The Book Should I Stay or Should I Go? is co-written by Lundy Bancroft, who you might know is the author of the groundbreaking research on domestic violence and the related book Why Does He Do That? I picked up this book when I was at a pivotal point in my 15 year marriage, as obviated by the title of the book. Backstory: My husband of 14 years had been emotionally abusing me and neglecting me since the beginning of our relationship, right up until I snapped and had a grand epiphany that I wasn’t going to accept his treatment anymore. In the face of me threatening divorce and refusing to allow his mistreatment of me anymore, he changed. My home became a peaceful place and I no longer dreaded him coming home from work or being in the same room as him. But even though life wasn’t miserable anymore for me, it wasn’t happy either. Even then, I knew it wasn’t enough to heal; I wanted to THRIVE. Enter this book.
This book was extremely illuminating and helped me realize that I needed to raise my standards for how I wanted to be treated by the people in my life. These words in the book called to me:
“The decision of whether to stay in the relationship is not based on the question ‘Is this relationship doing me harm?’; instead, it’s about issues along the lines of ‘Is this relationship giving me what I need?”
We can apply this question to any relationship, not just our romantic partner, but friends and family–and even our relationship with ourselves. It’s not enough to do no harm; our relationships should lift us up.
“We don’t want you to sell yourself short. Your own needs, feelings, and dreams need to be a high priority.” See, that’s the thing about women, especially women who have survived trauma. We have been conditioned–by others and by ourselves–to put our needs and wants last. We do this for survival, we do this because the female role models in our lives are setting that example of self-sacrifice, and we do this because we’ve been taught by our culture to fear our own feminine power. As Marianne Williamson says…
Should I Stay or Should I Go? is, on the surface, about deciding whether or not to remain in your current romantic partnership, but it’s really about thinking consciously and in specific detail about establishing your own set of standards for how you want others to treat you. For that reason, I loved this book.
Lundy and Patrissi write: “We have known a great number of women who strike us as vibrant, capable, and talented. They seem filled with potential, poised to move into their happiness. It is obvious that they can succeed at whatever they choose. Yet they are inhibited. They don’t act on their talents and dreams because they seem held back. Once we talk to them, it soon becomes obvious that great amounts of their creative thought, emotional focus, and time are spent on managing their relationship.”
This was me, absolutely. And to see it laid out in writing like this was a game changer. Now, two years later, I have come to understand that we are each energetic beings, first and foremost, and where we direct our energy is of utmost importance. When the majority of our energy goes to managing a relationship–any relationship–then you, as a woman and as a person, cannot thrive. And thriving is the goal.
But this line was the kicker for me. I wrote it down and meditated on for weeks, and I still use it as a measure for all my relationships:
“Your relationship should create far more possibilities than it takes away.”
For so many women, we see our dreams or desires as unreasonably big, as needy or “high-maintenance”. That is simply not possible. If you feel that way, then your standards for your life are too low, as are your standards for your relationships. We are meant to be big and powerful. You are not too much. Your needs and desires and goals are not too much. If you are in a relationship that makes you feel like you are too much or that you’re holding yourself back, then it’s time to take a hard look at the way you’ve structured your life, including your relationships. This book is a great place to start.
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