Far be it for me to call myself an authority on happy relationships, but here’s the thing: this is a brief saunter through life, and I think that remaining alongside someone who makes you feel bad about yourself, or who doesn’t bring out the best in you, is just stupid.
This is my counsel to a daughter who, for reasons of security, social credibility and, if she is completely honest, sporadic financial support, remains locked in a long term relationship that has clearly run its course.
I have four relationship models from my own life to draw on.
The first, my biological mother, adopted the Cut and Run approach to marriage; leaving behind a six-year-old, a three-year-old and a lot of confusion. She ended up in a lifetime relationship that ensured her happiness—at the cost of her children.
The second is my step-mother who went with an Endure At All Costs approach which, as it turns out, was also at the cost of her children. I can safely say there were more losers than winners here.
An early marriage of my own produced my two daughters and a lot of self doubt. In, what initially looked like a chapter of history repeating itself, there ensued a decade of soap operatic events: an affair, a stint at University, separation, dating, reconciliation and several career changes. Sadly, they all collided with the sanctity of marriage, and our partnership came to its natural conclusion.
Forward to the three-year relationship that would change me forever and slice up my heart like sushi; thin and incremental. This was the great passion that you read about. All consuming, self-sacrificing, torturous, Heathcliffe-ian. I clung on long after it was apparent he was incapable of returning my love, while my daughters stood on the sidelines and watched me behave recklessly. They watched him chip away at my self-esteem, constantly inflicting tiny, demoralising divots. They watched him leave and return and promise, over and over again.
One day it was really over. I had survived a triple hold down in the biggest surf beach on earth. I was shaken, bruised and thinner, but it was over and my children were still talking to me.
Forward again to 2012. I am married again, this time to a man who is my greatest fan. My lesson, and what I want my daughters to understand, is that the best you can be often reveals itself after the worst you’ve endured.
There is always a better way if you are willing to find it.