Shortly before I left my marriage, I was stopped in my tracks by the words
“You’ve become a strong woman and I don’t think I like that.”
It felt like such a deep betrayal. At that moment, I had to get honest with myself.
I could no longer deny my partner and I had very different visions. I was not behaving as the “good wife” he saw me as. I was “stepping out of line”. He did not see strength as a valuable asset in a woman.
You see, I didn’t want to see the very clear picture his ACTIONS were telling me for a very long time.
I wanted SO DESPERATELY to believe my partner wanted what I wanted. That he wanted me to be strong, confident, and fully capable of meeting my potential. And, I think there was part of him that did want those things.
But, when I really got honest, I saw attempts to minimize and even condemn my strength. I heard degrading comments about my career. I heard disbelief in my business abilities. I heard discrediting of my mentors and friends. I saw attempts to isolate me from other powerful women and keep me small.
The underlying messages were abundantly clear:
Have some strength, but don’t get too strong.
Be successful, but don’t forget your place.
Have a business, but realize it’s not really serious.
Have an education, but remember I’m always smarter.
Have power, but don’t ever forget I hold more of it.
Be assertive, but don’t ever challenge me.
Have friends, but realize they don’t mean anything.
Do whatever you want unless it means:
Your intelligence outgrows mine.
Your success out shines mine.
Your power becomes intimidating to me.
You forget your place of subordination.
It limits my entitlement to access you.
All of this was an unspoken yet very understood expectation, until… those few words were spoken - “You’ve become a strong woman and I don’t think I like that.”
All the sudden, the bubble of illusion burst and I could no longer pretend I had a supportive partner. I had gotten too close to the allowed “ceiling”.
Love, you deserve relationships who are FULLY and UNRESERVEDLY supportive of you achieving your FULL POTENTIAL.
Let your partner’s ACTIONS inform you. Are you really allowed to explore your strengths without attempts to minimize? Are you celebrated for your big wins? For your power and success? For your intelligence? For your strength?
If not, what is the cost? What is it costing you to have a partner who subtly or not so subtly sabotages and diminishes you?