By Kristan Elisabeth

I’m sure you can relate to the feeling of being mentally stuck in a relationship. Not stuck in the sense that you’re bored, or have lost the spark, but that you cannot let go of what you think it should be – or you cannot accept what would come if it no longer were.

I’m talking about the on-again off-again, the almost but never quite anything, the “if only,” the I’ll wait for you, the someday. The bits and pieces of people and love we hold on to console ourselves, the idea that we could live without these people seems an impossibility.

And that pain compounds. Every moment seems a strain, every unreturned call or ignored text a knife, and any misplaced “Like” can send you into a seething rage of jealous insecurity.

This is the relationship in which you are endlessly trying to earn someone’s love. The relationship in which you don’t feel good enough.

These types of relationships sow insecurity. You ask yourself, what am I doing wrong? What can I do to get their full attention? What can I do to make them love me? Why can’t I just be chosen first for once?

You reorganize your thinking, and you ask a new question: What can I do to change myself so that I’ll be good enough for who they are?

I’m here to tell you: Nothing. Nothing will make you good enough, so don’t even try.

The truth of the matter is, we all have this need to be loved and accepted, and sometimes we get stuck in a toxic relationship because the prospect of being rejected by someone we care so deeply about is intolerable. Because if this person, this person that you put so much time into, so much energy, so much of yourself — if this person doesn’t accept you, doesn’t that mean you’re not good enough? It’s actually quite logical, when you think about it. It’s just… it’s just that you’re setting yourself up for failure.

You see, it then becomes a game. In an attempt to prove to yourself, to prove your worth, you fight. You fight for that love, that relationship, that acceptance. You fight like your life and everything that you are depends on it, holding on tooth and nail no matter how much it breaks you.

Because, in the end, aren’t the best wins the ones we fight for? The ones gained despite adversity? Winning because we’re just that good?

In love, no. The best wins are not the ones we fight for; you never really win under those conditions. Because if you have to prove your worthy of their love, of their attention, of their full and whole-hearted acceptance, all it means is that they didn’t accept you as you were. And if they didn’t accept you as you came, then you’ll never feel good enough because you weren’t good enough.

Never try to prove your worth in love. Once you do, you’ve already lost.

I don’t want to confuse this with entitlement. You are not owed their love, their acceptance. You are not owed anything. They have the right to reject you. It hurts like a bitch, yes, but at the end of the day, why should they be with you if they don’t really want to? Importantly, though, you also do not owe them anything. You do not owe them your loyalty. You do not owe them your unfailing love.  You do not have stay.

In fact, I am also here to tell you that you have the right to walk away. That that’s okay. That, yes, you may hurt them and it will most certainly hurt you, but you have the right to walk away from someone who hurts you.

You will be angry. Know that you’ll also be angrier the longer you stay. And while a lot of that anger will be directed at the one you leave, you’re going to have a lot of anger left over for yourself. Because eventually you’ll realize how foolish (though understandable) it was to ignore all the rules we’ve learned about love. Despite what we say to the contrary, in these situations, there’s this underlying hope that somehow, one day, he or she will change, that they’ll come to their senses, that they’ll realize just how damn lucky they are to have you and that through realizing this, they will finally give you the relationship you want and deserve.

This is a lie. This will not happen.

And that’s when the anger will come. Because you saw the signs. You knew better. But you chose to ignore it, hoping that you were the one exception, that — despite scoffing at the fairy tale endings of all those rom-coms — you hoped more strongly than you have hoped for anything that you would get your fairy tale ending. And you didn’t. And you should have known better.

But that’s okay, too. Do you realize how incredibly human that is? Do you realize how incredibly brave it was to be vulnerable? To open yourself up so completely to another person? To put yourself in a position to be scrutinized by the person’s whose opinion matters to you most? That is a sign of your strength, of your humanity, of your compassion for the soul. It’s okay to be angry, for a little while, and it’s also okay to embrace your humanity, to acknowledge the beauty of what you did, and walk away, good enough in yourself.

Image: Franca Giminez

Kristan Elisabeth is a school psychologist, writer, and perpetual student. When she isn’t in a school or writing, she gallivants the world with her adorable 5-year-old son. You can view more of Kristan’s writing on her personal blog:

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