All about toxic relationships and how to let go

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Don’t be upset if people prefer another to you, it’s difficult to convince a monkey that strawberries are sweeter than bananas. Anonymous

Are you in a relationship that is making you feel bad about yourself? Are you doubting yourself or finding you’re having paranoid thoughts about your actions and their impact? Do you find yourself acting out in ways that you never have before? Are you constantly distressed and not sure if you’re relationship is coming or going? Are you isolated from your loved ones or has your self-esteem plummeted due to continuing this relationship? I bet you can’t recognise yourself anymore too… DROP IT LIKE IT’S HOT!

We have all encountered toxic people in our life, but for those of us unlucky enough to experience a toxic relationship, you will understand how these feelings and symptoms mentioned above crept subtly into your relationship and started affecting it, and how painful it is to let the person go – particularly because you will generally love them and care for them that little bit extra because they have needed you and dragged you down at the same time.

Sometimes we need to love someone from a distance and unfortunately this means the process of detoxing yourself from them. If your partner is putting you down, crushing your spirit or you have found out that they are cheating on you, this blog is for you. This week, Happiness Weekly looks at how you can release yourself from a toxic relationship and get on with a happier life – even if it means being alone.

What is a toxic relationship?
According to Canadian Living, a toxic relationship is one that makes you feel consistently bad about yourself. You may find yourself fending off subtle jabs or downright insults, dealing with unreliability or perhaps even deceit. A toxic relationship leaves you feeling anxious, unrewarded and unaccepted.

Still unsure? Check out this blog by Love Panky about the different types of toxic people and toxic-style relationships. In some cases, some of these can overlap, some people may check every box. As Natalie Avdeeva points out, the types of people who are toxic are:
– Controlling
– Jealous
– Bitchy
– Negative-thinking
– They put you down
– They cheat on you
– They lie to you (don’t put up with lies!)
– They’re abusive
– They blame you
– They are extremely insecure
– They’re demanding
– They’re over-the-top perfectionists
– They’re narcissistic
– They’re competitive
– They’re manipulative.

Here’s a checklist of symptoms of a toxic relationship:
– It feels as though no matter what you do or how hard you try, you can’t do anything right
– Are they constantly putting you down?
– Everything is about them and never about you, when you make it about you – they quickly manipulate it back to be about them again
– You find yourself unable to enjoy the good times
– Are you so emotionally dependant on each other that you can’t do anything alone?
– You’re uncomfortable being yourself (which is why you lose track of who you are!)
– They refuse to allow you to grow or change
– Is there a constant drama and it always feels so far out of your control?
– They start controlling you until you feel completely lost and confused.

If you answered ‘yes’ to two or more of these – these are your red flags … GET OUT NOW! GO!

Can you fix a toxic relationship?
Maybe … but at the time it is toxic, definitely not. You need to muster up all your courage and find a place to escape far away from the person. The following steps will hopefully lead you to a path where you’re feeling back on track rapidly. It is better to cut this person completely free from your life, and not consider any point of return, than to consider any kind of future with them. Whatever happens, do not encourage the bad behaviour. You deserve better!

What do I do if I suspect I’m in a toxic relationship but I’m not entirely sure?
Keep a diary – then no matter what they say, you can refer back and see what the reality was for yourself. By keeping a diary you will have a heap of evidence to validate your actions and words and it will help you to rebuild yourself quicker.

Throughout a toxic relationship, you’ll notice your self-esteem will plunge while the level of self-doubt rises so high that you feel like you’re drowning in it. Every time you’re left, you will hate yourself, blame yourself and become overwhelmed by guilt. By keeping a diary of how the person is making you feel, their actions and words, you can look back and go: “Hold up – no, the reality was this! Here’s what you said and did, here’s what I said and did.”

What if I stay?
The hard truth is: generally these relationships lead to the toxic person cheating on you. Talk about adding insult to injury! So after all the pain you’ve suffered as they’ve crushed your spirit, you also have the pain that you never truly had them to begin with. This is why it’s important that you acknowledge you’re in a toxic relationship and leave EARLY – to save yourself any further pain. Look out for the alarm bells and signs of a toxic relationship they come in all forms mentioned above.

So how do you move on?

1. Be honest with yourself
Allow yourself to be entirely disgusted with this person for treating you the way they have. Cry – trust me, you will cry A LOT! Don’t blame yourself – you’ve been through enough pain now and you’re probably feeling quite exhausted. Tell yourself that you’re leaving for your own wellbeing – in order to truly love yourself, realise that self-preservation means severing these ties.

2. Prepare to become super-human
You won’t eat, you won’t sleep, you may take time off work to deal with things, you’ll cry yourself into a world of dehydration. There’s nothing you can do about any of this except ride it out until it’s over with.

3. If you have decided to end the relationship, be clear about it
Stop contacting them COMPLETELY. Cut them off. Do not enable them to contact you again. Block them out of your life completely. Do whatever you have to do. I know I shouldn’t encourage you to fight fire with fire, but sometimes, particularly when we’re hurting, if you do it respectfully it can bring us a sense of power. So, if you can’t be blunt to them about it or you’re having trouble ending it, then turn it around and push it until you have manipulated them into saying it. If they’re toxic and intentionally hurting you, trust me, it won’t take long until they make the threat – and then go with it, stick with it and don’t look back. Hit that accelerator and go go go!

4. DO NOT worry about their feelings
Toxic people don’t have feelings! Well … they do, but as far as you’re concerned from now, they don’t! Consider them narcissists, which means they don’t have feelings, but they will pretend they do, if that helps. Think about how long they’ve overlooked your feelings. So, trust me – just tell yourself they don’t! Why? Because it’s when we consider their feelings that we continue our self-doubt and we start to go back. If you find yourself with any level of concern for someone who is hurting you, stop yourself right there and tell yourself that you deserve better than your current circumstances. Trust the universe to lead you to a better reality – it may mean sitting with the pain for some time, but it will be worth it. Anything is better than going back and suffering at the hands of the toxic relationship again. In fact, I read a quote recently that said: “Sometimes giving a person a second chance is like giving them an extra bullet for their gun because they missed you the first time” … what about once you have given them a hundred chances? Trust me, if you haven’t made this mistake yourself, it makes you feel as though you handed them a machine gun and it’s not worth it!

5. Don’t try to replace the person
They say the fastest way over someone is to find someone new. This is not the case when you’re recovering from a toxic relationship. When you’re recovering from a toxic relationship, unfortunately you are exceptionally vulnerable, more than if you’re just recovering from a standard relationship break up. The chances that you will entice another toxic person into your life are extremely high. Don’t go with it. Take comfort in knowing that if this person has left you for someone else, the chances that they are truly happy or will be happy long-term are exceptionally slim. And you would have left them anyway because the relationship was toxic … so don’t worry!

6. Struggling? Read about it
Spend some time reading about other people’s experiences and advice about leaving a toxic relationship – it will strengthen you. I found the Between Dreams blog written by the gorgeous Allie, and I have to say: it’s absolutely FANTASTIC! If you’re leaving a toxic relationship, you will certainly identify with the things she says, here’s an excerpt from it:

“You want the real, uncensored truth? Because for me, letting go of people is hard. I fight for the people I care about, I want the best for them, and I want to be that person who stuck it out for the long hard battle. Because how can you just give up on the years you’ve known each other? The time invested into that very relationship? The idea of giving up just doesn’t enter my mind.
Then one day, you wake up. You see how unhappy you are. You now see the trance of negativity that’s been placed around you. You begin to wonder which way to turn…
You can write out your feelings, you can list out the pros and cons, justify whatever it is in your mind, give them one more chance, but all it takes it one thought to change everything. For me, it was this:
“Fuck this. I want a life filled with happiness, love, and compassion. And you know what? I deserve it. It’s mine for the taking, so why am I holding myself back?”

Hopefully, even after reading this small passage by Allie – you are starting to feel less alone, more empowered and find comfort in the idea of moving forward.

7. Accept that your time was wasted and the relationship wasn’t real
Realise, no matter what they said, the relationship was not real. If it was, you would have known all the circumstances (including if they cheated, when and who it was with) and been able to have made an informed decision. If it was real and you had recognised that it was toxic for you… well there’s no way any rational person would be in it in the first place. So the person can say what they like, but the entire relationship was fake.

8. Use visualisation techniques
Visualise yourself collecting all the beautiful things you said to this person, all the good times, all the money you spent, the time you invested … and rip it off them! It’s like snatching back everything they have taken from you. Now that you’ve got all these emotions and beautiful words you said to them back and they’re clear of the toxic person, put it straight back on yourself. You deserve all the good you put into the relationship – they do not. So using visualisation you’re collecting all the good stuff back from the relationship (everything that’s yours and nothing they ever deserved), packing up all your hard efforts, boxing every sweet word and good deed you did, and then dumping it right back on yourself. Guess what they have now? Nothing! Empowering, huh?

9. Communicate with them using only visualisation techniques
Use visualisation to scream at the person: “You’re delusional! Everything was FAKE! I could never love you because I never knew you!” It may sound crazy but it’s quite cathartic! Everything you want to do to them or say to them do it in your mind. Play it all out and be done with it. It beats any consequences from actually becoming self-destructive.

10. Detox yourself as much as possible
Be strong! This is where hitting SHIFT DELETE (hard erasing on your computer, beyond any point of return) on your keyboard is your best friend. Go to any photo, any letter, any memory of that person. Select. SHIFT DELETE. Delete their phone number. Delete their email. Lose their address. Rip up every hard-copy photo. Bag up everything you want to return to them and be done with it. Go on a massive, deleting, destructive mission. By the end of it you will feel as though the relationship is just … ERASED! Don’t get me wrong: you won’t feel good, you won’t feel satisfied, you won’t get your smile back for a very, very long time … but it’s less painful stuff to look at and remember.

11. Lean on people around you for support
Make a pact with someone you really trust and love, that you will not be in touch with this person again. This means, while you’re vulnerable, you’ll be able to rely on the strength of others.

12. Quit asking yourself why and trying to figure out what was real
You’ve been stripped of your dignity, you’re hurting to capacity and now you’re finding yourself torturing yourself with a million questions: WHY WHY WHY! These questions are better left unanswered – and sometimes they don’t even come with answers – so instead of asking, accept the situation for what it is.

Don’t try to work out what was real because I can tell you now: it was all fake! If you had known the circumstances – would you really have been with that person in the way you were? Don’t give the toxic person the satisfaction of thinking it would be real had you have known the real scenario. Deep down they know it wasn’t real as well, otherwise they would have come clean about any deceit at the start.

If you are going to ask questions, ask them of yourself as a way of moving forward – this will empower you. Kris Carr wrote a really good blog about “How to identify and release toxic relationships”. Some of the questions you should be asking yourself to realise you were in a toxic relationship and start accepting the situation, come from her blog:
– Is the pain too great to stay the same?
– Do I constantly picture an alternate reality?
– Is it impossible to make boundaries?
– Is getting an apology (when it’s truly deserved) like pulling teeth?
– Does the relationship take more energy than it gives?
– Is blaming and complaining (coming from the toxic person) becoming really boring?
– Am I completely fatigued when I’m with that person and energetic when they’re gone?
– Am I afraid of what people will think of me if this relationship fails?
– Does the person make you feel as though you’ll be lost without them?
– Do I miss the old me?

I’ve walked away – now what?
Unfortunately there is no way to fast-track your way through dealing with the pain. There’s no potion to take it all away. Take every positive distraction possible. See a good psychologist if you need to. Chat to people – you’ll be surprised about how much support you receive. You need to sit with this incredible feeling of loneliness – it’s hurtful if they’ve left for someone else because your thoughts tell you they’re cosy, warm and feeling loved, while you’re left out in the cold – but don’t forget the truth: long-term, this relationship will not last either – and if it does, it’ll never be the same. There will always be discomfort, pain and mistrust. Consider your situation the lucky escape – well done, you’ve dodged a bullet!

Are you recovering from a toxic relationship? Please share your experience below.

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37 responses to “All about toxic relationships and how to let go”

  1. capturehisheartreview.Tumblr.com says :

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    • happinessweekly says :

      Thank you so much for your beautiful comment.
      I really appreciate you taking the time to deliver such positivity to my page.
      Come back any time! Or if you have a suggestion for a blog, please let me know and I’ll see what I can do.
      Best wishes,
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  2. unhinged254 says :

    This post was scary as hell! I cant help but think that maybe you know who i am. I jumped out of one and went straight into another( which i am still in). I have tried to go, i have tried to be rational. He has cut me down and sometimes i get the nerve to end things..or push him to the point where he does it. And then he just… he calls me back and i’m forgiving him. A day later he is back to blaming me and im back to crying….

    • happinessweekly says :

      Hi Unhinged,
      Firstly, you don’t sound unhinged at all!
      I wanted to thank you for sharing your story and blog with us. I have also been through a similar and very difficult situation and for someone always happy: my world also came shattering around me like shards of glass.
      It’s hard to know how to get back up or where to get started. They say time heals all, but time takes time. I wanted to bring clarity and hope in my blog.
      In my scenario, one day I was in the perfect relationship, then next day, I didn’t know if the whole thing was just a lie. As cliche as it sounds: I did NOT see it coming!
      I really identified with your playground analogy. That’s EXACTLY what it feels like. Hang in there!
      Every second is an opportunity to make a change, start fresh, and live the life you want.
      I wish I could make things easier for everyone and take all sting out of cheating. Cheating is the ultimate relationship crime.
      Sarah.

  3. NK says :

    I am so glad I read this. But I got to get something of my chest.
    When I met my wife I was 22 years old and fairly new to the dating scene. She came out of a very strict home. So as months went on she talked about not wanting to live anymore, and that she wants to drink pills. So I thought that it would be best to ask her to marry me to take her out of her misery and because I was scared of losing her I was so young and dumb. So we started to talk about marriage but after a while I just felt that I’m not ready for that kind of responsibility. So when I told her how I felt she will get emotional, cry and get mad. So after a while I told her I think we should break up because we want different things in live and then once again she would get emotional and even sick and I would feel sorry for her. So awhile later I made her pregnant and she told me that we must get married, and told her family and friends that we are getting married. I told her how I felt and then she said that if I don’t marry her I will not see my child.
    So we have been married for 3 years now I feel miserable as hell and empty inside and starting to resent her more and more. I just want to be there for my baby girl because I love her so much

    • happinessweekly says :

      Hi NK,
      Thank you for sharing your story with us. I’m very sad to hear of your situation. It’s never too late to change your story.
      It sounds as though you’ve been badly emotionally manipulated into your situation and I’m sorry to hear it. But you can change your circumstances. Please don’t be afraid to seek professional advice on your next steps towards happiness if that is what you seek.
      Take care, and hang in there,
      Sarah.

  4. Allie @ Between Dreams says :

    Oh wow! I’ve just stumbled upon this post, and just wanted to say thank you so, so much for the reference! I’m absolutely THRILLED you resonated with some of my words, and beyond happy that you are out there, spreading love around and using your words to impact people’s lives in a positive, authentic way.

    You are such a gorgeous soul, and it shines right through the screen! xx

    • happinessweekly says :

      Thank you for your lovely comment.

      I’m so glad my blog left a positive impression – please tell your friends about Happiness Weekly and if you have any ideas for future blogs, please contact me and I’ll see what I can do :)

      Have a great day!

      Best wishes,
      Sarah.

  5. Marc says :

    All I can say is WOW! I’m now on day 5 of leaving a toxic relationship with my girlfriend of 5 months. I can honestly say, your words helped me tremendously! I have been sitting here (again) thinking about what I did wrong, why it didn’t work, etc when the whole time she’s lied, hid things from me, disappeared for hours, cell phone died, battery is acting weird, speaking to her ex which we agreed she wouldn’t do, on and on and on. Of course, I just kept going back, spending money, time, effort on something that was FAKE like you said. I’m a single father of 3 kids and this relationship has taken a toll on my emotions not just with me, but the people I love around me and no one, and I MEAN NO ONE is worth that. Thank you so much for such a great article.

    • happinessweekly says :

      Hi Marc,
      Thank you for your kind words – I’m glad I could bring you some comfort in your present situation. It is very disheartening being betrayed and lied to. And sometimes even the detoxing process can feel almost impossible. Stick with it – you’ll find a whole new energy soon!
      Best wishes,
      Sarah.

  6. Basquiat says :

    This is amazing–I’m in an incredibly toxic relationship right now. I’m suspecting him of cheating with this woman who has been in and out of his life, and he accuses me of being paranoid.I’ve whined so much, his friend has actually asked why I’m with him. He has anger management issues–he has hit me a couple of times before and now he has stopped hitting me and has now started to throw things. I find myself reacting physically as well something I’ve never done before. Every time he says something hurtful or baits me by saying he should go with someone else. He has a drinking problem and got into a major accident because of it–initially he promised he would stop drinking entirely, then he says he would control and just now, he just asked for whiskey and when I refused, he yelled and said he wanted to drink any time he wanted.

    AND YET–I find it so hard to let go. I really don’t know why. Stockholm Syndrome? I keep stopping him from leaving! Just now, he wanted to leave, I’m angry, I’m cajoling, I’m sad, I’m emotionally blackmailing him. He’s angry, he’s yelling.

    It’s been two years and I don’t know why I’m still hanging on. Any tools to stop thinking about it or learning to say OK in spite of the insults he hurls at me while trying to leave? I know you’ve highlighted some tools here but I really need help. Delete everything? He’s going to do the same and find someone else. Or I will be alone.

    I really don’t understand the person I’ve become.

    • happinessweekly says :

      Hi Mindy,
      Your story sounds somewhat painfully familiar to me from what now feels like lifetimes ago. Although I can identify and empathise with you, unfortunately I don’t have the answers for you in your situation, but I’m sure if you did some soul searching, you would find them and the strength to do as you need on your own. Reading what you have just said and thinking things through may help you see things from a different perspective. Keep a journal … ask yourself how happy you REALLY are,a nd keep challenging yourself until you change something. In your situation, something NEEDS to change!
      I am actually currently writing a blog to add to this one about love addiction, which you may also be able to relate to. I found this blog the other day and it made me think of your comment – I hope it helps and provides comfort – you are certainly not alone: http://www.reneweveryday.com/blogs/positive-energy/love-addiction
      I wish I could wave a magic wand and make the pain go away and help you to find some courage within to take a stand. But unfortunately I can’t. Keep yourself safe and take some time out to think about what YOU really want and the direction your life is travelling.
      Seek help before things get too dangerous and remember you are in control over the situation, even if it FEELS as though its controlling you. People and situations only have control if you let them.
      Best wishes,
      Sarah.

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  9. Annie says :

    I’ve been in a toxic relationship with my boyfriend and the worst thing I did was moving in with him knowing that he had some of these issues. I was already going through an emotional wreck a year ago when I met him I was struggling beign alone and needed someone after I ended a terrible marriage.. I met my boyfriend who is a liar, a cheater, compulsive and manipulates everything. I left my apt put my things in a storage and move to another state to be with him.Big Huge Mistake. When I leave he tells me I caint leave him he needs me. I cook and do everything for him and he has taking advantage of myself and love for him. Yes my self esteem is so bad and I’m ready to go but I’m so afraid. He tells me it’s me not him. I get confused and I’m exhausted. I read this blog please advise me.

    • happinessweekly says :

      Hi Annie,
      Thank you so much for dropping me a line. I may not have an exact answer for you but here’s what I would recommend in your situation.
      Leaving a toxic relationship – as I have learnt myself over the past couple of weeks – can literally be fighting fire with fire. The manipulation and games won’t stop – prepare yourself for this as best you can. I wasn’t prepared. I got caught off guard. I missed opportunities to make various moves because “I couldn’t possibly put him through that…” It’s very conflicting when you’re trying to move forward and a flashback of a good time appears, or a moment when you can see he needed you and a gap where you could have helped him better or more. Erase these from your mind and focus.
      The fear of leaving a toxic relationship is the silence and loneliness that follows such drama and upset. It’s irrational. Do not give into it. Do what you need to do to fill this void if that’s joining a series of internet chat sites so you can talk it out – do it! But PLEASE be careful in doing this because you are vulnerable but even just chatting online can help and it’s a good ego boost – it won’t take long for him and his insults to be proved wrong. DO NOT meet anyone offline or go on any official dates for at least six months following your situation. If you need your girlfriends around you, make a list of your most reliable ones and any moment you feel the need to contact him, lean on them.
      Here’s a bit of a checklist of what I recommend:
      1. You moved house and put your things in storage and did all these massive things for him before (don’t feel bad, I am guilty of making that same mistake) – focus only on what you can do now. Why do it for him and not yourself? Start preparing yourself for a move – this is going to be a quick one and the last one to come. It’s time for a new adventure. Don’t continue where you’re in a place where he knows where you are or knows where you work.
      2. Go to a phone shop and ask for a new SIM card and a new number. I actually did this THREE times this year. You need to CUT ALL CONTACT from this man and go out of your way to do it. Your friends will accept it and update your details, it’s a tiny inconvenience to rescue your life back and have a brighter future. NEVER EVER give this man your new number – we need to get him out of the picture for good. Giving him your new number will only leave an opportunity for him to come back in and to hear more convincing lies. Don’t let yourself be manipulated – enough is enough.
      3. Surround yourself with people. Once you move or get your own place, get someone to stay with you. When you wake in tears (because you will – you need to detox and you will go through all the denial), have them there with you ready to give you a hug or put a hand on you to calm you. Do not choose anyone who is sleazy or start dating someone else, because at this stage you will generally attract all the wrong people. I was very fortunate in finding a very loyal male friend to stay with me, which meant I got comfort but also felt safe and secure in the case of him coming over. Remember, the police are always there if you need them too – do not be afraid to report him or ask for assistance. It is extremely difficult to grapple with but sometimes if you don’t get in first, the situation will intensify and these lying manipulators will draw the situation out of control.
      4. If you need it get yourself help from a professional. Work out your actual problem by doing some soul searching and some research online and then find the best possibly psychologist in your problem area and make an appointment. My problem, which sounds as though it may be similar to yours, was love addiction – see my most recent blog post. Jumping out of the frypan and into the fire isn’t as uncommon as you think. You are not alone.
      Annie, this is going to be like fighting fire with fire. He will not let you go and if he gets wind of you backing off, it will intensify. Brace yourself. Act carefully. Be decisive in your movements. ESCAPE! That’s my best advice. Get out of there and get out of there as quickly and as safely as you can. Don’t listen to threats or promises – you owe him nothing. Make a plan and stick to it. You’ve acknowledged the relationship is toxic – you can do better than that.
      Hit the accelerator and don’t look back.
      Good luck and if you need any further advice or if I can help you more, please contact me at info@happinessweekly.org.au

  10. Wendy Husain says :

    What helped me, was to visualise my girl/boy friend and imagine the person I wanted them to be.
    You then imagine dumping that amazing person, who was your boy/girl friend
    and walking away and leaving and never coming back,

    For me this got rid of some form of attachment, by that perfect person,
    no matter what would want me to leave and break there heart, because it is best for the both of us.

    Even if it could have worked!!!!!!

    Strange technique….. TRY IT !!!

  11. mangel03 says :

    What do I do if I have kids with this toxic person? He’s in my life for a while because our girls are young.

    • happinessweekly says :

      Thank you for contacting me, Mangel03 – in order to know what to do, you will have to know what you have done. Can I recommend a life coach for support in discovering this in an empowered way for yourself. I am currently offering probono coaching if you would like my help with this. You can contact me on: sarah@relationshipfree.com

  12. jgalicecooper says :

    Well, I’m a guy trying to end a t.r. Her and I have been back and forth on ending it for months now. 2 1/2 years of wild ups and downs. I’m addicted to her, but see every sign you can imagine that I need to get out. Every symptom is there. This is painfully hard. It feels like I don’t have many people to lean on because everyone was against this relationship from the beginning. I’m feeling lost without her but its obvious she is no good for me emotionally. Your article helped open my eyes. Thank you. I’m off to find a therapist…

    • happinessweekly says :

      Thank you for your comment.

      You are not alone on being in a toxic relationship and addicted to your partner. Well done for being self aware and acknowledging that!

      I now specialise in this area and may be able to offer you the support you need. I won’t advise you, but I can help guide and empower you to make a decision.

      If you feel I could offer assistance, please get in touch: sarah@relationshipfree.com

  13. mirandaamq says :

    I really felt indentified with this article, it helped a lot!
    So I was best friends with this guy for about 2 years, I have known him all my life though. And it was just so hard, to be friends and me being in love, and stoped talking and he apologizing and I stupidly came back. But always felt sad and empty. I just couldn’t visualice my life without him, although I knew it was really toxic I could not find a way to let go. Later on he faked love for me, used me, cheated on. After two years of total despair and depression I realised it was the best, no matter how painful. Although I am still crying and overthinking, reading this gave me hope. Hope that it will be alright someday. It might take long and it might take energy but it’s for the best. Thank you for giving me that hope.

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