Do you have a reason to stay or an excuse not to leave?
I’m lucky to have a loyal friend like Kali*. We’ve been friends for just over a year now, and I recently found out that each month she drives 8 hours to upstate New York to the military base her friend lives on to help her out with her baby. The father is a pill-popping cheater who probably wouldn’t know the baby’s middle name if put on the spot. Kali has reasoned with her friend to leave a number of times, but she has excuses to stay. She is married, and they have a child together. We find it easy to look at situations such as hers and shake our heads; but are our decisions really any better? Are we really in the position to pass judgment? Absolutely not, but I hope that is obvious.
I was with Kali last weekend when she found out that her friend was finally ready to leave. We shook our heads in unison, while repeating a phrase we have all said at one point “once a cheater, always a cheater.” The more chances you hand out the less respect your partner will have for you. Your forgiveness will be a given, not a gift. We judge girls who make emotionally weak decisions with a singular phrase, until we are the one with reason to leave who chooses to stay.
Only days after her friend chose to leave her dysfunctional relationship, Kali discovered something about the person she was with. Her boyfriend was also in the military, and at various points while they were together their relationship was classified as “open.” Although they remained mostly monogamous regardless of their label, Kali was honest about when she took advantage of the structure of their relationship. Who hasn’t had a blurry relationship with someone that allowed for the possibility of a guiltless makeout session with a stranger at a bar? Nobody I’m friends with….
Kali expressed concern about a particular girl, a family friend of his, and he immediately shot her down; “It’s Tara, she’s practically family, I would NEVER.” A few days ago, Kali found out “never” actually occurred over Thanksgiving break. She stayed with him throughout the time he spent in Afghanistan, but this was no longer about patience or love, it was a matter of respect. She found out through a blocked phone call, otherwise she might have forever lived in the dark. Kali had given second chances when they were due and deserved, and even when they weren’t. We all compromise our interest in relationships, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but we can’t allow someone to get comfortable disrespecting us.
Be the girl who got away. Be the best he ever had who was too good to come back. Don’t be the girl who stayed longer than she should have. Be the girl who makes someone realize how good they had it, not the girl who showed someone how much control they have over a person. Be the girl who is impossible to forget once she’s gone, not the girl who fights battles that she already lost. Choose to be remembered as someone with self-respect, not the girl who sacrificed herself for a lover. Be the girl who gives other girls the strength to leave.
Forgiveness doesn’t have to mean sticking around. Be empathetic, not pathetic. Don’t allow yourself to be the girl everyone keeps a secret from. Don’t be the girl who ignores her gut for a rush. Don’t be the girl who fears leaving more than living in her current circumstance. It’s OK to bask in the glory that is “he wants me back,” but refusing to give someone multiple chances isn’t unfair. An overload of emotions doesn’t equal a love worthy of pain. Be the girl who is doing so well that he feels bad for himself, not the girl who is doing so poorly that he feels bad for her.
If you want him to love you more, walk away. If you want a relationship that is worth being in, walk away. Rarely will your complications sort themselves out. Trust that you know what is worth the fight, what should encourage the flight, and never assume you can change someone. It is an admirable quality to see the good in people, but don’t be the girl who is consistently ignoring the bad. Its okay to love someone unconditionally, but don’t be the girl who stays with someone unconditionally.