hard enough in your emotionally abusive relationship? Most women who have been emotionally abused have that worry. They tell themselves that it was their job to make the relationship work. Therefore, if the relationship does not work, it means two things,

  1. They weren’t good enough.
  2. They didn’t try hard enough.

I’m all in favor of accountability. Relationships work best when each party takes responsibility for their own share in whatever happened.  However, accountability is a two-edged sword. I need to be accountable for what I did – and what I brought – to my relationships. But so, too, does the other person.

When I tell myself, “I didn’t try hard enough”, I give myself 100% blame for what went wrong in the relationship – and none of the credit for what I did right.

Besides, a relationship is not meant to be a labor camp.

“You’ve got to work at relationships.”

My father, and my wasband, both repeated endlessly, “You’ve got to work at relationships.”

Which do you suppose was the operative word in that little phrase? “You’ve got to work at relationships.”

Being romantic, naïve, and unduly trusting, I thought the key word was “work”. So, I worked at my (allegedly) intimate relationships.  I worked as hard as I possibly could, and I shouldered all the blame that Il Daddy, and Mr Nasty, sent my way.  For all that, neither relationship worked out too well.

Why was that, do you suppose?

The official reason was, of course, that I didn’t hard enough. Allegedly.

The real problem was that I fixated on the wrong word.

The key word in that toxic little phrase, “You’ve got to work at relationships”, was the first word – “You”.

I was meant to work my butt off so as to, singlehandedly, keep resuscitating a relationship that needed to be on life support, at best. It was, obviously, all my fault that I didn’t try hard enough to compensate for another person’s lack of effort.

Eventually, I became terribly tired of being constantly unhappy, so I finally did the sane thing and showed the wasband the door. That should have been the end of a dark chapter of my life.

The game of “What if?”

Instead, what happened next was what happens to all emotionally abused women. I fell into the trap of playing “What If?”

I told myself that maybe I didn’t try hard enough. Maybe if I had tried a little bit harder things would have worked out well.

I still thought that a relationship was all about W-O-R-K.  I still believed that she who tries the hardest and works the most will one day win the juicy prize – Mr Nasty’s gnarled and dried up little heart.

What a red letter day that would have been!


Obviously, I just didn’t try hard enough.

Who knew that it is only in a toxic relationship that you have to try hard.  (Note the two toxic concepts in that one phrase, “you” and “try”.)

“I’ll show you…”

Last week, I was having a conversation with a lovely client who was worried about how people  would judge her – people who (even she knew) already knew and liked her.  I told her about my experience  in a Roman Police Station just a week ago.   The policewoman complimented me on how good my Italian was.

So, what did I do?

I had one of those great Let-Me-Show-You-How-I-Can-Shoot-Myself-In-The-Foot moments.  I thought to myself, “So, you think my Italian is good, huh! Now I’ll show you how many mistakes I can make in a single sentence and how USELESS I can be.” (Old self-sabotage habits love to make a guest appearance – especially on an international stage!!)

Just like my lovely  client, I had missed the point. We had both already been judged favorably. We had already earned the good opinion of others.  Without a really impressive effort on our part, those others were most unlikely to change their opinion.

What has that got to do with intimate relationships, and trying hard enough?

A hell of a lot, actually.

So, you didn’t try hard enough!

If someone bothers to choose to be with you, and tell you that they love you etc etc. that means that they have already formed a favorable opinion of you and are prepared to stand by it.  (Unless you do something – or more likely some things that are truly awful. )  They do not make an art form of  blowing hot and cold, and switching from love to hate. They do not seek to punish because you didn’t try hard enough to live up to their impossible standards.

That is nasty and abusive.

A loving partner is not someone who expects you to “try hard” in your relationship. A loving partner is someone who wants you to show up as you truly are.  A loving partner is someone who wants to please you, rather than obsessing about you doing enough to satisfy him (or her).

A loving relationship is not about trying at all.

When you tell yourself that you didn’t try hard enough what you are really saying is, “I could not make a toxic, fatally flawed relationship good.” That much is true. But why would you even want to? Some things are just best consigned to the trash can of history.

Anyone who ever says, “I didn’t try hard enough” is confused. What they should be saying is, “I tried way harder than I ever should to save a dead relationship. I did not kill that relationship – although I know exactly who did. There are plenty of things that need, and will benefit from, my energy.  A dead relationship is not one of them.  All that trying never got me a single step closer to happiness. In fact, it just stole my happiness. I forgive myself and I let go of trying hard.”

Life is about being, doing, having, and enjoying. An emotionally abusive relationship, on the other hand, is merely about trying.  Trying,  without ever succeeding.  Nobody who truly cared about your wellbeing – and that includes you – would ask you to do that.

Trying too hard is a huge, pointless obstacles for sufferers of emotional abuse to suffer with. Please share this article on social media, by clicking the links below,  with anyone you know who is trying too hard, so they can start to find a better way forward.


Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.

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