Assumptions are the termites of relationships. – Henry Winkler
There are two of me. I don’t mean I have a twin or multiple personalities. I mean I act and feel like two different people. In my last toxic relationship, there was the “me” when my partner wasn’t around, and the “me” when he was.
Before I met him, I had a carefree, happy outlook on life. I was confident in the person I had grown to be and genuinely liked who I was. In the beginning of our relationship, I felt secure, respected, cared for and free to be who I was. I was happy with who we were together.
These are signs of a healthy relationship. You want to be with someone who makes you feel good about yourself. Someone who listens and at least tries to understand your feelings. Your partner should encourage you to follow your dreams and be your strength when you feel weak. Likewise, you should offer those same qualities to your partner. It must go both ways.
Signs of trouble
My relationship was smooth and shiny and almost perfect (no one has a perfect relationship) and he asked me to marry him. I was happy and excited and in love. There wasn’t anyone I would rather spend my life with and 8 months later we began our life together.
Looking back, I can see the trouble was there within the first few months of marriage. I began feeling unsure of myself. I used to be excited to share my day with him and would wait for him to get home from work. The joy I felt at seeing him walk through the door gradually became a sense of dread. I became tired, sad, and wondered why nothing about me was good enough to make him happy. I loved him though and he said he loved me. That had to be enough to make it work.
I remember thinking, “I can handle this. I’m strong. I’ll explain how he makes me feel and he won’t do it anymore.” I didn’t know it then, but those first thoughts and feelings were also the first signs of a bigger problem. One that would unfold over the course of several years.
The pain I felt never seemed to be inflicted intentionally and somehow whatever he had said or done that made me feel bad became my own fault. It was always the way I chose to see it, hear it, or think about it. I tried to go with that for a while. I stuck around and he sucked out every last bit of energy I had. I felt drained emotionally, mentally, and physically.
There were many things about that relationship that were wrong. I can see the signs now, looking back. I wish I had known what to look for.
The following are some questions you can ask yourself about your relationship. If the answers indicate a one-sided unhealthy match up, it’s best to save yourself and move on. Healthy relationships are worth waiting for.
- Are you always giving of your time, energy, and yourself with very little reciprocation?
This will leave you feeling negative and resentful.
- Do you trust your partner with your thoughts and feelings? Do you trust your choices will be supported? Do you trust your partner to make the right choices for the relationship?
These behaviors will leave you feeling unsafe.
- Does your partner have a negative outlook on life? Do they see the potential downside to every situation? This type of attitude leaves you feeling incompetent and eats away at your self-confidence.
- Are they critical and judgmental?
These behaviors make you feel like you should hide or lie about things so as not to be criticized.
- Is communication mutual or are you the only one talking?
- Do you find you avoid him or that you both avoid each other?
Your core beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and morals are at the very center of who you are and they deserve to be respected. When you feel demeaned, discredited, and begin change yourself in an attempt to be what you think your partner wants, you are in a toxic relationship.
I knew I was in deep and that the relationship would never allow me to grow to my full potential. I would never know true happiness or what it was like to have a lover and a friend. I also knew that by choosing to stay, I was choosing to live the rest of my life not caring much for the person I saw in the mirror. Part of me wanted out, the other part thought I should just stay put in the hope it would get better.
How to jump ship
Getting out of a toxic relationship isn’t easy. The dynamics have already been set up so that you both tug on your end of the rope hoping to win the battle. What you don’t realize, and never will is that if you each took a step forward, the rope would drop.
Now, you have to take an objective look at your situation. It is time to realize a problem exists and that you have given enough time to living this way. You have likely known for some time that the relationship is making you unhappy.
Next, you must make a firm decision and then wait until you are ready to act on it. You cannot waiver on this or your partner will suck you right back into the poison.
Once you have made the decision and acted on it, do not reconsider or second guess your feelings. It is over and you can never go back.
Role play with a friend or relative how you will get away. What do you think your partner will do or say in the attempt to keep you from leaving? How will you respond?
You should be prepared to handle all the “I’m sorry’s” and deals your partner will make. The shaming words intended to make you feel guilty will come out in force and when that doesn’t work, anger will come next.
I decided I wanted more in my life. I wanted to know what it was like to be loved, respected, and valued. I deserved someone who brought joy and happiness into my world. I wanted a lover and a friend.
I was determined to not live the second half of my life as unhappily as I had lived the first, and that is what I said the day I said good-bye. He didn’t really understand why I was leaving though. I wasn’t surprised. He didn’t understand because he didn’t really know who I was. He never paid enough attention to the little things, never listened as I spoke, and didn’t bother with communication.
The last question I asked him came from an episode of Malcom in the Middle. The mom and dad were fighting outside in the pouring rain and she turned to him and said, “Tell me 5 (I think it was 5) things you like about me and I’ll stay.” He rattled off about a dozen and that episode had a happy ending.
I asked for only 3 and got none. It was time to go. I was not afraid to make this change in my life anymore.
It was one of the best decisions of my life. Happiness has become effortless and I feel a total
sense of freedom. I know I will never put myself through that kind of misery again.
Change is seldom easy. We stay with what we know because it feels safe even if we are not truly happy and we do such a disservice to ourselves living that way.
When we learn to believe in ourselves, we realize we deserve more than the heartache of a toxic relationship.