You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality (attributed to Ayn Rand).
Staying in an unhealthy, dysfunctional, unsatisfying relationship usually means having to deny the reality of the situation. Denying the reality of a partner’s personality and the unlikelihood that it will change. Denying how bad things actually are. Denying your own psychological issues that attracts you to unhealthy, selfish, unavailable or damaged partners. Denying how much damage you’re sustaining to your emotional and physical health.
You can stay in denial indefinitely. But, reality has a way of catching up with you eventually. Unless, of course, you have a platoon of enablers protecting you from the consequences of your choices. Let’s assume you don’t.
Common consequences my clients experience for denying the reality of their bad relationships include:
- Emotional, psychological and spiritual (e.g., depression, anxiety, trauma symptoms, isolation, trust issues, low self-esteem, despair, hopelessness, feeling unworthy, inadequate, less than).
- Physical (e.g., high blood pressure, weight gain or loss, chronic headaches, irritable bowel, fatigue and other stress and trauma-related health issues).
- Relational (e.g., loss of friends, family and community).
- Financial loss (e.g., marital assets, pensions, spousal support, job loss).
Facing reality can be incredibly painful. Recognizing just how bad your relationship is sobering. Acknowledging the excuses, rationalizations and lies you’ve told yourself to stay in the relationship can fill you with shame. The lies, betrayals, selfishness and other abuses you tolerated are embarrassing to admit. This is all part of the grief process and it’s necessary. If you don’t do this work, you’re likely to continue your pattern of unhealthy and unsuccessful relationships. If you don’t learn from and heal the past, it will continue to bite you in the butt.
Facing reality is the gateway to acceptance, healing and freedom. Denying reality enslaves a person. It’s a kind of bondage that requires you to structure your life and relationships that make it possible for you to continue to avoid the obvious. It often leads to isolation and loneliness.
Even if you retain your familial relationships and friendships, they’re no longer honest. Presumably, your friends and family care about you. Most of my clients, in order to preserve their denial and relationship, either lied or hid what was really going on in their marriage of partnership from the people who truly cared about them.
The sooner you face reality, the sooner you can sort through the rubble and start rebuilding. It will like hurt quite a bit at first. But not as much as spending more wasted time in denial.
Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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