Ariana Grande and the “Stay” Narrative

Ariana Grande performs at Aretha Franklin’s funeral on August 31, 2018 | Getty Images

Ariana Grande and the “Stay” Narrative by Alicia J. Love
For the longest time, I believed that staying with someone at their worst was the “right” thing to do. I was a better person if I could “forgive” someone’s behavior and stay with them through the toughest of times. That is what we are taught, from infancy, that it is righteous to stay with the people we have chosen to have in our lives, through thick and thin, for better or for worse, through sickness and in health, and that if we were to leave someone during these times, we would be lesser of a human.

“But he’s a good man.”

Women have been told this for centuries. By their parents and their sisters, their friends and the media. He pays your bills, he was good to you up until now, he has a good heart. He’s been under a lot of stress, you can’t blame him for acting out. And, what were you not giving to him, that made him lash out? Maybe you aren’t being a good provider, maybe you aren’t supporting him enough, maybe you aren’t cleaning good enough or contributing enough financially. This is the narrative we have been raised in, even now, in 2018. I’m here to say it again, even though it’s been said before: time’s up.

And this narrative isn’t just taught to women – it’s taught to all of us, and it applies to all relationships. Even now, we have a hard time having any kind of relationship that is healthy and equal – there is a power dynamic present across our relationships with friends and family alike. For some reason, we aren’t taught to be equal to others – we often find ourselves fulfilling a role in a relationship, whether we mean to or not. It doesn’t just stem from the outdated gender-roles, but also from our subconscious need to compare ourselves to others.

And so, when we see someone like Ariana Grande making choices that don’t fit that narrative, we panic. We get defensive, and we view her as a threat to our worldview. She doesn’t meet the criteria we have for a woman in a relationship, therefore she is the enemy. And so, we go on the offense, even though there is one important thing we haven’t even considered: she was, and is, absolutely right and valid in her decisions.

Ariana Grande could, no, should, inspire us all. I talk a lot about this narrative of “staying” in my upcoming book, and I see Ariana understands what I am saying well. I’m gonna throw out some statements here, and we’ll see what the response is.

You are absolutely allowed to love yourself more than any other person on planet earth, including your parents, your friends, and your partner.

You absolutely should leave someone if they harm you in any way.

It is NEVER the right thing to do to stay with someone who doesn’t bring you absolute joy.

You can completely be IN LOVE with someone but still love yourself more.

You can leave someone because you love yourself, and you can leave someone because you love them.

A person’s merit is not based on their behavior in their worst moments – it’s what they do in response to that behavior that counts. That means, if they mess up once and they recognize their behavior and don’t do anything about it, LEAVE THEM. And if they recognize their behavior and they do do something about it, LEAVE THEM AND COME BACK WHEN THEY ARE DONE.

If someone does something FOR YOU, it’s completely worthless.

Staying with someone who has bad behaviors or habits doesn’t help you and it doesn’t help them.

People are obligated to themselves to do what’s best for them before they do anything for others.

If you fully love yourself first, what you have to offer others is about six million times more valuable than you sacrificing yourself to enable someone’s behavior.

At the end of the day, you are only obligated to yourself and your understanding of a higher power and that’s what is gonna matter in the long run.

You need to collect as much joy as you can before you die, and that means ridding yourself of anything that gets in the way of that goal.

Ariana Grande stayed for too long – I don’t know the details of their relationship, but I know from headlines here and there that she wasn’t happy for a long time. And so, she ended it. And then, she found her joy. And people judged her for that. People ridiculed her for jumping into something too quick, saying it wouldn’t last.

Who cares if it doesn’t last? Why do all relationships have to be toxic and final? Why can’t she absolutely embrace the joy she feels right now, and not worry about how long that joy will last? Maybe someone else will enter her life in 6 months or 6 years that brings her more joy, or a different kind of joy, and then she will face the same scrutiny people are giving her today. But it does not matter. Because at the end of the day, she is experiencing her joy and her life to the fullest. And you all are asking her not to, and shaming her for it.

She is only responsible for her own life, her own actions, and her own happiness. As are you. None of us are responsible for the actions or choices or happiness of others. Happiness is not dependent on other people. It’s something you need to find within yourself. Do what makes you happy. Don’t stay. Never stay. If it occurs to you to leave once, LEAVE. You can come back. You can stay away. Don’t let the idea of what could be hold you back. And don’t let what society tells you hold you back. Ever. Find joy, seek joy, and experience joy. That’s all there is to it.

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