Where the Science of Psychology Meets the Art of Being Human

Toxic Relationships: How to Let Go When It’s Unhappily Ever After

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Toxic Relationships: How to Let Go When It's Unhappily Ever After

If life ran like a storybook, the person we fall in love would not be the person who broke us. Sadly, we humans tend to be a bit more human than that. We fall in love, we commit, we get hurt – over and over – and we stay.  People need people, but sometimes the cost is a heavy one. When it’s a toxic relationship, the breakage can be far-reaching.

Love is addictive. So is the hope of love. All relationships can be likened to an addiction, but sometimes the power of this can be self-destructive. When relationships become loveless, hostile, stingy or dangerous, you would think they would be easy to leave, but they can be the hardest ones to walk away from.

A bad relationship isn’t about being on the downward slide of the usual relationship ups and downs. It is one that consistently steals your joy and follows you around with that undeniable clamour that this isn’t how it’s meant to be.

Knowing when to let go.

Sometimes the signs are clear – emotional and physical abuse, constant criticism, lying, cheating, emotional starvation. Sometimes there is nothing outstandingly obvious – it just doesn’t feel right. Perhaps it did once but that ended long ago. The signs might lie in the loneliness, a gentle but constant heartache, a lack of security, connection or intimacy or the distance between you both. 

Whatever it involves, there are important needs that stay hungry, for one of both people in the relationship. The relationship exists but that’s all it does, and sometimes barely even that. It doesn’t thrive and it doesn’t nurture. It is maintained, not through love and connection, but through habit. 

Sometimes there are circumstances that make leaving difficult. Sometimes though, there’s nothing in your way except you. Some of the signs that you might be addicted to the relationship are:

  • You know it’s bad, but you stay.
  • You want more for yourself, but you stay.
  • There are important needs in you that are so hungry (intimacy, connection, friendship, love, security, respect), and you know in this relationship they’ll stay that way. But you stay. 
  • You have tried ending the relationship before, but the pain of being on your own always brings you back.

What to do when leaving feels as bad as staying.

Leaving any relationship is difficult. Leaving a bad one isn’t necessarily any easier. The shift from powerless to empowered is a gentle one, but lies in the way you experience the relationship. It often takes as much resourcefulness, energy and strength to stay in a bad relationship as it does to leave. With a shift in mindset, experience and expectation, the resources you use to stay and to blind out the seething hopelessness of it all can be used to propel you forward.

  1. Be present.

    The pull to live in the past (the way it was/ the way I was) or in the future (it will get better – I just need to find the switch) can be spectacular, but the energy to move forward exists fully in the present. It’s always there, but you have to be in the present to access it. To do this, fully experience the relationship as it is, without needing to change it or control it. 

    This might be scary, particularly if the environment you are in is hostile or lonely, but the only way to be okay with leaving what you have, is to fully experience how broken it is.

    No relationship is perfect. All couples fight and hurt each other and say and do things they shouldn’t. That’s a normal part of living and loving together. The problem comes with having to repeatedly live in the past or the future to tolerate the present – the abuse, the harm, the insecurity, the jealousy, the loneliness and the grief of the relationship as it stands – just so that it’s easier to stay.

  2. Keep track.

    Keep a record of how you feel in the relationship, the good and bad. If writing isn’t your thing, take a photo of your face at the same time every day. You’ll see it in your eyes. Photos and journalling will capture the intimate, day to day detail of you in this relationship. Set a time period – weeks or months – and at the end take a look over your photos or your writing. Can you see patterns? What do you notice about the things that hurt you and the things that feel good? The frequency? The intensity? What do you see in the photos? Can you see the life in you? Or has it been drained away. Is this the person you want to be? Or is it a faded, sadder version? This can help to see your experience in the relationship for what it is – stripped of the filters and the softening that comes with time. 

  3. Be aware of what’s happening in your body. It’s trying to tell you something.

    The connection between the mind and the body is a powerful one. If you shut down the messages that are coming from your mind, your body will take over. There will be signs in the way you hold yourself, the sensations in your body (heaviness, heartache, tension) and the way it works. Has your body slowed down? Is there physical pain? Does it ache? Does it feel heavy? Restless? Tired? Drained? Do you feel your body withering, scrunched or as though it’s holding back? If your body could speak, what would it want you to know?

    Try this exercise:

    Finish this sentence: 

    ‘My body is …’ (tired/crumpled/hurting – whatever fits for you)’.

    Now, keep your ending but replace the words, ‘My body is’ with ‘I am’ or ‘My life is’.

    Notice what happens when you do that.

  4. How do you avoid the truth?

    Notice what you do to shift away from your reality. Are there unhealthy behaviours you do to stop from feeling bad? Or maybe there are healthy beahviours that you do in unhealthy ways?

    Try staying with the discomfort rather than avoiding it. Contained in the pain is the wisdom, courage and strength you need to find the happier version of yourself and your life. 

  5. Give it a deadline.

    It’s easy to forget how long you’ve been living with what you don’t want, hoping that one day it will be better. Pick your ‘one day’. Let it be six weeks, six months – whatever feels right for you. In that time, give the relationship everything you’ve got. When that ‘one day’ comes, be honest and act from a place of strength, self-respect and self-love. The answer will be in front of you.

  6. Become selfish.

    The way we think about selfishness is broken. Selfishness is about recognising what you need and doing what you can to meet those needs. Sometimes there will be fallout, but there will also be fallout by ignoring what you need and letting the noise shout you down. You matter. What you need matters. It always has. Sometimes that will mean putting yourself first on your list. This is even more important if it is the only list that has you anywhere near the top.

  7. Be honest about your part.

    Is there anything you can do to put the relationship back on track? It takes guts to open up to what you might need to do differently, but it’s important. If you’re not sure, ask your partner. Of course, just because your partner names things he or she would like you to do differently, it for you to decide whether this is a direction you want to move in. If the response is ‘Yeah actually. You can stop asking me where I go at night. K?’ then you can either respond with, ‘Sure baby – it’s totally fine with me if you leave the house smelling like man musk and secrets. Just come home when you feel like it hey. Do you want me to keep dinner for you?’ Or, you can Google, ‘Somewhere I can live without idiots.’

  8. What’s your role in the relationship?

    It’s likely that there will be a rhythm in the relationship that keeps it breathing the way it does. You and your partner will each have a role that keeps each other’s behaviour possible. This in no way means either of you are to blame or that either of you deserve to be treated the way you are. What it means is that over time you would have fallen into a way of being together that makes the dysfunction easier and more tolerable – a healthy adjustment to an unhealthy situation.

    It’s common in relationships for one person to be the ‘reacher’ and one to be the ‘retreater’. In healthy relationships, this is balanced or the roles shift around. There’s an easy flexibility. In unhealthy relationships, these roles become polarised. The more someone retreats, the more the other reaches, and this is where the roles become fixed.

    Explore your roles. Which one of you is ‘the commitment phobe’, ‘the non-communicator,’ ‘the abuser,’  ‘the critic’, ‘the disinterested one’? And who is ‘the ‘enabler’, ‘the victim,’ ‘the helpless one,’ ‘the reacher’, ‘the rescuer’, ‘the justifier’, ‘the fantasiser’. Try shifting out of your role. This will shift the dynamic and either force change or make the dysfunction all the more glaring – and easier to walk away from.

  9. Let go of the fantasy.

    The fantasy of what could be will keep you stuck. Every time. It could be better – so much better – but just not with this person. How do you know? Because you’ve been trying. And you’re tired. And there’s nothing more to give.

    The fantasy stands between you and reality and throws flowers at your feet so you never look up and see things as they are.

    The more you fantasise about what could be, the more the reality is embellished and changed into something reasonable. The fantasy will persuade you to hold on for a little longer, and always at the cost of moving forward. Lose the fantasy that things will be different. They won’t be. If you could have lived the fantasy with this relationship, you would have done that by now. Let your fantasy instead be one of all the losers who have ever crossed your path sprawled on the couch, wearing saggy Star Wars underwear as they gaze at your photo, listen to Adele and regret like mad ever losing you, while you eat tacos, listen to Beyonce and not miss them at all. There you go.

  10. Accept what is.

    It’s paradoxical, but the more you can accept where you are, the greater the capacity for change. This will let your decisions be driven by information that’s real and accurate, not a glossed up fairy tale image of what could be. Accept your reality as it is – your relationship, your partner and what it means for you. When you accept the truth, you live the truth. This will expand your courage, strength and capacity to decide whether this relationship is the best option for you – or not. You will have a clarity that will propel you forward, whatever that might mean for you.

  11. Fight for you.

    You have to fight for the things you love and the things you believe in, but one of those things has to be you. What would you say to someone you love who was feeling the pain or the deadness that you are feeling? Inside you is more courage and strength than you will ever need. You are a queen, a king, a fighter, a warrior, you are powerful and beautiful and everything good in the world – and you deserve to be happy. But first, you might have to fight for it. Fight for you the way you would fight for anyone you love – fiercely, boldly, bravely.

  12. Stop making excuses.

    Be honest.What do you want from this relationship? Have you ever had it? How different is what you want from what you have? And how long has it been this way? If you are loved, it feels like love. Even in the midst of a storm, a loving relationship still feels loving. Despite the stress, the exhaustion, the things you do or say – a loving relationship has an undercurrent of safety, security and respect, even when times are tough. If it doesn’t feel good for you, it’s not.

  13. Replace ‘can’t leave’ with ‘won’t leave’.

    Claim back your power by replacing ‘can’t leave‘ with ‘won’t leave‘. Sometimes circumstances mean that it’s difficult to leave. Whatever you choose to do, do it from a place of strength, not from a place of helplessness. If you stay, let it be because you have made the decision that this is the best option for you at this moment in time, not because somebody has claimed ownership of your life. Keep your power and your independence of mind, whatever is going on around you. There’s only one of you and you’re too important to let yourself fade into circumstance or the manipulation.

  14. Not making a decision is making a decision.

    You might decide to put off making a decision, to give it some time. Make no mistake, this is making a decision – to stay. Own your decision and experience fully what that decision means for you. Don’t live on the outskirts of your reality by claiming to be somewhere in between committing to the relationship and leaving it. You’re one or the other. In it or out of it. Claiming indecision might feel okay in the short term, but in the long term it will just keep you stuck, without the energy you need to move closer to what will be healthier for you.

And finally …

If the relationship feels bad, then it’s bad for you. That’s the only truth that matters. Fight hard to keep your relationship intact, but when there is no fight left, the truth will be staring you down like a hunted thing.

All relationships will go through make it or break it times, but healthy relationships recover. They grow closer and become stronger and more resilient. Relationships have a limited amount of resources available – emotional, physical, financial. Sometimes the relationship will be barreled around by a storm and this might use up a vast chunk of the resources that have been banked over time. If the relationship is healthy, it will only be a matter of time before this is topped up. If it isn’t, it will shrivel up from lack of nourishment and eventually die. 

Only you can decide whether to stay or go, but be mindful of your reasons. Sometimes the bravest, most difficult, and most life-changing things lie not in what we do, but in what we stop doing. 

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174 Comments

Andres

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!! Its been 48 hours since I broke up with her. Its hurts so bad, Ive cried so much. I know she is not a bad person, but her need for love and attention is imposible to fulfill, and when she get mad says the most horrible things, I always blame myself for not making her happy, and it makes me feel so selfish and useless. I finally reacted 48 hours ago, but it is so hard, it hurts so much! I know its the best for us, we bring out the worst in each other, but i feel I so lost and sad, so tired and exauhsted.
This article helped me allot, Ill have to read it every day until i feel better. I love he so much, and my future fantasies take the best of me, until she makes me feel useless in the most loving way possible.
Il stop writing because I need to read all this again.
Thank You

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Jessica

She sounds exactly like my boyfriend. We’re falling apart and I have been in denial for so long..this article was hard to read because it was all the truth.. truth I’ve been avoiding. I’m so broken inside, my fantasy of a future was never in line with our reality.

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Samantha

I could have written most of that myself! I have been doing the same thing for 8 years – on and off – up and down – emotional roller coaster. I am so disappointed in myself for going back after almost a year of being apart. Its like an emotional addiction that my rose coloured glasses tell me will be ‘different’ ‘better’ ‘he has changed this time’ etc etc…
I am now seeing a professional who I hope can give me some tools and reading matter to get me out of this perpetual cycle! I have just ended it and need to not go back this time.
I was with my ex husband for 2O years and I am just realising that this was also a toxic relationship – I have a lot of soul searching to do here and I am grateful to read all your responses. You have no idea how good it is to see that my thoughts and feelings are quite common, and I may not be going insane after all…. Thank you for sharing

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Gaby

It’s been a month for me and I find myself missing him incessantly. I find myself devastated and crying uncontrollably. All I want to do is call him because we haven’t spoken on the phone for several days now. I was very firm in saying I didn’t want to continue perusing this toxic relationship and finally he stopped reaching out to me. But now although I know it’s no good I find myself not being able to function without him. Then I remind myself of the many reasons why we won’t work and there are all very valid, but the good memories keep me wanting and missing him very much. I don’t know what to do he’s like a drug something that I need.

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Joanna

I’m in the same situation and I feel absolutely horrible. I’m in a toxic relationship with a man that has 3 children. I sort of kinda ended the relationship 3 weeks ago. This is not the 1st time that we broke up. However, I feel like the second go round seems worse. He is a Leo, and has issues with alcoholism and wild behavior. To make matters worse, his eldest child is absolutely rude and disrespectful towards me. As much as I tried to embrace her with love, she completely ignores my efforts. He allows her to behave however she chooses and will quickly defend her when she’s wrong. She sets such a bad example to her siblings. I have tried but I feel like he has sucked the complete life out of me. He is almost 20 years older than me and I feel like at this point in my life, I do not need the headache. I love him wholeheartedly. There are times when I sink into deep depression thinking about him. Sometimes I question if I made the right decision about leaving . I feel so lost and feel like I will never again find a man like him . My friends and family think I made the right decision but my heart feels otherwise. And the thought of starting all over sickens me to the core. I’m 34 and feel like I’m losing time. My family tells me that a better person will come along but I know at my age easier said than done. My only resort is to pray daily so that I can recover from this emotional trauma and that a more compatible person will enter my life. I understand how you feel and I guess time will heal.

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Caroline Stuckey

Hi I am in a similar situation but haven’t left yet. He has 4 children and is a high functioning alcoholic, he is not loving, he lies and is financially irresponsible. I live with him with my son and I need to leave but I am scared. I am 51 I have less hope than you! I don’t want to be on my own.

If I leave I will miss the company, my son will miss his home and his kids. I will be financially so poor and my son gets a good lifestyle at the moment but the relationship is sucking the life out of me 🙁

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Keke

Oops,that age difference darling and 2+children that are allowed to do the fuck they please,is not new.Yhe topping being,he also educated (makes more money)and you don’t.You met him living with those children! You’re in for it, unfortunately the people who are telling you that you took the right decision are Soooo right.You,self will never see it until is late.I am 38and was dragged out of his house by my Senior brother after he got tired of hearing me sad and stuff.Mind you,my two children saw the all sorts of abuse and call thier family(my family, uncles and Grandparents to take them.The abuse was not even physical,but all than physical.so Sister, wether you broke or un/underemployed.Walk.How,I don’t know But Walk with just what you’re wearing and you ID.good luck.Old Crocks like young mambas Don’t change.

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Shelley

Wow, Gaby. Its like we are leading parallel lives. I couldve written the exact same thing.

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Ellecatt

I need help…

I have a partner that i have been with for over 5 years. We have split up once before and got back together after being separated for around a year…
He is working away alot. 6-8 weeks at a time and barely says two words to me when he is gone, i ring him, i text him. He doesnt really put an effort into it which confuses me.

I dont know what to define the relationship as; he constantly puts me down and tells me how im so lucky to have him in my life, how my looks have diminished and how stupid i am..

Among calling me a slut and other horrible names that you dont expect hearing from somebody that is meant to loves you. (although – he wont ever tell me he loves me unless i ask) We dont kiss, he will have rough sex with me and continue to be distant.
There are good parts to our relationship, well there were..

Anyway, He found out from a friend of mine that i had slept with another guy.
I take full responsibility for this and dont blame him at all.

What do i do? DO i take this chance to walk away or should i try? i feel torn. Is this a toxic relationship?

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Chris

Yes, extremely toxic. Life is short be with someone who doesn’t adores you and he clearly doesn’t. You need to love yourself more beautiful. Don’t let anyone make you feel you don’t deserve the world. I hope you can move on and find the love you deserve. If you cant then be okay with being alone. Love your own company you are after all your favorite person.

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Grant

Yes it’s toxic and you have become so used to it that it’s now totally normal. If it wasn’t, you would have been able to answer your own question. The hard thing for you is you now have the guilt of being the one who cheated, even though he had already emotionally betrayed you by treating you so terribly. Is he using the mistake against you to make you feel even lower than you already do?

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Lk

I was visiting my friend last week May 22 and she knows my boyfriend and she knows the shitty way he treats me. She tells me to walk every chance she gets and it always makes sense but I never listen.

We were talking about him and she wanted to talk to him so we called him. When I called it was in the evening and his phone was off. Two hours later I call again and it was on but went unanswered again and again. Around 8pm he sends a call back (yes he didn’t call after getting my missed calls) when I called again he didn’t answer and it was like that the whole night.
I went to sleep with a broken heart imagining all sorts of reasons why he wasn’t picking his phone. And I kept hoping he’d call and explain. Made all excuses for him like maybe he could be sick in hospital or something.
In the morning he called from his work phone to apologize for yesterday. I mean seriously this guy had to apologize 14hrs later what took so long. There was nothing wrong with him he claimed he couldn’t hear his phone ring. 😔 I could feel it inside me he couldn’t talk to me because he was probably cheating. When I brought that up he got angry and blamed me of accusing him. He loves me and only me why would I even think of something like that. But it just didn’t add up. It wasn’t the first time he didn’t answer calls and sometimes when I’m with him he let’s calls ring and doesn’t answer them yet he answers others.

I got so stressed and all hurt. I didn’t want to talk to him for a few days. On Monday 29 May I woke up bleeding. And my last period was on May 16 it didn’t add up. When I went to the clinic they thought I was having a miscarriage but the pregnancy test came back negative. And I’m not on any form of birth control that might have messed with hormonal balances. I was stressed and that made me bleed. I told him I was sick and going to the clinic and he never cared to even ask what they said or what is wrong with me. I had to send him a text asking why he wasn’t asking how I am and he claimed he was about to call. But he never did.

I can see this guy doesn’t care about me. He doesn’t care about my physical wellbeing nor my emotional wellbeing. I finally told him I need a break from this relationship I can’t do this anymore I need to find myself again. And he says the reason I need a break is because my friends influence me because they don’t like him they don’t want us to be together. He loves me so much and doesn’t want to lose me and he thought things were okay between us. Obviously we have a different meaning of the word “okay”.

He is never wrong I’m either too sensitive or just plain crazy. He even made me believe that the problem was me and I went out downloading books on cognitive behavior because I thought I was crazy to think he isn’t treating me well. Now I need to remind myself everyday that there’s nothing wrong with me. I have a right to feel the way I feel because he doesn’t value me.

Now he is insisting of seeing me to talk. We always talk but nothing fruitful ever comes out of it. I know he’s gonna acuse me of having found another man that’s why I’m leaving him now. He has this way of always turning things around to make it seem as though I am the one whose wrong always. I refuse to see him but I know he’s gonna come anyway. I just hope when I see him I won’t fall for his empty promises of change that never happen.

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Grant

That’s awful. My heart hurt for you reading that. I’m in a similar situation. I left my pregnant fiance (yes I’m a man and men can be abused too) a few weeks ago. I had gone into surgery and she did not visit me once. I was in hospital for 5 days. That was the moment I realised that this person did not actually care about my well being. She claimed it was because we had a fight before I went into hospital and that I sounded like I was breaking up with her before the surgery. Regardless, there is NO excuse for that. She was so concerned with her own feelings that nothing else mattered to her. When I left hospital I went straight to my family home, instead of the home I was with her in. And that was it. There’s been constant arguing, blame, and even short attempts at working on resolving it, but ultimately she turns angry on me every other day and it reminded me of why I left in the first instance. Our dynamic is so ingrained now that we cannot break it or our roles in it. So the only way was to leave.

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AnxiousKitten

Great article. Staying in a toxic relationship is a choice indeed. It’s extremely difficult to walk out of one, but you need to remind yourself that in the long run, it will be the best decision.

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Herbert

I broke up with mine 8 days ago and it’s killing me right now I’m trying to cope after two years of toxic Ness on and off I’ve been abuse in every way possible and I’m a man ! I just can’t get her out of my head I know that she’s not good for me but the cheating and the lying I could not take it anymore, right now I’m sitting in my car just doesn’t want to go home to be alone so I’m reading until I’m tired then might be sleepy

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Heavensent

Well I’ve been in a toxic relationship that I don’t want to let go. We have yet to end it but it’s like I’m holding on to his potential. I have never took as much bullshit in previous relationships that I have in my current. I get so upset with myself that I allow this behavior and disrespect. I’m ashamed of myself and don’t know how to let go it feel so hard. It’s kids involved on both sides with lots of love. I don’t know what to do lately we cannot get alone or stay on the same page. It’s a unhealthy relationship it’s a roller coaster ride. I always want to look at the bright side and hope and pray he change but very the looks of things he is not and I feel he is jealous of the moves I make because he is not in the situation to make his goals work right now and that too is an issue in the relationship. Where can I get sincere help?

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Nicole

I am in the exact same situation. I am literally heart broken up other week. Crying and wanting to leave but then get weak and dont go any where. I need help. I used to be so strong.

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Nicolas

Reading everyone’s stories really helps me. It makes me realize that I am not the crazy one. I wasn’t losing my mind. Well I was, because I wasn’t understand how my ex-boyfriend was treating me. I’ve been dating him for 8 months. It was a emotional roller coaster.. He has BPD. Well, that’s what he told me. I think he’s more a narcissist then anything else. But I will never know. And don’t think I have the need to know. I broke up on the 30th of march. I’m finally no contact with him. Just a smal text message from him, it would make me nervous, I would be trembling and not understand his point of view at all. He would never express his feelings and emotions to me. His communication skills with me were shit. All I wanted was to help him, understand him what he was going through.. but, it was impossible, because he wouldn’t open up to me. I didn’t understand, how can someone that “loves” you would leave you in the dark about important things. I’m a kind, generous giving person. I care so so much about others. That’s why it was so hard for me to leave him. I was focusing on his feelings first, I wasn’t at all thinking about me. But now, since the storm is over, I am taking care of myself, doing the things I love and trying to get my confidence back. Because he really made me feel powerless and small. He had so much control over me, that at the time I didn’t notice it. Anyways, it really helps a lot to read about other people’s stories. Like I said, I feel less alone. I’m I. Therapy now, it really helps. But like I said, I’m not focusing on understanding him anymore. I’m confusing on myself. Taking care of me. Hope everyone here are in a safe place. In your minds and in your life right now. I know I wasnt.. but now, I am! Stay strong, be positive and things will get better with time. I’ve been told that in the beginning after I broke up. I didn’t believe my friends when they told me that… now I thank them! Because, they were right! Stay strong you guys!! 🙂

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AJ

Been nearly 9 months now for me since it ended.
It’s still very hard. I believe she has BPD. It was so hard for me and she could see it but had no emotion. It just didn’t seem normal. She was going to leave me for someone else and that fell through. Then she moved out and shortly after, within a couple of months, found someone else and moved in with them. And she acted like it should have no effect on me. I told her I cannot see her or talk to her. It’s very hard. There is no future for it and my head is saying I should be grateful I am free, when I look back at how poorly I was treated: lying, deciept, cheating, stealing. And yet nine months later I hear stuff about her and if affects me. I am still thinking why, what if, how etc. I just want to forget it all. She certainly has. Why can’t I?

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Rachel

I’ve been with my husband for almost 10 years, married for 7. Moved with him to a foreign country to start a life, 5 years into the marriage he wants space, says I’m too clingy. Got my own place briefly and we decided to move back in together for sake of costs. Then I moved back to the USA for my career, he stayed put, citing that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to be in a relationship with anyone at all but was still very confused and didn’t want to lose me, but didn’t want to make any sacrifices. We have been doing long distance for a year and a half, seeing each other once a month or so, talking on Skype etc frequently. It had been going somewhat fine, but I ultimately had a goal of us living together and being a family again. He even told me a few weeks ago that he thought it would be a reality someday soon, but I’m currently visiting him where he lives and he told me that he didn’t see us ever living together again, at least not for the foreseeable future. I was upset about that, told him so, then he tells me he doesn’t think he can do this anymore because he doesn’t want to hurt me and can’t continue this long distance arrangement if I’m not happy with it. Then, I thought about it and convinced myself that I was ok with it. I said, “well when we lived together it wasn’t really that great, and you’re happy with your own space, so what’s wrong with this current arrangement?” What’s wrong with it is that it is not what I want, it is not ideal for me, it is simply the best option. I’ve been settling for years, making myself ok with things. And I’m finally happy with myself and my career and who I am, which is something I can’t say I’ve ever really been able to admit. I keep telling myself that I don’t really need this long-distance marriage that feels like it’s being drawn out with no happy ending, and I don’t need this stress, so why do I keep thinking that one day the stars will align and we both decide we want the same thing? And to complicate matters, we have been seeing other people for the past year or so, and there is no expectation of celibacy when we’re not together, but I see him falling in love with someone else and topping off this nightmare with the most hurtful news ever. I continue to hurt because I’m not getting what I want out of this marriage and I put myself at risk of complete and utter sorrow by agreeing that seeing other people is probably reasonable. Why am I continuing to settle for this? And the most confusing part of all this for me is that we do love each other, we care very deeply about each other, and when we talk he always tells me how he does not want to lose me, he wants to be in my life forever. The most consistent theme in our conversations is our lack of clarity for what is right and what we should do. We’ve got the love, we’ve got the friendship, and we’ve got a healthy sexual relationship, but I just want more and he cannot give me more. Nothing about this situation is easy and nothing about it is conventional. There is no doubt in my mind that this is a toxic relationship and I need to completely remove myself from it, but I’m so scared of being alone. Our most recent argument started because he told me he was going out tonight with friends. I took off work to fly here to visit him, and he tells me that he would rather I not go with him. I asked him if he could at least understand why this is upsetting to me. He admitted that he did understand, but then followed by saying “this is why I don’t want to be in a relationship with anyone, because I don’t want to deal with this kind of stuff”. I see him maybe once a month and we really do try to keep things light and cordial because we know that our time together could be easily ruined, but this visit has been utterly dismal. I’m here for another 5 days and I’m been considering changing my flight to leave early ever since I arrived.

I don’t live in a particularly exciting city where there are tons of things to do, I don’t have any friends where I live, and moving right now is not really an option, not for another year at least. I’m so scared of how much I will ache if I just end this, but I just know I am going to keep getting hurt over and over again because he is never going to be the husband I need. We have certainly discussed walking away from it all and he wants us to remain friends, but I just can’t do that. I will need to completely disconnect, pretend he doesn’t exist – this is the only way I’ll be able to get over him and move on. I’m absolutely terrified, but even as I’m writing this I know this is what needs to be done, I just don’t have the balls to do it.

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Sonja

Rachel… but you are already alone. What are you afraid of? I know it must be hard for you.. but honestly, from a stranger’s perspective, you are just feeding up an illusion. Get in touch with your true self and find a love you deserve! Blessings!

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christina

Reading this article really helped me related the first two paragraphs after “knowing when to let go” really spoke to me because that’s exactly how I feel right now. But I just can’t and won’t let go of him being together for 4 years has most definitely become a habit and comfort. I feel like no one knows me better and to loose that would be hurtful. He got arrested 8 months ago for abusing me and I feel stupid for going back, he hasn’t done it since but that was not the first time. Lately he doesn’t even put any effort into spending time with me but he still tries to control me. We live 10 mins away from one another but some how he only hangs out with me once a month and I’m constantly asking him to chill and I always get rejected. He dodges me calls and my text every Friday and Saturday nights because he doesn’t want me to know he’s out but then I see images on social media. He doesn’t even want to add me on facebook or instagram and I keep asking him to. He has cheated multiple times and I’ve seen him text hookers at least 10 times. I’ve tried leaving but always find my way back to him, he claims he loves me but I know that isn’t true. Now after all this I just feel even more stupid for staying and I have no clue why I still stay and why it is so hard for me to let go of something that is so toxic and makes me feel so sad lonely and depressed but it’s hard as fuck because I just think of the good times and that’s the only thing that keeps me going.

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Flowers

He cheated and had many indiscretions over the course of our relationship, we’ve had 2 breakups & first started dating when we were both 23. Four years later we’re 27 & 28 and for the past 7 months we’veactually been dedicated to giving our relationship a fighting chance. Well no matter what he did to show me he was faithful I couldn’t let go of the anger. We would both get petty. I am very angry towards him and he tells me I make him feel useless like nothing he does is ever going to be good enough. That all his fighting is for nothing. I guess last night was the last straw for him, after a big blowup, over me being a **** for no reason. Now that the dust settled I see how out of line I was. I don’t want to be without him and I feel like the world’s biggest ass. We talked and we both know we love each other and that breaking up is probably for the best. We’re taking a day to clear our minds and see how we feel tomorrow. I’m trying to just let his decision be and not be pushy. I feel like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde towards the relationship and him. I read before that betrayal causes actual trauma (ptsd.) We have such strong chemistry its insane. It’s like were soulmates but not the kind the end up together. A love neither one of us will get again. I know we’re crazy and it sucks. Hoping for the best. I made the decision to stay and try and failed because I wasn’t honest with myself. I didn’t try the way I should have. I’m just hoping for the best. Whatever the universe thinks is the best. I know breaking up isn’t the end of the world but that doesn’t make it any easier. Thanks for this article.

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KT

Reading this article really has helped me. I am going through one of the most addicting toxic relationships ive ever had. We met a year ago and moved in together after 2 months, we got a dog together and everything. His jealousy was always bad but never as bad as it is now. We broke up but are currently still seeing eachother and its never been this bad. The other night he tried to fist fight a guy at the bar for talking to me. Hes been seeing someone else to since we broke up, and i’ve been stupid and allowing it. I seriously dont know what is wrong with me. He hurts me emotionally and brings me down so much but every time he talks to me i cant stay away. What is wrong with me? I need the strength to walk away for good, but it is so damn hard.`

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Jil

Reading this has shed some clarity on how I’m feeling.

I’ve been in this relationship for 8 and a half years, he is my first boyfriend and we met at such a young age. We did long distance for three years while I was away in another city for school and had broken up once in my last year until I had returned home and we mended the relationship. We have literally gone through hell and back. We fight, say horrible things and have been physical with each other. There were times he tried to end thing but I begged him to stay. I can now recognize that feeling of addiction after reading this.

Three years ago our living situation changed drastically and we moved into the basement of my parents house. This happened around the same time of his grandma passing and since then, everything has gradually gotten worse. He could barely hold a job and engulfed himself in social media projects. I have been financially supporting the relationship and have been feeling the resentment grow after every passing year. The intimacy in our relationship is gone, though he denied it at the time when I confronted him about it. And in the past year, we have gotten into so many huge fights which resulted in me trying to end our relationship. Each time after we had time to cool off, we couldn’t bring ourselves to end something we had for so long.

We just had another huge fight earlier this week and we haven’t come around to “let’s try to make this work” phase and it’s been giving me anxiety. I know this relationship is toxic and that I should let this go. Again, I recognize the feeling of addiction. In the heat of the moment I have clarity on why this won’t work for us but when we reach the next stage, I’m weak and try to find a way to keep our relationship going.

Though it doesn’t make the feeling go away, it’s humbling to see others go through the same thing and offer support in a small way.

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Titus

This article seems to have been reading my mind.

About 10 minutes after I had sent an email to end an abusive relationship, I found this article. It echoed so many of my thoughts, such as: What hurts is stopping the hope that the relationship would work; that it seemed one-sided for too long and something was wrong; that an attempt to get what I wanted from it resulted in a fight instead of a mature discourse; that someone who cares should be able to article my importance to her at least at some level, even if “like a brother”, instead of “you have a complex and it is wrong for you to ask at a time like this;” and, then an extended silence to try to control me. (This was an internet fling.)

Then I read this article, and I will many times for the next while. It hurts very much, the addictive hope that the future will be better than something in the past. Even though, every minute was hell and second guessing.

Thank you for posting it.

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Liz

This helped. But i feel like i’m filled “hope” that maybe he will come around and see what i am worth somehow. I’ve been seeing this guy i work with for over 2 and a half years off and on. December 2016, i over heard that he had a gf. But when i confronted him, he cleared out said that he wasn’t with her in a while and that he only talks about her cause he doesn’t want the office to know about his personal life. We tried to stay friends cause that’s what he wanted, but for some reason, talking as friends becomes more and leads to flirting and then bed sometimes. and that’s how its been. About 2 months ago, i had this gut feeling to look at his FB which I NEVER DO… but i did. Nothing was on there really except this picture of him, a man, and another woman. The picture looked more like that other man’s gf or wife maybe. So i went on his sister’s FB page then found where she tagged him and his exgf “so i thought” about them bringing her dinner. I confronted him and he was out nervous and kept saying sorry. Long story short…. i’m left hurt once again by him. He keeps insisting that we stay friends and he has been saying and doing little things for me that he never did before. I didn’t see anybody the whole time i was with him. He has been with his gf for a long time, but doesn’t live together, nor does he want to talk about her to me when i ask questions regarding if he loves her or not. He still gets a little jealous when i talk about other guys. I want to stay friends, but i know very well that we will return to the way it was.

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Kathrine

Not only has this article helped me, but the stories are too. Each one of you is pouring out your heart and soul, and each response is filled with just as much love and strength.

My toxic relationship was fueled by jealousy on both parties. The relationship should’ve ended at 4 months, but it lasted nearly 3 years. My ex was cheated on by his first long term girl, so trust was hard earned. However, he also suffered from a porn addiction, I couldn’t get him to get away from it.

He would be secretive with his cell phone and all his belongings, even when I moved across the country to be with him. We hardly ever drove his car around town, it was always my car. His car was his sanctuary away from our shared space. Love letter from ex’s in the glove box, and e-cig in the center console… insisting it was his friends. I would’ve rather the honest smoking than the lies.

I asked him at one point to stop talking to his ex girlfriends (at least 3 from his HS years) since we were going steady and even talked about marriage. This pushed him away more, and he would continue to put me in compromising positions to where I would blame myself for being” crazy jealous” when in reality… he couldn’t see why sending messages like “good morning beautiful” “how are you doing sweet sugar” etc bothered me.

I obviously made some mistakes too. I hurt him just as much as he hurt me. What he doesn’t know is that I was raped orally by a guy I only wanted to make out with to fuel jealousy. I never told my boyfriend that this stranger also knew where I lived, and I was scared he would find me and do worse.

Thank you, each and every one of you… you give me hope that even 2 years after leaving him in NM to come back to my hometown I will be able to maybe find myself again.

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Drea

Well I have been with my boyfriend/child’s father for 4 years now we used to have good times and I thought that this was completely it for me until now he’s very distant doesn’t show any effection like hugs or kisses didn’t tell me he loves me we both have very demanding jobs but that comes with adulthood he should be able to understand I have to work but we have a family and my family means everything to me but every time we argue he yells he doesn’t want to be in this relationship he’s always angry and doesn’t talk to me only if it’s about the kids I kno this relationship is unhealthy but I love this man and it is so hard to walk away… please help

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Guillermo

I think I will read this article on a daily basis for the following month. I’m going through of these relationships, been on and off for almost four years, she’s not accepted in my family and I’ve been trying to keep things peaceful but I constantly get into family fights because of her and fights with her because of my family. Have been like this for the entire relationship and right now I’m feeling that I’m just wasting my time, how do I confront her in order for it to end definitely? I know that the hardest thing is to actually ti move on but with all the guidelines on this article I’ll be alright, what I need help with is the actual break up moment, any suggestions?

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Anonymous

Hi, I am in a similar situation and this post has hit hard!!! I have been in a relationship with a man 9 years my senior with 3 kids but we are arguing constantly and it is always made out my fault and he doesn’t rest until I admit it. If I am wrong I will admit I am. He gets jealous and paranoid about all sorts of things and the accusations are killing me. These arguments are just draining the life out of me and I don’t have any fight left. No matter what happens or how I feel about a situation I always get made out the “bad” guy. I really think I am in a “controlling or manipulative” relationship and have struggled to see a way out. The guilt of leaving the kids etc. I was also venerable when we met as it wasn’t even a year since I lost my dad. I need out and don’t know how. Life is miserable. I really didn’t ever think this would happen to me 🙁

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Amelia

I just got out of the second toxic relationship in my life. 2 days ago. My ex husband whom is my fathers son was a dictionary role model for a narcissist. As well as a heroin addict. Lazy. I became addicted to heroin as well with him. And one day I finally left and divorced him. He was my first love. Battled that addiction for a long time after. I finally became clean. (3 years and counting now) Took me forever to get over him. I “thought” I truly loved him. Until I met my now ex boyfriend. It was like a fairytale alignment. He was best friends with my garsh darn best friend. Came from a good family. Wealthy one at that. Loved so many of the same things I did. He became buddies with my son. They would get along like peas and carrots. I’m the kind of person that likes to have a few mixed drinks daily. It helps keep away the heroin demons. I never get trashed or drunk. I mix them so weak it’s silly. Maybe I have a little problem I thought? But gosh. No biggie. So I always have a bottle in the fridge. He started to slowly but surely hit my bottle STRAIGHT. More and more. He was never much of a drinker before me. (Which I feel horrible guilt about) I would buy my bottle that should last me a week. Completely empty after 3 hours of buying it. He would friggin chug it. He would become belligerent, aggressive, mean and down right cruel out of nowhere for no reason. Call my son names to his face, call me horrific names in front of my son. Egg me on by pushing me and getting me to the snapping point of fighting back. I learned to just avoid him when he started getting that way. Next day he would wake up, feel god awful and guilty, we would make love to one another. We had the most amazing and satisfying sex life. He could get me to orgasm within 3 minutes. As a woman, that’s like woah!!! Any man I had been with before could never get me like that. I always forgave him. Over time he became slowly controlling. My only guy friend I was allowed to have left was our mutual best friend. I used to be involved with music and a amazing artist. I’ve been losing hair and my body has been falling apart this last year. I can’t even draw a picture anymore. We would break up on and off this last year… my mother hates him. He would turn anything wrong I caught him doing around on me. I became his servant. Slowly. God dang!!! I started to date yet another narcissist. Over time, I finally convinced him that he had to stop drinking. I even tried too. My simple little innocent drinks. I gave them up. But the heroin demons became to come back. And I told him “please, if I buy this don’t touch it!!!” He would. And again and again this ensued. Our friends everyone told him. To. STOP. He didn’t drink for a entire month. Until this past Sunday. His sister came to visit. She brought a bunch of Booz. He drank a butt load. He was mad at her about her life decisions. She got upset and left. He was angry at her and slammed the Booz she left behind. He became a monster towards me and my son. Long story short, he did a very cruel thing to my son and I defended my son verbally and he lashed out at me. Ended up beating the holy hell out of me. How. How could this perfect guy do this stuff to me just because he drank??? He was the most amazing love sober. HOW???? AND WHY!!!! I’ve been through so much trauma in my life. I feel like it will never end. I called the police finally this time and he went to jail. He took care of me. Told me I was the most beautiful woman in the world daily. I felt like a princess with him. I feel like there is something wrong with me because all I want is him back… he hasn’t tried contacting me or anything since he got out of jail yesterday. And it makes me feel horrific. I haven’t eaten in two days and all I can do is think about him. This article helped. But what is wrong with me?! All I can think of is how ready I was to marry him when he was sober… I keep telling myself I can’t contact him. To tell him how much I love him… I know I can’t. But the urge is soooooo strong. It’s painful. Why do I love someone capable of such atrocious behavior?! I’m scared to even be with any other man than him 🙁 I hope and pray this want goes away. I almost can’t handle it…

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