Do You Blame Yourself for Not Trying Hard Enough?

11 Jun 2019

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again.” said Robert the Bruce, allegedly.  On the strength of that pronouncement, Robert sounds a likely candidate for patron saint of victims of emotional and narcissistic abuse. The strategy of all abuse victims is to keep trying harder. But what are the contraindications? What are they failing to see?

Robert the Bruce, in case you don’t know, was the king of Scotland who gave the English a bloody nose at Bannockburn in 1314.  He derived his precious nugget of wisdom from watching a spider at work, while hiding from his English pursuers.

Consider the time and circumstances

Doubtless, Robert’s pronouncement was valid at the time and in the particular circumstances. Certainly, with an army at his disposal, he had the battle plan and the resources to make it work. Good for Robert, I say

Still, there is likely no such thing as a one-size-fits-all nugget of wisdom. You need to consider what is  right for you, given the time and circumstances.

Victims of domestic abuse ,  are decidedly less well prepared than Robert the Bruce.   They simply work a plan that doesn’t work.  They keep trying harder to make a toxic relationship work, despite having neither the battle plan nor the resources that they need.

The “battle plan” of an abuse victim

The “battle plan” of anyone who finds themselves in an abusive relationship is simply to love the abuser into submission.  In theory, it should work.

Love is, ultimately, the most powerful, positive force in the universe.  If anything is going to save the human race it will be love (although, at the moment, that is not looking too much like a done deal).

Sadly, in an abusive relationship, the force of love just doesn’t work.

A war you cannot win

Robert the Bruce may have won the battle of Bannockburn  because he was not fighting alone against overwhelming odds.  He did just fine, the foot-soldiers sustained the casualties.   In an “intimate” abusive relationship, you are the foot-soldier.  Every single time.  You stand alone, facing a formidable war machine..  You will, inevitably, be outflanked and outgunned over and over again.

And that brings us to resources.  What resources would you need to “win” in an abusive relationship?  The very first resource might be accurate intelligence.  That intelligence would tell you two crucial things,

  • You are waging war with sticks and stones on someone who will cheerfully use weapons-grade abuse on you.
  • Winning that war would not deliver to you the person/construct that you love any more than winning the Iraq War of 2003 revealed the dreaded Weapons of Mass Destruction. You cannot find something that doesn’t exist.

The truth about trying

And that brings us back to the whole trying piece.

Robert the Bruce’s spider mentor achieved immortality by doing what spiders are programmed to do. My knowledge of spiders is as limited as I can make it but even I know that they spin webs, devour insects, climb things and show a – provoking – spidery determination in visiting their undesired presence on you.

This mentor spider – allegedlytried and failed six times to climb a silvery thread.  On its seventh attempt it succeeded.  Now, how is that for a learning?

How many times have you tried?

Actually, that wretched spider did nobody – except Robert the Bruce – any favors  by succeeding on its seventh attempt.  If it had just found something better to do or eat generations of us might have been spared that whole – misguided – Trying myth.

My question is at what point would it have given up?

“Now what?”

More to the point, at what point do you, an intelligent human being step back and say,

“Hmm! This isn’t working. Now what do I do?”

Determination and persistence are two important tools in the human toolkit.  But there are tools and tools.  Tools and resources are great to have.  However, what really matters is the intelligence with which you apply them.

One of my brothers used a hammer to defrost a freezer.  That worked about as well as you would expect.  It cost him a new freezer.

Abusive relationship deplete you

Being in an abusive relationship is an exhausting experience.  Never underestimate just how greatly an abusive relationship depletes your personal resources.

You have to dredge up industrial amounts of determination and persistence just to get through the day.  In my experience, both of my own case and that of the many women I have worked with, that exhaustion silences the promptings of intelligence.

Intelligence would look at the problem and say, “Hmm.  This isn’t working.  Now what do I do?”

The one thing that intelligence would surely NOT do, at this point is answer itself by saying, “Hey! Why not just keep on doing what isn’t working.  You never know.”

Intelligence would not do that because intelligence already knows.  

Trying will never be the answer to toxicity 

Trying will never be the answer to toxicity.  You cannot overcome abuse in another person by trying to love them into your kind of wholeness and wholesomeness.  That is not what they want for themselves.

Abusers do not want the love that you have to offer and they do not want to be like you. They want to carry on being, in their own twisted minds,  King (or Queen) of the Jungle.  To misquote that old Irish saying, you can take the predator out of the jungle but you will never take the jungle out of the predator.

You tried to save them and your relationship as hard as you possibly could have.  If you could have harder – and that is already a BIG “if” – it would never have changed the outcome.  It would just have cost you more time and more of your physical and emotional health.  It’s time to consign that old notion of the Benefits of Trying Harder to the scrapheap of abuse where it belongs.  You were not put on this earth to be the Abuser Converter.  You are here to shine your light and have a life – of your own.


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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