Toxic relationships are more common than we would like to admit. Unfortunately, I was in one myself. It took me a long time to recognize that my relationship was unhealthy and even longer to find the strength to leave it. In this post, I want to share my story of surviving a toxic relationship and the lessons I learned from it.
My ex-partner was someone who behaved very inconsistently. One moment, they would be kind and loving; the next, they would be cold and distant. This was particularly confusing because I needed to figure out what to expect. I found myself walking on eggshells, trying to avoid triggering their unpredictable behavior.
In addition to their inconsistency, my ex-partner used gaslighting as their love language. Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse involving manipulating someone into questioning their sanity. My ex-partner would often twist my words and turn the conversation around to make me feel like I was the problem. It was nearly impossible to converse peacefully with them because they always seemed to be on the defensive.
Being in a toxic relationship caused my anxiety levels to skyrocket. I constantly worry about what my partner would do or say next, always on edge and waiting for the other shoe to drop. I would have panic attacks daily, and the longer I stayed in the relationship, the worse my symptoms became.
As time passed, my anxiety and panic attacks became more intense and frequent, and I felt utterly exhausted and drained from the constant state of heightened anxiety. I would wake up feeling anxious, and my anxiety would follow me throughout the day, making it difficult to concentrate or focus on anything else.
When I attempted to seek help from my partner, I was often met with hurtful responses that invalidated my experiences. He would tell me that I was “too much” or accuse me of “overreacting,” making me feel like my emotions were invalid and that I was not enough.
Despite my attempts to withdraw to protect my well-being, my partner continued to blame me for the instability in our relationship. He even made my need for a time into an issue, causing me to feel guilty for prioritizing my mental health.
Adding to the hurtful responses I received when seeking help from him, my partner failed to offer support when I faced hardships. Instead, he would tell me he didn’t understand or couldn’t relate to what I was going through, leaving me feeling alone and unsupported.
Overall, this created an environment where I felt trapped and unable to express myself or seek help when needed fully. It’s important to remember that seeking support and prioritizing your mental health should never be seen as a weakness or a problem. It’s okay to set boundaries to protect your well-being.
Looking back, I learned a lot from this experience. Here are some of the lessons that I took away from my toxic relationship:
- Recognize the signs: If you frequently feel like you’re walking on eggshells, constantly second-guessing yourself, or experiencing anxiety around your partner, it may be time to reevaluate the relationship.
In my experience, being in contact with my partner often triggered a physical response in my body, leaving me feeling like I was in danger. It was as if my body was warning me to stay away from this person and avoid any interactions that might harm me.
Remember, recognizing the signs of a toxic relationship and acknowledging its impact on your mental and physical health is the first step towards healing and creating healthy boundaries. Don’t hesitate to seek help from trusted loved ones or professionals if you struggle to navigate a toxic relationship alone.
- Trust your gut: Trusting your intuition is a valuable skill that can save you from many heartaches. Nobody knows you better than yourself, and your intuition can be a powerful tool in helping you navigate relationships. If you sense that something is off, pay attention to that feeling.
In my own experience, I often had a nagging feeling that something was wrong, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. It wasn’t until later that I discovered my partner had been lying and cheating on me all along. Looking back, I realized that my intuition was trying to warn me about the situation, and I wished I had listened to it sooner.
Remember that your intuition is a valuable guide, and it’s important to trust yourself and your instincts. Don’t ignore that nagging feeling or brush it aside as paranoia. Take the time to investigate and ask questions if something doesn’t feel right in your relationship. Ultimately, your intuition can help you make the best decisions for your well-being.
- Prioritize your well-being: It’s easy to lose sight of your well-being in a toxic relationship. Remember to take care of yourself first and foremost.
In my experience, taking time alone, cutting off contact with my partner, and using that time to reflect was incredibly helpful. It wasn’t an immediate fix, but being able to regain a sense of control and clarity was essential for my sanity in the relationship.
Remember, you deserve to prioritize your health and happiness, and it’s okay to take a step back when you need it.
- Seek support: Don’t be afraid to contact friends, family, or a professional for help. Having a support system can make all the difference.
In my experience, reaching out to my friends and sharing my feelings with them was crucial in helping me regain my sense of self. It was a way to validate my emotions and feel less alone in my struggles. However, I also had to deal with my partner’s attempts to prevent me from seeking help, such as when he dismissed my friends’ perspectives as biased and wrong. Despite his comments, I knew their support was important and helped me stay grounded.
- Remember that you deserve better: No one deserves to be in a toxic relationship. You deserve to be with someone who treats you with love and respect. And when I say respect, the genuine respect.
Respect in a relationship goes beyond mere fidelity. It entails honoring your partner’s opinions and allowing them to express themselves. It means communicating with your partner respectfully and avoiding behaviors or actions that may cause them distress or hurt. It involves thinking before you speak, listening to your partner with an open mind, and showing support as their biggest fan.
Genuine respect requires understanding and empathizing with your partner’s feelings, regardless of whether you agree with them. It takes effort to demonstrate respect in a relationship consistently, but it’s a vital aspect of a healthy and loving partnership. In short, respect is love, and it’s essential to cultivate and maintain in any relationship.
If you’re currently single and hesitant about starting a new relationship, there are some helpful tips that Dr. Nicole LePera recently shared on Twitter. These signs can be beneficial in preventing a potentially toxic relationship and ensuring both partners are ready for commitment.
Emotional commitment isn’t someone everyone is capable of creating. Even though our society would have us believe it’s for everyone. Some people aren’t emotionally available or seeking to commit to someone. It’s excruciating when someone says they’re ready but aren’t able to follow through.
It’s important to understand that people communicate most clearly through their actions, not words.
Here are some “red flags” that show a person might not be ready to commit — 7 Signs Someone Isn’t Ready For Commitment:
1. Their words don’t match their actions: they have a pattern of saying things and not following through.
2. They’re wishy-washy: one minute, they seem very into the relationship, and the next minute, they’re unsure. You feel like you can’t read them.
3. They’re emotionally immature: when upset or in conflict, they lash out or shut down. Or, they take no ownership and consistently blame everything on you.
4. They’ve hidden a significant part of their lives: they’re left out that they’re married, didn’t tell you they had children, hid what they do for work, etc. This shows they’re not ready to be transparent.
5. They’re unwilling to compromise: everything must be their way or meet their expectation. This is a sign a person isn’t ready to share their life with someone.
6. They are incredibly impulsive: this often seems fun in the beginning or spontaneous, but with time you realize they make rash decisions and rarely consider how this would impact you.
7. They don’t know how to communicate: they struggle to communicate and get frustrated when you ask them to talk things through. Having open communication is the foundation of healthy relationships.
I hope this post serves as a reminder for everyone, including myself. Toxic relationships can profoundly impact our mental health and well-being, and it’s essential to recognize the signs and take action before it’s too late.
Remember to prioritize your well-being and seek help if needed. You deserve to be in a healthy and supportive relationship and don’t settle for anything less.
I write primarily for myself, sharing some of it with you :)