I used to pride myself for being a loyal person to the people in my life. It didn’t matter how badly they treated me, my relationship was held together with all of my effort to make things right and continuing to ‘love’ them regardless of how they treated me.
This started with my mother. When I was a child, I hated my mother. There was a lyric when I was young, “Step on a crack, break your mother’s back.”
When I walked down the sidewalk, I stepped on all the cracks.
I was told that I was supposed to love her, because of her place in my life. I tried, but in my heart I couldn’t. She never gave me a reason to love her. As an adult, I can look back and say she was selfish and narcissistic, using me only as her servant while being neglectful, and emotionally and physically abusive.
As a child, I only wanted a mom like I saw in my friends’ mothers; kind and loving, hugging and showing attention and affection. Making me dinner, or a sandwich to take to school for lunch. I just wanted a real mom.
Since I had no choice but to endure her while I was growing up, I did what she made me do. I was a “good child”, at least until I hit puberty. I was loyal. I had no other choice. If I fought back by crying or having a temper tantrum, I was severely punished. So I didn’t fight back.
As I became an adult, I made friendships and had a boyfriend who treated me the same way, using me as a servant while being manipulative and abusive.
My friends weren’t physically abusive, but they were controlling and narcissistic, even my best friend in high school. She never liked it if a boy liked me, she believed that the boys should only like her. She would underhandedly sabotage any budding relationship I had with a boy. I stayed loyal to her and learned that boys were not to be trusted, not understanding that they lost interest in me because of her interference.
Then I developed a sisterhood friendship in nursing school, whom I would eventually start a consulting business with later in my life. She was the essence of my mother — extremely controlling, using me as her servant to run our business and employees, while degrading me in front of them. Her underhandedness included switching out my computer without my knowledge, doing everything she could to keep me from seeing the books, and eventually overloading me with all the work. Yet, I stayed loyal to her for many years.
Then there was my boyfriend/babydaddy/eventual husband. He was the worst abuse I’ve ever experienced, along with infidelity, alchoholism and drug abuse.
I stayed loyal.
Looking back, I realize I didn’t like any of them. They caused me so much grief when I was younger. If I was given an old crumbling sidewalk, I’d step on all the cracks for them too.
But I was conditioned to be loyal to them. I did what they told me and let them humiliate me in private and in public, laughing it off as a joke and working so very hard to keep the relationship intact.
It got worse before it got better.
When I met and married my second husband, he was so good to me. He was good with my kids, and they loved him too. I thought I’d finally found my person.
It didn’t matter to me that his father carried a diagnosis of bipolar depression, or that his mother was extremely passive-aggressive. It didn’t matter that he surprised me by calling me to rescue him; drunk one weekend when he was stranded at the beach because he and his brother got into such a huge fight that his brother abandoned him at the side of the road. It didn’t matter that all the red flags were popping up again, and I ignored them because he was so good to me and my kids.
Then I married him, and Mr. Hyde showed himself.
But, I stayed loyal and endured six more years of abuse, porn addiction, and more alcoholism, to the extent that my children severed their relationships with me.
I turned into my mother, being neglectful and not the mom they wanted.
I tried to hold the marriage together. I dragged him to couples counseling, which is pointless when you’re dealing with an abusive spouse (I tried that in my last marriage too).
I was so powerless by the time my second marriage was nearing the end, that I had to stop working and supporting myself because my body was fighting back so hard that I physically shut down. I had severe migraines, body aches, and fatigue. I couldn’t move without being in severe pain.
Then one day, I decided I didn’t need to be loyal anymore.
Fuck loyalty to them. What about being loyal to myself?
I went to an Al-Anon meeting and I liked what they had to say. Now, I’m not sure that Al-Anon wanted to teach me to kick loyalty to the curb, or if that is their true lesson for their members, but that’s what I learned.
I learned that I didn’t need to pander to the abuse I was dished out. I didn’t need to ‘take care’ of the person who had the issues and dragged me down with them to the point where they compromised my well-being.
I learned to say “no thanks” and continue on my way.
I got hardened. I swung like a pendulum in the opposite direction, maybe a little too much.
Every single relationship I had in my life at the time that I felt was not serving me well, I cut off.
Now that I was in my forties, I had to start again from the beginning.
I worked on the relationships that DID mean a lot to me, like my children. I worked for years to get those relationships back on track. I still work on them.
I had to work on myself A LOT. I had to work on changing my bad picker for relationships. I can’t tell you exactly how I worked on that, except with a lot of therapy and learning to put myself first, and at the same time learning not to discard a relationship at the slightest infraction.
I learned to make my swinging pendulum slow down so it stayed balanced and in the center of my life.
I still adopted and endured some bad relationships during this time, both friends and lovers. But, as I learned more about ME, I moved through those unhealthy relationships and slowly adopted new people into my life who were healthy for me. Regardless of their baggage (because we all have a past and our own emotional baggage to carry), they were good people on the inside. They enhanced my life rather than took away from it.
When I met my current husband, I found a man who has gone through a similar past of being loyal to his spouses regardless of the relationship itself. He certainly hasn’t experienced abuse like me, but he will remain loyal to his people. He has remained intact as a loyal and loving human being. To everyone. I am always in awe of his ability to do that.
On the other hand, I do not. I don’t tolerate disrespect anymore from the people in my life. Even my children, no matter how poorly I raised them by being in two abusive marriages. I love them and will give them the world. But, I also don’t let them walk all over me. I can only give them this lesson by example.
I love the people in my life, and I know there will be conflicts, disagreements, even arguments and hurt feelings. This is life. The only thing I ask is that if this happens, me and that other person come together and resolve the issue and work together to mend and strengthen the relationship.
If it doesn’t happen: Fuck loyalty. I can’t work on a relationship with a person who doesn’t want to work together and instead expects me to forgive and brush everything under the rug.
This happened recently to a friend of mine I’d had for eight years. I met her as a co-worker while she was going through my divorce. She witnessed all of my ugliness as I worked to heal myself. She was in my life as I started dating and then breaking up over and over, until I started to get it right a little at a time.
Having also been through abuse, she was very supportive of me and my process, or so I thought.
She had her own issues; she was socially awkward, and people didn’t like her too much. But she was my good friend and I was loyal to our friendship.
Then she got up and spoke at my wedding. In front of mine and my husbands’ friends and family, she spilled out all the transgressions I’d had since my previous divorce. She embarrassed and humiliated me. I had some other people get up and speak, and also say what a mess I was, but she elaborated and thought it was funny.
Those other people apologized. We talked about it and resolved it. But she didn’t. Instead, she blamed me, downplayed it, and told me that I was being abusive to her for being mad at her about it.
I could have worked really hard to keep that relationship intact, and I would have succeeded. But, I can’t be loyal to a person anymore who does that to me. I don’t even want to be in the same room as them, much less carry on a relationship with them.
I’ve learned that I don’t miss people once they are gone from my life. I don’t know if this is normal or not. I think with my past trauma, it probably isn’t normal. It’s more of a relief than anything.
Now, I discriminate who I bring into my life. I’m quite happy with the people who are already here; my close family and a small set of friends whom I love rather than tolerate.
It took me a long time to get to this place. I am a person who has experienced significant abuse in my life, and I can’t change that. But, I can change my present and my future, to be my own advocate and be loyal to myself.