Ending a Toxic Relationship, and What To Do After

Hi lovely readers,

This is a hard post to write for me. Because, I have a lot of love and compassion for the person who inspired this post, and sometimes relationships don’t end because you stop caring about someone, but because they are unhealthy for one or both partners. In my experience, it was actually easier ending the relationships in which I felt anger and sometimes hatred toward a partner because they were intentionally abusive and cruel towards myself and people and general. I knew those had to end, in my heart and in my mind, and I was ready to move on, whether that meant being single or into looking for a new partner that would treat me better than he or she had. But toxic relationships aren’t always so because either partner intended them to be. Sometimes mistakes are made that are so hurtful and impactful and frequent, and change isn’t occurring at the rate it needs to, and perhaps the feelings that you once had, like trust and comfort, are gone, regardless of what either person does if you two were to move forward. Those are the hardest relationships, at least for me, to leave.

My last boyfriend meant a lot to me. He helped me feel comfortable with coming out again and revealing my true sexuality. He helped me with so many aspects of my journey into long-term sobriety. He helped me get through some of the hardest moments of my life. Some of these things he did while he was just a friend. But he had his own challenges within himself, and he was unable to do the work to really make the big changes needed to stop hurting me, before I had just lost my ability to trust him and to feel anxious and happy around him. I also exposed him, as a result of my mental health issues and in the past, addiction, to a lot of serious trauma, and I know he hadn’t done his part to heal from that and though I tried my best to help him do so, I know I didn’t succeed. As a result, we formed a trauma-bond, and it made us feel as though neither of us could leave the relationship because so much had happened to us, and between us, and only between us. We became extremely codependent, and even a codependent relationship can be manageable and positive in some ways if both partners are still happy enough together to want to work on positive behaviors and to grow together. I know he will grow after this, and so will I, but we cannot do it together. So I had to end it.

My therapist and I are able to video call, during quarantine, once every 2 weeks, and when we last spoke she sent me a bunch of DBT sheets that are helping me make it through this time, and helped me end it. The first thing I did was make a pros and cons list, as per her suggestions, and I was able to see that staying was going to hurt both of us deeply. As a result of damage from the relationship, my self-worth was very low, but I tried to consider how it would hurt me, too, alone, if I couldn’t end the relationship. Opposite to emotion action was very important in initiating the break up, as well, which simply requires that you respond to an irrational and impulsive emotion by doing the opposite of what it’s telling you to do: in my case to unblock his number, find out how he was doing, tell him everything would be okay, make him feel better (because I felt so guilty and ashamed – of making him sad about the breakup, about leaving him essentially without anyone to talk to, as he’s not lose with his family or friends, and about leaving him after everything we had both put each other through), and doing what I needed to, which was accept that he wasn’t my child or responsibility in really any way and couldn’t be, and remember that contacting him was going to make a million times harder to uphold the boundary I set.

I had so let go of any concern for my own well being and happiness, aside from a selfish desire to make myself feel better by taking away his pain, and to avoid being ‘alone’, and because I’ve grown a lot over the past year, I at least had the sense to know that was wrong. I remembered times when I had actually cared about myself, and not yet loved myself exactly but certainly respected myself. It was incredibly freeing, and right now those feelings were at risk of disappearing. I knew I wasn’t my best self anymore, or anywhere close, and I had to accept I would be of no help to him anyway with so little left to give and when I was so depleted. He needed a chance to work on himself independently, and to potentially find someone when he was in a better place that would better suit his needs, and with whom he didn’t have our history with. So did I.

I thanked him myself over text for all that he had done for me throughout our relationship, and I meant it deeply. It made me cry to write it all out, and it made me second guess myself, but my therapist encourages me to find as much closure in relationships as I can, for the other person and for myself. But I wrote in that same text that this would be the last time we spoke, except maybe as friends in the distant future. He was not ready to accept this kind of finality, and sent message after message and I cried some more, because naturally, this was hurting him, my greatest fear. But I realized that hurting him was inevitable in a breakup, and I began to acknowledge that this really hurt me too.

So I let myself cry. A lot. And sleep, a lot. And then wake up and cry. But I also applied opposite to emotion action throughout my days and did the things I know are healthy coping mechanisms, even though I really didn’t feel motivated to do them, and I put in place a lot of emotional supports. Of course, we’re in quarantine, so that looked different than it normally would. But, for example, my mom is going to come to my place for tea every other day, and I will be at her house for drinks on the days she’s not at mine. I scheduled lots of facetimes with friends I can be honest and vulnerable and cry in front without feeling unsafe, I asked that when friends couldn’t facetime they’d text. I am making sure I’m not isolated, beyond the rules of social isolation.

I am going to be frank, I don’t miss dating him, and there are a lot of reasons for that, but I do miss him, as a person, and I miss who he was to me when we met, and I miss certain memories, and sometimes I feel really broken for a moment or… several. I worry about him, a lot, and I feel frequently tempted to reach out. But I don’t anymore, because I know that doesn’t give him or I any space to heal and lean on our other supports and get better, as individuals, no longer partners. I’m crying a little as I write this post, because a trauma-bond is strong like nothing else, and sometimes my illogical mind tells me I owe him unconditional romantic love because he helped me through some very, very difficult times at the expense of his own happiness and health. But I know he will likely realize someday, hopefully soon, that he can find something in which the hurt that naturally occurs in any relationship isn’t like the kind we both wound up feeling, and that a fresh start is a beautiful thing.

“Discomfort is the predecessor to growth” is the phrase that comes to mind for me, when I’m unsure if I’ve made the right decision because, my empathy is often to an extent which is unhelpful, and so is my guilt. And it gets me through those moments, even though my stomach is churning and my hands are shaking and I feel sort of like crying but also know I’m ready to stop doing so.

If it helps, and it does for me, I tell the universe, or whatever may be listening or perhaps isn’t at all, that I hope he has a long, happy, love-filled, successful life. And I try to give myself those same affirmations directed inwardly in the affirmations section of my morning journalling.

Give your pain time to lessen and lessen until you don’t really notice it anymore, lovely reader, if you’re going through the same thing I have been, but don’t force it to in the meantime. Heal with respect for your understandable, valid feelings, but don’t give those feelings power.

Lots of love,

Liz

3 thoughts on “Ending a Toxic Relationship, and What To Do After

  1. This is so damn touching. You were very brave, not every girl could have done what you did. I would love to post this on my qoura space quora.com/q/loversbud Should i go ahead? or can you post it yourself on the quora space?

    Like

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