If you are struggling within a destructive or abusive relationship, or if you have left one and are still picking up the pieces, beware your therapist.

After more than twenty-five years in the advocacy field, helping women and children survivors of domestic and sexual violence, I went back to school so that I could dig into the latest trauma research. I wanted to come out better prepared to work with trauma survivors as a clinician, a therapist, rather than solely as an advocate. I went back to school already very well read in the field. Given that, I did not learn much new in the way of trauma research or about working with survivors. Instead, I came out much better prepared to warn you why you have to be wary of all those lovely, well meaning therapists you might turn to.

Chances are your therapist has been schooled in one of these ill conceived approaches to domestic violence that they tried to teach me in school:

Reenactment theory: a victim/survivor seeks out abusive relationships in an unconscious desire to resolve issues from her past.
Here’s the deal:
Sure, your awful relationship reminds you of your earlier awful relationships. And yes, you probably learned some survival patterns early on that suited you at the time, but are not serving you now. Yet consider this: do women have their human rights actively violated all over the world because they have mother issues? (You should be shaking your head and saying, ‘No, they don’t’.)
Also, importantly, all abusive partners present themselves as those terrific guys you know and love and admire (and maybe even cheer on the playing field.) None of them asks you on the first date to sign up for a relationship of humiliation, loss and degradation.

Family Systems theory: a victim/survivor is an equal partner in the abuse. Every member of the family plays a role in the system and is responsible for their role in creating abuse.
Here’s the deal: No.
Okay, this is a very helpful theory when you are looking at relationships that are not abusive. If you are thinking about relationships that are not based on one partner bullying the other to maintain power, family systems theory will take you far. In abusive relationships, research has shown that the more relationally skillful, communicative and conciliatory the abused partner, the more the abuser consolidates his control. The more you try–the worse it gets. “It takes two to tango?” It is not a tango. It is a train-wreck!

Low selfesteem: A victim/survivor feels badly about herself, which is why she seeks out the relationship, or stays in the relationship, perpetuating the abuse.

Here’s the deal: We’ve got cause and effect reversed here. Survivors feel their self esteem erode terribly when they live with a denigrating partner. They don’t stay to perpetuate abuse. They stay because it is dangerous to leave, because the partner threatens to take or hurt the kids and because of economic vulnerability or poverty. Many abusive people seek out women who have great ego strength because they see them as a challenge. In batterer intervention groups, these men talk of “taking her down a peg.”

What do these lenses for viewing domestic violence have in common? They hold the survivor responsible for the abuse. And that is just what the abuser does. If it feels comfortable and familiar–that is why. Also, we know that the first stage of response to a trauma is to blame yourself. There is some power in claiming responsibility–but it is the wrong place to take it. Where is it worth taking responsibility? Take responsibility for your healing path.

What should your therapist know about that would help you?
Conflict or Feminist Theory: The perpetrator of violence is exercising multiple forms of power over the partner and children he abuses. He often finds support for his choices in the media, his community and in our courts’ legal decisions. The victim is not responsible for the abuse perpetrated upon her.

This point of view relieves the survivor of the distracting and false burdens of guilt so that she can get on with rebuilding a life without the abusiveness or destructiveness.

Ask your potential therapist: what do you think causes domestic violence? Listen carefully to the answer. Having survived already and having read this, you are likely more savvy about the dynamics of domestic violence than many a therapist out there trained to blame.

By JAC Patrissi

In the opening scene of the film, Gladiator, Russell Crowe’s character prepares his men for battle in the forests of Germania. As he enters the fray, he shouts to his men, “HOLD THE LINE! STAY WITH ME!”

When I work with people leaving abusive or destructive relationships, they are often shocked by the force with which they feel compelled to maintain or reestablish connection with the person who has harmed them. This is no ordinary break up longing. It cannot be attended to with a good movie and a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia.

Isolation

Because of the way abusive or destructive relationships work, the person who was harmed is often isolated from other deep and sustaining life connections. This means that loss of the primary romantic relationship represents the loss of the most profound connection the person has, even if it was a damaging one. Often it is the only deep relationship occurring. Friendships and family are opfrequently distant or estranged.

Unmet Need

The survivor of these kinds of relationships has also usually built up a deep well of unfulfilled needs. To leave the relationships without real ongoing connection would mean feeling the depth of the unmet needs, which many survivors do not feel prepared to face. These are the needs for kindness, love, appreciation, sex, tenderness. With distance, the survivor recalls the whole idea that  a relationship is supposed to be good and loving most of the time. It is supposed to make you stronger. Facing that you have not had this and for so very long, is very painful.

The survivor longs for loving connection with the abusive or destructive person above a connection with anyone else. In part, this is because abusive person usually withholds affection or attention within the relationship, often denying the reality of the abuse or minimizing it. Over time, the smallest and often temporary acknowledgement of wrongdoing on the part of the abusive person begins to feel precious. A period of apparent peace, bought at the cost of the survivor swallowing or softening the truth, seems worth the price. The survivor wants acknowledgment, longs for respectful connection, even after leaving, in part because loving connection has been so hard to come by, so fleeting, especially from this person who meant so much.

Making Things Right

The survivor wants the abusive person to be the person who makes things right. You want the person who hurt you to do the apologizing. Survivors hope that if they maintain connection, that someday the abusive person will be able to see what they have done and to provide the much longed for acknowledgment. The sad truth is that the acknowledgement you seek most likely won’t be coming. And even if it is coming, it isn’t going to come as soon as you break up, and it won’t mend the harm on its own. The damage done by the relationship is still yours to nurse.

Sharpening the Intensity

If the survivor has a family of origin that was unsupportive or hurtful, this longing for reconnection to the abusive person can feel intensely compelling, nearly beyond description. When you leave an abusive relationship, a window into your own profound needs for a family is opened. By truly separating, survivors feel like they are rejecting the chance at having a real, loving family, a thing that they have longed for their whole lives. You are not rejecting that chance! By leaving a destructive relationship, you are opening the path to that chance.

What to do?

Establish a boundary. Get help with establishing it. Every time you wan to write or text or call, or stop by, call your helping people.

Grieve. You are in grief. You must respect the many losses you are sustaining. Grieve your isolation, as you work to fill your life with new connection. Grieve your unmet needs. Grieve the loos of having things made right the way you wanted it all to happen. Grieve the deeper wounds that may be there. Honor your soul through the process of grief. Find help for this integrative process.

Use your spiritual tools. Call in friends and new connections. Ask them to help you find the line. Ask them to encourage you, to call to you across the chasm of your grief:

Hold the line! Stay with me!

JAC Patrissi

 

Written on September 15th, 2015 , domestic violence, Grieving and Leaving, relationship, Uncategorized

I used to work primarily with women who were trying to decide if they should leave their relationship. They’d read my book, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” come to my women’s weekend retreats, and somewhere in there, for a minute or two, each woman would really, really want me to tell her whether she should get a divorce or not. I would strive to be open and fair, but always respect that the final decision belonged to her. “You might not be finished and that’s okay. I’m not the Divorce Lady!” I’d say. And then a couple of ago, The Omega Institute asked me to help put on divorce conferences.

Now I’m the Divorce Lady.

The Relationship Just Didn’t Work Out or It Was Destructive

If you are seriously contemplating getting a divorce, you need to know what is coming. For your own sanity, safety and your future planning, you need to know who you are divorcing. The options for repairing a relationship and for divorcing from one are very different depending upon who your partner is.

There are two main categories of relationship demise: 1) Didn’t Work Out and 2) Destructive. Where does your relationship fall?

In the Didn’t Work Out category, you have relationships where skills and values become your primary concern. Were you skilled communicators? Were you self aware? Did you have compatible values? Do you wound one another repeatedly? Is the relationship painful most of the time or loving most of the time? When it doesn’t work out, you will experience pain and grief. You will also have significant options for the divorce process. You can explore a range of mediation options and custody options if you have kids. It’s not easy, but you will have less to navigate than your divorce comrades working through the aftermath Destructive Relationship.

In the Destructive Relationship,

ü  Your partner might be addicted to a substance or to a behavior, like gambling. This isn’t necessarily abusive behavior, but, unchecked, it can destroy a relationship no matter how hard the not- addicted partner tries.

ü  Your partner might be Chronically Immature. This also is not necessarily abusive, but being the “parent” to your partner who can never quite care for him or herself will erode the relationship.

ü  Your partner might be a bully who uses fear, intimidation, sexual coercion and other violence to get what he or she wants.

ü  Your partner might have unresolved mental health needs, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, one of the Personality Disorders or Major Depression.

And, most challenging, your partner might have a toxic mix of the Destructive options outlined above. This makes for a Perfect Storm of a relationship and it means you have to proceed with caution while navigating a divorce!

Learn more about Destructive Relationships before you weigh out your divorce options. Your wisest options are planned knowing exactly who you are divorcing.

JAC Patrissi

 

 

These were the only the people Darcy could really talk to. She knew that when she told them how she moved back in with Tomas after he’d been released from prison for the assault on her, that they’d ‘get it.’ They would know how she felt. The other members of the domestic violence support group understood how she was feeling.

The court had put Tomas on a ‘bracelet’ that tracked his movements. If he hurt Darcy, he would definitely go back to prison, where he did not want to go. It was the first time Darcy had felt this kind of protection.

When Darcy had called the police on him two years ago, she was the one that ended up in trouble. Tomas had convinced the cops that she’d pushed him and they arrested her, instead. She did not call for a long time after that. The second time she’d called, Tomas did get arrested, but the Assistant District Attorney told her that they wouldn’t go forward without her testimony. It was all up to her alone. Tomas’ mother and brother and friends came over every day to plead with her not to ruin his life. She could not do that to him. She did not want to hurt him. She just wanted him to stop hurting her, so told the ADA she did not want to go forward. Tomas was furious with her for ‘getting him in trouble’ anyway.

The next time the police came, it was because the neighbors had seen him attacking her. There was the hospital record of her broken ribs and the marks from the strangulation. The evidence was stronger, but still, the ADA told her it was all up to her.  Darcy did not visit him in jail, but he called her. It sounded terrible in there.

Darcy thought about this: if she had told any of her friends that, for example, her brother had hit her, but that she still loved her brother, her friends would understand this. But when she told her friends that her boyfriend had hit her, but she still loved her boyfriend, her friends thought she was ‘sick.’

It was when he was in jail that Darcy started going to the domestic violence support group. The group was the only really emotionally safe place for her. The group members understood. They wanted her to be safe. They wanted her to understand that she could not change him, and that it was not her fault that he hurt her, but they also understood that of course, she loved him, too.

The group members also knew what it felt like for Darcy to move back in with Tomas when he came out on his tracking bracelet. The first time he started talking at her with that menacing tone, Darcy did not cower. She did not shrink into the corner. She stood up and told him she wasn’t afraid anymore. She had to stand on the tongue in the mouth of the lion and tell him that he couldn’t bit her anymore.

Maybe no one outside the group would understand what it felt like to take your power back in that way, but she felt she had to do it. The group members told her that she didn’t need to stand up to him in person. She could have stood up to him inside her head. She didn’t need to live with him. But they didn’t judge her when she did choose to live with him.

Darcy called the police when he shoved her around two weeks later and he went right back to jail, just as they’d promised. She was glad she’d tried this one last time. She was glad she’d stood up. And she was glad her  group had stood by her.

by JAC Patrissi

 

 

Written on April 27th, 2015 , Grieving and Leaving Tags:

I was in the woods, following a set of bunny tracks, when I saw two giant wing brush marks on either side of the last track, and two drops of blood. That bunny’s last thought: “I’m flying!”

Until of course, that hawk smashed and ate him up.
This is the Seeker’s plight, too, in the talons of the hawkish teacher who promises flights of heaven, love, insight, transcendence, justice.

Though I work primarily with people sorting out their romantic relationships and the aftermath of destruction or violence within them, from time to time, people ask me about struggles they have in their place of work, or within a spiritual group.

It’s usually the same dynamic at heart: a teacher of a path, a leader of some kind, a therapist, or a lover asks you to suspend what you know and trust his judgment over your own for a time.
For those who believe in the deceptions of the ego, or call it the shadow self, or evil, or pathology or the blindness of social, gender and race privilege, this is not an unreasonable request.

We want to grow; we want to see what we don’t see—so we ask someone we respect to show us the things we don’t see about the world or ourselves. In fact, one of the attributes of some of the most painful emotional disturbances is that we don’t see destructive things about ourselves. And so the seeker seeks another point of view.

Which can be the very answer, the doorway, the way forward. Hawk knows about our hopes.

He comes dressed in infallibility. If you question the insight of this kind of boss, teacher, therapist, leader, something predictable happens. He uses the fact that you are questioning his point of view as evidence of your pathology, your shadow self, your evil nature.
This is no easy thing to shrug off. The Seeker risks being cast out by defying the teacher, and often would rather deny her own insight than risk losing so much of the beauty in the path she has come to cherish.

As a parent, I remind myself of this every day when my kids question my authority. Let them struggle, I tell myself—offer paths, offer consequences. Let them choose. When I teach or facilitate, I begin every session saying that I am Praying for Doubt. If the learner challenges me, then I know we are gripped in learning together.
Let’s ask the good questions, seek new information and try on the answers. My ideas might not fit you, and I’m good with that. If yours don’t fit me, will you burn me alive?
True insight offers its own flight—stable and rewarding, demanding bravery and humility and kindness. There are no talons, no tests of loyalty.

 

Alice Whitefeather credits the strength of the Jaguar in helping her escape both her captors—her pimp and her addiction. Though she was free, Alice couldn’t sleep and she couldn’t feel her life. She could only stand outside of herself, wakeful and observing.

She came to her therapist, Natasha, to ask for help with these two things. These days, Alice felt only in flashback. Flashbacks came in a trinity of terror: images, pictures and a stomachful of fear. Childhood’s sexual violations were a cold floor where she and the excrement lay, the degrading names were the curling iron that burned her and the physical assaults were the stones thrown at her eyes and head as she curled in a ball to hide.

Soon after Alice had escaped her childhood home as a teen runaway, she met Scott. He understood her. Scott shared her dreams of a better future in a new city. He paid her way. When they arrived, Alice met his new face and all the other girls whom he controlled as his prostitutes. There the girls all lived on the cold floor, nursed their burns, curled themselves away from the hurtling stones. Scott brought something new to her life, however. He made all the girls take drugs; they were easier to control that way.

Natasha helped Alice get Social Security Disability Insurance and housing for her new life. She taught Alice how to soothe herself, to manage her feelings, to find a life story with many more rooms than those that imprisoned her. Alice learned to sleep. Alice felt her way into a plan. She went to school, found work.

Only after many, many months of working together did Alice Whitefeather speak once and sparingly to Natasha of the sacred spirit of the Jaguar that had helped her. The Jaguar was the spirit of waiting and ferocity. He killed with one bite. He was not afraid to walk through humanity’s darkness; his endurance was unmatched. Alice Whitefeather said the night she took the money and ran, the Jaguar ran beside her, slipped in and out of doorways for months, helped her live on courage. Alice told this story to Natasha, gave her a white feather and did not return for fifteen years.

Upon her return, Alice brought Natasha pictures of her wife and children. The kids were independent enough now that Alice was thinking of returning to school so that she could work with troubled teens. Together, they reviewed the turns in her path that had brought her to this place of ever increasing fulfillment.

“I honor your Jaguar,” said Natasha. Alice Whitefeather looked at her.

“The Jaguar does not offer comfort or reassurance, only his strength. The turning point for me was when you cried for me. No one had ever cried for me before. I began to think that if you were crying for me, maybe I was actually someone who was worth something—someone who was worth crying for. I thought you knew this. I gave you my feather.”

“I did not understand,” replied Natasha, and she cried again.

“We cannot live without fearlessness; that is true. And we cannot live without love’s tears. Do you understand now?”

She did.

 

 

“He always said I was crazy.” Debbie cradled her head in her hands, waiting for her mental health crisis clinician Robin to come back with the cup of water she had asked for. Debbie’s mouth was dry with fear. The truth was, she couldn’t see a way through this slow heavy darkness that seemed to press down on her. Tonight, dying seemed the only way to escape its intolerable press. She couldn’t breathe. Nothing seemed to make it better. There was nowhere to turn, so she came to Crisis. “That makes me crazy, doesn’t it?”

 

When Robin handed her the water in a white mug, Debbie thought of her husband Andy holding up the coffee mug that had been her mother’s.

“Is this the one? Oh—too-bad,” he said, as he let it smash to the floor. When the kids rushed in to see what the noise had been, he explained, “Oh, your mother’s so uncoordinated, she is just dropping things again. You know how she is. Be careful you don’t step on any chards.”

When they left, he explained to her, “You see, no one will ever believe you. They know how crazy you are. I make sure they know you are a liar.”

 

And they didn’t believe her. Many years later, when their father died of a heart attack, the kids, now adults, mourned Andy deeply. After awhile, she tried to tell them just a little bit about the abuse she had endured from him all of those years. She tried to tell them that they didn’t deserve it when he would hit them or scream at them, but they wouldn’t, couldn’t, hear one word of it. When a person is intermittently loving and scary, we are bound to them even more tightly than if they were simply loving. It was one of the terrible barbs of her husband’s abuse that the children were bound so much more tightly to him, even in death, than they were to her. And he was charming. He’d charmed the pastor, the sheriff, the couple’s counselor and the neighbors. There was nowhere to turn.

 

Decades ago, Andy had stopped being even the slightest bit kind to her when not in public. The one benefit of this was though she had felt trapped by him, she hadn’t felt attached to him in the end. Today was the anniversary of his death. She and the kids had gathered at his gravesite, the way they have done for the past seven years. Today the kids were cold to her in that old, familiar Andy way. They left the cemetery and went their separate ways. She thought they might be gathering without her. Debbie’s thoughts turned darker and more painful as the evening wore on, until she reached out to the Crisis team.

 

“What’s on your mind?” asked Robin. Debbie held the mug with the water. She looked at Robin carefully, and then decided to try. It took awhile. She told about her life with Andy and the kids. She told about his death. She said the thing that she had not been able to say to anyone:

“I’m not sorry he died. I am so relieved. I am so grateful. I am so—happy—he’s gone.”

Debbie cried through a smile that grew wider as she spoke those words. Then, after a very long pause, she told her truth. She told story after story of the humiliations small and large, of the threats and the assaults.  She didn’t rush. She deliberately opened every door and every window in the airless house with Andy where contempt had reigned. She talked and no one stopped her.

 

It was unlike any Crisis intake Robin had done, because sometimes–this time—the primary intervention is being the safe person in the safe place where the truth can be told and honored.

“And I don’t have to punish myself anymore,” laughed Debbie as she sipped her water. “I don’t have to die because I feel so glad he’s dead or because I’m telling you what happened. And you believe me?”

“I believe you.”

“I can tell.”

 

 

 

Bibi, one of a pair of Galapagos giant tortoises has left her mate, Poldi. After one hundred years, Bibi had had enough of the relationship, and took a chunk out of Poldi’s shell to signal her step into freedom. Keepers at the Reptile Zoo in Klagenfurt, Austria, say that now whenever they are brought together, Bibi remains firm in her conviction, hissing at Poldi, who violently lunges at her.
“They are both 115 and have been together since they were very young,” said zoo owner Helga Happ.
Bibi remains entirely uninterested in reuniting with Poldi, moving on to new daily routines.
“I just wanted to be absolutely sure that I’d tried everything possible to save the relationship,” said Bibi in an interview, “but I finally realized that though he claimed he was working on changing, it was all talk and the same lunging at my lettuce at dinner and apologies in the morning. I’m not as naive as I was in my fifties–if you can’t keep up with me, then I’m not waiting around for you to change.”

After a ski in the wood and cold, as I soak in the heat of the tub, this sometimes occurs to me:
How I soaked once on such a day long ago at the old hill farm in Vermont, when my former husband leaned against the doorway of the bathroom and asked me this:
“Do you really think you are that smart?”
The tenor of his voice was so even that I thought to be jovial, even chatty, in my responses–
Yes, I… do. That was never an undiscovered and uncelebrated aspect of my being—the much praised, much lauded Brilliant Young Girl/Woman Story. Writing awards, special projects, fellowships and prizes. Professorial stamps of support and approval. But I had already traced that story for him —how the city and suburbs were both energetic and protective, in their own ways, but never my place. And academia was an ill-fit as well, with even the very best telling me, “You don’t need our small, plastic chairs. You don’t need us.” That I had come to the hill farm in the Northeast Kingdom to learn the things I needed to know from the land and, as it had become clear, to also build the spiritual retreat center there.
“And do you think that you can really take on this project with Maggie for the Coop?”
“Yes,” I slowed, more curious than wary, “It’s going really well.” I didn’t see how my working with Maggie on the Food Coop’s Board restructuring could be so unsettling to him.
“Well, sure it is, now that you two are totally disagreeing with me. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t move into a place and just jump in to something this size without knowing anyone. I guess I’m not that smart.”
His eyes flared, his face turned red and he began to shake as his voice opened to bellow, “You are So Smart, then! You are Just So Smart, aren’t you?” He came close, looming over me as I clenched my wet knees, realizing with an immense disappointment that this is what the careful tone had masked. I didn’t yet know the ins and outs of this kind of cruelty. I didn’t know its pattern and cut, the way I do now. I couldn’t imagine any of it was more than a mistaken moment that could easily be overcome.
I began to shake in the water.
“Look at you! Shaking!” he shouted. Not yet fully tutored, I hoped, for a split second, that my quaking had awakened him to his fuller senses. “Look at you!” he shook his head and twisted his mouth into a smirk of contempt. “Look at what you do to yourself,” and then he retreated with a heavy foot.
One of the many things he said when I told him much later that I was leaving him was this, “Don’t leave. You know how you changed that feral cat you found? It was working with me, too. Don’t give up.”
Of course he could never hold on to the concept that he was in any way like that feral cat, or that I had anything to offer him; this would be ultimately as unacceptable to him as the notion that I was “smart.” But he did know that to offer this vision to me at that juncture could be effective and enticing, just as the mask of the gentle spiritual warrior had been so attractive for so many.
And still is. He still runs the retreat, and would recoil at being faced with the unadorned facts that he emotionally, physically and sexually assaulted the woman who challenged the reign of his private kingdom.
Together a few experienced advocates and I offer retreats for women healing from destructive relationships. I always begin by saying in welcome, “My goal is to help you become women who are hard to fool.” Women who come for help and support are often surprised that we can anticipate and bring to light what they thought was hidden, that we know the paces of outrageously violating storms that stir in the smallest of spaces. When we look together, we can see what is not so clear to the untutored eye—we leave with much to teach our daughters and friends about power’s sleights of hand—minimization and blame; context stripping and typecasting; fear, isolation and the hint of kindness and hope that forge the traumatic bond.
I came to the hill farm with a request of the earth to show me the gifts I did not possess. She told me these things:
You cannot pull out the roots to check on their growth; there is a place for light and rain, but give the roots the darkened mystery they crave. Let yourself unfold. You will root over time.
A hundred seasons exist inside one season—how could you be bereft of blossom?
And this,
The earth erodes all superficial cover. All will be revealed in time.
Peace for us all this new year.

Honoring the Loss of a Relationship That Wasn’t That Great
I was in my backyard this morning when I discovered that  the giant tree branches, downed in last summer’s tornado and in the Halloween snow and ice disaster, are now dry and light enough to drag with one hand. It made me consider that sometimes
the breakage from a great storm needs to be left as it is for a time, until it is light enough to carry. Sometimes relationship break ups create emotional damage that need time to heal–to become lighter, too.  You can’t just pick up the broken pieces, carry them off and be done with the whole business quickly. You need some time.

Leaving a relationship is always painful, and there is a unique pain that comes from leaving an unhealthy relationship.Unlike the many people who leave a relationship when they realize they have nothing in common, or that they are no longer attracted to each other, or that they have grown apart, or that they simply don’t like each other, when you leave an abusive, addicted or
emotionally unwell partner, you tend to face a more powerful set of emotions.

You may well have to, for example, come to terms with leaving someone to whom you are still attracted, with whom you had much in common, and to whom you felt very bonded or connected when he was not destroying himself or being mean to
you. This means having to say good-bye to much that you liked, were attracted to, or felt so connected to. I want to support you in grieving those losses. Grieving takes time. Sometimes the breakage from a great storm needs to be left as it is for a time, until it is light enough to carry.

Planning for Grief

Your emotional well-being is in your own good hands. This means you will need to embrace and structure time for grieving. Now that you have decided to let go, let’s make room for grief by naming some of the many things there are to grieve in leaving a destructive relationship.

We know that a relationship that has been so troublesome can lead your friends and family to offer a form of support that isn’t really helpful, however well meaning it may be. It often goes something like this: “Thank goodness you left the bastard; now you can move on!” Just weeks later, they may already be saying, “Are you still dwelling on the past? It’s over!”

But that’s no how grieving a destructive relationship works. We know that there are many losses to grieve and that there is much wisdom for you in this pain. We suggest that you plan for a year of grieving. It might take you shorter or longer, but we ask that you plan for support from a couple of trusted friends, or find wider support through a group for women recovering from abusive relationships, or Al-anon, or a therapist, or a spiritual leader to help you through each of the four seasons of the year following your leaving. Planning for this as you get ready to go can make the entire journey not only more manageable, but fruitful and loving.

First, name what helps you.

Read the statements below and figure out the statement that feels most right for you, that you would most like to hear from other people as you begin to grieve:

“We are sorry that he wouldn’t change.”

“We are sorry that he threw it all away.”

“We are sorry that he wouldn’t step up, that he refused to ‘man up’.”

“We are sorry that he decided he didn’t want to go through all that work and that he chose what he knew already rather than risk a new way of being.”

“We are sorry that he couldn’t go any faster, or do any better.”

“We are sorry that he can’t offer to continue to lovely moments that you shared, because he is unreliable or unsafe.”

You don’t have to—and shouldn’t—attempt to rush yourself through the process of getting over the grief of leaving a destructive relationship. The slower you go, the faster you will heal. Begin by naming what it is for you that you most need to hear. That will tell you where the grieving needs to start.

 

 

JAC Patrissi's Blog – Growing A New Heart is proudly powered by WordPress and features a customized theme by Adam Taylor
Entries (RSS) and Comments (RSS).

JAC Patrissi's Blog – Growing A New Heart

JAC Patrissi is a Communications Specialist who uses writing, performance art, training and collaborative facilitation in order to support healing for women who are questioning the health of their relationships or who are healing from destructive relationships. This is her blog.