What Others Might Think: Reason #3 Women Stay in Bad Relationships
John ShoreBesides here on Crosswalk, John blogs on JohnShore.com.
- 2009 Feb 21
Today we'll consider as a factor that often contributes to women continuing in relationships they should leave the natural desire not to be publicly embarrassed.
The bottom line is that no one likes having their dirty laundry aired in public. But if you're a woman who is considering breaking up with your husband (or a man with whom you've been in a long-term relationship) because he is emotionally or physically abusive to you, then part of what you're facing is knowing that carrying through with that break-up means that a lot of people who know you are going to know a lot more about you than it's likely you ever wanted them to.
And none of what they learn will be pretty. They'll learn that as a way of life you allowed yourself to be abused, maligned, shamed. They may learn that for all the time you told them how happy you are in your relationship, you were lying. If there are children involved, they may learn that, to whatever degree, you morally transgressed against your maternal obligation by not sooner getting those children out of that situation.
And if you're a church-going Christian woman then you may understand that once you initiate a divorce from your husband, some members of your church are going to condemn you for so failing to embody the love of Jesus that your marriage fell apart.
Fear of this kind of public humiliation may not be the primary factor keeping a woman in an abusive relationships, but it can carry significant weight. We are all social creatures, and want few things less than we do our private shame becoming public.
At a zoo I once saw an ape who had to pee turn his back on those of us at the observation rail so that he could secure for himself at least that much privacy.
If an ape so desires to keep his business private, how much more must we? (Relax, creationists: this isn't the same as saying we come from apes. Though, in truth, looking at the embarrassed expression on that ape's face as he looked back over his shoulder at us whilst tending to his biological need made it a little difficult to imagine we're not in some profoundly organic way connected to that particular order of being. I sure never noticed my dog minding who sees him pee.)
So. More Monday on how to overcome the fear of what you must do in private becoming known in public. For now, let me just say to any woman who might be in need of immediate galvanization: [expletive deleted] what other people think. A person not impressed and encouraged by another person radically improving their life is a person wasting away in their own toxicity anyway. Caring what such a person thinks of you is like deciding that dog doo-doo on them enhances the appeal of your new pair of shoes.
More Monday. (Next piece on John tomorrow.) Thanks.
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