Have you heard about the frog in the pot?
When you think about a frog…maybe you think of the prince from childhood fairy tales.
I think of the metaphorical frog. You know…put a frog in a pot of boiling water? What does the frog do? She jumps!
Same frog. Room temperature water. She swims, she relaxes…
She just simply is.
Now add some more.
Same frog remains in the heat and even though she feels the temperature rising? She acclimates.
And if the temperature reaches a boil?
Dating abuse doesn’t happen on the first date.
In the beginning? Room temperature…
It all feels great. And then, ever so gradually, the temperature rises. And it gets hotter and hotter…
Yet if you’re the frog?
…Yup. I. Was. The. Frog.
But here is the deal. I did jump…
And here’s another thing. I don’t care if it took a day, a week, a month, a year, a lot of years.
First I jumped out and then jumped back in. And then I jumped out. Only to jump back in.
But eventually I did jump out and away.
Maybe right now as you read this you are thinking:
“That would never happen to _____.”
Fill in the blank: “to me, to my daughter, to my sister, to my brother, to my friend.”
Even if you think: “That would never happen to me, my daughter, my sister, my brother, my friend.”
Good. I hope beyond all hope that you are right.
BUT. Statistics beg to differ.
IF the statistics are right. Then chances are if not you, then someone you know or love will fall victim to intimate relationship abuse in their lifetime.
Maybe even now as you are reading this?
Maybe you are in that water…
And you want to jump?
You can do it…
It does get better. There is life after abuse.
“My life has been shaped by my survival, and allowing what I endured to settle into my marrow has infused me with a strength that will not waver. Abuse had an effect on me, but it has not made my life any less worthy, any less important, or any less valuable. I refuse to walk around leaning on that experience like a pair of crutches. I am not damaged goods, I am me.” –Elin Stebbins Waldal, Excerpt from Tornado Warning
Ending a dating or domestic violence relationship requires a safety plan…make sure you have a safety plan in place before breaking up. And even if you’ve determined your relationship is abusive or unhealthy, that doesn’t mean ending it will be easy.
How to Prepare for a Breakup
You may feel pressure from your friends and family to break up with your boyfriend/girlfriend and move on, but it doesn’t usually feel that simple.
Here are some things to keep in mind when thinking about breaking up:
- The person you’re dating has probably become a huge part of your life. You might see more of them now than friends or family. Being scared about feeling lonely after the break up is normal. Talking to friends or finding activities to fill the new time you have will make it easier.
- You will miss your boyfriend/girlfriend after you break up. Perhaps you will miss them a lot or only on occasion. Even if they’ve been abusive and controlling, it is normal to miss them. Try writing down the reasons you want to end your relationship now and keep the list as a reminder for later on.
- If your boyfriend/girlfriend is controlling and jealous, they more than likely made a lot of decisions for you. It will take time to adjust to making your own decisions again. Be patient with yourself.
- You may be scared to end the relationship. If you are, take that fear seriously. Ending a relationship with an abusive or controlling person is not the same as ending a healthy relationship.
How to Break Up
Ending an abusive relationship is not only difficult it can be dangerous. Your boyfriend/girlfriend may become angry and violent, even if they have not been violent in the past. If you are thinking of ending your relationship first review these safety tips:
- If you don’t feel safe, don’t break up in person. It may seem cruel to break up over the phone or by email, but these ways can provide the distance needed to stay safe.
- If you decide to break up in person, choose a public place. Have friends or your parents wait for you nearby. Take a cell phone with you.
- Don’t try to explain your reasons for ending the relationship more than once. There is nothing you can say that will make your ex happy about the break up.
- Let your friends and parents know you are ending your relationship, especially if you think your ex will come to your house or try to get you alone.
- If your ex comes to your house when you’re alone, don’t go to the door.
- Trust yourself. If you feel afraid, you probably have a good reason.
- Ask for help. A Peer Advocate at the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline can help you make a plan or locate local resources if you need.
When It’s Over
Just because an abusive relationship is over doesn’t mean the risk of violence is over. Use these tips to stay safe after ending your relationship:
- Talk with your friends about what you are going through so they can support you.
- Tell your parents or guardian what’s going on, especially if your ex might come by your home.
- Talk to your school counselor or a teacher you trust. Together you might alert security, adjust your class schedule or come up with other ways to make you feel safe.
- Avoid isolated areas at school and local hangouts and don’t walk home alone.
- Stick with friends at parties or events you think your ex might attend.
- Save any threatening or harassing emails or text messages your ex sends. Set your profile to private on social networking sites and ask friends to do the same.
- If you ever feel you are in immediate danger, call 911.
Cathy Chester says
This is such an important post for so many reasons, but mostly because we have to keep this conversation going. When we grew up no one talked about this. I think about all of the times some type of abuse could have easily happened to me or my friends. But it happens every day, and just like mental illness we have to pull this discussion out of the closet and into the mainstream where it belongs.
Great post, as always, Elin.
Thanks Cathy. I agree 100%, we do need to keep the conversation rolling.
Carol Cassara says
EXCELLENT post. Your lead in was perfect and the payoff has such great counsel. I had to tweet it. Nicely done, Elin!
Thanks Carol, I appreciate that a lot.
Lisa @ Grandma's Briefs says
This is so very important for all women to read and share and recite. I wish I would have had it to pass along to my mother 40 years ago, my sisters 30 and 20 and 10 years ago, my oldest daughter 10 and 5 and 2 years ago. Thankfully all of them jumped on their own. Eventually… some with physical scars, all of them with psychological and spiritual ones.
Jump, jump, jump! As much as loved ones might say it to the one in the pot, the frog is the only one with the power to do it.
How right you are Lisa. And extending them that grace, letting them know they always have a safe place to land, is so critical. Thanks for sharing your experience here.
Mary Lanzavecchia says
So, so important, Elin. Say and say it again because this message and the information are (sadly) timeless. We still live in a society where abuse happens and, if not to us, to someone we love. Statistics have shown this time and time again. So have the headlines. So has our own experience. Excellent post!
Wouldn’t it be nice if it weren’t timeless. In the meantime we raise our voices! Thanks Mary.
Lois Alter Mark says
This information can’t be stated enough. Your “frog in the pot” metaphor is so vivid and I think it will resonate with many people. Thanks for continuing to spread this important message and share your own powerful story.
Thanks Lois, you were one of the first to read my story and support my work and what a treasure you have become in my life since that time!
Kim Tackett says
Thanks for writing and posting this, though I am sure it was painful for you to relive. Frog in the pot is a powerful metaphor and I know this post will help someone profoundly.
Helene Cohen Bludman says
I applaud you for having the courage to talk about your story so that others may learn. Beautifully written post, Elin. And I’m so thankful you ultimately decided to jump.
Thanks Helene, me too! 🙂
I am so glad you wrote this piece. It is so important for young girls to read this and understand how easy it is to fall into a relationship they feel they can’t get out of. Using the Frog in the Pot was a perfect Metaphor. I thank you, and I’m g;ad you jumped.
I appreciate that Mary, thank you!
There is an organization in a neighboring county that provides a safe haven for women who are seeking to break free. I can’t imagine living under that daily threat — the threat of violence. This post makes me so thankful I never have and committed to finding ways I can help those in need.
Oh that’s great that you are involved with helping people Jamie and I am very glad you have never had to experience abuse first hand too.
Doreen McGettigan says
Unfortunately this post is still as relevant today as when you first posted it.
I am so glad you jumped and are willing to share your victory with all of our daughters.
I jumped too.
Yes, sadly I am afraid we will always be speaking about relationship abuse. Thanks for your nice comment Doreen and I am glad you jumped too!
Carpool Goddess says
Thank you for your excellent advice. Such an important topic to discuss. Will be tweeting.
Angela Weight says
I love your frog and pot analogy. I can so relate to jumping out, and back in…and then out again. And then hanging close to the pot. Such great info and advice for those who need it. Thanks for addressing this topic.