Sheís family, so thereís blood tying you together. But every time she calls, you wind up feeling gutted.
You love him, but you spend more time crying over the words you write in your journal than you spend laughing (and you know from past experience that the quality of your relationships with guys is inversely proportional to how much time you spend writing in your journal).
Youíve known each other for years. You once called her your best friend. But you realize you continually have expectations of her she fails to meet.
The Time My Husband Hit Me
Keeping your heart open in the face of serial heartbreak is†the hardest thing youíll ever do, but knowing when to stick it out and when to throw in the towel can be unbearably confusing and painfully tough.
Iíll never forget the day my husband, who I still loved, hit me in the face after becoming enraged at me about what seemed like a small thing.
After it happened, he started to walk out the front door while the red mark on my cheek was still smarting, but we were supposed to go on a trip to visit his family the next day, and I told him I wouldnít go to the East Coast with him unless we talked first about what had just happened.
He walked out anyway, muttering ďIím so outta here.Ē I stayed home with an icepack on my cheek and took the week off so my patients wouldnít notice the bruise.
While my husband was gone, we agreed to write letters to each other about what had happened. I agonized over writing a vulnerable, heart-on-my-sleeve, 10-page letter about how much I loved him, what was wrong with me, and what I would be willing to change in order to keep our marriage together.
Waiting to hear what he would write was pure agony. My heart felt naked, open, worried, waiting. I was already divorced and I was terrified of failing again.
When he returned from the East Coast, he said he wasnít ready. He didnít want to read my letter until heíd finished his. He kept delaying. I was so distracted I couldnít concentrate on my work (not a good thing when youíre a surgeon).
He barely spoke to me during this time. I slept in the other room. There was silence and more silence after the violence. He had†an important letter to write, but he kept telling me the letter wasnít ready.
I couldnít bear it. I wanted to pull my heartstrings closer together. Leaving my heart open felt so raw, like my heart was bleeding love and hemorrhaging all over the floor. I wanted to close it back up. Keep it safe. Never let anyone in again. But I didnít.
When my husband finally read me his letter, he sat me down on the sofa and made me promise not to utter a word while he read it. No interruptions. No defensiveness. He wanted to read all 10 pages straight through before I said a word. With my heart beating in my chest, I promised to be silent.
I prayed that his letter would express his undying love for me. Surely, he would apologize, promise me he would never hit me again, make amends, agree to go to therapy and maybe stop drinking. Surely, he felt awful, good man that I knew he was, beautiful soul that I saw beneath the times he fell asleep in the back of someoneís car after closing out the bar at 2am and never calling to say he wasnít coming home, while I paced the hallways all night.
But his letter didnít say ďI love you.Ē He wrote that I interrupt people too much. I judge them and impose my rules on everyone else. Iím a goodie-two-shoes with a closed mind.
I started sobbing and interrupted him. I got defensive, and he cut me off, reminding me I had promised to let him read the whole letter. He yelled at me to stop crying, chastising me for using tears as a means of manipulating him.
By the end of his letter, I was a blubbering mess, and I realized that while I had written a 10-page letter about what was wrong with me, my husband had also written a ten page letter about what was wrong with me.
Iíll never forget the way my heart felt the moment that sunk in. I wanted to close it up forever, never let anyone come inside again. But I didnít, because love canít get in when your heart is closed. Instead, I left him a few months later, on our two year wedding anniversary. I packed my bags, walked out, drove myself to the Ritz Carlton, ordered a $25 hamburger and a bottle of champagne, watched some stupid romantic comedy on pay-for-view, and drank myself to sleep.
When Is It Time To Cut Your Losses?
Iím certainly guilty of attaching to relationships because of the history we share, the memories of better times, or the certainty that the relationship is right on the verge of getting†way better.
But what if your relationship will never be what it once was or what you imagine it could be? What if your dream of a†perfect relationship is just that – a dream?
Surely, forgiveness is always a good thing.†We all make mistakes and those we love deserve second, third, even fifteenth chance.
But at what point do you cut your losses and accept that the relationship brings you more pain than joy? When do you draw the line in the sand, even if youíre still in love, because youíre worth being treated better? When do you release someone you donít love anymore, because to cling to a loveless relationship isnít fair to either of you? When do you decide to cut your loved one loose? And how do you keep your heart open in the process?
Oh to know the answers to these questionsÖ
How Do You FEEL?
As someone with two divorces under my belt, take what I say with a grain of salt. Although Iíve now been with my current husband for almost 10 years, Iím certainly no relationship expert. All I know is that knowing what to do begins with being honest with yourself about how you really feel. Loving someone and having that love reciprocated is supposed to feel good – at least more often than it feels icky. How do you feel when youíre with the person in question, and what percentage of the time are those feelings joyful?
Your Inner Pilot Light
Once youíre honest with yourself about how you feel, check in with your†Inner Pilot Light. Tap into why youíre still in the relationship. Is it guilt? Pressure from other people? Fear of failure? Financial concerns? Hope that things will change for the better someday soon? Religious beliefs? Worry about what will become of the person if you leave? Unwillingness to endure the pain of a break up? Lack of courage to initiate what you know you must?† Dread of the aftermath?
Been there. Done that. I feel you, my love.
Iím not endorsing breakups. I can certainly tell you divorce sucks and I hope I never have to experience it again. Breaking up with family members or friends is no easier.† But Iím also not a fan of staying put when itís time to cut your losses. Itís not worth staying in relationships that suck the life force out of you, take advantage of you, injure you, keep you from thriving, drain you of your joie de vivre, leave you feeling disempowered or disrespected, or keep you from being who you really are. Lifeís too short to stay in a relationship just because some people might think you ďshould.Ē
The Day I Left
The day I left my husband, he threw himself at my feet and grabbed my ankles. I remember walking down the hallway with my luggage in one hand, trying to shake him loose. It was our anniversary. He begged me to stay just one more day.
But the day before, something had happened that was the last straw. I couldnít stay one more day.
How do you know when itís time to cut your losses? When the pain of staying put exceeds the fear of the unknown.
I walked out that door, into an uncertain future.
If your Inner Pilot Light knows what you must do, you can do the same. I wonít lie to you. It ainít gonna be pretty. Itíll get darker before you see the light. But itís not worth trading in happiness and freedom for security and pain avoidance. When you fail to make a choice, youíre still making a choice.
Choose to get the most out of this one wild and precious life. Itís yours. Grab it. And donít forget to dance while your heart heals.
Holding your hand,
Lissa Rankin, MD: Founder of†OwningPink.com, author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourself (Hay House, 2013),†TEDx speaker, and health care revolutionary.†Join her newsletter list for free guidance on healing yourself, and check her out on†Twitter and†Facebook.