This quote by the amazing Nina Simone is one of my favourite quotes ever and it has been even more relevant in my life in recent times. I first heard this quote many years ago and at the time would usually only apply it to relationship issues. However, as time has gone on, I realised I can apply this to many other areas in my life and it has become one of my grounding principles and one that I apply when considering a vast number of problems.
The quote is from the song “You’ve got to learn” by Nina Simone who was an American singer, songwriter who sang a mixture of jazz, blues and folk music in the 60’s. She was a staunch civil rights activist and also known as a highly regarded voice for black women in that era. The quote “You’ve got to know when to leave the table when love is no longer being served” is about moving on. Its about closing the door on situations or people that no longer serve you. It is about recognising that a particular behaviour or practice is not helping you and may even be holding you back.
The reason i believe this quote has become such an important mantra for how I live my life is because I have been able to apply it to most areas of my life quite easily. I have had challenges like everyone else in life and one of the most difficult things I have had to learn is that I have sometimes held on to situations or things even when they no longer served me because I was afraid of change and what that would mean. Walking away or giving up on something can be so hard and sometimes feels like you will never recover or you are actually self-sabotaging but the reality is every good thing that has happened to me has come from change whether it has been welcome or not, I now accept that without change there can be no progress.
It leads us to wonder why it can be so difficult to leave a situation that is no longer serving us.
There are a number of possible reasons; fear of change or the unknown, fear of what could happen if we do (in abusive relationships, this is one of the main reasons people don’t leave an abusive partner), at other times, we are slow to realise that love is no longer being served so we continue with the hope that whatever is not going well, will improve. In other words, we bury our heads in the sand. These are just a few examples, I am sure you can add a few more of your own.
I actually believe that we can apply the same logic to a lot of life situations. We can apply this to friendships that have become toxic, activities that we no longer love which now cause us stress instead of pleasure, places or things we possess that don’t bring us joy and yes we can definitely apply this also to a relationship where the other person is clearly no longer giving us love.
I think it is important to make a distinction between a toxic relationship where it is clear the other person does not love you and may actually be damaging your mental or physical health AND a situation where a relationship is going through a bad spell. Marriages and relationships go through phases and sometimes we can get stuck in a phase where we feel disconnected from the other person, in this situation it is more advisable to communicate and seek to see where the relationship has gone off rail and try to do some work on it.
However, where you have a situation where your partner shows you by their behaviour that they do not have love for you but instead they treat you with contempt, indifference or derision. They may put you down regularly, may be verbally, emotionally or physically abusive and any other behaviours which significantly affects your mental wellness and may even put you in harm’s way then this is where you need to realise that love is no longer being served.
I am always on the side of trying to save a marriage but this is something that the two people in the relationship should be working on TOGETHER. If you find you are doing all the work and your partner does not commit to working on the relationship and their behaviour doesn’t change then you may need to reevaluate the situation. Also staying and working on a marriage is fine provided, you and any children you may have are not in any danger or your mental wellness is not at stake.
When we do identify the need to move on, what does that look and feel like?. I guess one thing I have learnt is that moving on may not always feel good at the time you do it. It is difficult to walk away from something familiar that you’ve grown used to however it is useful to look at it as the beginning of a new adventure, instead of focusing on what you are losing, think about what you may gain. Leaving the old behind and looking forward to the new means a world of possibilities that you may not even be able to imagine. It may also be helpful to remember that holding on to something that is no longer serving you may actually be very limiting and may stop you from becoming the best version of yourself. I experienced this personally when I gave up people and friendships, even family members that I have finally come to realise do not have my best interest at heart.
One thing that is important about leaving the table and moving on is that when you really understand what this means and when you really are able to evaluate and identify areas where you need to move on, you do it with dignity and with clarity. You do not need to give reasons or excuses and you certainly don’t need a grand gesture or to declare for all to see that you are moving on, you just get up, get out and close the door, gently even.
As a life coach, this is the main focus of how I help clients, by helping them to recognise behaviours and practices that do not serve them and working in unison with them to find a strategy for change so that they can live a more productive life.
So, as Nina Simone says “You’ve got to learn to leave the table, when love’s no longer being served, To show everybody that you’re able, to leave without a word”. I hope that whatever you feel is no longer serving you and in particular any area in your life where love is no longer being served, that you find the courage to get up, leave the table and move on. xoxo
****If any of the issues mentioned here are a trigger or if you or someone you know needs support with a difficult relationship or domestic abuse, please contact one of these organisations mentioned below.