By Heather Teater, See the Triumph Contributor
Have you ever been in one of those relationships that would seem perfect if you wrote it out on paper, but it’s just not what you’re looking for? Your partner respects your boundaries, spends time with your friends, and treats you well in many other ways, but you don’t feel like the relationship is going where you want it to go? I’ll tell you something people often don’t think to say: it’s okay to leave that relationship. The fact that a relationship is healthy doesn’t mean that it has to be the relationship you stay in for the rest of your life. This can be a difficult truth for anyone to grasp, but especially those who have been in abusive relationships.
Let me start off by saying that everyone deserves to be in a healthy relationship. Many people have been told by former abusers that they are unlovable, don’t deserve to be treated with respect, cannot “get any better” than their abuser, or a number of other devaluing statements of worth. But these are all lies told by perpetrators in an attempt to keep their partners from seeking another relationship. You, regardless of what you have been told in the past, deserve to be in a healthy, non-violent relationship (if and when you’re ready).
Relationships are supposed to be non-violent – lack of abuse should be a baseline criterion for any relationship. Many have learned the hard way that a relationship that involves any kind of intimate partner violence is not a relationship worth saving. That being said, lack of intimate partner violence should not be the only criterion for a romantic relationship. It’s okay to have certain standards that you feel need to be met in your intimate relationships. What do you want to give and to get in a romantic relationship? There’s nothing wrong with having a list. Keep it in your head, write it down and carry it in your pocket, or post it in big bold letters on your refrigerator – it doesn’t matter! Just know what you want and don’t feel like you have to make compromises because everyone else is telling you that you should want to stay with a certain person.
There are a few people in my life who were hurt in previous relationships and are currently in a relationship that doesn’t bring them harm, but also doesn’t seem to make them happy either. Yet, they stay in that relationship because staying either feels like the “right” thing to do or because it’s the more comfortable thing to do. What if they let go of this relationship and they never find another healthy relationship again? They will be stuck being lonely for the rest of their lives! But that doesn’t have to be the case. If you’re afraid to leave a relationship because you might “end up alone,” I challenge you to reconsider. First of all, though I hate clichés, there truly are “plenty of fish in the sea.” The person you are with is not the one person on earth who is capable of treating you well. There are plenty of jerks out there (please do keep your eyes and ears out for red flags), but there are also plenty of good people. More importantly, though, I challenge you to believe that you can be happy and fulfilled even when you are not in a romantic relationship. Having a few close friends and family members can help keep you from feeling lonely and spending some time without a romantic partner can help you truly get to know yourself.
I guess what I’m saying is that you don’t have to settle in a relationship just because it is better than your previous relationship(s). If your current relationship isn’t really what you’re looking for, it’s okay sit down with your partner and let them know that you want to move on so that both of you can be happy. You deserve to be treated with respect and to want more than that. “Healthy” is an important place to start, but all relationships should be healthy. Feel free to look for something more. You deserve something better than “okay.” You deserve a relationship that leaves you feeling worthwhile, respected, strong, independent, and happy. Don’t settle for anything less.