Did I do the right thing in leaving (or staying)?

Have you left a relationship and now find yourself wondering if it was the right thing to do?

It's simple really. How can you know that you should have left? Because you did. How do you know you should stay? Because you're still there. When you find yourself walking out the door, you know it's time to go. Chances are, no matter how much you think you should go, you will not … so you have a choice. You can either make peace with staying, or torment yourself for it … it's up to you because no amount of regret or guilt will change what is.

You can feel absolutely sure that the relationship needs to end – but the truth is, whatever happens, it can only happen right on time in a world where there are no coincidences or mistakes. Perhaps you, like me, have noticed that we can't make ourselves leave something until we're ready to go? I have. No amount of believing it should be different, that we should or shouldn't tolerate it, can make us leave before we're ready to go.

And the opposite is equally true. Nothing can keep us from leaving once we're set to go. No amount of promises from the other, no amount of trying to talk ourselves into staying because we don't have “good enough” reason to leave can alter our decision to move on once we're set to go.

I've learned to trust what my feet are doing, which is to say, I've come to trust in my own innate sense of timing. I trust that no matter how painful staying may be, for instance, I cannot leave until I have learned what I need to from the situation. The challenge is to accept where we are, trusting that there is a reason for it, and that the reason is FOR us – for our growth and enlightenment – and not some form of punishment or self-abuse.

So we stay until we don't anymore. Why, because that's what we do. It's Reality. When we have learned what the other has to teach us we may find ourselves moving on. As long as we need the lesson they have come into our lives to teach us, we will find ourselves staying. It has nothing to do with the amount of pain involved, but with the inner-reflection made possible through the other.

I've noticed that no amount of badgering ourselves (or others) for staying in a painful relationship causes us to change it. I've known people who stayed in what appeared to be truly punishing relationships for years even as they beat themselves up for being there. What they were failing to notice is how well the relationship was working to mirror the way they abused themselves!

What a powerful teacher relationships are! They unfailingly serve to reflect to us our relationship with ourselves. They show us how we treat, think, and feel about ourselves. This is the sacred function of an abusive relationship. How else can we see how we are treating ourselves except by observing how others treat us?

What we can do in the meantime is to practice accepting ourselves where we are in our relationship RIGHT NOW. Instead of guilt or remorse, practice looking for the messages being reflected by the other. Look for what you resist in your mate, allow yourself to see it as an arrow pointing to that part in you that is asking for love and acceptance.

Practice trusting where you are to be exactly where you need to be to deepen self-acceptance and right relationship.In essence, trust your comings and your goings to be innately inspired and ultimately FOR you.


14 Responses

  1. Hi! I’m 20 years old with a 1 year old daughter. I’m recently thinking of moving with my daughters dad, we fixed our problems and we’ve been good for some time now, the only thing holding me back is my parents. They dont seem to let me go and I understand, but it has come to the point where I don’t even have a say in my daughters life and I really don’t like that. I want to have my own life start my own family I just don’t want to disappoint my parents, am I doing the right thing by leaving?

    1. Dear Suzy, Yes, It is natural and healty to want to individuate from your parents. And it is wonderful that both you and their dad are ready to assume the role of being good parents. It sounds like your parents want the best for you and their granddaughters, yet they may sincerely be convinced that you need them to do what they may not see you as capable of doing. The thing is that the only way you will become adequate parents is to assume the role. The longer you allow them to be in charge the more convinced they become that you can’t do it. This ends up dashing your own confidence as well.

      Chances are you and your partner WILL blunder at times; you certainly will not do it perfectly, but that is part of the process to becoming good parents…. the only way to get good at something is to DO it.
      So I support your innate desire to separate your nuclear family from your parents … it sounds like the next step to full on adulthood. There are many good books and courses on parenting, utilize the tools, and be patient with yourselves and each other.

      In the meantime, appreciate your parents for all the support they give. Let them know that you want to hear their thoughts and opinions, at the same time you and your children’s father must be the ultimate deciders of the family’s direction. It is time to step out of the child’s role with your parents – and assumje the primary parents role with your own children.
      I believe in your process and readiness in taking this next step. Best to you and your beautiful family, Lynne

  2. Hey.
    I’m just starting my degree, and I broke it off with my boyfriend.. at first it seemed right, he hurt me so much I felt like it was chore to be with him.. I loved him, but I wasn’t in love with him. We were friends for years then dated for a while, and when we were friends it was good and then we dated and it was a whole new side I never saw, so one day I told him as much as I loved him I couldn’t date him and wanted nothing more than to be besties… he’s so upset that I’m afraid for his mental health, should I have stayed in the relationship? Did I do the right thing… every time I think I’m ok I feel awful all over again… I want us to be ok, I want to be ok.. I want his awful messages to be positive messages again…

    1. Dear Confused, I apologize for my late response… I hope you have made peace with you around this relationship. The first thing to remember is that you are not the reason your friend is “beside himself” with your decision… he is upset because of what he does to himself, what he thinks it means about himself that you made the choice to take care of yourself rather than try to fix his feelings. There are no mistakes or coincidences in who we meet and the dance we do with them. This relationship has been a powerful opportunity for both of you to learn more about who you are responsible for and who you are not, among many other things. You get the chance to see who YOU become when you move from friendship to dating relationship … listen to what you tell yourself what that means … could it be that he has served as a powerful reflection of who you become to YOU when you start feeling responsible for the well being of another? I support you in your decision to step back. IF he is truly friend material he will (if he hasnt already) be able to make peace with it too … and take responsibility for his own feelings and reactions rather than to blame you when he is unhappy. And if he moves on then know that – ultimately – you have been spared. And move on. Blessings, Lynne

  3. Hi
    I am in my late twenties,I’ve had a few health problems and decided to leave a job I didn’t like and move back to my parents home to try and get my health on track. (I had been moved out for almost 10 years) I started volunteering at a museum. i became friends with another volunteer a 41 year old guy. One day he came to me and told me about his destructive marriage, his awful upbringing etc. How him and his wife drank and smoked weed loads because they were so unhappy together. He knew I had been struggling too and my heart went out to him. I gave him advice and then we started speaking a lot over Facebook messenger. We then started to hang out more just the two of us. I instinctively knew this wasn’t right and asked how his wife felt about us being friends like this and he said she didn’t mind because she saw how being my friend helped him. I accepted that. We went on drives together and watched sunsets and talked about life and our struggles. He was also smoking a lot of marijuana most days and had done for many years. I don’t drink often but there are times when I will have too much and quite often I will get emotional. I have struggled with anxiety and depression alongside a rare hormonal condition for a long time. I felt comfortable and for some reason compelled to tell him all about this and he insisted he could help me beat these issues as he had been there himself with anxiety and depression. I remember we were going to meet one night to talk and he booked a hotel room to talk because going to a bar would be too noisy. It was strange and he had bought a bottle of wine I like too. I didn’t drink any of it but we ended up sleeping together and I felt terrible the next day. He assured me that it was fine and his wife was fine with everything. I enjoyed spending time with him and I could see the pain he was in about his life just like I was. He said it was fine and to enjoy the moment and we kept hanging out.he always wanted to give me lifts places and spend time with me whenever he could. I went to a night out through in the town I used to live and told him before I didn’t want to go. When on the train we started arguing via messages and he was being really different. I got a bit drunk at the night out and said some things to him although I don’t remember what. He printed out messages I had sent him and took them into the museum we volunteered at (but by this time I had a job there) My manager then got in touch a couple of days later for me to come and see her and she told me what he had done. He also said to her that I had been pestering him for months. I was shocked and so hurt at this betrayal. My manager couldn’t understand why he had come to her because in my messages I had said nothing bad. She advised we stay away from each other and I deleted him from everything and she told him to stay away from the museum for a period of time. I got drunk a few weeks later and sent him a message saying he had broken my heart. We started speaking again and before I knew it it blew up again and he was sending me vile messages that my best friend was so shocked by. She said he was manipulating and emotionally blackmailing me and considered even getting in touch with a family friend who is a lawyer to stop him messaging me again. He insisted i went to the manager at the museum and tell her everything I had done and how I kept getting drunk etc. I did as he asked and she said she didn’t like what I was saying as she thought I was being manipulated. It calmed down and we stopped speaking again. He came into the museum a few times, I was pleasant but kept myself to myself. I had a bit too much to drink again one night and emailed him to apologise about the situation and if I had caused any harm. We started to speak again but everything was ok. We were keeping a distance from each other and then slowly it ramped up again. He was hanging out with another of the volunteers and he asked me if I would like to hang out with him and the other volunteer. I wanted to be friendly so I agreed and then the other volunteer was leaving early so it would just be me and him at the cinema in the evening and I went thinking it would be harmless. We started speaking more, he initiated having a physical relationship again which I wasn’t sure about but it just developed. He had told me he and his wife had tried again at their relationship but it wasn’t working and they were separating. I always felt a bit uneasy but I liked spending time with him and we understood each other’s problems. He said he could help me with all my anxiety and depression. He started giving me lifts everywhere and helping me at work. We spoke on messenger loads again. I lied to my parents about my whereabouts when I was with him. We told each other we were just friends who helped each other out although we had a physical side to us which was really good. I kept it a secret from everyone at the museum and my friends. He wanted to take and pick me up from university all the time, he bought me gifts constantly and accepted I couldn’t tell anyone about us because no one approved. I had good times, he helped me see the issues I have with myself and how to combat them. He showered me in compliments. It came to a head the other night when out with my sisters and friends I had too much to drink again and got into a mess. Instead of going home I went to his place in a state. I woke up the next day feeling awful and my sister and friend were frantically calling me because I had disappeared. I told him to message my sister and say where I was and I was fine and I would be back later. She continued to go mad and I just ignored it. He said this was typical of her wanting to control me etc. I left his house scared at what I was going to face when I got home. My sister and my friend took my phone off me and said I wasn’t going to be speaking to him over the Christmas period. I messaged him to say I was struggling with my anxiety and I wouldn’t be on my phone much. Then my sister and friend said after Christmas I had to end this because it was no good. He was manipulating and trying to control me and I wasn’t being like myself. I got in touch to ask if we could meet in a couple of days. He then messaged again to say he wasn’t happy being ignored and that this was an issue with me and my family and not him. He had only ever tried to help me and that I’m ashamed to admit to spending time with him and I get drunk and it blows up all the time. I told him I couldn’t do it anymore and although we were meant to be helping each other we weren’t. He told me he was fine and any time he has said he was low had just been to show me that we all get low and me helping him is to show me that I can help myself. I was so confused. He often was low about things and would say to me and I would try to console and help him but now he was saying that he was just reflecting my issues and trying to teach me how strong I am. My sister and friend said it couldn’t go on and they couldn’t support it. I told them about all the things he’s done to help me and all the kind things he does and they didn’t care. I told him we had to stop and he was crushed saying how could I have done this to him? How could I have strung him along? The messages got a little bit nasty but not too bad. We stopped speaking and then he messaged a few hours later to say he was sorry and he understands it’s just circumstances and not to worry about him, he would be ok and he knew I would be ok too. And we left it there. I feel confused because I do love him but I don’t know what sort of love it is. Obviously everything was very messed up but we had lots of good times. Was my sister and friend right to take control of the situation? I know the parts I have played by always being the one getting back in touch when I’ve had a drink. I don’t drink often but can get carried away quickly and end up upset because I have depression. He knew everything about me from quite early on- the struggles I have mentally and physically. I feel like a terrible person. I hate that he feels I was ashamed of him and that he wasn’t good enough. But I kept lying for a reason to my family- something wasn’t quite right. I don’t doubt his love for me so I fear I’m letting go of something that could be special. He just wanted us to continue as we were and he wanted to help me with my demons but I was hiding our “friendship” from everyone and he wanted so much of me.
    The other night when I was drunk I told him I loved him but I was scared I had ruined his life, I told him about pressures I feel in my family and how I wanted to die. This isn’t the first time I’ve said these things to him and I know I have put him under stress before by saying these things. Do we both just have too much emotional baggage? I don’t recognise myself when I read through this and what’s gone on this year. I am very ashamed. It started off as two people wanting to help each other or so I thought. We were drawn together somehow and there must’ve been a physical and emotional connection but am I right to cut it? I forgot to add he and his wife have been separated for months and living apart for over a month. I always thought I was a good person but I really do doubt myself these days. I’ve struggled with so much and can’t believe this situation I got myself into. Sorry for the huge message but any feedback would be helpful.

    1. Dear Lost,
      This sounds painfully confusing! There are many red-flags and no apparent “happy ending” in the dynamics that you describe here between the two of you. But then again, sometimes though “happy endings” are what we think we want there is in fact a higher priority at work within us – that is the nudge to awaken. There are no coincidences, no mistakes in who we encounter. This is because we are vibrational by nature, which means we attract and are attracted to those who can most accurately mirror our own innermost beliefs. In other words, we attract those who show us where we are in relationship with ourselves. This is why there is no right or wrong in relationship. Our relationships are designed to show us where we stand with ourselves and others. For instance, if we believe we need someone else to rescue us, or that we have to settle for less. or that we can’t take care of ourselves, we will attract those who will prove us right. IF we believe we are wrong, or that we do bad things that hurt others, then we will act in ways that prove us right. If we believe we deserve to be mistreated, chances are we will attract others who reflect that mind-set towards us. If we are judging ourselves harshly we will attract others who will judge us likewise.

      And it’s not a “Bad” thing – for how else except through seeing our painful beliefs played out in real life are we going to make conscious the painful stories about ourselves that we believe? I don’t hear evidence of love here, as much as obsession … obsession with proving to yourself all the unhappy thoughts you believe about yourself. This is what we do. We unconsciously attract people we can use to prove our own unhappy story about ourselves. We act with them in ways that allow us to gather evidence for the unhappy thoughts we believe about ourselves and what we can have in life.

      To me it sounds like you are learning a lot. So where is the “bad” in that – painful? Mightily! But not bad, not evil, not anything except you in a process of learning about what you been willing to settle for!

      Might I suggest that you appreciate this man as a teacher sent to show you how you feel about yourself and how you look when you take care of everyone else except yourself. And ask yourself this question: What am I learning from this situation? About myself? About what I believe I can have … or can’t have? What would be the kindest, most loving thing to do towards my own highest and best good?

      And then act from that space, because the law says that when we do what is TRULY best for ourselves, everyone else benefits too. Blessings,

  4. Thank you so much Lynne for taking the time to reply to my post. I have read it over and over and I relate to everything you suggest. This is scary! I want to work on myself and I understand that I don’t deserve this abuse. I realise that I deserve respect and a happy and fulfilling life – but this requires change. 2014 is going to be my year of change. I have found myself a counsellor and I will definitely be getting your book. Thank you so much for your support and validation. I can’t begin to express my gratitude. I hope I can see this through. I feel that I must take the first small steps towards me new life. Thank you so very much for starting me on my journey. Sylvie

  5. You are indeed a blessed woman to have someone who mirrors both sides of yourself to you, Maria! It gives you the opportunity to see light and contrast in yourself!

    I believe that everyone is a teacher – teaching either by example of what to aspire for, or, by contrast, modeling for us what we don’t want! We learn much from both kinds of teacher – often the teachers of contrast in my life might have taught me more than the other! 😉

    Regarding your second question about one partner being ready to move on and the other not ready … there is a relationship principle that applies here: it says that when we do what is truly BEST for us (as opposed to what’s easiest, most convenient, or what we WANT as opposed to what we NEED), than EVERYONE benefits, whether they realize it, or agree with our decision, or not. Doing the right thing for us brings balance all around.

    This applies to our comings and goings in relationship as well as to other choices we make along the way… to do what is right for us may sometimes mean we play the role of helping the other person to let go of a relationship that needs to be released, but can’t quite seem to do on their own (by being the one to make the first move, for instance).

    It is not ours to determine who is ready for what lesson in life; why would we need God if it was truly left to us to determine where others should be or what others are ready to do or not ready for? We can’t even know that for ourselves! Besides, how could it be two were energetically pulled together, if it were not time, and a valid part of their own growth process?

    One of the greatest lessons that “being left” teaches us is that we are the only ones who can truly leave us – other people come and go in our life, but their comings and goings are not done to, or at, us … it is the nature of life to come and go … it’s only our story around their coming or going that creates the feelings of abandonment, being dumped, etc that we experience… stay clear in your intention to take care of yourself, and treat the other with the same kindness by trusting their journey to be and to lead them to where they need to go … right on time. 😉
    Blessings, Lynne

  6. Lynne, what is the significance of having 2 close loved ones–one who mirrors all the negative beliefs you have about yourself, and one who mirrors all the positive and nurturing beliefs? What is the takeaway lesson?
    Also, what happens when one person in a relationship learns the lesson she needs to learn and then leaves while her partner has not yet learned the lesson for him in the relationship and is not ready for the lesson the relationship held for him? I see how people stay until it’s time to go. But what about people who stay and don’t choose to go (or let go)…their lesson is interrupted isn’t it? Or is being left part of the lesson? Or? Thank you.

  7. I resist the shouting, telling me I am worthless, a parasite, a useless mother and wife, a waste of space. Constantly screaming at me that I have spent too much, I haven’t cleaned well enough, I have cooked rubbish meals, I haven’t ironed his shorts well enough, I have driven the car badly, made it dirty, put finger prints on the door and on and on it goes. I resist it all, I don’t react. I want to make it work. I have been trying for 30 years to make him happy. But he despises me. I stay for my children but they despise me for not standing up to him. I am totally alone. I am a victim (I have been told by my friends) who despair why I don’t leave but I can’t. I am paralysed with fear of being alone. Please help me. I have just lost my job which was my sanctuary and defined me. Now I am nothing. I have nothing to give anyone anymore.

    1. Dear Sylvie, Sounds like a really painful place to be in! 🙁 My heart goes out to you. And at the same time, I hear your words of having “nothing to give to anyone anymore,” as being a positive launching place to a better place. Many times I have witnessed the powerful possibilities that come from feeling “cornered with no place to go.” I have come to think of it as the Universe’s way of herding me into a place where I have nowhere to look for help except up … Misery can either open us to transformation … or send us hightailing it into victim and feeling at the mercy of life and those around us. We DO have a choice. We either choose to go on blaming … or we choose to see life’s challenges as opportunities for growth – one spirals us into helplessness and misery, the other to an increasing awareness of the many ways life serves us.

      When we align with Reality, we come to understand that there are no coincidences regarding who or what is in our life. We transmit an energy (formerly unbeknown to us) that attracts us to the situations and people that match our beliefs about what we can expect from others based on what we’ve decided we deserve. (notice I did not say we deserve what we get … I said we attract what we BELIEVE we deserve – BIG difference – We get not what we want but what we believe we can have.

      The people and situations we experience in life, are reflections for us of what we believe about ourselves and others. This is especially true in our closest relationships. Those closest to us are the ones who open their mouths and say the things we secretly believe or fear is true about ourselves.

      For instance, it sounds like your husband is doing a great job of reflecting a very unhappy relationship with you! Can you find the part of you that “despises”you? The part of you that constantly picks you apart, and thinks of you as a waste of a human being? That is who your husband is helping you find (whether he knows it or not). The hurtful things that are said or done that affect us most deeply are the fingers pointing to that part of us who sees us in a similar way.

      I hear a reflection too, of a part of you that is willing to go to any length, even to enduring the intolerable, to avoid being alone with you. That is how little you think of yourself! And it’s not HIS fault … no we are the ones who teach others how to treat us!

      For example, you are the one that has spent your life believing that if you throw yourself away in self-neglect, and self-abasement, and take care of everyone else (your husband and kids) instead, that they will notice & appreciate your sacrifice and give you what you want! But if you won’t give it to you – then why would they?!

      You, my friend, have a real opportunity here to befriend yourself, which is where your real work lies. I recommend you get a good therapist … read my book, Life Beyond Victim Consciousness, and sign on to receive my weekly tips on moving out of victim and into giving yourself the gift of YOUR life – for in truth, you are the only one who can. 🙂

  8. Yes, you, my sweet, dear Elizabeth, are the one you’ve been waiting for. That little girl in you is waiting for you to remember her, to love and understand her; she awaits your acceptance & compassion for her sorrow. May she find kindness, warmth, and comfort in your arms.

  9. I resist the coldness, the withdrawing, the distancing….

    The part in me that is asking for love and acceptance…that abandoned little girl with her arms reaching up. Brings tears to my eyes just to say that. She is wanting to be remembered, to be loved, to be understood. To be seen and loved for who she is just the way she is. Loved and appreciated without having to perform like a little trick pony.

    Is there anyone who can really do that….except I myself?

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