Walking Away Doesn’t Mean You Have Healed

Wednesday, Mar. 9th 2011 12:31 PM

Are there patterns in your relationship history that you would like to change? Do you feel as though you have been treated badly by your romantic partner, or by a series of partners? Instead of playing the victim, do something about it.

I recently listened to “Susan,” a former teacher, discuss her history with men. She explained that the women in her family have typically allowed men “to yell at them, beat them, cheat on them or whatever.” This was true for her, she said, until she decided that it was her fault for “allowing” this behavior and that she would no longer be a “victim.” Then, she said:

About two weeks ago, my teenage grandsons started treating me very ugly. I promptly recognized this as the return of my personal and familial history with men. But I knew I was healed when I immediately told them, “You will not speak to me like that.” And I have not spoken to them since.

With all due respect to Susan, her solution doesn’t sound like one where she has “healed.” I am a fan of space. It can be refreshing and can help two people find peace and relationship longevity. It can also be a way to quiet the mind and gain clarity about what we really want. Either way, it can be a tool for healing, but it is not proof of having healed.

We are not healed until we can walk back into similar situations and create the results we desire. Susan could avoid her grandsons for the rest of her life, but that would not prevent her from getting the same results from other men in the future. If she wants to be healed of being treated “badly” by men, she must change herself – the only person in the situation whose behavior she can control. Once she clears her head, it will require interacting with her grandsons again – or with similar players – to find out if she has healed. She will know that she has when they treat her the way she wants them to, or when she can at least feel at peace about it.

The best way to get other people to treat us differently is to change the way we treat them. If you have gotten undesirable results from interaction with romantic partners, consider how you may have contributed to the undesirable situation. Have you treated your partners (current and/or past) poorly? Have you made assumptions about all men (or all women) based on past experiences (or your mother’s or grandmother’s)? Did that cause you to go into relationships on the defensive – perhaps treating them with disrespect, mistrust or even contempt? If so, do not be surprised if they treated you the same way.

Next, put yourself in your partners’ shoes. Consider your relationship interactions and dynamics from their points of view and determine if any of the discomfort is due to misunderstandings, different personality types, differing standards/expectations, or even just poor communication.

I am not saying that anyone should stay with a particular partner if he/she is unhappy – especially if that situation involves violence. Instead, I am talking about addressing patterns in our relationship histories. If we keep getting the same undesirable results from the opposite sex (or the same sex, if that is how one is romantically inclined), it may be time to look at how we are contributing to the cycle. But let’s avoid hanging our hats on being “healed” until we can walk back into similar situations and be at peace.

Keep Rising,

Frank Love

www.FrankLove.com

…and please do not multi-task when driving.

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How to Gracefully Exit a Relationship

20 Comments on “Walking Away Doesn’t Mean You Have Healed”

  1. Ms. Carole Says:

    It seems like Susan has started on a positive path toward healing: identifying the problem and taking action to correct it. Making positive changes in the present is the best way to change patterns and move toward a better future.
    Healing is a process.

    Hopefully Susan will be able to talk to her grandsons respectfully and they likewise.

    “Space” is certainly one way to help a relationship. There are others, too, like having a clarifying conversation about an issue. Sometimes changing the way you communicate can change the communication, too, like talking on the phone rather than in person or writing a letter.

  2. Venessa P. Says:

    Two thumbs up!

  3. Reyhan Says:

    I just read this post for a second time. I would like to discuss one of your points, specifically: “We are not healed until we can walk back into similar situations and create the results we desire.” While I think this is sometimes the case, I think there are many times when it isn’t. One way to create what we desire is to create it with someone else. Sometimes the person or people we are attempting to work with aren’t the people who we need to be working with. I’d say that a way to know you have healed is if you aren’t triggered and in reacting to the situation so much as you are responding deliberately in a way that is masterful. I am sure there is a more articulate way to say this, but I hope you get my point.

  4. Maceo Says:

    ?”We are not healed until we can walk back into similar situations and create the results we desire.” Frank be dropping some real nuggets.

  5. Reyhan Says:

    Yes sir!

  6. Sara Says:

    ?”We are not healed until we can walk back into similar situations and create the results we desire.”

    so true…. never thought about it that way. was always just proud for being able to walk away…

  7. Jeff Says:

    Initial thought / question: I think there’s an assumption being made that one person should single-handedly change a relationship. If “the only person in the situation whose behavior she can control” is her own, how does “Susan” create the …result she desires (respect from her grandsons) by changing herself? If she walked backed in the situation with her grandsons, treated them with respect and they continue to disrespect her, how is that evidence of her healing if she decided to continue the relationship? She already treated them the way she wanted to be treated. I can only guess that when she said “You will not speak to me like that,” that was a tipping point for her. They did not change, she walked away… I would think that was her healing; treating them with respect, addressing the grandchildren when they did not respect her, cognizant of her behavior that she did not have to put herself in that position, feeling at peace by walking away.

  8. Reyhan Says:

    Jeff – I posted with a similar point earlier. I think there is merit to both. Perhaps the question is not about whether or not you stay or leave, but whether you are avoiding/running/etc when you do whatever you decide to do. I can see a scenario where Susan can be just as empowered whole staying as she can be while leaving.

  9. Shoshana Says:

    I was just reading about a similar idea last night in the book “Screamfree Marriage” (Hal Runkel). He defines screaming not only as literally screaming but also as any form of emotional reactivity. Cutting a person off in an attempt to avoi…d hurt is one of those forms. The problem is that it never really works because you can never truly cut someone off who has been a significant part of your life (such as family or an ex-spouse). They will always show up in questions from others or at the least in your memories. I agree with Reyhan- the question is whether one is running or not. But I also (sort of) agree with Frank Love- the proof is whether or not you can create different results in a similar situation. It’s not about changing the other person. It’s about how will you behave, no matter what other people do, the next time someone else acts the fool. Can you stay calm, *& connected* while authentically representing yourself? Then walk away.

  10. Dia Says:

    In relationships, people often treat it like fractions…the numerator, denominator, and the least common factor..and we as women should also own our faults. Sometimes people want love, and literally take it in any form..its sad, but true..the very ones we seek it from, really doesn’t know love themselves. We as people often convict our current significant other with a trumped up charges from our previous unsuccessful relationship that instantly makes one defensive. You can’t fix another soul..nor make them see it your way. When u decide that harboring pain,hurt, and fury, and will no longer render u their subject u will have peace. Remember the old folktale”people only do what u allow them to”…hogwash! Some people just don’t know betta, and certainly wasn’t taught…so don’t charge everything to ones heart..charge to their heads…”OWN YOUR HAPPINESS ” don’t no one else power over u…(*_~)

  11. Dia Says:

    In relationships, people often treat it like fractions…the numerator, denominator, and the least common factor..and we as women should also own our faults. Sometimes people want love, and literally take it in any form..its sad, but true..the very ones we seek it from, really doesn’t know love themselves. We as people often convict our current significant other with a trumped up charges from our previous unsuccessful relationship that instantly makes one defensive. You can’t fix another soul..nor make them see it your way. When u decide that harboring pain,hurt, and fury, and will no longer render u their subject u will have peace. Remember the old folktale”people only do what u allow them to”…hogwash! Some people just don’t know betta, and certainly wasn’t taught…so don’t charge everything to ones heart..charge to their heads…”OWN YOUR HAPPINESS ” don’t let no one else power over u…(*_~)

  12. Milton Says:

    i concur 110% !

  13. Skinner Says:

    True. You can’t change anything if you keep stepping into the same waters. It’s a tough pill to swallow when u r asked to look at your own behavior in relationships but it’s really the only way to move in a positive direction. Once you’ve been hurt, it becomes easy to point fingers the other way but the reality is that we are partially to blame if we allow bad behavior to invade our space. Not succumbing to the need to fill loneliness, and being patient as you seek the right person is very important. I’ve been fortunate to work with a wonderful doctor who has helped me to understand the issues that I bring into relationships and I am working hard to not repeat these things going forward. I think ppl have noticed a change for the better in me. Good article. Thx for sharing.

  14. Penny Cohen Says:

    True, partial healing is learning how to respond appropriately. The true healing is when we stop attracting people who treat us poorly to begin with.

  15. Sharraine L. Says:

    VERY TRUE STATEMENT!!! Sometimes you have to dig deep to get to the core of the wound(s). Otherwise, you’ve just bandaged if for years…

  16. Stacey Says:

    I enjoyed your post and it made sense.

    Thanks,

  17. Alania Says:

    Iyanla Vanzant told the same story on Oprah…what a coincidence.

  18. Boyd Says:

    Thank you for the article, Frank. It took me 15 years to heal, ultimately writing about it was the solution for me.

  19. Mary Says:

    Very good article. I agree that you have to identify and get to the core of the wound to truly heal. I also believe that partial healing is learning how to respond appropriately. The true healing is when we stop attracting people who treat us poorly to begin with. Its a journey and needs to be respected as such and there are no short cuts.

  20. G Says:

    “We are not healed until we can walk back into similar situations and create the results we desire.”

    Part of healing is learning to stop entering into bad situations. Perhaps the ideal result isn’t walking back in and creating something different, but recognizing the situation as a waste of time, energy and gifts, and walking away. Call it what you will, but “insanity is repeating the same thing over again and again, expecting a different result.”

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