I’m re-reading a book on relationships that I absolutely adore and recommend frequently, “The Seven Levels of Intimacy”. I came across a section I had highlighted many years ago, “The ability to admit that you need help, that you are afraid, or that you messed up is a sign of great maturity in a person. The ability to accept each other’s faults, fears, and failures reflects great maturity in a relationship.”
I was afraid once, really afraid… I was in a relationship that was emotionally abusive. I stayed in it longer than I ever should have, the person used fear tactics that seemed to come straight from the voices in my own head. They often bullied me with, “So you call yourself a coach, a specialist in relationship?” I knew what was happening in the relationship was unhealthy but I was afraid to admit it to anyone around me and deeply afraid how it would affect my career. I am a powerhouse of a business woman and a kick ass coach, someone who has defied many odds and created an incredible life. But I was ashamed to admit that this powerhouse had messed up. How could someone so smart be so dumb? I doubted me. My floor was rocking. This person seeped into my psyche causing me to second guess myself everywhere. I blamed myself for the situation and was afraid to tell anyone what was happening for fear of being judged or worse, not believed. Another scare tactic, “This is your fault this is happening; there’s something wrong with you.” “No one will believe what I know about the great Tracey.” To the outside world, this person was a model citizen, in the company of friends and family… normal. To me… they played horrible games, there were lies by omission, suggestive Facebook Chats with others, deleted texts, sketchy behaviour that left me nauseated 24/7 and in some social groups, people I hardly knew hated me. Peculiarly, this person was influential, charming and yet horribly insecure. Strategically they shared lies about me, small but harmful enough to cause many people to distance themselves and in some cases outright shun me. This then became more evidence that, “I really wasn’t the hotshot I thought myself to be.” “That people had a hard time liking me.” My shame raged, keeping me further from seeking outside help. Shouldn’t I know better? Shouldn’t I be stronger and smarter than this?
Well, as it turns out, YES… thankfully, my will is strong and my sense of who I am stronger. I realized I needed help to quit the relationship. I contacted a local crisis line, the voice on the other end of the line was like a life line. I realized that there was power in seeking an outside resource. I also came to realize that women (and men) who find themselves in abusive relationships don’t fit stereotypes. After several sessions with a therapist I discovered how I’d been susceptible to this particular abuse. I wasn’t broken or damaged and in fact the experience allowed me to embrace my faults and fears.
I believe our greatest judgment comes from within. I am no longer afraid and so I speak with openness and vulnerability about my experience in the hope that someone out there suffering silently will take that action toward freedom like I did.