This Drinking Rule Is Now My Relationship Mantra

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woman toasting with wine

My friend calls, “Wanna meet for a drink?” she asks. She’s got a busy week so this won’t be an all-nighter. It’s not a let your hair down kinda deal. So I respond with our typical banter.

“Sure,” I say. “One and done or two and through.”

There’s no gray area this evening. There are only boundaries. This is something I could have used in my marriage. It’s something all limitless men and women can apply to their relationships.

A signal of when to get up and leave. Put the relationship down. Stop toasting the problems. Walk out the door. You get the point. But instead, we binge our marital issues with emotional all-nighters.

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We give people chance after chance. We lack the ability to say enough is enough. My marriage counselor didn’t speak in drinking euphemisms. He said things like…

“Your husband keeps showing you who he is only you don’t want to believe him.”

“Kindness is forgiving bad behavior once or twice, enabling is forgiving it over and over again.”

I heard what he was saying, I just didn’t absorb it. I was too emotional. Too invested. Too intent on saving the remnants of love.

I was too busy being who I had been my entire life. I wanted to learn from my mistakes but my own innate behaviors were causing many of them. I was consumed with what wasn’t working and determined to fix it.

Remaining in an unhealthy relationship was akin to the buzz of alcohol. I couldn’t focus or think long-term. I was in the whirlwind of the moment. Taking it all in but not taking it all in.

If only I had thought in terms of my busy week.

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My own busy life.

If only I had boundaries. Maybe I wouldn’t have been perpetually emotionally hungover. Maybe I wouldn’t have been exhausted, distracted, and physically spent. Maybe my marital problems wouldn’t have impaired every aspect of my life.

Not to mention, parenthood comes first.

The time I spent attempting to rescue a failing relationship, should have been directed at my children.

We foolishly believe keeping a family together is best for them. Instead, we put them in the path of adults behaving badly. There’s nothing noble about this, though nearly every single one of us makes this error.

We stay for our children but they deserve better. They are worthy of parents who have limits. Who keep their inside world predictable because the outside world can be anything but.

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My husband made it clear he didn’t have an interest in working on our relationship. He began upsetting our household and our children. He hurt me in the same manner over and over again.

But I refused to give up on him — even though he had clearly given up on me.

 There was a day I would have blamed him more for this. He convinced me to go beyond my fears and get married. He stood at an altar and made me a promise. I resented him for abandoning us.

But ultimately, I absorbed the words of our marriage counselor.

Yes, my husband had done all of these things.

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But I lacked boundaries and self-protection. The two things that would have put an end to my marriage sooner. Or perhaps prevented it from the beginning.

I wasn’t being kind or loving or loyal giving him chance after chance.

I was foolish.

I was endangering my own well-being. Love isn’t an excuse for consistently hurting someone. My husband was who he was and I should never have tolerated it.

I should have left him.

The first time he behaved badly and hurt me I should have said one and done.

The second time I should have said two and through.

Colleen Sheehy Orme is a national relationship columnist, journalist, and former business columnist. She covers love, life, and relationships.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.