All about toxic relationships and how to let go
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:
- 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 spent … 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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