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ignoring signs + twisted loyalty: why women stay in wrong relationships
When my middle daughter was around 8 years old, she was having fun listening to my old mp3s (remember the rogue early-internet days of limewire and bearshare?).
She put on an EDM song called Beautiful Things, by Andain, and it triggered a memory I had forgotten until then.
I remember listening to this song in the car, one cold January morning…it must have been 2004, right around my birthday (which was, then, mostly a non-event). We had just moved to a new town, after my oldest two kids' dad joined the military.
I guess we had to run an errand of some sort, and he had taken our two kids with him into the building. I was glad to sit alone in the car for maybe 20 minutes. I could pick the radio station myself, and actually listen to what I wanted without interruption or complaint.
It was the first time I'd been by myself in literally months, after living with my parents, and him in training or whatever. With two little children, living in a new area, with one car, no friends, and no job…sitting in a cold car with the radio on was as close to the luxury of solitude as I could manage…
Got up early, found something's missing
My only name
No one else sees, but I got stuck
And soon forever came
As I listened to the lyrics, tears started pouring down my face - even tho I hardly ever cried.
I had strategically thrown out my own ambitions and hopes years prior to this, in favor of pleasing other people, but I hadn't allowed myself to fully feel what I had lost until those moments.
I thought I'd made peace with choosing practicality and stoicism... but in this moment, I was suddenly grieving for a life never lived for me, always pretending, always conforming to others’ expectations and desires.
Sure, I bargained here and there for concessions - as if one's autonomy can be fairly traded for an occasional bit of spending money or help with the housework.
Look straight ahead, there's nothing left to see
What's done is done, this life has got its hold on me
Just let it go, what now can never be…
Just a few minutes of this song created a sharp crack in the facade I’d so carefully built - but I didn’t have the strength to face what that meant, yet.
I furiously wiped away the tears and hid the tissues, fixed my makeup, so that there wouldn't be a trace of emotion on my face once he and the kids returned. I only allowed myself this snatch of time to feel these feelings, in true solitude.
I hadn't the slightest idea, then, how to begin extracting myself from the heap of someone else's ambitions and ideals that I'd allowed myself to become so suffocated by.
More insidiously, I didn't believe I had a right to dismantle his creation - especially not because I wanted to make one of my own.
Now what do I do?
Can I change my mind?
Did I think things through?
It was once my life…
That memory was from 2003 or 2004 - and it still took me almost two years (yes, years!) to begin disentangling myself from that life.
As women, so many of us have been deeply conditioned to ‘be nice’, to the point that we don’t know who we are or what we care about, even in the privacy of our own minds and hearts.
I was the master of dissociation as a teen and young adult, trained to evaluate my worth exclusively through the eyes of others.
The only people in my world at the time had very clear expectations that I was not to deviate from the path they’d all laid out for me.
Besides, I was a mother, and good mothers shouldn’t consider their own desires.
One of the many insane things my parents said to me about my prior partner was:
“He pays the bills and he doesn't beat you - what more do you want?"
As if wanting more, better, and different than my current circumstances made me a terrible person, somehow!
The message was clear: if I wanted to be a ‘good mother’, divorce was not an option.
Of course, wanting more than the bare minimum does not make us unreasonable or demanding - it makes us NORMAL, healthy human beings.
Truly, getting divorced was the most challenging thing I’ve ever had to face (including my mother’s death) - because I thought I’d die of shame over hurting others if I started to walk my own path.
I really, deeply believed that I owed my entire life, my autonomy and loyalty, to this one guy, as if I was his property - because, hey, he paid the bills and didn’t beat me.
Women don’t get a choice anymore, once they have kids….right?
THIS is why I say it’s so important to get clear on why you believe what you do - so you may look objectively at your beliefs, decide whether or not they’re serving you, and consciously choose to accept or reject them.
It’s not only possible, but necessary to re-write your default programming!
Falling in love was a wonderful catalyst for expanding into my true self.
Two years after that emotional incident with the song, I met the man who is now my husband … and for the first time, here was a person who asked me seriously what I wanted to do, what I thought, what I felt… without agenda, coersion, or expectation of what my answer ‘should’ be.
It was so confusing at first, to be treated as if I had a say in my own life!
You may or may not have a catalyst like this show up, to guide you in re-learning how to listen to your own heart.
However - true change must originate from within yourself - not because you’ve decided to follow a new voice of ‘should’.
Maybe it’s as simple as hearing a song on the radio whose lyrics crack your heart open just enough to let the light of truth and sovereignty in…
Similarly, you may feel suspicious, and not recognize new invitations for change and growth as positive, because we’ve been conditioned to think:
change = bad
status quo = safe
That’s what it feels like to live in the upside-down world of trauma (fabulous article btw).
Our guides and angels and higher self are constantly offering us signs...
but as humans on this planet, we always have free will, which includes the free will to diverge from our ideal path and ignore all the signs meant to aid us.
I once ‘got a sign’ by losing my priceless collection of tanzanite jewelry…and I didn’t hear the deeper message until later:
Tanzanite is a stone that encourages us to integrate our conscious actions with our heart and feelings. It also encourages us to speak our truth without fear. At the time I lost the stones, I was furiously pretending that everything was Fine! and was really working to ignore the longings of my heart.
When I lost my jewelry collection, I just thought it was a random accident - but now I think the stones were tired of me not listening to them, so they exited my reality!
I ignored many painful signs over a handful of years…and pressed doggedly on, with the ‘safe’ status quo as my guide.
Finally - hopefully - you can find the strength to make a radical move forward...not because it's become easy or clear as to HOW to move forward, but because something happens that jolts you into awareness.
All at once, you realize that choosing anything else besides the thing you’ve been fervently avoiding for so long - is certain death to your tattered soul.
Suddenly, there’s a new, stark clarity in your mind - and you finally realize that maintaining the mundane becomes even more excruciating than the pain of inaction, once you allow yourself to feel.
Change is terrifying - and hard - but please, Love - choose anything besides what's killing you!
Whether quickly or slowly, it's all violence to our soul.
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