The mindset of letting go and moving on

I’m privileged to have been asked to give the keynote speech for the Athena Awards this March, when my topic will be “How I became the person I always wanted to marry.” It’s a motivational speech with additional comments included from other previous Athena Award winners about the maturing process some women (and men) go through to become the kind of person they once aspired to be associated with. And in selecting those messages, it occurred to me that there is equally important advice I could offer about developing the mindset it takes to sidestep marrying (let alone becoming) the kind of person one would later want to divorce.

This actually is top of mind for me right now because a young lady I know and care about is now dating a man who should have come with the warning “misogynist” tattooed on his forehead. I’d like to help her see that behind the bad-boy persona that she finds so alluring is, alas, a bad boy. However, young women don’t invite well-intentioned advice from well-meaning crones, so I’ll just throw my observations out into the universe and hope, by some magic, they reach the right psyche.

She says she’s just a little confused right now about their relationship.  She thinks his careless lies are the root source. I think that if she could acknowledge the fact that the worst thing about being lied to is knowing you aren’t worth the truth, things would clear up … but she’s not ready to hear something so direct. So instead I mutter something lame like, “Well, when someone loves you, you know it; when someone gives you mixed messages, of course you are confused.”

When he makes “a mistake” of judgment or action, she finds the highest ground in forgiveness. I self-censor the observation that sometimes the first step toward true forgiveness is realizing the other person is totally bat-sh*t crazy or inexcusably selfish. I have said aloud, “You can forgive him without accepting the behavior, or expecting a different outcome the next time another pretty girl turns his head.” She simply sighs, “I know,” and that’s the end of the conversation. What more can she say, after all? She does know in her head that it’s time to stop turning pages and close the book, but …

The hard truth is that she made the mistake that most of us make once or twice: She let a man become a priority in her life who sees her as an option in his. In every relationship, there is a lover and a beloved, but in a healthy relationship, the roles are fluid; in a great relationship, both partners have the emotional capacity to assume the role most supportive of the partner’s needs at that moment. In her arrangement, she is the lover and he is the beloved. She will never be the beloved because he isn’t capable of assuming the emotional demands of the role of lover.

Lately, in a dispirited tone of voice, she reports they are doing “fine,” but what does that mean? Here’s a gold nugget my dear departed nana once offered when I was a young lass troubled over my own bad boy’s behavior: “If I told you that 10 years from now, your relationship with your boyfriend will be exactly the same as it is today, when he’s on his best courting behavior, does that make you happy or worried?” Unfortunately, this young girl, too, has pinned her hopes on a brighter future than her guy’s past or present behavior predicts. (Continued)


There’s plenty more I’d like to say, but at the first hint of a drawn-out conversation on the topic of her boyfriend, she gives me “the look.” Her eyes express (a brief flicker, but I see it) what she doesn’t quite have the guts to say right out loud to me: “Butt out.” And she’s right; with an opening, I’d jump right in with Maya Angelou’s sage observation: “When you know better, you do better.” She could do better.

Oh yes, I’d go on and on with a litany of old wives’ expressions that I, like all young women, have validated the hard way: “If his presence doesn’t add value to your life, his absence will make no difference,” I’d say, and, “If another woman actually ‘steals’ him in the future, there would be no better revenge than letting her keep him,” and, “Never love anybody who treats you like you’re ordinary,” and – the hardest lesson of all – “Don’t give up what you want most for what you want now.”

The worst thing about watching someone drown is not being able to convince her that she can save herself just by standing up. I want to tell her that she is wearing her wishbone where her backbone ought to be. I’ve already lived the fairy tale she’s telling herself, and more than once. I know how it ends. But I am not her grandmother, so I don’t barge in the door she sometimes invites me through. However, I’m sitting on the stoop. I am here and I care. And if that’s all she chooses to acknowledge at the moment, it has to be enough. I’ve learned that the hard way, too …

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