Let’s call her Tara. Tara emailed me in response to an article I wrote entitled, 3 Keys to Rebuilding Trust After It’s Been Broken. Her man broke her trust (she didn’t go into details). She’s upset because he’s trying to make her hurry up and ‘get over it’. She also suspects he will get tired of the uphill climb out the doghouse and will just move on to the next one. She is trying to figure out whether to stay and work through it, or do a preemptive strike and leave.
Before you are quick to say ‘LEAVE HIM!!!’, let’s understand that emotionally, the feelings of losing a relationship are sometimes worse that staying in a bad one. So I’m not always quick to tell a woman that she should leave her man who’s not treating her right — like some judgmental parties standing a-far-off like to do.
I agree with their outrage. And agree that the woman’s need to assert/preserve her self-respect and dignity. But I also understand people. Everybody has a different — what I call — ‘drama quotient’. That is, the amount of drama one can withstand in a relationship. See…depending on how much drama Tara experienced in her childhood…or went through in past relationships, she might be able to withstand an 8 level of drama (on a drama scale from 1 to 10; 1 = no drama and 10 = physical abuse). But you might only be able to handle a level 6 before you start looking for your purse.
In fact, some people who grew up in a family with a level 10 drama quotient don’t feel comfortable in a relationship where everything is cruising comfortably along at a level 5. A woman once told me, ‘something is wrong if there’s nothing jumping-off in my relationship’. So she would start some drama just to normalize her environment. Crazy right? But that’s her reality. I suggested therapy.
But back to Ms. Tara. Here are four questions she should ask herself – and anybody else in a similar situation – to help her determine whether to stay or leave.
1. How Are You Gonna Handle It?
Let’s put this in proper context. This decision is not about what he did, or how he’s responding to what he did. It’s about how you handle what he did. You can’t control his actions. But you can control yours. So don’t put the focus on him. Because, whatever he does…whether considerate or inconsiderate…you have control over how you respond. You are completely and totally in control of the boundaries, parameters and acceptable behaviors that are permissible in your relationship. Do not yield the power of making a decision about the conditions of your relationship over to him.
2. Are You That Chick?
With that said, the real question is: what kind of woman are you? Are you that chick with a high drama quotient who can withstand a high level of drama? Are you that chick who would rather be in a bad relationship than no relationship at all? Or are you that chick who is no-nonsense and ‘ain’t got time for that’? I’m not judging you. Nor am I setting a drama level at which you should leave. Because the real truth is, you are going to reside at whatever drama level your devotion to that man…or to the idea of being with a man…will permit you to reside. My job, at this point, is to get you to take the focus off of him and focus on determining what kind of woman you are. Because it’s that woman who has to make the decision to stay or leave. So which chick are you?
3. Is He Maturing?
After you figure out which chick you are, then you have to make a judgment call on whether he’s worth staying with or not. This is your call…not his. Answering this question will help you make this tough decision:
How empathetic are his decision making and interactions with you?
Empathy is having the emotional capacity to understand other people’s feelings or perspectives. Harvard developmental psychologists, Kegan & Lahey (1984), suggest that…how a person understands a situation/event is based on their level of developmental maturity. They cite three levels of development people go through to get to maturity:
- Lower Level — little empathy shown for other people’s perspectives or feelings when making decisions and interacting with others; self centeredness.
- Middle Level — decisions and interactions are based on the type of relationship you have with the other person; they are conditional.
- Maturity Level — decisions and interactions are based on principles of fairness and trust; integrity.
No one is perfect. And development happens over time. But everyone should be developing…maturing…as time goes along. Gauge your mates maturity by considering whether his decision making — over the last 12 months — has grown more empathetic towards your perspectives and feelings, or more self-centered and conditionally-based on how he feels about you at the time. Can their interactions with you be described as fair and trusting, or unfair and shady?
And finally, ask yourself….