Dealing with Abusive Relationships

Sep 05

A friend asked, “What if people have done something very unacceptable or hurtful to me, I tell it to them and they deny, their reply is that ‘it is just my shadow’ without acknowledging my feelings or truth (other people see their behavior is not right), how can I solve the situation? Perhaps let go of resisting their behavior, heal my negativities and probably they will stop? But shall I also walk away from those people? Aren’t they using the fact that “it is my shadow or projection” to throw crap at me?”

I empathize with my friend’s questionings. What to do about ugly or abusive relationships has been one of my lifetime challenges.

Yes, we are all absolutely entitled to healthy relationships. So how do we get them? We simply choose the relationships that support us and walk away from the ones that don’t. We don’t need to justify our actions. We don’t need to explain unless we want to. All we need to do is walk away.

Nobody deserves abuse. Nobody. But as long as we stick around, we are enabling the abuse and it is likely to continue. If we simply walk away, there is no one left to abuse. Our power lies in changing ourselves.

I first learned about the power of walking away from a very dear friend of mine, a judge who had offered me a job when I first graduated from law school. I should have taken the judge’s offer. Instead, I decided to work for a very large, prestigious law firm.

The partner for whom I worked had me working 80 hours a week. He would send me off on one research project only to change his mind and send me off on another. He never seemed to be able to decide what he wanted. Worse yet, he always seemed frustrated, angry and irritable.

One evening, at a bar dinner, I was chatting with the judge and began complaining about this abusive partner who was totally exhausting me. After about a minute, the judge simply excused himself and walked away. My tirade stopped immediately. I had lost my audience and rightly so. I was wasting both my time and the judge’s with ineffective complaining.

What I should have done was quit the job. I did that six months later, willingly taking a pay cut to gain the advantage of better working hours and respectful treatment.

If you’re like me, walking away is not easy. After all, we’re strong, right? And smart, right? And committed, right? And we can handle anything, right? Well maybe the shadow we don’t want to look at is our own vulnerability and pain. When we notice these and don’t want them anymore, it’s quite easy to change. The power lies totally with each of us. While we can never change another person directly, if we change ourselves, the dynamics of the relationship change. Sometimes, the other person changes indirectly as a result of our own direct change.