Let’s Talk Eyeball to Eyeball, part 1


Now listen, let’s cut right to the chase: difficult people are one thing, stupid people are one thing, but abusive, controlling, manipulative people are quite another, and you need only stay in relationship with them long enough to be able to get out safely.


You deserve better.


You’ve heard the old saying “You made your bed and now you have to lay in it?”

Forget it. Forget you ever heard it. Erase it. Obliterate it.

Think you have to be miserable and in danger because you are obligated to live with the consequences of your choices?


Sometimes you can get so settled in a relationship, so comfortable with its predictable dynamics that you can’t see it clearly. You get lost in the familiarity, losing sight of the harm that’s being perpetrated on you and your partner. (But I don’t care about your partner right now, I care about YOU.)

Let’s be real clear about this:

Healthy love doesn’t manipulate, control, isolate, or harm another. Healthy love doesn’t issue ultimatums or demand you buy them things in return for their affection. Healthy love can’t be bought or sold. Healthy love doesn’t isolate you from friends sand family. Healthy love doesn’t pummel you incessantly with junky words designed to keep you down and them up. Healthy love doesn’t want you to be a slave or a doormat or a punching bag.

People, listen to me.

Healthy love wants you to shine. Healthy love brings out the best in you and the best in them. Healthy love makes you walk differently, with the grace of someone who is cherished and supported and loved through and through.

If your partner professes to be jealous of your friends, envious of the attention you give your family, if your partner demands that you forsake your friends and family spending time only with their friends and family, do not confuse this for love. This is not jealousy and this is not ardent love, my friends, this is controlling, isolating behavior, a tool in the abuser’s arsenal. Bullies are sniveling cowards, really. Knowing that other people just might see them more clearly than you, well, they want none of that.

Recognize it for the controlling, manipulative, isolating behavior it is.

If your partner tells you lies about your family and lies about your friends, see this for what it is: deceit. an erosion of trust. And really, if you don’t have trust as the foundation of a relationship, what kind of relationship do you have? Said another way, without trust, do you really have a relationship?

Trust is everything.

If your partner gets what they want by plying you with affection or pitching hissy fits and allowing you to makeup with them by buying them what they want, taking them where they want to go, doing for them what they wanted you to do in the first place, see this for what it is: immaturity and manipulation.

You are not a game piece they move to win the game.

If you earn money and your partner demands that you turn it over to them then refuses to share it with you – say it with me: this is controlling behavior and is not to be tolerated. I don’t care how you feel about capitalism, you need to have your own money.


If, after pitching a hissy fit, your partner says anything akin to “If you hadn’t done or said so-and-so, I wouldn’t have had to get mad, hit you, pitch such a fit (insert your behavior of choice),” see this for what it is: shifting the blame and trying to make you responsible for their unacceptable behavior. Unacceptable.

If your partner does any or all of these things, see it for what it is: thuggish, bullying behavior – abuse. Abuse doesn’t just mean physical contact, people. Abuse can leave bruises that are never visible to the naked eye. Bruises that can be healed, though it might take a few eons or so.

If your partner scares you,
If your partner tries in any way to make and keep you small,
If your partner blames you for their bad behavior
Exit the relationship.
This is not a healthy relationship, and this is not healthy love.

You never did anything to deserve this. Ever. You may not be able to see it right now under all the years of words and deeds to the contrary, but you ARE worthy and you ARE lovable and you DESERVE to be with someone who cherishes you.

If you’re in an abusive relationship, you can’t be stupid about your leaving. You have to be safe and consider the safety of yourself and your family, but that doesn’t lock you into staying in an unhealthy relationship for the rest of your life. Shake your body like a dog fresh out of the bathtub. Do it again. And one more time. Scream YES as loud as you can (even if it has to be on the inside). Now square your shoulders, exhale, and start planning. I know it’s not as easy as me writing these words. Of course it isn’t. Your exit might be quick and easy or it might be a long, arduous journey. Either way, you will get tired – changing the way you see yourself is invigorating, trying, challenging, exhausting, and liberating. It takes practice to see yourself in a new way, it takes patience to let your bones convince yourself that you are worthy. But it’s doable. And we are here cheering you on. We want you to succeed. We want you to see yourself the way we see you. The world needs you to live into your own bigness, and you cannot do that while under the thumb and under the control of a monster.


  1. Merry ME

    Please print a million copies of this and send it to every shelter for abused women (do they have such for men? I think they probably should). Better yet, make it a mandatory course in middle school where kids are just beginning to think about how relationships are supposed to work. It could be part of the daily routine like the pledge of allegiance – “Healthy Love wants you to Shine.”

    Well said, my friend. Thank you. 

    • whollyjeanne

      Oh Sugar, thank you so very much. When I mashed the “send” button, I was still battling those dreaded internal voices cautioning me about how couples argue and the use of the strong word “abuse” and such. So to read this first comment and see that somebody got it without me watering it down, well I have tears sauntering down my face right now. Thank you.

      • Merry ME

        Sometimes one needs to stick a sock in whatever makes those internal voices. 

  2. Tracey Selingo


    • whollyjeanne

      i love being in the choir with you, sugar.

  3. Tracy Mangold

    Sooo well written and so very true. This describes my father in so many ways. So glad he is out of our lives.

    • whollyjeanne

      If this describes your dad, then I’m really tremendously glad he’s out of your lives, too. May he stay that way, Sugar. The end.

  4. angelakelsey

    You’ve touched so many important pieces of the puzzle here, Jeanne, that I’ll just say “thank you” and share it and share it. xo

  5. Rescuinglittlel

    Geez Louise…could I have used you about 15 years ago…I lived with a man who turned out to be the meanest person I’ve ever met…and since birds of a feather flock together, the women sat around cursing the men and comparing bruises…I thought we were all making plans to get out, turns out I was the only one…

    You must have been whispering in my ear even then…

    • whollyjeanne

      it’s hard, isn’t it sugar? i’m sorry the other women didn’t get out – sorry for them, sorry that you didn’t have company in your exodus, but oh my goodness, how delighted i am that you got out. yes, that probably was me whispering in your ear: “you can do it. leave. get out.” and such as that. xoxo

      • Rescuinglittlel

        I do understand those internal voices but your instincts are spot on with the candid language on this issue….had I know someone who could tell me it was wrong, that I deserved better, etc, that would have made a difference….the women in my family of origin were handed the legacy of being conditioned to take abuse…I simply didn’t know there was another way…

        I love you Wholly Jean!

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Hey, Sugar! I'm Jeanne Hewell-Chambers: writer ~ stitcher ~ storyteller ~ one-woman performer ~ creator & founder of The 70273 Project, and I'm mighty glad you're here. Make yourself at home, and if you have any questions, just holler.

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