Why It’s Hard — But Not Impossible — To Leave A Toxic Relationship

November 26, 2018  |  

Toxic Relationship Main

Angry African American couple ignoring each other after a fight. (via Getty)

It sounds like the most cliché thing in the world, but leaving a bad relationship is truly easier said than done. While your head is telling you all of the logical reasons to make an exit and step into your true happiness, your heart is replaying all of the good times you’ve had together and attempting to convince you things can and will get better.

It sounds odd, but leaving a toxic relationship is often harder than simply calling it quits with someone whom you’re no longer attracted to or whose goals don’t align with yours. Toxic environments have a way of clouding your already questionable judgement. When the dysfunction of a toxic relationship has become your regular state of being, you struggle to remember what your life was like before — what your life could be like after. If you’ve been in the situation for some time, the dysfunction likely has become normal for you, making it even harder to tear yourself away. In short, you’ve become addicted to the pain.

This is especially true for those who’ve never seen healthy relationships. For some women, toxic relationships are all they’ve ever known, from their parents to their grandparents, aunts and uncles, even their own friends. It’s one of the reasons why controlling and abusive behavior gets confused for love and jealousy is seen as a form of affection. It’s why chronic cheating is swept under the rug as something women just have to put up with. It’s why many women, even though they know something doesn’t feel right about their relationship dynamic, question themselves before their partner. If you’ve never seen healthy conflict resolution or a proper exchange of affection, it’s very hard to believe you can experience something other than what you currently are.

While inviting others into your relationship is often frowned upon, this is a time when women need to rely on their tribe. Don’t seek counsel from women whose current relationship dynamic mimics yours; they may convince you the toxicity you’re experiencing is okay or will pass. Talk to the friend who raised a few red flags about your partner early on that you didn’t want to hear. Seek the guidance of a professional counselor or therapist if you have access. Research toxic relationship behaviors and see how many your partner is guilty of. The first step to freeing yourself of a toxic partner is recognizing that there is a problem, then you can begin to prepare for your departure.

For women in domestic abuse situations, this is harder than for others. The National Domestic Abuse Hotline can offer guidance on how to put an escape plan into place if you’re fearful of making the leap. For others, leaving may not be the hardest part, it’s staying away. It’s almost guaranteed your partner will attempt to woo you back into his life and when that happens you have to stand firm in your knowledge that the behavior you’ve been subjected to is not okay and that you will be better off alone in the interim. Continuing to talk to an expert during this transition time can help you prevent an unhealthy cycle of breaking up and making up. The main thing to remember is you have a right to happiness — either alone or with a partner — and if something doesn’t feel right, it likely isn’t. Toxicity isn’t the norm and you can break the cycle no matter what you’ve been exposed to up until this point.

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