While discussing the Rihanna-Chris Brown debacle recently at my hair salon, one patron attempted to sum it up philosophically with these words; “the heart wants what the heart wants”. For those of you not in the know, Pop sensation Rihanna has apparently re-kindled her romantic relationship with the man who literally pulverized her face a couple years ago. Why would a beautiful, wealthy, seemingly intelligent woman do this? For many of us strong, independent ladies, this leaves a decided distaste in the mouth. It’s not that most of us don’t have anything better to do than follow the love lives of celebrities but it is the principle of the thing that strikes a chord.
This prompts the question at the core of our discussion. Why do women stay in bad relationships? This is a difficult question to answer without perhaps asking several others. For example, why should following one’s heart be advocated, if such is ill-advised or even likely to get one maimed? Should we always chase after what our hearts seem to want even if such is not good for us? Is the course of true love always that difficult or have we been fed a big lie with respect to the nature of love?
Most of us females schooled on stories of love have grown accustomed to the idea that we must find an all-consuming passion, in order to be happy or fulfilled. While love is characterized by self-sacrifice, we have mistakenly believed that this means sacrificing ourselves and our common sense on the altar of stupidity; all in the name of love. And Hollywood has not exactly helped.
With the names of popular romantic chick-flicks like “Crazy Stupid Love” “Only You” and “Head Over Heels” we’ve been steadily fed the idea that relationships are born out of some heady, magical string of coincidences which often force women, because of love, to act against their better judgment. I am not denying the headiness of being in love or the overpowering connection we can feel for someone. I am, however, convinced that we women need to look at love as a more holistic emotion; it should be one of strength and not of weakness. Loving a man should not mean having to sacrifice love of self.
Women stay in less than favorable partnerships for a number of reasons including low self-esteem, financial dependency, and co-dependency. Issues like children and finance, though resolvable, are external reasons why some women decide to stay. Self-esteem and co-dependency point to unresolved internal issues which need more specific attention. A co-dependent relationship is fueled by both individuals’ unhealthy need of each other and this need is powerful glue which can bind a couple together. A man may need his woman to be weak and needy or she may be stronger and need an indecisive man to feel in control. Some females from conservative back grounds may crave a “bad boy” type which makes them feel rebellious, powerful and worldly.
Dependency on a man or on a romantic relationship for feelings of worth makes a woman vulnerable to the point where she may tolerate anything to maintain that relationship. Tolerating emotional abuse, physical abuse or infidelity is a cry for help. Unfortunately many women are not in a place to assess their own behavior and hence continue in that place of weakness indefinitely.
What must a woman do if she needs to grow past the place of being victim especially when she feels at home in this role? She should look deep within herself, to honestly evaluate her own happiness. Unfortunately, many women in unfavorable relationships are in denial and are blinded to their own victimization. They, nonetheless, can be helped if they are lovingly confronted by friends and family. Forcing a girlfriend in this position to ask herself some critical questions may not make us the most popular friend, but it is a true demonstration of being our sister’s keeper.
Making a decision to walk away from a toxic relationship is a personal one which must emerge from a place of strength and resolve. While Rihanna may claim to “love” Chris Brown, we must ask whether or not she is demonstrating sufficient self-love at this time. And of course there is room for forgiveness and redefining of a relationship but a woman must be very sure; especially when abuse has been involved. Love does not make us responsible for someone else’s weaknesses but should actually help us lead that one we claim to love into personal accountability.
Many of us love too much pizza or too much dessert or even too much romance. Being a sucker to the latter can actually get us roped into unhealthy dependencies. Making a decision to stand on our own two feet even if alone for a while, is perhaps the ultimate salute to the idea of maturing womanhood.