Back in my childhood, my favorite fairy-tale was “Beauty and the Beast”. To me, that was the truest and brightest example of what love should be: poignant, devoted, sacrificial, and heroic (mostly on the female part).
I was still to discover that love is not a merit, it doesn’t have to be deserved, it is not a cure and answer to everything. I was yet to discover that love is not the answer and love is not enough. As a matter of fact, it is never enough.
My relationship with my first partner was a perfect example of my twisted childhood ideas of a relationship. I really believed that it’s ok when you cry every night. I believed it’s ok when you are constantly ignored by your partner. All the worrying, neglect, mistreatment, harsh criticism - just ups and downs of passionate love, but not a very discreet manipulation and abuse. I never knew that you deserve to feel happy and accepted in a relationship and that’s it. But after I eventually left my partner (which was hard since they wouldn’t let me go) I redefined my perception of a healthy relationship and came up with a checklist, that I am ready to share with you. Ending toxic relationships with someone you love may feel impossible. But it just feels this way. Try to follow the steps:
1. Check the red flags
Look through the list below and if anything feels relatable you can be sure it’s time to leave:
- You always feel exhausted/drained/helpless.
- You always feel like you’re walking on eggshells.
- You feel like you are never good enough.
- You are never taken seriously and everything about you is belittled: your job, your hobbies, your lifestyle.
- You actually forget about your lifestyle and hobbies and get involved in their lifestyle and hobbies.
- They never talk things through.
- They are shady.
- Your relationship started with super grand gestures before they even knew you properly.
- Your appearance is being criticized.
- You are constantly being ignored.
- They seem to be ashamed of you and don’t introduce to their friends or relatives.
- They control you and your time.
- Their attitude is very volatile: one day they are all over you and the next day they give you a cold shoulder.
- They trash talk their exes. Not one or two but all of them.
- You feel disrespected.
- They always give off a bad vibe.
- There is no trust between you.
- There is no growth and you actually feel stuck or trapped.
- You don’t know much about their past.
- Your friends and relatives (if you are on good terms) don’t like them.
- The very fact that you are reading this article means that you are starting to sense the threat.
Don’t try to whitewash your partner while you are looking through the list. Don’t give them a second chance. Make a list of all the “yes” and look at it every day. It will be easier to get out of a toxic relationship when you see the solid arguments right before you.
2. Don’t let them pull you back
Leaving a toxic relationship is hard. But the hardest part really is not to come back. In many cases, this is due to the fact that the cold and neglecting partner suddenly gets all emotional about you. One of the main traps of a toxic relationship is the honeymoon phase. Whenever a toxic partner senses the danger of losing their supply, they will do exactly everything they need to keep the partner by their side at all costs. They will suddenly become sensitive and caring, ready to please your every whim, shower you with presents and attention. It will feel like heaven. It will finally – finally – feel like something you’ve been struggling for. And that will be till the moment your partner makes sure they won you back for sure – and things will get back into their disturbed and unhealthy course. You should bear it in mind when you are having your last conversation (emphasis on the last!).
Your partner will never change. They might be caring and loving for a day or two, but not for the rest of the time. Accept this and leave.
3. Stick to the “No-contact” rule
Opinions may differ on whether you should stay on friendly terms with your ex-partners and whether it is ethical to try to build a lukewarm relationship where flames used to be.
My personal take is that you can stay friends with your ex only in the case that you were friends in the first place. If your relationship has been friendly and at some point, you decided to get closer to find out there is nothing more to it – that’s fine! As long as it was mostly focused on happiness and there is no drama or hidden agendas involved.
A toxic relationship is not the case and never will. You never started as friends, you never were friends and you’ll never be friends. This is not a “we-always-cared-about-each-other” case scenario. It’s a “walk-away” from a toxic relationship case. Ask yourself: would you forgive your friends for being distant, emotionally abusive, critical? Would you ever be friends with a person who is ashamed of you or who is overall a downer? Why is your partner different?
With social media interfering into our life the boundaries of what is contact and what is not got really blurred. It is safe to be a maximalist here and just cut all the connections. Block your ex on every social media (I actually asked mine to block me everywhere). Of course, don’t check their social media. JUST DON’T. Avoid places where you know you might bump into them. Don’t ask their friends about how they are doing. Remember: No contact is allowed until you are healed. Reconnection will never help. No conversation with them will soothe your pain. If your partner was capable of clearing things up, you wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place. Just take a breath and delete, block, avoid. It might take some time and effort. You might feel the URGE to check on them. Don’t.
4. Don’t rush into a new relationship
You will soon feel the mighty overwhelming need to be with somebody new just to soothe the pain and that’s understandable. You have been in a co-dependent duo for a long time and one of the main traits of a toxic relationship is that your identity is erased and at this point, you probably have no idea how to live on your own.
Delete Tinder. That rebound will not make things better. As a matter of fact, there is A) High chance of falling into another toxic relationship B) No chance of building anything meaningful even if you are lucky enough to match with a healthy person. Learn to live as a happy single before you can become a happy partner.
Every heartbreak feels completely unique and different. But that doesn’t mean that you are alone in your pain. There is always a way outside.