Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with a woman in the process of leaving an abusive relationship. I met her at a bar, brought there by a mutual friend who thought the two of us would benefit from talking to one another.
Our friend was right.
It was strange how easy it was to support her, how I knew on a deep level how and why she blamed herself for what her ex had done to her. It was the first time we’d met, and in many ways, we were very different people, she being a great deal feistier than I am and quicker to anger. Still, it was easy to understand her and how she felt, and before I even registered what was happening, I was telling her all the things I wanted to hear when I was struggling, things that I now believe are true, that she deserved to be happy, that it didn’t matter why she left, she had a right to leave, and there doesn’t have to be a good or a bad party in a split for the split to be the right thing to do, that there are no hard and fast rules to relationships except what works for the people involved and that anybody that tries to tell you objectively that a relationship has to operate the way he/she thinks it ought to, regardless of whether or not that makes you happy is at the very least misguided and quite possibly a bully trying to control you. I told her that I know she’d done things wrong, made mistakes in the course of the relationship, but that in no way meant that her own mistakes negated the importance of her own unhappiness or obligated her to reunite with her ex.
“The relationship was toxic. Right or wrong or somewhere in between, the combination of the two of you was toxic. He can say that you’re the toxic one all day long, and even if you believe him, that the abuse was all your fault, that you’re the element of that relationship that made things toxic – which I don’t really think you were – then why on earth would you subject yourselves to a combination that didn’t work in the first place?”
After we’d left the bar, my friend turned to me and said, “I wanted you to see how far you’d come.”
“Thank you,” I replied.