Generally, these people are telling me this to make rationalizations to stay. On the one hand, they’ll outline chapter and verse about how completely untenable their situation is, but then they’ll tell me how the future is so scary, so they stay paralyzed with indecision. As if these things were commensurate and could be weighed — the dreadful existence you are currently living versus the nightmare you imagine you’re going to.
Did anyone ever hesitate to run out of a burning building because they were afraid of fresh air?
Sure, you could imagine future calamities, but does that justify staying in a burning building?
But it’s hard out there! I won’t have a house. I’ll have to rebuild one, stay with relatives, and be the sad object of pity because my house burned down.
Okay. But you survived the fire.
And uh, duh… your house was burning, what did you think you should do?
These discussions usually come down to — I hate that my choices suck.
Yes, they do. I’m sorry folks, often choices suck. But when choices suck, I think the best thing to do figure out where you have the most agency, the most control over a given set of circumstances, and move in that direction. (Remember, you only control yourself.)
That’s why my advice here is — go save yourself, you’ll figure out the what next.
And I know it’s hard. I lived it. But it’s also full of rewards and surprises, and it’s a hell of a lot better than being married to an arsonist.
But how do you get into that mindset? How do you become someone who acts with self-protection? I think you have to let go of whatever you’re holding on to and realize it’s going down with that burning house. Your ego. That intact family. Your sex life with that person. You need to tell yourself that whatever it is you’re clinging to — you don’t need it that bad. Seriously, you can do without. Let it GO. The shit you never, ever thought you could let go of — let it GO.
I need to stay married so I don’t feel like a two-time divorcee and middle-aged failure.
Nope, don’t need it that bad.
I need the constancy of an intact family for my children.
Don’t need it that bad. Not at this price. No sir-ee.
I need this person’s financial support.
Don’t need it that bad. Not at the cost of my dignity and self-respect. Nope, think I’d rather flip burgers and live in a box.
I need to be coupled, because no one will ever love me again. There’s no one left.
Don’t need it that bad. Living in a bunker alone with cats until the end of your days is preferable to this cheater.
See how that works? You have to be prepared to run into the arms of “I’ll figure it out.” I know it sucks, but I have every confidence in you that you WILL figure it out. Seriously, I do. I know there are huge, scary challenges out there — serious shit like supporting your children, like facing 337 lonely Saturdays, or figuring out how to reinvent your remaining years. But you’re a chump and you’re mighty. You have deep reserves of faith, misplaced until now, but directed to yourself? You’re going to be okay. And then fine. And then better than fine.
When you “need it that bad,” you’ll do anything for it. You drive down the price of your self worth. Demand a higher price. Know your worth. I promise you, whatever it is? You don’t need it that bad.
This column ran previously. Feel free to comment!