Back when I was in an unhealthy relationship –
I would go to my friends and family for advice…
and often times, they would get frustrated when I didn’t listen.
Here’s what I would have said back then if I had the courage:
Dear friend: I know he is an asshole. And I know you hate it.
But there are some things you need to know…things that haven’t been said. After all, you are usually the one giving the advice… telling me what I should do and how I should move on from my unhealthy relationship… but I ask that just for now, you take some advice instead of giving it.
Because you need to hear this. There are a few things you need to know from me, your friend who is struggling an unhealthy abusive relationship. You know, the one you are always trying to help guide. I need to speak the truth here. And I know first hand that sometimes the truth is hard to hear. But just as I need to hear it often, you need to hear it too.
I know you are frustrated with me. I am frustrated with my life too.
You get upset when I don’t listen to your advice. I come to you with my problems and tell you what is happening in my unhealthy relationship, and I hear the same things from you. You tell me “leave him,” and “you need to walk away.” Then you get frustrated when I don’t “listen to you.” But it isn’t because I don’t love you. And it isn’t because I don’t trust you. It’s just that I’m not ready to do what I know I need to do.
I may just need time. And yes, you may be frustrated – but I need you to love me anyway.
You have been giving me the same advice time and time again, telling me the same common sense opinion – “This relationship is no good for you,” you say. “I’m sorry but you deserve so much better than this,” you tell me.
I know this is true. And I know you are sick of saying it. And I’m sometimes sick of hearing it too. Because it’s sometimes hard for me to actually believe it. But I love you anyway. And I need you to return the favor and love me anyway too. Even if I don’t do what you tell me to do the moment you say it. Because it isn’t that you aren’t “right.” It is just that I am scared to do this.
I feel embarrassed when you act as if I should know better.
It isn’t that I don’t want to walk away, and it isn’t that I think you are wrong. It is just that I don’t know how to do it yet. Maybe I’m not ready. Maybe I’m trying to find the strength. Maybe I just need time. But whatever it is – whatever the reason I don’t listen to you – it isn’t because I don’t love you or that I don’t need you around to talk to about my problems. I love and need you now more than ever before. I just need you to not take it so personally when I don’t listen. Please respect that sometimes it takes me a while to hear what you are saying – to believe in myself and find the strength to listen to your sound advice may not happen right away. Please be patient. I am working on finding my strength.
Because your words are strong, but his words are still stronger sometimes…
You can tell me 100 times I should leave. But he has told me a million times that no one will ever love me the way that I am. So finding the strength to trust your words is hard – because it means I have to let go of his words too. And that takes a long time.
You can tell me 200 times that I deserve better. But when my partner has made me feel worthless, it is hard to trust that I will in fact find something better than this.
And you can say 300 times that things will get better, but they were better – three years go or three months ago when he was a different wonderful loving person that I fell in love with – and that’s hard to walk away from.
Maybe you are confident that I should walk away – but my confidence has been beaten down for years. And so making decisions on my own is something that is scary for me. It isn’t easy.
My mind has been molded over the years in this relationship… and retraining my brain to believe in my worth and see myself as more deserving than this is something that is going to take time. And I am hoping you keep patient with me.
Please let me keep coming to you.
I may not have the self esteem and confidence you do. Which is probably why I keep coming to you – because I admire your strength and I respect your advice.
And eventually I will take it. But if I am not ready at this moment, please be patient. Please don’t shut down and push me away when I don’t do what you tell me to do. I need you to understand that with every conversation I have with you, I grow stronger and more trusting that this is the right decision – to walk away. But it may take some time… it may take more conversations. It may take months or years… but please, please be patient.
Eventually it will happen. But please don’t shut me out or get mad when my actions don’t follow your expected timeline. Everyone finds strength in their own way… and my way may be different than your. It may take more time for me. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
And just because I don’t take your advice the second you give it, it doesn’t mean that I’m not listening.
I am listening. And I’ll keep listening. And eventually I’ll listen enough to actually do something about it.
But for the time being please let me keep coming to you. Please be there. Don’t let your frustration get in the way of the help I need.
If I am coming to you, it is because I admire you. I trust you. And I want your advice. I just also want kindness, and patience, and the respect that I may not be ready just yet .
But one day I will be.
And I would so love it if you could be there when it happens. So I can thank you for always being there.
FEEL READY TO GET HELP?