A friend of mine is starting the divorce proceedings with her husband of 15 years. He has been threatening to leave her for more than five years, but she wasn’t willing to give him the satisfaction of giving up on the marriage first. She felt that if he was serious about divorce, then he would eventually leave; this summer, he finally did.
I used to ask her why she put up with it. He treated her terribly, chipped away at her until she wouldn’t have any patience left for their three children, and then chide her for losing patience with the young kids. Why was she still there?
Refusing To Fail
In the five years of dating prior to getting married, he would break up with her over and over again. She thought she was being the easy-going, reliable, loyal girlfriend by being there for him as he went through law school and family issues. She wanted him to see her as wife material. Alas, his dissatisfaction with her, and life in general, didn’t stop once they got married. And so for the past five or so years as he would threaten to leave her but didn’t, she kept up the hope that one day he would see her for the loyal wife and dedicated mother that she is. She wasn’t willing to take the blame for their marriage ending because she wasn’t the one giving up on it – he was.
So, was she surprised when he finally said he truly wanted a divorce and found an apartment? No. But she also didn’t totally buy into it and was expecting him to drop it again and stay put. This time, for the last time, it he left for good. She still spoke about taking him back if he changed his mind, and that’s when I asked her, “Do you still love him and want to be with him, or is this your ego talking and not wanting to fail at your marriage?” Meanwhile, her husband was being even more of a jerk than usual, trying to get her to hate him so she would give up and stop holding out hope. His plan worked and she is done with their marriage and has accepted their divorce.
What Do You Deserve?
Now, my friend is thinking back and wondering why she took him back over and over again while they were still dating. Why was she willing to be with someone who was not certain they wanted to be with her? Why did she not think she was deserving of more? She does now and is looking forward to surrounding herself with her support system of people who love her and enjoying her peace and quiet on the days the kids are with their father.
It shouldn’t take nearly 20 years and countless breakups and threats of leaving to realize when it is time to move on for yourself. How many chances do you give a person before you decide that enough is enough and it’s time to move on? Couples fight; it’s normal to disagree, and not every issue you face will be one that can be solved through compromise. Sometimes, someone is going to have to give, it’s how often it’s always the same person and how it goes down that will determine if this a relationship you want to continue to be a part of. How often do you fight, and how hard do you fight?
Is this just a rough phase in life that you’ll look back on in 50 years and be glad that you toughed out? Or will you look back in five years and regret waiting so long to take control of your own happiness? Even at a less serious relationship level, when you’re dating you need to decide how often you’re okay with your date being late, or not calling you back, or avoiding “The Talk.” What is your threshold? If you put up with it now because you see potential, are you giving your date permission to continue to treat you like that in the future? Are you giving someone a second (or third, or fourth … ) chance, or are you giving them permission to walk all over you?
No one can answer that question for you and no one has a crystal ball to see what the future holds for you. You have to set a limit for yourself and decide for yourself if and when it is time to move on. Giving too many chances can lead you to waste months or even years with the wrong person, so don’t be afraid to stand your group and stop settling for less than what you deserve.
You may also be interested in Relationship Reality Check: How To See Through The Haze Of New Love