Judgment: an opinion or decision that is based on careful thought; the act or process of forming an opinion or making a decision after careful thought; the ability to make good decisions about what should be done. –www.Merriam-Webster.com
Judgment is a process. It is a thing that we all do and need to do in order to make choices in life. You must have a judgment too. It is not a bad thing. Many women struggle with the idea of “judging” their pathological partner. The fear is of getting it wrong. What if he is not pathological; what if he can change; what if does care? Fortunately, with good judgment all of those fears can be mitigated.
Judgment, according to Merriam-Webster, is an opinion. That means that it is specific to you, based on your filter. Having a judgment about another person can be tricky because of this. It means that you alone are viewing the person through the filter of your beliefs, your understandings, your fears and your needs. Thinking about judgment this way, it is easy to see how judgment can be a problem.
If you believe that all people are good then your judgment of what was done to you is tilted in one direction. If you understand that all people can change, then that slights the experience in a specific direction. If you are afraid to be alone or afraid to be wrong, then what has happened to you shifts in another direction. If you see others based on what you need (not based on their needs), then there is another shift to a new direction.
The problem comes when your beliefs, understanding, fears and needs have not adjusted to your current situations. As our lives change and we grow, these things change. We incorporate new beliefs and understandings when we have new experiences. We have different needs as we change and we certainly develop new fears and at the same time, settle old fears. Each moment of our lives, we are new and different people.
But, you can get stuck. When you experience something shocking, overwhelming, scary or challenging, it can take some time to shift. It is in this moment of needing to shift that you often sit still. As you sit still, the need for good judgment becomes more necessary. It is here where you must begin the process to shift; it is time to begin to develop new beliefs and new understanding; time to assess new fears and new needs.
The other reason I love the definition above is because it reminds us of the “careful consideration” part of judgment. This is pretty important and it is what makes judgment a process. So many times, because we have a conscience, we never have judgment without careful consideration. At the very least, we do not act on a judgment without careful consideration. In fact, “careful consideration” requires some judgment. They go hand in hand. I don’t think we give ourselves enough credit for that.
If we accept that judgment is a human experience, then we accept that we all judge. And when we judge others we still give them another chance, ask more questions to learn more, share a little about ourselves with them, or show them what we expect before we act on our judgment of them. All of these acts are part of our “careful consideration” process. We balance our judgment with additional information over time.
Understanding the value of the word judgment is important when attempting to understand the aftermath of a pathological relationship. Chances are there are thoughts in your head related to not wanting to judge him. Even more likely, you have been told by a friend or professional not to judge him. The truth is, you must judge him and everything else in your life. Choosing to leave a pathological relationship comes after months, years and/or decades of a process of judgment that included your opinion and careful consideration. Your process is your process.
Don’t let anyone invalidate your thoughts about what happened to you and what you believe about it by telling you not to judge him. In fact, as you moved through your life with him, I hope that you judged every moment. I hope you spent time checking in with each moment, asking for more information or giving second chances. And when you did, you watched the results that helped you create new meaning and new understandings.
You are capable of determining what you believe, what you understand, what you are afraid of and what you need. And you are certainly capable of doing that with careful consideration. I am certain that your decision to leave was not (or will not be) made in a day.
(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about pathological love relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information.)