I read blogs in the “marriage,” “parenting” and “divorce” categories that speak of faith. Faith in God. Faith in your marriage/relationships. Faith in your spouse. While I applaud the well-intentioned affirmations, faith is simply not enough. This of course is coming from an secularist, so consider the source before your emotions swell.
Sitting idly by, hoping, wishing, praying that your husband doesn’t cheat again or that you wish your girlfriend would let you see your kids more is tantamount to doing nothing.
Living mindful means action. It focuses the faith of external sources inward and holds you accountable for your own happiness. It’s only when you place high value on your self-esteem, self worth and love of yourself, do you see changes.
All the silly, internal arguments to stay in a relationship that is toxic are unacceptable. They hinge on fear, an unproductive and stifling emotion:
a.) Fear of abandonment
b.) Fear of the unknown
c.) Fear of a broken home
d.) Fear of societal expectations
e.) Fear of new financial responsibility
f.) Fear of lifestyle changes
g.) Fear of family and friend criticism
h.) Fear of child deliquency
i.) Fear of the career changes
j.) Fear of religious expectations
Before I left an abusive relationship, all 10 fears kept me stagnant. Empowerment was the only anecdote. The steps I took to find my inner powerhouse included:
1.) Reading literature on how to identify toxic/abusive relationship indicators (thanks Google Books!)- Knowledge is power! Get educated. It’s the first step.
2.) Self-preservation- systematic emotional distancing by realizing that the problem is my partner, not myself, slowly started building back my self esteem. When communication is impossible and toxic, you go into self-preservation mode. It’s an instinct. Build on this instinct and keep your self image independent from the negativity of your partner.
3.) Checklists- making mental notes of what needs to happen prior to physically leaving your partner. Dividing financial accounts. Child custody arrangements with the court. Separation papers and a divorce attorney. A safe place to stay. Emotional support (the relatives and friends who will allow you to lean on them temporarily). Job considerations (do I need to take time off? How long?). Marital assets (what will be divided?). Make sure you include timelines to keep you motivated. Make a promise to complete a check off the list EVERY DAY.
4.) Physically leaving- sometimes this is forced (as was my experience) and sometimes you leave when all your checks are complete. If your partner is reasonable, you can communicate your wishes. If she/he is not, you must take all your strength to leave. Otherwise you will remain stagnant.
5.) Implementing your checklists- the second hardest part. I got my act together and secured a new job weeks after I left. My financial accounts were already separate. I was in court the week before I started my new job. I lived with my parents for two months before I secured child care. I won access to my apartment and moved back in. I started over financially.
6.) Routinize immediately- I established a new routine with my son as soon as possible. This kept my sanity. My son was able to remain emotionally stable. I got up early, commuted to daycare, went to work, picked him up, fed him, walked the dog, bathed him, played with him, and then put him down for the night. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat! It’s simple, but VERY effective.
7.) Working on yourself- by the time your settled and you can process what happened, that’s when the healing begins. My healing started when I wrote my first blog post. Find at least one thing you couldn’t pursue before and make time for it! This will start the process of reflection and decoupling your partner image to an independent image of yourself.
8.) Loving yourself- no one is a perfect parent. Everyone suffers from parenting guilt. But like fear, guilt is an unproductive emotion. Start small, but allow yourself the precious moments of feeling “present.” Enjoy the newness of being single again and don’t dwell on the emotional emptiness. With time, it will pass. You’re strong enough. You’re good enough.
I never valued the last principle more than when I was faced with starting over as a single mom. My caffine-addled mind was fueled with self-loathing. But when I paused and looked around, at my family, my relationships, my career, my new start in grad school, my son and my life as a whole, I found inner empowerment. My life was fucking awesome! I am the reason I found success. Faith didn’t bring me to this conclusion. Action and knowing I have one life to live made success happen.
Make your one chance count!