One of the biggest struggles after leaving is staying away. We know it takes on average 7 attempts to leave a violent relationship. That’s because of all the emotional hooks and brainwashing we received.
It’s hard to give up the image of who we believed our partner was. It’ hard to believe that we were sucked in by this -- now know to be a -- monster. We’ve invested a lot of time and energy into the relationship. We have too little self-confidence to believe we can “make it” in the world on our own. We don’t know how to speak for ourselves, support ourselves (and kids,) fight our own battles and create a future. For those of us who were taught that they are stupid, worthless and not capable of making any good decisions, it’s easier to go back than face the huge task of healing and creating a new life.
When we leave, our abuser knows what to say and how to manipulate us to return. He plays the "Mr. Wonderful" card while making it as difficult as possible for us to move forward. With a straight face, he tells us we are not capable of surviving on our own. He’s concerned for our wellbeing. He misses the kids. He’s getting help. He promises it will be different this time. He’s romantic and before we know it we’re in bed together. As long as we stay connected to the past, we are drawn back to stagnate.
Like me, as a child you may have had a toy or blanket you carried everywhere. I had a stuffed dog that went everywhere with me. I couldn’t sleep without it tucked in bed beside me. If it was lost I’d cry until it was found, desperate and hysterical that my beloved toy was gone forever. Do you know where your beloved toy is? Like mine it may have been tossed away many years ago or tucked in a keepsake box. We don’t need it to make it through a day anymore because we’ve matured beyond that relationship.
In the same way, when we free ourselves from an unhealthy relationship, we begin to mature beyond our need for this destructive partner. It’s a lot of steps forward and some backwards. It’s stretching muscles we didn’t know we had. Step by step we learn that we can take care of ourselves and children. We can fight our own battles. Along the way, we uncover our gifts and talents that we had to put aside to meet the needs and wants of our controlling partner. We find our passion in life, the thing that fills us with joy. It’s not easy. It’s worn-to-the-bone-sick-of-it-all days and so-help-me-if-have-to-learn-one-more-lesson today, I’ll scream days. But as your life starts to move forward, it’s priceless. Those are the days when you look back and say, “Look how far I’ve come. I don’t need anyone to take care of me.”
Then you can invite someone into your life because you want them there, not because you need them.