In 2009, a young woman living in Tennessee went through a terrible break-up from an emotionally abusive man. Being involved in a toxic relationship can be one of those moments that define who you become. They can leave you feeling frightened, abused or even hopeless. Instead of leaving her scarred and broken, this woman emerged with strength to become, what over 480,000 Twitter followers unmistakably recognize her as today: "The Single Woman."
In the past three years, Mandy Hale has launched a career as the undeniable sass of the south. She is adored by thousands, was voted "Woman of Influence" by the Nashville Business Journal in 2011 and has written full time for TheSingleWoman.net, and also writes a column for The Examiner.
Taking the word "single" back from those who attach only negative connotations to it, Mandy Hale has made being single into something more than just a marital status. She has made the word "single" synonymous with "sassy," "strong" and what she describes as "girl power!"
As someone who has gone through a few terrible relationships of my own, I have always found The Single Woman's column to be calming and reassuring. She has always managed to stay positive in the face of negativity, whether it be through hard times with men or even hard times with friends. In addition to her column she is now a published author. The Single Woman's Sassy Survival Guide: Letting Go and Moving On is her latest accomplishment.
I recently asked Mandy a few questions about life, friendships and when to cut out of a bad relationship:
What made you decide to start your column? What exactly made you become The Single Woman that we know today?
I write a lot about this in my e-book, The Single Woman's Sassy Survival Guide: Letting Go & Moving On. Basically I was in a very bad, very toxic relationship that had turned into a prison of my own making. We were together for a year and a half, he was very abusive (both physically and emotionally) and I had pretty much cut myself off from everyone who loved me because I didn't want to see the reflection of what I needed to do in anyone's eyes -- which was get out of the relationship. Long story short, I started praying that God would give me the courage to leave, and the answer to that prayer came in the form of my close friend's wedding in Arizona. I took a cross-country road trip with my dad, caught the bouquet at the wedding and had enough time away from the relationship to gain the strength and perspective I needed to come back to Tennessee and end the relationship, which I did. And I never looked back. From that point, I started looking around for a strong, sassy single woman to look to for inspiration and motivation -- and unfortunately, there are far too few of those on the current pop culture horizon -- even fewer three years ago, when I started this, than there are today. So since I couldn't FIND it, I decided to BECOME it. I started the column and the Twitter page and as they say, the rest is history. Single women across the world instantly connected with the message and found their own voice in The Single Woman. It has been amazing to correspond with women all over the globe who have been impacted by my message. It has truly become my calling in life to inspire single women to live their best lives and to never, ever settle.
Many women I know, including myself, went through a similar situation as you did (with a Mr. Big type of man). What advice can you give young women who find themselves dating someone who won't fully commit?
I think you have to decide if the reward is worth the risk. In my situation, I genuinely loved the guy and knew that at the end of the day, if I DIDN'T take a chance on forever love with him, I would regret it much more than if I DID take a chance and wound up getting hurt. And I did, ultimately, wind up getting hurt. But the very heart and soul of The Single Woman message centers around following your heart and soul above all else... and I can't even tell you how many times I've tweeted about letting things go and seeing if they come back to you. I'm a firm believer that if God and the Universe give you another shot at love, you should take it. I'd rather put my heart on the line, risk everything and walk away with nothing than play it safe and NOT do what every fiber of my heart was telling me to do. At the end of my life, I want to look back with no regrets, knowing I loved hard and forgave hard and risked hard and tried hard.
That said, I gave my Mr. Big a few more chances than he probably deserved, and at the end of it, he didn't use his chances wisely. And we're not together and probably never will be. I finally, finally let him go. But do I regret giving him a second chance? No. Because I was able to walk away knowing that I gave this great love in my life every possible chance. There can be no regrets if you learned something.
And I learned more from Mr. Big than all of my other relationships combined.
If you give someone a second chance in love, go into it smartly, with the knowledge that you very well could get hurt. It might work out, it might not... but you will never have to ask yourself "What If?" Even if the worst case scenario happens and you get your heart broken, you will walk away with the strength and wisdom that comes from taking a big chance.
All that said, you will, at the end of the day, never have to force commitment on someone who really, truly, genuinely WANTS to be with you. That's a lesson it took me five years and a lotta tears to learn. Typically when a man says he "doesn't want to commit," it means he just doesn't want to commit to YOU. It sounds harsh, but it's true. I'm all for taking chances on love, but when it becomes abundantly clear that the person you keep throwing second and third and fourth chances to is purposely letting them slip through his fingers... it's probably time to let go and move on.
You've written some really interesting articles about your time in New York City, and you seemed to really like it here! Do you ever think you'd move out here full time?
I absolutely ADORE New York, and of course, my all-time favorite fictional heroine, Carrie Bradshaw, lived out her single woman fairytale in NYC... so I would 100% be open to the idea of living in the Big Apple at some point. At heart, I'm a small town southern girl, so I can't imagine being away from Tennessee for too long! I'd miss my humidity and big hair and fried chicken and southern accents too much... but maybe I could divide my time between the big city and the small town? That sounds like the best of both worlds to me!
In addition to writing about dating, you have written a few great articles about friendship. A great quote from "Breaking Up (With A Friend) Is Hard To Do" is "I have had to cut ties with people that I loved very deeply because they were choosing to abuse the boundaries of our friendship and take advantage of my heart in a way that was causing me great pain." I've had to cut a lot of negative people out of my life -- have you ever felt like saying goodbye to these people was a mistake?
I have found that life has a way of bringing the people back into my life who belong there. There have definitely been times when I have cut someone out of my life hastily or in a moment of anger... but the really cool thing about life is that it always finds a way to "course-correct" and resurrect the friendships that are meant to be a part of my story. I can think of two of my closest friends with whom that has been the case. We've had periods of time where we go a few weeks, months, or even years without speaking... but life always, always finds a way to cross our paths again, in the most serendipitous ways. I think that's the sign of who belongs in your life and who doesn't. There are some people you are simply meant to be friends with. I call these my "No Matter What" friends... because no matter what transpired between us, no matter how much time has passed, no matter how angry I might have been with them... we always find our way back to each other. If you release someone from your life and you never see them again, that's probably a good sign that you made the right decision.
Before my fiancé I had gone through a lot of tough relationships. One of the things that helped me realize I didn't have to put up with being treated badly was your column. What advice can you give women who don't feel strong enough to break off a toxic relationship?
My #1 piece of advice would be to remember that toxic relationships, or even friendships, for that matter, will eventually infect every area of your life. Don't hesitate. Fumigate. If someone is making you feel sad or hurt or betrayed more often that they are making you feel happy... that's a good sign that it's not a healthy relationship. Truly loving, healthy relationships will always inspire you to be a better person. They will bring out the best rather than the worst in you. They will bring more joy than pain... more sunshine than rain. Your life literally cannot move forward or progress in any area as long as you are bound by a toxic relationship. You have to really sit down and ask yourself: "Is this really how I want to spend my life? Being pushed around, put down, treated poorly?" That's no way to live. Love should take your breath away, not your dignity away. Though it might be scary to walk away from the security of a relationship, no matter how unhealthy the relationship is, the thought of spending your life with someone who treats you badly is much scarier. Realize that on the other side of walking away is a whole new life, with new possibilities and opportunities and happiness. It ultimately comes down to loving yourself. It is vital to love yourself too much to stay with someone who doesn't love you enough.