Where the Science of Psychology Meets the Art of Being Human

When Someone You Love is Toxic – How to Let Go, Without Guilt

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When Someone You Love is Toxic How to Let Go of a Toxic Relationship, Without Guilt

If toxic people were an ingestible substance, they would come with a high-powered warning and secure packaging to prevent any chance of accidental contact. Sadly, families are not immune to the poisonous lashings of a toxic relationship.

Though families and relationships can feel impossibly tough at times, they were never meant to ruin. All relationships have their flaws and none of them come packaged with the permanent glow of sunlight and goodness and beautiful things. In any normal relationship there will be fights from time to time. Things will be said and done and forgiven, and occasionally rehashed at strategic moments. For the most part though, they will feel nurturing and life-giving to be in. At the very least, they won’t hurt.

Why do toxic people do toxic things?

Toxic people thrive on control. Not the loving, healthy control that tries to keep everyone safe and happy – buckle your seatbelt, be kind, wear sunscreen – but the type that keeps people small and diminished. 

Everything they do is to keep people small and manageable. This will play out through criticism, judgement, oppression – whatever it takes to keep someone in their place. The more you try to step out of ‘your place’, the more a toxic person will call on toxic behaviour to bring you back and squash you into the tiny box they believe you belong in.

It is likely that toxic people learned their behaviour during their own childhood, either by being exposed to the toxic behaviour of others or by being overpraised without being taught the key quality of empathy. In any toxic relationship there will be other qualities missing too, such as respect, kindness and compassion, but at the heart of a toxic person’s behaviour is the lack of concern around their impact on others. They come with a critical failure to see past their own needs and wants.

Toxic people have a way of choosing open, kind people with beautiful, lavish hearts because these are the ones who will be more likely to fight for the relationship and less likely to abandon.

Even the strongest people can find themselves in a toxic relationship but the longer they stay, the more they are likely to evolve into someone who is a smaller, less confident, more wounded version of the person they used to be.

Non-toxic people who stay in a toxic relationship will never stop trying to make the relationship better, and toxic people know this. They count on it. Non-toxic people will strive to make the relationship work and when they do, the toxic person has exactly what he or she wants – control. 

Toxic Families – A Special Kind of Toxic

Families are a witness to our lives – our best, our worst, our catastrophes, our frailties and flaws. All families come with lessons that we need to learn along the way to being a decent, thriving human. The lessons begin early and they don’t stop, but not everything a family teaches will come with an afterglow. Sometimes the lessons they teach are deeply painful ones that shudder against our core.

Rather than being lessons on how to love and safely open up to the world, the lessons some families teach are about closing down, staying small and burying needs – but for every disempowering lesson, there is one of empowerment, strength and growth that exists with it. In toxic families, these are around how to walk away from the ones we love, how to let go with strength and love, and how to let go of guilt and any fantasy that things could ever be different. And here’s the rub – the pain of a toxic relationship won’t soften until the lesson has been learned.

Love and loyalty don’t always exist together.

Love has a fierce way of keeping us tied to people who wound us. The problem with family is that we grow up in the fold, believing that the way they do things is the way the world works. We trust them, listen to them and absorb what they say. There would have been a time for all of us that regardless of how mind-blowingly destructive the messages from our family were, we would have received them all with a beautiful, wide-eyed innocence, grabbing every detail and letting them shape who we were growing up to be.

Our survival would have once depended on believing in everything they said and did, and resisting the need to challenge or question that we might deserve better. The things we believe when we are young are powerful. They fix themselves upon us and they stay, at least until we realise one day how wrong and small-hearted those messages have been.

At some point, the environment changes – we grow up – but our beliefs don’t always change with it. We stop depending on our family for survival but we hang on to the belief that we have to stay connected and loyal, even though being with them hurts.

The obligation to love and stay loyal to a family member can be immense, but love and loyalty are two separate things and they don’t always belong together.

Loyalty can be a confusing, loaded term and is often the reason that people stay stuck in toxic relationships. What you need to know is this: When loyalty comes with a diminishing of the self, it’s not loyalty, it’s submission.

We stop having to answer to family when we become adults and capable of our own minds.

Why are toxic relationships so destructive?

In any healthy relationship, love is circular – when you give love, it comes back. When what comes back is scrappy, stingy intent under the guise of love, it will eventually leave you small and depleted, which falls wildly, terrifyingly short of where anyone is meant to be.

Healthy people welcome the support and growth of the people they love, even if it means having to change a little to accommodate. When one person in a system changes, whether it’s a relationship of two or a family of many, it can be challenging. Even the strongest and most loving relationships can be touched by feelings of jealousy, inadequacy and insecurity at times in response to somebody’s growth or happiness. We are all vulnerable to feeling the very normal, messy emotions that come with being human.

The difference is that healthy families and relationships will work through the tough stuff. Unhealthy ones will blame, manipulate and lie – whatever they have to do to return things to the way they’ve always been, with the toxic person in control.

Why a Toxic Relationship Will never change.

Reasonable people, however strong and independently minded they are, can easily be drawn into thinking that if they could find the switch, do less, do more, manage it, tweak it, that the relationship will be okay. The cold truth is that if anything was going to be different it would have happened by now. 

Toxic people can change, but it’s highly unlikely. What is certain is that nothing anyone else does can change them. It is likely there will be broken people, broken hearts and broken relationships around them – but the carnage will always be explained away as someone else’s fault. There will be no remorse, regret or insight. What is more likely is that any broken relationship will amplify their toxic behaviour.

Why are toxic people so hard to leave?

If you try to leave a toxic person, things might get worse before they get better – but they will always get better. Always.

Few things will ramp up feelings of insecurity or a need for control more than when someone questions familiar, old behaviour, or tries to break away from old, established patterns in a relationship. For a person whose signature moves involve manipulation, lies, criticism or any other toxic behaviour, when something feels as though it’s changing, they will use even more of their typical toxic behaviour to bring the relationship (or the person) back to a state that feels acceptable.

When things don’t seem to be working, people will always do more of what used to work, even if that behaviour is at the heart of the problem. It’s what we all do. If you are someone who is naturally open and giving, when things don’t feel right in a relationship you will likely give more of yourself, offer more support, be more loving, to get things back on track. 

Breaking away from a toxic relationship can feel like tearing at barbed wire with bare hands. The more you do it, the more it hurts, so for a while, you stop tearing, until you realise that it’s not the tearing that hurts, it’s the barbed wire – the relationship – and whether you tear at it or not, it won’t stop cutting into you.

Think of it like this. Imagine that all relationships and families occupy a space. In healthy ones, the shape of that space will be fluid and open to change, with a lot of space for people to grow. People will move to accommodate the growth and flight of each other. 

For a toxic family or a toxic relationship, that shape is rigid and unyielding. There is no flexibility, no bending, and no room for growth. Everyone has a clearly defined space and for some, that space will be small and heavily boxed. When one person starts to break out of the shape, the whole family feels their own individual sections change. The shape might wobble and things might feel vulnerable, weakened or scary. This is normal, but toxic people will do whatever it takes to restore the space to the way it was. Often, that will mean crumpling the ones who are changing so they fit their space again.

Sometimes out of a sense of love and terribly misplaced loyalty, people caught in a toxic relationship might sacrifice growth and change and step back into the rigid tiny space a toxic person manipulates them towards. It will be clear when this has happened because of the soul-sucking grief at being back there in the mess with people (or person) who feel so bad to be with.

But they do it because they love me. They said so.

Sometimes toxic people will hide behind the defence that they are doing what they do because they love you, or that what they do is ‘no big deal’ and that you’re the one causing the trouble because you’re just too sensitive, too serious, too – weak, stupid, useless, needy, insecure, jealous – too ‘whatever’ to get it. You will have heard the word plenty of times before. 

The only truth you need to know is this: If it hurts, it’s hurtful. Fullstop.

Love never holds people back from growing. It doesn’t diminish, and it doesn’t contaminate. If someone loves you, it feels like love. It feels supportive and nurturing and life-giving. If it doesn’t do this, it’s not love. It’s self-serving crap designed to keep you tethered and bound to someone else’s idea of how you should be.

There is no such thing as a perfect relationship, but a healthy one is a tolerant, loving, accepting, responsive one.

The one truth that matters.

If it feels like growth or something that will nourish you, follow that. It might mean walking away from people you care about – parents, sisters, brothers, friends – but this can be done with love and the door left open for when they are able to meet you closer to your terms – ones that don’t break you.

Set the boundaries with grace and love and leave it to the toxic person to decide which side of that boundary they want to stand on. Boundaries aren’t about spite or manipulation and they don’t have to be about ending the relationship. They are something drawn in strength and courage to let people see with great clarity where the doorway is to you. If the relationship ends, it’s not because of your lack of love or loyalty, but because the toxic person chose not to treat you in the way you deserve. Their choice. 

Though it is up to you to decide the conditions on which you will let someone close to you, whether or not somebody wants to be close to you enough to respect those conditions is up to them. The choice to trample over what you need means they are choosing not to be with you. It doesn’t mean you are excluding them from your life.

Toxic people also have their conditions of relationship and though they might not be explicit, they are likely to include an expectation that you will tolerate ridicule, judgement, criticism, oppression, lying, manipulation – whatever they do. No relationship is worth that and it is always okay to say ‘no’ to anything that diminishes you.

The world and those who genuinely love you want you to be as whole as you can be. Sometimes choosing health and wholeness means stepping bravely away from that which would see your spirit broken and malnourished.

When you were young and vulnerable and dependent for survival on the adults in your life, you had no say in the conditions on which you let people close to you. But your life isn’t like that now. You get to say. You get to choose the terms of your relationships and the people you get close to.

There is absolutely no obligation to choose people who are toxic just because they are family. If they are toxic, the simple truth is that they have not chosen you. The version of you that they have chosen is the one that is less than the person you would be without them.

The growth.

Walking away from a toxic relationship isn’t easy, but it is always brave and always strong. It is always okay. And it is always – always – worth it. This is the learning and the growth that is hidden in the toxic mess.

Letting go will likely come with guilt, anger and grief for the family or person you thought you had. They might fight harder for you to stay. They will probably be crueller, more manipulative and more toxic than ever. They will do what they’ve always done because it has always worked. Keep moving forward and let every hurtful, small-hearted thing they say or do fuel your step.

You can’t pretend toxic behaviour away or love it away or eat it, drink it, smoke it, depress it or gamble it away. You can’t avoid the impact by being smaller, by crouching or bending or flexing around it. But you can walk away from it – so far away that the most guided toxic fuelled missile that’s thrown at you won’t find you.

One day they might catch up to you – not catch you, catch up to you – with their growth and their healing but until then, choose your own health and happiness over their need to control you. 

You can love people, let go of them and keep the door open on your terms, for whenever they are ready to treat you with love, respect and kindness. This is one of the hardest lessons but one of the most life-giving and courageous ones.

Sometimes there are not two sides. There is only one. Toxic people will have you believing that the one truthful side is theirs. It’s not. It never was. Don’t believe their highly diseased, stingy version of love. It’s been drawing your breath, suffocating you and it will slowly kill you if you let it, and the way you ‘let it’ is by standing still while it spirals around you, takes aim and shoots. 

If you want to stay, that’s completely okay, but see their toxic behaviour for what it is – a desperate attempt to keep you little and controlled. Be bigger, stronger, braver than anything that would lessen you. Be authentic and real and give yourself whatever you need to let that be. Be her. Be him. Be whoever you can be if the small minds and tiny hearts of others couldn’t stop you.

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618 Comments

angela

Hi Karen, first of all I want to thank you for the weekly newsletter which is always very helpful and interesting. today I came across above article which highly resonated with me. My child hood has been a difficult one as I have been an so called “accident”. My parents had their own issues and therefore weren’t good parents to me. Very little loving moments I can remember of and a lot of hurtful comments which made me feel worthless and small. When I met my now partner 10 years ago I had some alarm bells going off when it came to his behaviour but was hoping it was just the beginning and would change. This thinking brought me up to 10yrs always hoping of change. He would be mean or disrespect my feelings, telling me I am too sensitive and that all man do what he does. I need to add that I am living in a foreign country and this is my firt relationship with a foreigner so I kind of was confused taking in to account the cultural differences on topof it I heard my biological clock ticking very loudly when I met him that I guess I just put up with it as it also felt familiar to me being put down. When I fell pregnant with my first son I again was hoping that he would treat me badly but love my son so much that he would change. Since my son turned 4 and has his own voice my partner is taking it out a good bitn him. threats and arguing with him as if there were two children fighting. My son is sensitive and has a good heart and I can see how hurt he is by his fathers comments which he than only feels he can get out of his system by fighting physically with his father. His father would physically push back or grab him hard which frightens me. I have a second smaller son who is 1. I know I need to get out as it can only get worse. We started couples therapy with the therapist wanting to see us separately. He went a few times to won his issues which he in talks after the session belittled and stopped now altogether as the miracle hadn’t happened. my problem is that I am afraid that my older son is going to hate me for breaking up the family as he does love his father when his father is nice to him. he does mention that he doesn’t feel loved when he is mean and that his father is the meanest person in his life. when I tell my partner he just says that it is ridiculous believe a child. I am currently working on my self with help of therapy, hypnosis and tapping to become a stronger person and I do see that when I show strength that he is fne to me and sometimes even apologises for his bad behaviour but takes it out more on my son. when we are outside of our house and meet others he is the nicest partner and most devoted and patient father. I guess I am so confused at this stage to see what is acceptable. am I to blame or the cause and how to get out with my kids being ok in the end. Please help!!

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

I wish I could make this easier for you but it’s a question that nobody can answer for you. The safety and well-being of your children is the most important factor. If your son is being harmed in any way, let this guide your decision. I know it isn’t an easy one for you, but it’s an important one. I wish you all the best with your decision.

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Sadie

Ah, such a clear and powerful piece of writing. Thank you. I’ve worked really hard over the years to get to a place where I’m comfortable living in my own truth… thanks to several wise and good people guiding and cheering me on. That also got me into the mental health/trauma field as my career. That said, I’m now witnessing my 34yr old son struggling mightily to unhook from a very toxic marriage to a troubled woman who’s a product of her own toxic upbringing. What complicates it horribly is their amazing and wonderful 4yr old son, (who’s also the light of my life.) After 8yrs, 2 deployments and the birth of their son.. they moved to my area and stayed with me for several months with the goal of saving up for their own home. It soon became clear that my grandson was deeply troubled and struggling and that what I had attributed to 2 cross country moves and daddy deploying was instead being created by the rigid and critical parenting she was employing, most of the time out of everyone’s sight and hearing, but it wasn’t possible to hide it while we lived together. I attempted to approach her with my concerns and suggest she could find some relief and support if she spoke to someone about this. My son became a “sponge” for information about healthier parenting and understanding what his wife was struggling with, and as he began to also set boundaries with her behaviors towards their son, it then became about my poisoning my son and it has exploded from there. I’m heartbroken and unable to speak with my grandson, her illness and rage has covered every single interaction with both my son and grandson and he has been attempting to find legal recourse. Much of what this article has been about, I’ve attempted to communicate to my son as his helplessness and despair has deepened. His overwhelming fear is that she will take their son and move across the country again… something she has threatened to do and that until they have a legally binding contract, he can’t stop from happening. His fear and disbelief that he has any power keeps him walking on eggshells and trying to avoid any action that will “upset her”. Because of their child, who is now a very real pawn in her game it has become a whole new layer to the importance of staying clear on what’s real, and what boundaries are vital to set. And yet.. his fear traps him. I’d love to see an article that also addresses this kind of issue more directly. How to do this, how to live in your truth when this very small scared and angry little person is in the middle and being used as a pawn. It’s painful in a whole new way.

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Tiffany

I have been in a toxic relationship now for almost 4 years we have children together so it makes things a little more difficult the last couple years of been the hardest because he has been addicted to pain pills which is caused a lot of our problems he no longer lives in my house due to some events that have happened and we try to coparent and be together living separately . But he comes here all the time on announced very controlling he does not want to let me go he has said it plenty of times that he’ll never give up and never let me go he has also mentioned that he would kill someone if he saw me talking to them it makes it hard because were in a small town and I can’t move away and I don’t want him to cause problems for me and I don’t want him to try to take our daughter illegally he’s just a very crazy person when things go bad I have seen his wrath he says levels hurtful painful things you can imagine and then of course apologizes and promises me the world and that he’ll get help and then so it’s good again for about a week and then goes right back to the cycle. I am ready within the next two weeks to tell him how I really feel and not lead him on anymore I was leading him on for convenience and for things to be calm . I’m scared of his reaction I know things are about to get crazy but I can’t live in fear anymore every day I have to try to play the part just to get through the day at this point I have save some money so I do not need his help financially and the court papers Final as far as who has what visitation nothing left in his house is his we have separate bank accounts I feel like this is the right time to do it I just need help knowing what to say how to go about doing it I’m going to be dealing with a crazy person and breaking a man’s heart and the only person in his life and I know this is going to kill him but I wanted to make him stronger in the future I have no resentment towards him I just want us to go our separate ways help needed

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Marissa

This article was so well-written and kind. Thank you for your easy and sweet way of explaining such a difficult and painful subject. This is exactly what I needed to hear and I am very grateful for the author.

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Tiffany

Karen,

How do we move on once we end it? I constantly am thining about him. Im sic to my stomach without him and sicker when Im with him.

I should hate him right? Why cant i hate him? Any tips

Reply
Karen - Hey Sigmund

Tiffany I wish there was an easy answer to this, but the only one is time. You need to give yourself time for your heart, mind and body to adjust to a new normal. This will happen, but it can be tough in the meantime. You are breaking a habit, and like any habit you will often be so tempted to run back into it, even if only for the relief that familiarity can bring. Stay strong. Remember why you left and keep moving forward. Do things that nurture you and spend time with the people who care about you. And keep going. You’ll get there.

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Stephanie

I have been in a toxic relationship for 7years. It wasn’t what I have expected it to be far from that it has been killing me for years physically and mentally. I blamed myself for everything single thing he has done to me. And on top he blames me for everything not one thing was his fault but mines. So this would make someone like me with full loving heart and strong soul to slowly be crushed .

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martha

im in a toxic relationship for 11years, im extremely lost i feel so weak to think hes the only one thats cares for me, everytime we argue i get all the blame and he never takes responsible for his wrong doings, ive been beaten, raped and emotionally and physically destroyed, im getting to that point i just want to take my life just to save all my sad and emptyness away and to make things easier in my words, some things are hard to explain how much im going through feeling trapped inside a world of lonelyness. he says things to make me feel worthless and unwanted, and loves to compare me to different women but i feel im the stupid one for allowing my heart to find this cruel man someone help me

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Toi

Martha, I am so very sorry that you have and are experiencing such heartache and pain. I was married to a man for 20 years, who put me down, cheated and was an alcoholic, so on one hand I can relate to the emotional abuse you’ve experienced. In the midst of everything, I lost our first child 27 years ago only to find out that he had given me an STD, which I didn’t know I had. So, I blame him for the loss of our son. So at 6 1/2 mo pregnant, I delivered a stillbirt baby boy. Like you, I was broken, but I stayed married to him for 20 more years. I was 19 years old and very lost. The year was 1989. I left him several times, only to go back to him hoping thing would be different. The definition of insanity. I tried alanon and went to couseling for 20 something years. It helped, and after many years of enabling him, I got the courage to put myself through college. Then one day, I woke up and said I was leaving. In 2007, and at the age of 37, I left him, took my 2 kids and moved Hm with my mother. I only had 50$ because he took all the money out the bank. Fast forward 10years, 2/2017. I finally got over my ex husband, but I suffer from depression, PTSD, insomnia and anxiety.

Since getting divorced, I realized my ex wasn’t happy with himself and tried to break me down, so that I would feel like him. He was very toxic, however coming from a dysfunction Hm as a child, I latched on to him because I was hoping he would save and protect me from a world that can be so cold. Boy, was I wrong.

Martha, I hope this post finds u because I want u to known that u are not alone. I will keep u in my prayers. And can u keep me in yours as inactually just ended a toxic relationship with this guy that I dated 28 years before I got married. He came back into my life 8/2016. I was overjoyed, but it was short lived as he was controlling, arrogant, flirtatious and insecure, and wanted to get high all the time. I know ending things with him was the right thing, my heart is sad. Hang in there Martha.

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Kym

Hey.. we aren’t alone! It’s crazy how I don’t know you girls and we are all experiencing the same issue! I decided to leave my ex a wk ago, after I said ” No More.. I’m Not Coming Back” I lost an apartment we both lived in.. money… he has hurt me verbally and physically and the last episode he literally kicked me out his apartment almost naked! Leave don’t look back.. these men are sick and they don’t love you! They do prey on those they try to fix them or stay to help them!! I can’t take it anymore and I never trusted him nor felt safe with him out of all the things he has put me through.. it hurts to know that I did everything to better him and what he did in return was hurt me more.. think that it was me and make me feel insecure! I thank god we never got married and never had kids.. God works mysteriously I never got preganant after trying for over a year.. things happened for a reason and yes I am hurting now but I hurt more while with him..: I’m hoping and praying this pain shall pass.. I am seeking help.. looking for a therapist because I don’t want this is affect me… please pray for me and girls be brace and leave.. we are precious and we shouldn’t be treated this way by anyone especially any man!

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thea

Martha can I ask what are the reasons you stay with this man? Your talking suicide but why not just leave him? You do not have to put up with his abuse. You are in charge of your own happiness x

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deb

Excellent! Thank you for such a well written and complete article on the destruction of toxic relationships. The world needs to know, more importantly just one person may need to read this, and know..

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Tiffany

I have been in a toxic relationship now for almost 4 years we have children together so it makes things a little more difficult the last couple years of been the hardest because he has been addicted to pain pills which is caused a lot of our problems he no longer lives in my house due to some events that have happened and we try to coparent and be together living separately . But he comes here all the time on announced very controlling he does not want to let me go he has said it plenty of times that he’ll never give up and never let me go he has also mentioned that he would kill someone if he saw me talking to them it makes it hard because were in a small town and I can’t move away and I don’t want him to cause problems for me and I don’t want him to try to take our daughter illegally he’s just a very crazy person when things go bad I have seen his wrath he says levels hurtful painful things you can imagine and then of course apologizes and promises me the world and that he’ll get help and then so it’s good again for about a week and then goes right back to the cycle. I am ready within the next two weeks to tell him how I really feel and not lead him on anymore I was leading him on for convenience and for things to be calm . I’m scared of his reaction I know things are about to get crazy but I can’t live in fear anymore every day I have to try to play the part just to get through the day at this point I have save some money so I do not need his help financially and the court papers Final as far as who has what visitation nothing left in his house is his we have separate bank accounts I feel like this is the right time to do it I just need help knowing what to say how to go about doing it I’m going to be dealing with a crazy person and breaking a man’s heart and the only person in his life and I know this is going to kill him but I wanted to make him stronger in the future I have no resentment towards him I just want us to go our separate ways help needed

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Pam

Well, my divorce is over and he is gone, at least for now and although I thought i was prepared for it, I found that it hurts more than ever. And the nights are the worst, that’s when the memories of the good times come rushing in, I realize that no more will I get to share the sunsets with him or watch the moon come up and the wonderful silence we shared while watching together. It’s so easy to remember those times when it all felt so good. And none of us, who are decent people, want to sit and dwell on the bad things, it’s not in our nature I guess. And even when the bad things come up we automatically try to minimize them or to find reasons for them. And all the tools you thought you had in place just seem so trivial compared to how you are feeling. You have to be strong they say, you have to remember what it was like, they say, you have to trust your instincts they say. And you wonder, what do they know, they don’t know him and they didn’t see the good things you did about him.
Or here is one I hear a lot, “Because of all this something even better is coming. There is a payoff and you will be happier than ever when this is over.” But for now you have to learn how to let go. And you wonder if the cost is just too high, and you wonder if somehow it was all your fault? And all you want to do is beg them to come back, to love you, to somehow change how they think about you and how they treat you. And you even become almost willing to accept their treatment, just to feel safe again. The world out there has so many unknowns, what if you are going into something even worse? What if this is what your destiny was suppose to be?
And deep down inside somewhere you start to remember the dreams you used to have and how much fun life used to feel like. And the enthusiasm you had in the mornings to see what would happen today. And you remember when you felt like you were someone worth loving, when people listened to what you had to say, and even answered you. When you called someone and they actually answered their phone because they were as excited to talk to you as you were to them? And when sometimes you goofed up and made a mistake, you were able to laugh and say, wow, I won’t do that again, and you could leave it at that. You didn’t have to hide it, you didn’t have to worry that someone would use it against you forever. You wouldn’t find yourself defending every move you made and trying to make them understand. And you remember when you could make a decision in your own life, and not be afraid to hear the negative whining when it wasn’t pleasing to them. Or when you could just be happy inside your own body and actually be proud of who you were. I am remembering those things now. I am remembering that life wasn’t about tip toeing around trying to be quiet or hiding things because you were tired of being criticized for such silly little goof ups. I was afraid to wash dishes in the evening because he couldn’t watch tv with all that noise, but if you didn’t get them done, he would tell you what a slob you were for leaving them overnight. Or when he would compare you to some Mrs. Cleaver housewife who woke up in the morning with perfect makeup and a dress with nylons on and perfectly obedient children. And the perfect hostess who waited on him and his guests with no thoughts of herself. Or would set you up to fail at something and then making fun of you when you did. And when you defended yourself finally, he would turn it all around and make you feel like the biggest asshole for hurting his feelings, or worse yet walk out the door while you are talking and be gone for a week or more. Never returning your desperate texts or acknowledging your desperate pleas, of just acting like you weren’t even alive. And then they would walk in and act like nothing was different, and you’d just be so glad to have them back, so happy to know they were alive, you would vow to yourself never to argue again. It wasn’t worth the punishment.
And when you are finally so beat down you know no one could possibly care about you, and you were so lost and helpless you just wanted to crawl in a hole somewhere when no one could see you. Then all of a sudden, they are done with you. They tell you they don’t love you, and that no matter how hard they tried to, it just wasn’t going to happen. And you remember how that feels and oh my God, why did I put up with that for so many years? Why? Because being a good person who never wants to hurt anyone or anything just can’t believe that there are people like him that live to hurt you, that thrive on your pain. I want to remember those things now, I have to remember that pain, it’s the only way I can be strong enough to not call and beg him to come back. Remember the pain, what a way to live huh? For now, that’s what I have to do to stay strong, to keep myself moving forward, remember the hurt, the confusion, the fear and the sorrow. Don’t forget that and you might just make it.

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Tracey

I’ve just come out of a relationship that I believe was very toxic. He drank a lot, seemed to expect me to do everything for him, didn’t like it if I went out with my friends, if I asked him to join me with my friends, he’d come but completely ignore me or do something to ruin the night and take control, he expected me to be available for him every night and kept playing mind games with me which left me distressed most of the time even though I loved him deeply for the good bits but the good outweighed the bad. I just kept trying to fix things. It just got too much so I decided to walk away. I’m finding it hard to come to terms with it ending though and even when I ended it, it felt like he was toying with my emotions by making out that he had ended the relationship rather than me and saying it’s not the end.

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Pam

It is very hard to leave them, they always leave you wondering if there was just that one thing you missed that would turn the whole thing around. Or they will all of a sudden turn back into the fantasy person you fell in love with. They will be so nice and thoughtful and make it all seem like it was just your imagination and that somehow you judged them wrong or jumped to conclusions. The thing is though, if you pay close attention, they are still playing the game and this is only one more facet that they think will ultimately help them win. And they aren’t playing it because they love you or because they want you back so much as they are using these ploys to put you back into the position that makes it easy to hurt you again. It’s what they live for. Your pain is their ultimate goal because they thrive on it. I’ve heard so many people say that you have to let the go, you have to not dwell on all the hurts they caused you and I may be wrong but I disagree. I think when you are first getting out of that type of relationship you shouldn’t allow yourself to forget the hurts because remembering the painful times are what stop you from running right back into their trap. Just because you have finally gotten out doesn’t mean they can’t get to you anymore because they can and they don;t eve have to be anywhere nearby. Because we, ourselves haven’t changed and we still have that “love” in our hearts for them and we still believe we can somehow help them.
I think the best way to be able to make it is to study what it is that makes them tick, learn and read all you can about the illness they have. Realize somehow deep in your heart that no matter what you do, you can’t fix them and of all people on this earth, you would be the last person who could fix them due to the role you played in their lives. We are as toxic to them now as they were to us. We fed them so to speak, and allowed them to continue their behavior and they are as hooked on us and we were on them, just for different reasons.
My divorce was final a few weeks ago and I’m realizing now that my struggle is long from over because I think of him every minute of everyday and don’t know how to stop. Which makes it very difficult to be able to move on and get on with my life. I have to learn to completely reprogram myself and frankly, I just don’t know how. The roller coaster ride isn’t over, it hasn’t even slowed down…and its exhausting. Sometimes I think I am feeling pretty good and that I am finally on the mend and will be able to put it all behind me, and the next minute I find myself lost in thoughts of him and I go to pieces once again. My new friend told me it would get better after he came and got the last of his stuff from here and I could get distance I need, the finality of it would finally set the healing in motion. She’s been there so she knows and that gives me hope.
One thing that is helping me to keep my resolve is knowing that there is some lesson in all this for me and it’s a spiritual step up once you make it. And I also believe that people are put in our lives for reasons and that keeps me from feeling like a total complete failure. This is something that I have to face in order to grow and if I don’t do it now, I will have to do it all over again until I finally learn whatever it is I’ m suppose to. And if nothing else all of the new solitude gives me plenty of quiet time to pay attention to my own heart and maybe I will learn some new thing about myself during this time, I sure hope so. Hang in there Tracy, talk as much as you need to here, there are a lot of people in your same shoes..

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Tiffany

Pam you said it so well! When you leave then the hard part begins. I left a week ago and think about him every minute of everyday. The bad part is we have a 2yr old together which ties us for life . Now as of today he is saying he doesn’t want to be in her life that she deserves better than him so now it begins with emails about the baby and I think he’s doing it just to hurt me because he knows that’s what hurt me. It’s a never ending cycle it seems like you said I can go one day and think I’m doing better and then the next lost in thought of the good times or I’ll hear a song that reminds me of him why are we so sick that we can’t let go

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Pam

Tiffany, We aren’t the sick ones, remember that. They are. Be strong, hang in there, don’t let him fool you not even one more day. You can do this, just please remember it won’t get better, it will get worse and when you are so bad off you feel useless even to yourself, he will walk away without even looking back. You will be of no use whatsoever to him. And with a child, you need to save that one as well. Because then he’s got two to ruin. And your child has no choice, not like you do even though it may not seem that way. Stay strong

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Tracey

Thanks Pam and Tiffany for your thoughts and sharing your feelings with me. You are tremendously brave women!! I must say that it has been tremendously hard for me as I didn’t realise how controlling and manipulative he was being. He didn’t want to go anywhere with me and just wanted to stay in and drink, when I did see him in the evenings, he’d always been drinking and if he didn’t want to do something he was sharp with me, ignored me or constantly put me down but to everyone else he was charming and a lovely guy. His last relationship had been over 10 years ago and he said it was because he’d chosen to be single. I think that the most heart breaking part was how he used to play mind games with me. One minute he’d say that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me and the next he didn’t know if he wanted the relationship. I was in utter turmoil. I ended the relationship, not because I didn’t love him. I absolutely adored him but he took everything from me. When I ended it, he said he wanted to be on his own, then asking me if I changed my mind then the next minute saying we could be friends and he could still do jobs around the house for me and that this wasn’t the end. He even said he just needed time to consider spending the rest of his life with me which all felt like a game to string me along. I feel like he was completely messing with my head.

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Tracey

I can’t stop thinking about him all the time and what went wrong. I keep replaying in my head, the lovely times we had and then reminding myself (as you suggested Pam) of the bad stuff. The stuff that made me feel so insecure, unsettled, mistrusting and was eating away at my confidence day by day. I keep torturing myself thinking he’s probably moved on and found someone new and that he’ll be a better person with her. I keep questioning whether he ever loved me at all. This is so hard but your words of encouragement really do help.

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Pam

For Tracy and everyone else who is suffering.

I honestly don’t know if it will ever end. If you are like I am, I fell so strongly in love with my ex, I never knew I could love someone like I do him. It was almost instant when I met him, in fact I turned to a friend and whispered that this was the man I wanted to be with, forever. It’s crazy and even now seems surreal to fall for someone that hard and that quickly. And the signs were there almost from the beginning but somehow I managed to ignore them. I even remember thinking that for this guy I would be willing to have him in my life even if he didn’t love me and would be willing to accept him regardless of how he felt about me. I still don’t know how something like that could happen to me, if I was simply timing or what but there it is. And I let him do and say things to me that would have had me running out the door with anyone else i had ever been with. Hurtful and degrading things like, wishing he would have stayed in another relationship he had, and regretting leaving her because she was so great. And how it was too late to do that. Damn, that hurt, and it only set the stage to get me to want to do even more for him to make him somehow feel that way about me. And he told me that he loved me, but deep inside I didn’t believe him, although I wanted to so badly. And there were times when I started to believe he was happy with our life and I remember thinking that maybe he was finally seeing me as the kind of person he could be happy with. And in his own sick way I think he loved me as much as was possible for him,and I think in a lot of ways he wanted to make things work. But he just couldn’t completely ever make me feel safe about it. You would think after being with someone for 16 years, you would know them, and I realize now I didn’t know him at all and the man I completely went gaga over was really only a fantasy in my own mind. It wasn’t real, and it wasn’t him. This man who showed no emotion, who only thought about himself and his own happiness and who could say things so simply without the least bit of regret that would hurt me so deep inside, this isn’t what I fell for. He was never there for me emotionally, and after a while he didn’t even pretend to be. I would be telling him something so important to me and watch him stand up and walk out the door right in the middle of it, like I was invisible to him. And I would shrug it off and do my best to tell myself it was okay. And when he would call from a job somewhere out of state, he would tell me all about how his day went and could go on forever, but when it was my turn all of a sudden he was so tired he couldn’t stay awake for even one more minute. And if I told him something that I needed help with to fix, or that something was wrong at home, I might not hear from him for a week afterwards, and I would sit by the phone at the time I knew he would normally call, and would wait for the phone to ring until I knew he would be in bed. And I would call him but no answer even leaving messages for him telling him to please at least let me know he was okay, that he didn’t even have to talk to me. And then out of the blue the phone would finally ring and it was like nothing out of the ordinary had happened, he’d just start telling me about his day like that week of desperation on my part hadn’t even happened. And I would be so grateful just to hear his voice, I wouldn’t even mention how I felt. He never lifted a finger to physically hurt me so I didn’t think he was so bad to me. But I think it might have been easier if he had hit me, at least I would have a bruise to show for it.
And since we split up, not one friend that I thought I had would be there for me, he never showed that side to them, they all think I am the crazy one or the spiteful one. They didn’t believe me. All through the divorce time which took forever, I had not one person to lean on, to tell me it was all going to be okay. No one. And I have since met a friend that has been through it the same if not worse than me and I feel she has saved my sanity and maybe even my life. And I know I am going to need therapy to ever be able to trust my own judgement again. I have cut myself off from the world and live far enough from people that I can do that. The only time I go to town is for groceries and such and to get pet food. Don’t let yourself go this far, get as far as you can away from this person that is hurting you because believe me, it will only get worse, they will hang onto you until there is nothing left and then they will walk away without even looking back. So, it’s not really being brave, it’s fighting for your life and for your children’s lives, and it is something you do when you have no other choice. There is always something better out there in the world for you, don’t let this man wear you down and wear you out, go find real happiness and don’t settle for anything less.

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Tracey

Thanks for sharing Pam. I can totally relate to what you have said. The emotional abuse is as painful as the physical because you can’t see the scars. The ignoring me, snapping at me, belittling me, criticism, putting me down, not speaking to me for days, not accepting no for an answer, ignoring my calls, putting his alcohol and friends before me, name calling. All of it intended to make me feel small. I’m not going to go back into that situation now matter how tempting it may be and for Pam and all those ladies out there in a similar situation, please don’t let loneliness or fear of being on your own or that you won’t meet someone who you will as crazy about as that person, because the reality is that it’s just not worth it….the torment, the insecurity, the sadness. It’s just not worth it!!

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Flor

I commented before and never got a response, but I was just wondering if I could get some feedback. I’m 2 months into a very rough breakup. 9 years and 2 kids later, I’m very emotionally distraught, and so is my 6 year old daughter. She constantly mentions how it was supposed to be 4 of us, how “daddy abandoned us” how “he was supposed to protect us”. It’s so bad, I have her in therapy (myself as well). However, she still constantly cries herself to sleep and hurts over her dad being gone. He wasn’t a good man to say the least (I explained it in my previous comment about a month ago), and now lives in a different city with another woman and her children. My therapist tells me I need to keep communication open with him because of our children, however, every time we talk or email or see each other, I get set back to the first day I learned of his infidelity and deceit. It’s detrimental to my healing. I so badly want to completely cut off communication with him, so that I can heal. I feel it’s the only way. He doesn’t pay me any child support, calls and visits whenever he wants, and there is no stability. Am I wrong if I just cut off communication altogether? At least until I heal? He’s moved on to a new family and doesn’t care that I’m losing my home, that I can’t afford my bills, that I’m completely destroyed, as is my daughter. My son is only 10 months, so he’s still unaware and it doesn’t phase him as much as it does my daughter and I. I feel moving on would be so much easier without any communication with him. Am I in the wrong if I cut him off completely? Would I be doing wrong toward my kids? I can totally relate to this article, and could really use some advice. Thank you so much.

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Pam

Tracy, I completely agree with you, it’s just not worth it. I don’t think I would survive another one of these times. And even if we did somehow get back together, it would only mean that I am setting myself up for another let down. For once again going through what I have already been through in the last few months, and I don’t ever want to hurt like this again. And I am better than I was so I am already further along and getting stronger everyday. And you know< I am not even thinking about another relationship, that's the last thing I think I need right now. I am going to work on my own healing and get to know myself better first because I know I am far to vulnerable to falling into the same trap with someone else at this point. I don't trust my own judgement. And I am okay with that because it will keep me safe from another round I hope. 🙂 I feel like I am repeating over and over again this stuff, but I guess that's what I have to do in order to reinforce myself. IT so much helps to know we are not alone in this fight for our lives.

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Pam

For Flor,
I don’t know what your therapist knows about this stuff, but I do know they aren’t always right. If you feel you need to stay away from this guy in order to heal, I say, DO IT. You are ultimately the only one that can possibly know what you need to keep moving forward. Your therapist may be awesome and helpful in every other way, but staying away and giving yourself the room you need to purge that jerk from your life is in my opinion, the best thing you can do. And if he isn’t helping you support that child then there is not one good reason to even communicate with him that i can see. And I also think you are doing the best thing you can do for your child as well. It sounds to me like he is already succeeding in hurting her and if he is allowed to continue, it will only be the worse for her later. You deserve some happiness and some peace and some time to just live without having to deal anymore with him at this point. I would even go so far as to suggest you get far enough away from him that he won’t be able to contact you either. If you read some of the previous comments, there are so many women who stayed too long and their children are lost to them at this point. They have been hurt or damaged so badly they either become like him or they don’t know how to live very well in this world. I hope you stick to your guns on this, you do honestly deserve to have some time to heal without his influence hanging over you. And I would tell your therapist that is what you have decided. She may not know much about the particulars of this person you are dealing with. And she certainly should have your best interests on her mind, not his. You have to come first right now and that isn’t selfish, it’s survival. And you can’t help your little girl if you are destroyed, so put yourself first and forget what they all say. It’s only my opinion but I have done a LOT of research and this is what I understand.

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Flor

Thank you Pam, I just feel so defeated when he shows up once a month, takes my daughter to the park and thinks he’s father of the year. I think I am going to cut all ties. If he so badly wants to see his children, he can take himself to child support and we can figure it out through the courts and mediation. We all deserve peace in our hearts. It takes time, but I believe one day, it will come. Thank you for your advice.

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thea

Flor… healing takes time and you have to put you first…you are the only one who controls your happiness.

With my daughter her dad left when she was 4.. when she would cry I would listen I’d be supportive of her feeling I wouldn’t bad mouth her father more so just be as honest as possible without being mean..For example she would cry that he said he was going to come for her and then say he couldn’t and I’d say sometimes grown ups just get busy and life gets in the way I’m sure your daddy loves you very much and when he can he will see you.. as she grew she would ask more questions and mostly id say you will have to ask your dad that..Would you like to call him..If yes let her…contact with him and me I kept to a minimal by not really bothering to factor him into anything.. I never had a penny of maintenance I did it all myself and glad to I taught her that strength comes from within and if you want something you work hard for it you don’t rely on any one. . I wouldn’t rely on him showing up because he could be a let down if he said he wanted to take her out I’d say ok if he changed his mind I’d say ok. On the days when he did let her down I always had cash stashed for a spare of the moment outing we’d make it special without him id say ahh well lets me and you go on an adventure instead. ..I showed my daughter that it’s ok to be let down take set backs be upset but you gotta make your own happy get up and have fun without the need of a man. We have had some lovely random trips out over the years. As she got older she chose to see him less and less I always let her decide and talk about her relationship with her dad that way no one could ever say to me when she got older it’s my fault she has no father or how come you didn’t let me see my dad… I never felt it was my place to interfere with there relationship I was just completely there for mine…my daughter will be 17 this year my best mate she’s smart on her way to becoming a nurse she sees her dad every so many months and that’s only to see her other siblings he has 3 more kids now. He barely msgs her and still now she will talk about how her dad doesnt try hard enough and we still go on random trips out to talk it out and remind her that she is beautiful and its his loss my gain 🙂 i get fathers day cards aswell as mothers day cards and on her own she saw her dad not try hard enough and for herself decided not to accept that kind of toxic behaviour. Having seen many kids grow up in broken homes with parents fighting or stopping contact with one or the other for whatever reason the result is always the same.. bad feeling ..confusion.. anger.. acting out..and repeatin in adult life the same disfunctional behaviour.. If we are as honest as possible with kids without trying to push our own agenda or feelings onto them and let them grow and decide along the way how they feel about it and are free to talk it out as they develop there own thoughts and feelings over the years then dispite being a child grown up in a broken home with a absent father they can become confident balanced intelligent individuals with a mind of there own that don’t take no shit from no one… even there dad!! Peace and love to you all here… remember your beautiful and you don’t need anyone in this life your strong and can do this!! Control your own happiness xx

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Flor

Thea, you’re so right. I’d never want my daughter to resent me for keeping her from her dad. As much as I’d like to shield her from the pain that is trying to have a relationship with her father, because he is a Narcissist and a very toxic person, I eventually will have to let her learn for herself, and decide for herself if she wants a relationship with him. It’s just hard to continue my healing while he pops up whenever he wants. Rules are a joke to him. Stability is not part of his vocabulary. Thank you for your words. I just wish there was an easy medium. I know my healing will take time. And it’s hard enough doing it alone with 2 kids, all the while feeling broken and I’m despair. I’ve even started a blog because writing is very therapeutic for me. If anyone would like to read it, it’s mypoeticxpression.wordpress.com
We can get throug this ladies. Don’t stop seeking your happiness

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thea

Flor it is hard but it’s worth it in the end.. you will find a happy medium somehow hun you just have to figure out what you want and stick to that regardless of what your ex does.. its a balancing act trying to keep the peace while trying to comfort your child that can be upset without getting angry at the dad and falling out with him but the man isn’t worth your energy.. it’s definitely hard doing it without there input money wise but I say fuck em… I worked 3 jobs at one point to stay afloat rather than argue with him to pay money I just did it myself.. things like that are a daily struggle but the moments to come that melt your heart and make you proud you did are so worth it.. For example 🙂 when my daughter was 10 her dad told her that santa wasn’t real when she had been at his for the day he took it upon himself to say it was time witout askin me first. I wanted her to believe in magic for as long as possible i was so sad he did that. So when she came home she asked me I told her truth and she cried I said don’t be upset now your the holder of the secret and you have to make the magic for the younger children she said mum I’m not crying that he isn’t real I’m crying because all these years all those gifts they were all from you..she thanked me and gave me the best hug.. moments like that stay with you..kids see more than we think they see they see us struggle they see us being strong too. Your not broken hunny your just bent alittle… don’t give the man that much power over you that he could break you…neahhhh just bent…you’ll get over it… your stronger than you think your just knocked off your centre right now but you will find it again. Peace and love xx

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Mike

I can’t seem to let go. My lust along with my loneliness keep me stuck. Our son breaks me. My damaged soul steals my joy.

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Pam

I feel like I am living this article sometime. I think you said that the hardest part can come at the end of the relationship, and for a little while there I thought maybe i had managed to escape that part. I know I didn’t miss the part where you want to run right back sometimes and the guilt and the thinking that maybe if I try just one more time, something will change, and although I’ve had all that, and still do, I was sort of prepared for that and have managed not to cave to it. But I guess I had no way of preparing for how he would react, and I’ve been caught off guard a lot lately. He came to get some of his stuff and totally disregarded what I told him before. I told him he could come get his tuff when he was ready but there would be no more him staying in the shop, he could get it and go and come back for more. So he called about a week ago to let me know he was coming the next day. And I was okay with it, he was super nice about it all. And when he was already about halfway down here, he let me know he had his brother with him…who I didn’t allow here for quite a while. So, not only did he show disrespect because he knew that and also knew I wouldn’t make him turn around and take him back. Then he gets here and proceeds to take out his bedroll and his brothers and starts setting up in the shop. But oh my goodness, he was being so nice and I was so happy to see him and I thought, oh what the heck, it will be okay. But I did tell him I needed to talk to him alone and asked him if he remembered the conversation about him not staying here. HE just said yes. And then he asked if I wanted him to leave. He knows me so well, I said, no, you are here now, but in the future this isnt happening. But I told him he had to be nice or he was out of here. And he was, for a day or so…then he started his games, lying to me and then making it it out to be my fault and the usual beat me down thing he is so good at. And he spent the whole next day in town, not doing a thing to start moving, and was giving me the silent treatment and I knew they were in town drinking and when he got back here I didnt say a word because of the drinking, but next morning I worked up my courage with a little help from my online friend and went up and asked when he planned on leaving, they were sitting with beers in their hands still not doing anything, and he said tomorrow about this time. I said, no, you leave today, and will be gone before 5 pm and the next time you come here will be only to pick up everything and to leave. You will not stay here, you will not bring anyone to help without my approval first and you will treat me with respect. Since you couldn’t manage two days of that this is how I have to deal with you. He was ready to leave in about an hour but was taking his old car instead of leaving it in the shop like he and I agreed on, and left without goodbye, kiss my you know what or anything. And I have not heard one word from him since, I am sure he is really going to punish me for this one, no doubt. The car he was so worried about leaving outside in the weather was taken to the last friend who even gave me any support and he begged if he could leave it there with her and her family, he was afraid to leave it with me. So, now he is getting revenge in several ways. The silent treatment, the acting like I am not trustworthy to take care of his pride and joy classic car that he wouldn’t even have if it wasn’t for me, and now trying to take away any last support I may have had. He knows how badly this has affected me that I can barely get in my car to leav e the place even for food, and he knows how much I depended on having at least her to call in case of trouble, she’s old, and ill and I don’t bother her unless I really need her. But now she has more or less poo pooed me when I tried to tell her what was happening, like I m just hysterical or paranoid and don’t be silly sort of attitude and he won again. She still loves me she said but just doesn’t want to hear about my anger toward him. And then proceeds to tell me he didn’t go back up the mountain, instead he is staying up the road from here in a place she owns because the “poor thing didn’t have anywhere else to stay.” So I sure don’t tell him about having this place to talk or about my new friend I have to talk to. And I am sure this is only the beginning of this particular rage because he still thinks he should have gotten this place and I owned it before I met him. And it was paid for already. And now I’m sure he is blaming me because I am the bitch that threw him off of it. Because of course, it had nothing to do with him. Damn, i wonder if I will ever get truly away from him, especially since he knows where I am and how to get to me. I”m sure this incident is so bad because he hasn’t had anyone to feed off of in a while.

And then i learned something else today, that my mom didn’t jut have some simple little personality disorder she was a narcissist as well. So, aren’t I the perfect candidate for this or what?

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Sigh

This article is so relevant and I struggle every single day..often passive suicidal (don’t have the guts really) and depressive thoughts that I don’t know where to turn to. I am married with 2 kids but somehow a man (not my husband) who was in my past, came into my life 3 years ago and uses me for purely virtual sexual fantasy and ignores me at all other times. However, I hate the way he treats me and I probably talk to him because deep down, I have unfulfilled needs. I understand he is not the right person and everyday, I hate the person I am. Today I had a huge argument letting him know I am not going to play the same game. Tomorrow I will probably beat myself up for the argument, lick my wounds, and tell myself I am to blame. Somehow, as the article says, I am a smaller, wounded person and a shell. Everyday, I tell myself the only reason to live is my 2 kids. Everyday, I count the hours to sleep and wonder if death can relieve me. I was not this person many years ago. This toxic, virtual relationship has ruined me. To think I was once a strong woman who spurned this man for 10 years and suddenly gave in…Sigh.

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Diminished

My sister is toxic (to me). I’ve moved far away from her and sacrificed being close to my parents. I miss them so much – I fight back tears everyday. It’s been almost 3 years living so far away.

When and if I visit for holidays, it takes all of my strength to stay happy. My parents don’t see her cruelty. It’s very passive aggressive. I see her as a wedge.

Thank you for the article. It confirms that I made the right choice long ago. To leave.

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Toby Palmer

Hi.

Extremely insightful article. Thank you.

I have just come out of a four year relationship with a toxic woman. Everything was great until I moved in with her, and literally within weeks, the love and affection began to drop.

When I questioned if everything was OK with us, she would tell me to stop being so paranoid. The coldness increased and whenever I dared question it, she’d just tell me to relax and let us be us. (There really was a noticeable decline in love & affection there. It wasn’t in my head).

She would belittle me in front of friends and family, and wore my nerves and confidence down massively over two years.

The colder she got, the more I tried to be loving and considerate to pull it all back.

I’d obsessively imagine myself leaving her during the time we lived together, and thought about how better of I would be if I had the strength to do it, and somedays I felt strong enough to. But instead, I carried on trying to let her see how much I loved her, and hoped she’d change and show me the same. I expected some ‘Eureka’ moment from her’ which never came.

She said we were finished, two weeks ago, after I asked her for a hug in bed. Within two days my stuff was out and I’m now living with my parents for a little while.

Despite my wanting it to work so much, and the obsessive thoughts about getting out, the shock and trauma I am feeling now is incredible. I didn’t think I’d be heartbroken in the slightest, but my heart is in shreds, along with my nerves. I can’t stop thinking about her.

I am a naturally loving caring, considerate, sensitive man, (intelligent and confident with a good job/career), and she’s worn me down to what I hope doesn’t evolve in to a nervous breakdown.

I’m trying to be strong, but its all very very raw, and I am left empty, and angry at myself for still wanting her.

Thank you for the article. It’s gone some way to helping me understand her, and that it wasn’t my fault.

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Tracey

Toby, I understand completely how you feel because you just can’t comprehend why the person you loved so much was once so warm and loving towards you, and has become cold and plays controlling mind games with you which make you feel like you are going crazy as you start to feel so anxious and insecure and you question yourself as to what you have done to warrant their behaviour. Eventually you find that they eat away at your confidence because no matter what you do, you just can’t fix it and the reality is that you can’t fix them either. You haven’t done anything to justify their behaviour and the issue is theirs not yours. I split up with my ex nearly a month ago and it still feels incredibly raw. I miss him desperately and am trying my best to get back on track but it won’t happen over night because you’ve invested your heart in that person and the hope of a long term future. Just give yourself time and write down the negative things that happened in the relationship as a reminder as to why you are no longer with that person. It will help you with the grieving process and spend lots of time with your family and friends and talk to them about how you are feeling. They will act as your conscience as to why you are no longer with that person. Focus on healing yourself and reminding yourself that you are an amazing person with an enormous amount of love to give to the right person, but just give yourself time to heal. Stay strong Toby. You can do this!!!

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Pam

Hi Toby, I have been there too, and it’s not fun and it’s probably the hardest thing you will ever have to go through. I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown too, and in a way I think I did. But I”m still here, I”m still in one piece more or less. It’s been about 6 months of hell for me, including a divorce. I thought once the divorce was final and it was all said and done, that I could finally start to accept it all and just let go. And I am still working on that part. But I am here to tell you that you can survive this and believe it or not you will feel better as time goes by. I spent hours and days just researching all of it, trying so hard to understand what happened, and I learned a lot during that time. What makes a person like that, how they can be so cold, and why did I want so badly to believe I could maybe help them? I know a lot about the whole psychology now, and it makes sense, they are not capable of what we define as love. They are damaged, most of them beyond repair, and I know there isn’t a thing I can ever do for him to help him. I gave mine 16 years of my life and then one day he was just done with me. He discarded me like I was nothing but gum on his shoe. When that happened my whole life was turned upside down and inside out and I was left in a puddle on the ground. Your whole perception of life changes and it’s almost like completely starting over with life. And there are so many ways of looking at it, it blows me away, everyone has a different idea for you to try and advice is everywhere. I have listened and studied and tried things until I am blue in the face, and the only thing at all that has given me any solace is this fact. You don’t have to understand it, except to know you can’t fix it. And you never will understand it because you aren’t made that way, it isn’t in you to know how someone can do the hurtful things they do, because you couldn’t do it if you tried. They are broken beyond repair, and you can drive yourself crazy trying to find answers, or you can choose to live your life in the best manner you know how. You can choose to continue suffering with the pain of it all, or you can choose to stop hurting. Either way, believe me, they could care less. It really is as simple as that, you can choose which way to go. I was taking a walk one day and trying to sort things out in my head and all the time feeling so incredibly hurt inside. I cried until I thought I would never stop. So tied up with the despair I couldn’t even see the path in front of me. And this little voice in my head said, you can choose to stop the hurt, it is a choice. And I realized in that moment that I was at that point, causing my own pain. What had happened was over, done, but I was choosing over and over again to bring it back. And it was simple as that, when I realized I was doing it to myself, I stopped. My tears dried up and I felt such relief. I was controlling what was happening inside, no one else could do that but me. And I chose not to hurt at that moment. And as I continued my walk I was able to look around for the first time in so long and actually see the beauty there was and marveled that it had been there the whole time and I missed it because of the hurt I was giving to myself.
I’m not saying that I never hurt anymore, it still blindsides me sometimes, but those times are getting further apart and I am quicker to realize that I am allowing it. Slowly but surely I am starting to get interested again in life and I’m seeing that I do have reasons to be happy. I look for things to feel grateful for and I’m starting to heal. You and I are kindred spirits as well as the many, many people here with hurts so big they aren’t sure if they even want to live. But we must and that is because we have been through holy hell to get this far and I for one, do not want to ever have to do this again. It is one of life’s lessons we have to learn in order to grow and in that way, it truly is a gift from the universe, and I completely and utterly believe that to be true. We are here to learn this lesson, and we can learn it now. or keep on banging our heads against the wall over and over. Believe me, it may not seem like it now, but truly, the worst is over, you’ve made it out and it really is the downhill side now. Just hang in there, and don’t give up. You have the choice to become more than you ever thought possible. Lets do it, okay? You are not alone on this quest, and we can all do it together. I know we can. Much love to you and to all of you, We are stronger than we think.

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Kate

Thanks for a wonderful article, Karen, it’s a complete affirmation of all of the “revelations” I’ve come to know in the healing process I am going through. Mine has, until recently, been a lifelong journey with several toxic family members, most influential of which has been my mother. I have already swiftly & permanently dissolved my relationship with one of my controlling & abusive siblings & after one last attempt of my mother using her chronic emotional blackmail, I have set new rules…my rules…regarding our interactions. It’s amazing how much better I feel. My spouse was somewhat surprised by the fact that I have felt very little guilt in all this because I have always been the family “fixer”. After 50+ years, I finally came to the realization that this had to be done for the sake of MY physical, mental, & emotional health. I am all the better for it & I wish much strength & perseverance to others in these situations.

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Ian

Thank you, your article really helped me come to terms with my crippling depression. Every day, my friend, who only goes by “fat c***” bullies me and assaults me. I feel like giving up, but this article is going to help me let go. Thank you so much

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

Ian I’m so pleased you found the article. Your friend is not a friend, but there are people out there who would want someone like in their lives and will treat you the way you deserve to be treated. Don’t give up on you – give up on your friendship if it’s feeling toxic and damaging to you – but don’t give up on you.

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