What You Are Is Never Wasted

08 Sep 2020

How much attention do you give to the patterns and themes that show up in your own life over the short and long term?

In my work especially, I am always looking for patterns and themes. Patterns and themes enable you to see beyond the single instance to the wounds and beliefs that underlie it. This week, the theme that keeps jumping out at me is waste.

I have spoken with several women who have reached the end of toxic, abusive relationships. The themes that commonly come up are their feelings of brokenness, hopelessness, despair and waste.  Today, I want to look at those feelings of waste.

Those feelings of waste

There can be no getting away from the fact that, in an abusive relationship, you plough vast amounts of time and energy into a relationship that could never work.

Is that a waste?

From an objective, dispassionate point of view – i.e. the point of view of the judgmental, smarter-than-thou onlooker – it could well be seen as a waste.

Point-scoring 101

Although, when you think about it, the judgmental, smarter-than-thou onlooker tends not to think terribly deeply, preferring to focus, instead, on the simple satisfactions of Point-Scoring 101. This point-scoring takes two key forms:

1)  Alluding to your shortcomings in their eyes by inquiring what you might have done to contribute to the situation and

2) Asking why you didn’t leave sooner.

Sadly, the thing that you share with the judgmental, smarter-than-thou onlooker is the tendency to take a very harsh view of the situation in which you find yourself.  You conclude that you have wasted your life with an abusive partner.

Doubtless, the abusive partner has told you – more than once – that they wasted their time with you. That, in reality, is an out and out lie for two reasons:

First, they waste their entire life by focusing on doing harm in the world rather than good.

Second, they stayed because you suited their purpose.

Narcissist and abusers twist reality

Narcissists and abusers twist reality out of all recognition. Nevertheless, you may have absorbed the “truth” of wasting your life from them.

“But isn’t that exactly what happened, Annie?” you might be asking, by now, more than a little peevishly.

My answer – typically – would be along the lines that you could argue it that way and use the bald facts to corroborate your claim.

However, that is not how I see it. Nor, I believe is it in your best interest to see it that way.

You can’t be judgmental and compassionate

First off, you need to understand that you cannot heal the hurt of what you have been through while taking a judgmental view of yourself. You cannot be judgmental and compassionate at the same time. Nobody can.

You need to step out of that judgmental approach to yourself and show yourself some compassion. The judgmental approach is like repeatedly rubbing salt in your wounds. It is pointlessly painful. It does far more harm than good.

Second, it is an unfair judgement because it overlooks the context.

Remember the context

As I have said before, pattern and context are hugely important.

The context in this case has to be your beliefs about a relationship. What you grew up believing, essentially, was that you had to pour all your love, worth and effort into a relationship in order to make it work and earn love and fulfilment.

You acted in accordance with a toxic belief that you didn’t even know was toxic.

If, as you hoped and believed, the relationship had worked, you would have been richly rewarded with the love that you sought and your life would have had the meaning that you longed for.

To the best of your belief system, you were pursuing the path that led to meaning, validation and happiness.

A flawed Cinderella model of relationships

Especially if your family of origin was abusive, you were running your own version of the Cinderella story.  You were heavily invested in making the relationship with your partner work. You were prepared to Cinderella away at the pit-face of your relationship – when the best thing your “prince” ever did was create a couple of great memories and return a piece of your property that he couldn’t use, anyway.

You were heavily invested in the relationship on the basis of a couple of nice – if slightly cheesy – memories.

They weren’t.

Nobody had ever made it clear enough to you that one person can’t make a relationship work when the other person is hell-bent on sabotaging it.

You acted in good faith

You acted in good faith. However, you poured your heart, time and effort into the wrong relationship on the basis of faulty beliefs and imperfect knowledge.

You only knew as much as you knew at the time.

It seems to me that most of us on this earth are here to learn deep lessons and do better for ourselves and others. Unfortunately, Narcissists and abusers are not. They are here to suck the life blood out of everyone they can for the satisfaction of doing so.

Your relationship with a toxic partner was predestined to fail. Nothing you could have done could ever make it work.

What of the love that you poured into that relationship?

My lesson from an annoying professor

My Ph.D. supervisor was an extremely annoying man. To his credit, he was open-minded.  He was not as tetchy as some. He was also splendidly uninterested in me and my thesis.  Only one thing that he ever said still remains with me and that was,

“Work is never wasted.”

At the time, that didn’t land too well with me.

However, my professor did have a point.

The effort that you put into something is, I believe, never wasted.

Love is never wasted

The love that you put into an abuser is wasted on them.

But the act of deeply, sincerely loving another person is not a waste in terms of who you are. From that point of view, your love is never wasted.

You loved a wrong person because you did not have the knowledge to recognise that the person was wrong. But you loved them with all the generosity of your heart because that is how you needed to love. You were, in a sense, true to your heart.

The person you gave that love to was wrong, but your way of loving was not.

You lived by your core value of love.

That is what counts.

The relationship was unfortunate

Your relationship with an abuser was unfortunate.

But you were as true to yourself as you possibly could be, at the time.

That is a huge achievement.

You have cause to be hugely disappointed. But not with yourself.

You have a precious capacity to love deeply.

That capacity was wasted on your abuser because your abuser is, essentially an emotional sink-hole.  That is not your fault.

You managed to love an abuser because you are a deeply loving person. That is to be valued. And, one of your key learnings needs to be that you have to start including yourself in your own circle of love.

The key lesson worth taking from your abusive relationship

That is one key lesson worth taking away from the sadness of your relationship.

If you could love an abuser who was, in reality, extraordinarily dislikeable and hard to love, you can surely start to love yourself. Love yourself for being the loving person that you are. Love yourself for doing the best that you could with the wounds that you had. And start focusing on the wisdom you can derive from the themes and pattern in your life. If that seems too hard to do alone, right now, get in touch and let’s work on it together.


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.

10 thoughts on “What You Are Is Never Wasted”

  1. Annie, this article touched me deeply. I am 81 years old and in the midst of leaving a empty 52 year marriage. After reading this I realized how much I needed to read that it was not my fault I made the wrong choice in staying with my husband all that time. However I have been blessed with three amazing children that have been the joy of my life. No it was not wasted ,they have given me my reason to live. Thanks for helping me see I did the best I could and now I’m going to have a wonderful life

    • Dear Marie,

      So pleased to have been able to help.

      You surely did do the best you could. Your children’s love and support is proof of that – not that any proof was needed.

      Now have a wonderful rest of life.

      Warm wishes for your healing and happiness,


    • Just reading your comments Marie. How awesome for you to wake up and realise your decision. It’s never too late. I too have made a decision to recover and enjoy my life. I have been beating myself up mentally and as I realised why I have been struggling for so long,l am enjoying a shift back to more positive thinking nice to understand more reasons for feeling this way. Wishing you all the best for much happiness too.

  2. Hi Dr Annie,

    I love what you said……
    First off, you need to understand that you cannot heal the hurt of what you have been through while taking a judgmental view of yourself. You cannot be judgmental and compassionate at the same time. Nobody can.

    I definitely need to show myself as much kindness as possible. After all, that’s showing me that you love me.

    It’s a journey to love yourself and believe that it’s difficult to believe you deserve it after you’ve been in an abusive and narcissistic marriage. I thought he loved me and if he did why is he saying all these horrible things about me to me? That was my mindset at the young fragile age. I repeated that pattern and now I clearly see that.

    I find myself great with new men and can turn away quickly when they start waiving their red flags. It’s the sneaky ones, the manipulative ones, that don’t show their red flags until they work their way in your hearts, that I need to work on. It’s easy to turn away from someone you barely know but more difficult to do a 180 from someone you care about it. But….it is necessary to do so when you see that someone is unkind and cruel. I want to love myself and so I did just that, I said if I’m a job and not a joy, I don’t need to be in this relationship any longer. Love shouldn’t be one sided and most definitely not abusive in any shape or form.

    Thank you for all your posts and our one on one session. It’s all helping me toward loving myself more everyday. I’m more open to finding the kind of relationship I want. I’m better with friends, family, coworkers and everyone in my life. I realize that we’re all humans and we’re not perfect. We’re all doing the best we can but I don’t need to help anyone “fix” themselves, that’s up to them to do that. I’ve got to take care of me first.

    I see the pattern that I’ve been stuck in and I’m doing my best to be aware, notice what I need to do, stop, accept and be kind to myself, LOVE myself. It’s so very important to have a joyful life.


    • Dear Glenna,

      It is always a delight to connect with someone like you who has reached that stage of healing when they are like a sponge. You absorb it all and make capital of it all.

      All credit to you.

      Warm wishes for your healing and happiness,


  3. Annie,

    I have read every article on your blog since deciding to leave my 17 year marriage from which I suffered emotional abuse and gaslighting.

    This article is perhaps my favorite because it reminds me that I am full of love. I was made to feel that I wasn’t and I have been learning to truly love and honor myself.

    Thank you for your wisdom. Your words lift me up.

    • Dear God, Sue, what a lot of reading you must have done. I feel awed by your attention to my work.

      So glad that that one resonated so much with you. The person who admired it was another Sue, coincidentally. But it is such an important thing to hold onto.

      Warm wishes for your healing and happiness,


  4. Dear Annie K. Thankyou so much for posting this important message. I really needed to hear this today, even though it made me cry My eyes out…It’s 2 years since I was brutally discarded After 35 years of marriage and I hadn’t Got a clue What hit me. I honestly didn’t know until My doctor referred me to a psychologist and she laid out the facts of My toxic relationship and then I read your book and realized I had been married to Mr. Really nasty.. I have had help and counselling and I am doing okay. I am 72 now and the subject of how I have wasted My life is very much an issue, so that post was so helpful for me In My ongoing inner work. My 3 children are the real loves of My life and their support has meant the World to me..thankyou also for the very helpful Daily posts On Instagram. Best regards from Susan

    • Dear Susan,

      Yes, your children are the real loves of your life – and they return that love.

      For the rest, you conducted yourself honorably and with love. All credit to you.

      Stay strong.

      Warm wishes for your healing and happiness,



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