Charles: This is a relationship problem

This article was published 2 year(s) and 10 month(s) ago.

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Some of us, way too many of us, have been in relationships like this before.

Sometimes it’s because of our youth, our naivete, or maybe it’s just the loneliness or the feeling of disconnectedness when everyone else seems to have that special something with that special someone.

And we feel special in this relationship. It burns really hot, really fast, and everything we say and do is perfect. We are so high, so intoxicated by this feeling of love and acceptance. Our bad habits, our less-than-stellar personality traits, not only aren’t judged, they’re celebrated here.

We are celebrated here.

So when the first hint of something amiss comes, we don’t notice it at first. It’s the first slight criticism — maybe our clothes were all wrong, or we spent too much time talking with that other person, or we didn’t show the proper deference — but we feel that first pit in our stomach. We brush off that feeling though, because when the relationship is good, it’s very good. It’s romantic, it’s thrilling, we feel alive in a way we never have before, and we’re sure we never will again. Any criticism from outsiders is ignored — we double down on our excuses, because, well, we’re human, and we don’t want to be wrong.

So we ignore the red flags, rationalize, romanticize the bad parts, pretend what is humiliating is humorous, what is appalling is appealing.

Who cares if there’s selfishness and lies, and broken promises? We’ve all made mistakes. So what, we’re abandoned, left holding the bag, told to believe what is said, and never what our lying eyes can see and read for ourselves? Obviously down is up, wrong is right.

And there’s comfort and community in this relationship. If we can ignore the people in our lives who tell us what we need to hear, we can gravitate to and find those like-minded souls who tell us what we want to hear. And we have common enemies, if not common goals.

So, it’s OK when we are lied to, bled dry, even literally left out in the cold. It’s OK when the abuse becomes less subtle, more brutal. We can still make excuses, it’s still exciting, so we hang in there, because, well, just because.

But then here comes an alternative. It’s a way out, a window opened when the door is closed.

Now this relationship isn’t exciting. It’s somewhat familiar, but it doesn’t bring on that rush. This would be the transitional one. You know, the one who picks up the pieces after you have finally left the abusive one. 

You know this one won’t be permanent, like you hoped the exciting, mean, charming, abusive, explosive, anxiety-producing (when did it stop feeling like love?) boor would be. This one is steady, nice, respectful, with an easier manner and a reasonable tone. This one isn’t making your heart skip a beat. And so you wonder if it’s even worth it. After all, that anxiety still made you feel alive, even if somewhat afraid. 

This new relationship just reminds you that you deserve to be treated well and with respect, your hopes and fears matter. This one apologizes for previous missteps, listens when you speak, and tries to make you feel better about yourself. This one isn’t the forever one, but is willing to stick around to help you through the healing that needs to come after enduring abuse and trauma, even if you didn’t realize it (and still may not) at the time.


When the abuser was good to you, you felt wonderful. And you may not be ready to give up that feeling, no matter how fleeting it is.

So now, America, you have to decide. Are you going to keep chasing the high that a bad relationship gives you, or are you ready to transition to the one that treats you, and everyone else (your enemies too!) with respect?

The choice is telling us who we are, and who we eventually will be.

Cheryl Charles can be reached at [email protected]

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