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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57 Comments

Jacqueline Bruschi

I’ve done all of the above steps and I’m truly happy again nothing is worth ESPECIALLY mental abuse on a daily basis.
Thanks for making this article available as i read it a month or more ago now it really helped. 🙂

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Kristi

Wow… SO much brain and heart food for thought here… Thank you… I needed to read this just now. <3

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Chassidy

OMG I stumbled across your blog on google seach last month in a time of going THROUGH a realllllly bad relationship that I once believed felt right, was good and that one day we would be able to overcome our personality differences and make things workout. I knew that I was in a situation where things no longer felt right. I mean two Godly Christian people and I didnt feel like the relationship was headed anywhere but to destruction which it ultimately has over the last few weeks. Its definently a hard and challenging situation when you want to hold on to something because of fear and the unknown, however at the end of the day I had to put MYself first, take a step back and evaluate the situation. God has definently given me the strength, courage, perserverance to not go back as I previously would. Its still not easy but I take it day by day and prayerfully I will get THROUGH it becuase that is definently what I am doing is going through. I CHOOSE to love GOD and myself more than to ALLOW a man to treat me less than what I deserve, I mean after all I am a child of the most High God. Im continuing to remain encouraged by your blog because it has definently helped me even more than the therapist I have been seeing, anywho to anyone reading this post. Please know that your are strong and can overcome this situation and believe there is someone else out there who would love to LOVE you.

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Schellie

20 years and now this! Last 5 almost intolerable but know the answer of what I need to do. Need to find myself again. Lost me and now job. Done! Stayed home with the boys and now my last is in college this last April. I need the strength to love me and find me again. Pray for me because I do know it will be hard either way I decide to go. If stay I’ll be miserable/ and leaving the security is the hardest thing since I haven’t worked and can’t work due to health reasons! But I am gonna work on me! Mentally I need to just get the old Schellie back and have the confidence that I will make it. I’ve known for 18 years it wasn’t going to work….mean/nice…mean/nice is what I can’t take anymore. To breaking point!…then nice as can be! Have his number and will keep going to therapy and someday have the courage to really do what’s best for me and him!

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Hey Sigmund

Thinking of you Schellie. Keep fighting for you. You have all the strength you need inside you to find the happier version of yourself and your life.

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Anonymous

Hey.. I am experiencing the same thing and have been for several years. But today is the day I start living again. I’ve decided to let it go! I’ve hurt for too long. I’ve put everyone before me for too long. With God on your side, you too can get through this. Yes, at times it will be hard but keep praying to highest of all highs. I’ll be praying for you.

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Michelle

Been there, done that. Repeatedly. Life was unmanageable. Needed support of others dealing with these issues. Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous a life saver for me.

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Janet

This has really resonated with me; my thought processes and experiences over the past couple of years. What a powerful and sensitive piece of writing. Thank you.

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MichelleC

This is an exceptional article that could well apply to all relationships, whether personal or work related. Loved this. Thank you so much for sharing!

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alison

I feel so mentally torn and tortured … everything about this article is true, but I am hanging on to a toxic relationship because of my young children … and financially I will be ruined. You’re website is so empowering. thank you

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Hey Sigmund

You’re so welcome Alison. This is a difficult place to be in. I hope you are able to find a corner within this relationship which is just for you and your children, where you can feel the strength in the decision you have made, and where you can be happy.

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jet

I wish I could say it was helpful. I truly do. I spent close to 15 years with someone who drank and physically &/or emotionally abused me ( after 2 yrs. of great).
I felt so ashamed of not ending it at first. I lost my friends. I rationalized the relationship because he did some beautiful renovations on my old house. Then when the drinking got so bad and nothing was getting done, I asked him to leave. He said “No”. This went on for an unimaginable time. I had to call the police one night because he stood at the foot of the sofa with an ax in his hand.
He hid from them. But they caught him.
Today I have to tell you I am no better off. Since then, I’ve come down with Lyme Disease, spinal stenosis and they are foreclosing on my home. He is in jail with minimal security for his 3rd DUI. He’ll be getting out soon. I’ve had restraining orders. I feel he won’t be back and if he does, I hope he kills me like he’s threatened to do in the past.
I can’t even describe the downfalls of the past 2.5 yrs. I’ve been alone and sincerely trying to better my situation. I’ve hit a wall. I just pray and ask “Why?”.

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Hey Sigmund

Jet, first of all – there is absolutely no shame in staying. Toxic people have a way of manipulating things until you are stuck – then they show their true colours. Only when the pain of staying outweighs the pain of leaving – and that can certainly come with it’s own pain – it is possible to leave. It is not for anyone else to judge when this point is. It’s different for everyone. What’s important is that you got there eventually. Keeping fighting. I know it feels really dark right now, but you have to keep fighting. There will be a happier version of you and your life sometime in the future that will be so grateful to you that you did. Love and strength to you.

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Juliette

Yes, I know that people do what they should and have to do when they are ready. I’ve told that to a couple of friends when I was younger when they were criticizing another friend.
But I feel I’ve been fighting the fight for so long, I’m out of steam. I feel as if I’m going crazy and am so mixed up I can’t prioritize

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Hey Sigmund

Juliette you sound exhausted. Are you able to step back for a little while? I know this might not be possible, but anything you can do to replenish yourself will be important for you. If there is any way you can take a small break from whatever is you’re going through, it will help to give you clarity.

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JR

I thank you for your thoughts and wishes but yes, I am exhausted and keep running into roadblocks just when I seem to be able to organize and prioritize. On 4/13, my home is going on the market. I’ve got to have it ready or I’ll take a big loss. The people I’ve started working for withheld my pay due to the fact that I hadn’t turned in my required credentials. I was unaware of this as I was dealing with so much here – bills, shutdowns, foreclosure etc. as I have recently been dx’d with Lyme and Spinal stenosis with limits my abilities and motivation to get things done. As per medical info, Lyme also affects memory. So now I’m in a rush to sell things, borrow money and continue working for this company on a PT basis. Unless I take this “mandated course” or provide certification that I’ve taken it within the past 5 yrs., by tomorrow, my paycheck will be withheld again. Hard to get contractors to trust you when you promise to pay them a month down the line. I’ve got to move a lot of furniture for the painter so I can clean and seal stone flooring. I have no help. I was so depressed yesterday, I couldn’t work. I went to bed at 7PM and got up at 7AM. I’m scaring myself as I always have been able to step up and rise up and it’s just not coming to me. Sorry to dump all of this online but I can’t tell anyone but my sister and she’s probably so tired of my situation at this point.

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Hey Sigmund

JR I can hear how tough things are right now for you. There will be an end to the roadblocks – I know it probably doesn’t feel like it but there will be. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. You’re a fighter and you’ll be okay. Keep fighting for you. Wishing you love and strength.

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JH

Hi – I left my wife back in November. It wasn’t her idea. It was totally mine. I found my own place and moved out. We have been married for over 30 years. We have three children. Two are in college and one is out. She is basically a good person but she has some issues. She tends to not be a happy person and she has had some problems with her relationships with our children most especially our oldest child. This always made it difficult for me as I love all my children. I love my whole family and I don’t want to live in a house divided. I tried to support her with respect to the children but over time I lost the energy to defend her with some of her behavior. When I left, I cut off almost all contact with her. I felt I needed to make a clean break. I know that she didn’t want me to go and I almost wished she would have said don’t go. She didn’t. As I said, she is not a good communicator and I think she may have let her pride stand in the way of telling me not to go. If that had happened, I think I would of seen an opening for the discussion of our issues. I’m sure we both have issues. I know I’m not perfect. After some months of our separation, she became very angry at me and very hostile. This actually shocked me and believe it or not it a awoke something in me. I began to realize that I do truly love her and that she is, even with her faults, the love of my life. I miss her desperately right now. I miss her every day and I don’t know how to fix this. I screwed up. I should have stayed and fought harder to save my our marriage. I know she still loves me because a friend of ours told me she does. But, now she is afraid and is having a hard time reconnecting with me. I don’t know what to do. I know I have to give it time. But, I am in such pain that it makes each day so hard to face. I truly know what its like to be in purgatory. Frankly, I have been doing a lot of research online about relationships and I came across your post. I know she has been getting counseling and I have to tell you that after reading your post I’m frightened. Your post speaks so much from the women’s perspective. It makes it sound as if your post encourages moving on more than working it out. I’m afraid that if she is getting that type of advice then my chances of reconciling are pretty slim. I desperately want to find a way to reconnect with her and to really show that I am sincere. After the past few months, I can promise you that I would never leave her until they shovel dirt over me. What can you advise a guy who just wants to get back in there and make this an even better relationship? Any help you can give me would be appreciated.

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Hey Sigmund

JH tell her! Tell your wife how you feel. We all make mistakes, but what’s important is how we deal with those mistakes. If you love her, let her know. Don’t hold back. Remember though, the relationship didn’t fall apart because you left – there were obviously problems there that at some point, however briefly, caused you to feel as though leaving was the best option. It will be important to work discuss this with your wife if you reconcile. Be sure about the reasons you want the relationship back, and be clear about the what you can both do to make things better the second time around.

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juliette rogers

Ok. Let’s try this. I say this because it’s been my experience that relationship/marriage counseling rarely results in couples reuniting and/or a better relationship. Been there. How about, after telling her you made a mistake, you realize you have always loved her but took everything for granted as you were together for so long, THEN offer to go to the counselor with her, OR tell her you’d like a session with her counselor so you can relay to the counselor how you feel – then if she’s willing, go together. But only for a short time. Don’t go for an extended time as occasionally one can “make mountains out of mole hills”. Hey, how many times have we gotten angry with ourselves for the most trivial reasons???
FYI – My life has yet to improve since my last entry. I’m trying but being productive on a daily basis is a battle.

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Jacqueline Bruschi

Well good luck you’re definitely going to need it !!!! I immediately noticed the finger pointing towards your wife, she’s not happy…. Do you make her happy? She’s hostile and not a good communicator!!! Wasnt it you who walked out on her THATS good communication i it? Perhaps it’s you that this problem projects from. Cognitive dissonance ask my negative ex what that means. If I said the sun was yellow his response would be yeah….but I’m sure it’s going to rain and be gray soon. Ugh!!! It’s so hard and exhausting trying to more so HAVING to prove your worth to someone who just isn’t happy to see you happy PERIOD. I would suggest apologies for the email here you posted about calling her out, lighten up on her, be way more sincere and honest with your feelings before things get more and more distance between issues and awkwardness makes it too late, NEVER disrespect your partner by saying it is only one sided faults, wake up and tell her and the world what IS WONDERFUL about her and even you two as a team. If not move on. It’s never a competition remember it’s the person you once RESPECTED SO MUCH that you married her. Do you remember the feeling and thoughts when you saw her smile and beauty? Do you still see it sir? Counseling is always a great start. I’m not a rocket scientist but I know what I said to be right because I’m living the last year+ hoping that I will be more appreciated and won’t have to throw a marriage away over my husband’s negative reactions to my sentences, my feelings honestly told not believed, a seemingly constast battle for my right to be happy even too happy for some. Adored again would make him a king on my thrown and treated as such just as I ask it’s simple isn’t it? …..why not? I don’t understand this part. 🙁
Jacqueline

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Terry Lee

Just leave your wife. She’s immature and selfish.
Marriages require maturity and respect. Once that goes, everything goes.
Been there done that.
For 24 years I have sacrificed for my ex. giving up practically all opportuinities and to support her and this family, till i was left with nothing but emptiniess and broke financially. Literally gave all into this relationship.
I have a son aged 13.
I finally mustered the courage to leave her at the age of 47, penniless and got a simple job, save money and grew a million dollar business in 2 years. I am now with a wonderful woman who truly loves me. My relationship with my son is fantastic. The grass is greener on the otherside.
Go with god. Have faith.

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Sam

Hi I been trough abusive relationship my husband never loved me I was lonely for intired marriage I finely move on but I am still struggling emotionally and mentally I have 2 kids for him I have panic attack I totally changed I use to be happy person I am not happy any more I can,t even function normal I work and I raise my kids alone I am afraid my whole world clopsed I don,t know what to do I feel like I am nothing i cry everyday I miss him or not I am not sure I feel confused

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Hey Sigmund

Sam I understand things feel dark right now, but this is where your healing begins. You have done the hardest part – you have moved on from an abusive relationship. You have so much strength and courage and that’s what will see you through this. It’s completely understand that you would miss him. You had a life with him, and even if it was a hard, painful, lonely life, it was familiar. This is what you are probably missing now – the familiarity. The end of a relationship is like withdrawing from an addiction. Here is an article that will explain more about that to give you some context around what you are going through http://www.heysigmund.com/your-body-during-a-breakup/. What are feeling makes a lot of sense. You’re grieving for your relationship, but that doesn’t mean that leaving was the wrong thing to do. It means your life is changing and that can be tough. You can do this. You really can. Be patient and know that this is part of the process when you let go of a relationship – even a bad one. You are adjusting to a new life – a better life – and that’s hard, but it will get better. Love to you.

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juliette rogers

Took me any number of times to really mean it, but I left. 3 yrs. now. Over him but my life is just struggle. I don’t have children though., so I don’t have the additional hardship of having to support them and still keep a stiff upper lip. If you have family or extended family, cleave to them, Although you’ll have to contribute your time and energy, you just might be able to eek out some time for yourself so you can get back to being a woman and a mom. Not just a single mom. Hope this helps.

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Charley

Hello, I have read some of your amazing articles and I must say that you’re extremely talented. It was as if I was reading my present experience on a book. It sounds unmanly to admit that I have been abused by a woman but yea, that s exactly what I have been going through for the past 6 months. I have known her for over 10 years, we grew up together and became best friends before we started dating. Then suddenly she transformed at the beginning of this year. Yeah all the bad toxic stuffs you can imagine, she has shown me all. I mean, all… even physical abuse at a point. It’s also thrilling that each time I decided to break up with her she becomes sweet, confesses her mistakes and promises to stop playing games. But in less than a week or two she gets back to the same round of attitudes. I have always wanted to marry her some day and she is aware of that. But now I am afraid of a future with her. For me I have resolved to take a hard line and present my needs/desires before her/us. If she doesn’t accept them (at least some of them) and change for good then I am moving on. I have been battered enough and I know I deserve better.

I d like to thank you again for your great work. Trust me you are touching lives in many positive ways. Many thanks.

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Hey Sigmund

Charley, thank you for your kind words – it means a lot. You are doing the right thing in relation to your partner. It’s so important to say what you need in your relationship, otherwise you just won’t be heard. It will never be met. I love your clarity and strength – use it to keep pushing you forward.

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juliette rogers

One question. Age?? Does she have severe PMS? Is she pre-menopausal? In my intimate discussions with women, I’ve come to feel these times can change a woman’s personality dramatically. Sit down with her and ask her in an intimate way. If she’s able to reflect on her behavior and review some specific instances, perhaps she’ll come to realize she needs some help and/or education as to what foods she needs to avoid, supplements to take and when, and perhaps a visit with her GYN??? But it would be supportive if you offered to go with her. It’s amazing how we all say we try or have tried. But it seems we try in ways that relate to our own needs rather than standing back and really observing and concentrating on what makes our mates tick. As someone who works with children and consults/counsels with parents, I always ask “What was going on just before the melt down?”

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crystal

after 7 years with my boyfriend and him having many social media/ texting attempts to cheat on me… i have become the bad guy- verbal abuse, withholding love, and a harsh critic. I noticed myself in this character and i accept the truth but i know this is who i have turned into after being hurt by him so many times. AT this point i think im in this relationship out of habit, financial pity for him and general pity for him also i am afraid of enetering the dating scene now and not finding a good catch ………. unmarried millenial

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Dsad

Keep vascillating. Suffering , torment. Hard, I am 53, two school aged children, by deceased husband. Remarried hs sweetheart despite suspecting he had issues. Research, 6 yrs of confusion, heartbreak, pain, seeing cycles, patterns, he seems nknowable, volatle, zero E.Q. Apologizes but keeps cycling through emotional abuse. Seems toxic, narcisistic. He is 53 and never married till me. How do I get the strength to stick with my hard decision to get out? Visually handicapped, so cant drive, lost money, years, feel like he is a black hole of need and he seems to lack a core identity. No empathy. Any support resources i used to be confident strong but feel so worn down unsure. Start to feel sick like him. Developed heart disease ( feel my heart has been broken last 3 years ) how does a person get the strength to stand up to the manipulative hot and cold? Found out on hpneymoon he has E.D. From porn addiction. So many bad things. I have survived cancer, losing beloved husband, and near death, but this relationship hardest thing ever. Feel bitter, angry, tired. He does provoke me then blames me and plays victim when i do get upset. When a woman is worn down over time it seems so hard to leave but staying sucks life away. God bless you for your wisdom, this is the best site I have ever seen, and I have a library of books since this man re entered my life. I feel like such a fool.i feel emotionally abused. Like he destroys . He acts like he is the offended one and we argue so much bcs i defend my children and always will protect them from his obliviously damaging behavior. I have read all the pages on your site. Any other links for help to be strong and go it alone again? Thx. I always believed the covenent of marriage was sacred so feel bad leaving but he doesnt feel bad damaging three loving females. Sorry for long choppy email. He acts great in front of others, but dysfunctional to us at home, so i am doubly alone.

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Hey Sigmund

You have the strength. You really do. It’s in you. I can hear it in your words. Take the first small step and your strength will be there – as much as you need. Trust me. It sounds as though you have given this relationship everything you can, but you can’t make a relationship work by yourself. Nobody can. The first step is to decide on your plan. Then, take the first small step. I understand you feel bad for leaving because of your belief that marriage is sacred, but you are sacred. You are important and you deserve a life that gives you happiness. You are brave, you are strong and you have the strength you need already in you. Here is an article that might help you. It’s about letting go of someone toxic without feeling guilty http://www.heysigmund.com/toxic-people-when-someone-you-love-toxic/. I hope it helps to give you the clarity you need. I wish you all the very best.

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Sharon

This is tough. I am the one who I think makes life difficult for my husband; I deal with depression and chronic pain and am in a “bad mood” (that puts it mildly) just about every day. I just want be put out of my misery and have at times begged him to let me go and move on with his life. He says he loves me and could never do that, but I know he is unhappy and stressed, but he won’t admit it. He is the type of person who once he makes a commitment he sticks by it. I don’t show affection; I’m numb to those kinds of feelings so he doesn’t get any physical love either. I don’t know what to do.

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Brook

Hello there, thought I would contribute my 2 cents. I’m in a very bad relationship. A lot of mental abuse- as in being ignored and just being very disrespected and talked down to. We seem to have nothing in common anymore and he admits he’s a “scumbag” but doesn’t seem to want to change the way he acts towards me, all while I’ve become the person who always chases him, even when he is the one who should be apologizing. Man I feel pathetic about that. I hate that he has this hold over me where I want to be with him, even though when he’s around I just want him gone, weird! I think I miss who he used to be in the beginning of the relationship. I’m so sad that when I’m angry and tell him I’m going to leave he always says “I understand ” and doesn’t seem to want to stop me. I feel so unloved and not valuable to him at all. I know it’s the beginning of the end, saving to move out and get a roommate… I’m scared to be out on my own. I’m 24 and never have lived anywhere but with boyfriends. So heartbroken, feels like I’ve lost my best friend.

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

Brook the sooner you can move on from this the better for you. It is always so painful fighting for a relationship with someone who isn’t fighting to hold on to you. If you feel unloved by him, this is no refection at all on how loveable you are and all about the relationship. Some relationships, however much you want to hold on to them, will never be nurturing and loving and life-giving. Take some time to be on your own. It will give you the chance to become your own hero, which will make you more likely to find a healthy relationship with someone who adds to your life in positive, beautiful ways. This will happen for you. Don’t stay with something that hurts you because you’re worried about being on your own. Nothing is lonelier than being in a relationship that makes it feel as though love is hard. Keep moving forward with this. You’re worth it.

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Julie

I cant wait for more. This is the best website ever. It keeps me up late and waking up early just to get more insight almost daily. Who needs a therapist?! Walk away with more clarity each time..LOVE LOVE LOVE! See you soon

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mirrorless

My struggle is that it’s not a clear mismatch. She’s nice, a great cook, cares for me to a fault. Has the same values and dreams. I don’t know if I’ve met anyone so full of life as her. Yet for the first week after I proposed I wake up each morning and say ‘Lord, I don’t want to marry her.” I feel anxious all the time, a twisting in my gut.

I feel like the biggest piece of trash telling her I don’t want to marry her anymore. What’s wrong with me? Is there something I can do to madly fall in love with her once again?

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Julie

There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. Do not commit to this marriage if parts of it feel wrong now in your gut because they will ALWAYS feel and be wrong. If yours is like how mine was, parts of your relationship work and that is why you are trying to justify staying in it. You feel like you want to salvage those good parts. You ask yourself, “How can I give up the good or great things about us when we have so few of them and they are the glue of the relationship? They are what we do well and I will try to make them enough” Paired with that is your need to not want to hurt her. However, your needs that you are not getting out of this relationship that aren’t being met now are going to eat away at the whole unit making those good things seem less significant because all that will stand out are the unmet needs. Always. I personally stayed too long for financial reasons but there were also other issues as well which were leaving me sad and my/our needs unmet so naturally the relationship crashed. Another tell tale sign of trouble were the multiple times that I tried to end it but ended up staying and believe me, you do not want to go down that road if you want to keep your dignity and your sense of self worth in tact. There is always too high of a price to pay in staying in the wrong relationship which also means staying with the wrong person FOR YOU. They may be this or that and you just cant see how any person in their right mind wouldn’t want what they offer. But don’t fall into the trap of telling yourself that. You matter. She matters. Maybe one day when you are feeling strong and after you’ve made a definite decision that you need to change direction, sit down with her and discuss what you are feeling with her because you owe her that. Unlike I did, stick to your guns and don’t allow yourself to be talked out of your feelings or rather talked into staying. Honesty and being true to yourself and then acting on what you feel is the best thing to do(its going to be the hardest thing you’ve ever done)are the only way that you will ever be able to take each consecutive step. Don’t ever feel bad for having feelings and needs or you may regret it one day. Just make sure whatever you choose is coming from a loving place of kindness and consideration and convey that to her. You can do this because you must. You’ll be fine and will feel a whole lot better after you’ve taken that first step towards loving yourself. I wish you peace and kindness always.

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Julie

I wanted to address the part of your comment about if and how can you fall back in love with her. Of course you can but you need to put in the work. If after you’ve had a good heart to heart talk with her and you both decide that this is what you BOTH want to pursue, then you both need to commit to making each day better for the other one in little ways everyday that you know that they will appreciate and that show you care. Not only that, but you will need to assess yourselves and see if the physical attraction part of this is working and make necessary changes there if need be. Thats a great place to start.

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Tita

I read this hoping to find the courage to walk away. I feel so dead inside but at the same time i am so afraid of life after him. How do you let go? How do you stay strong and not give in? It’s so hard for me but the verbal abuse is just so much. What can i do to walk away? I really need help, Ive lost family, friends and self love through all this and i know i must go BUT im too afarid of regretting it.

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

But how will you feel in a year or 2 years or 3 years if you stay? You can do this. The strength, courage and resourcefulness you need is inside you. You just need to take the first step.

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Inge

I too have just left a toxic relationship. 14 years with a widower, who’s children hate me (why, no one knows), this year, he decided that if I wasn’t invited to his families Christmas, he won’t be going, I thanked him for that, however, he now blames me for not going! He is very selfish, and if I am honest, everything we did and go, was always his choice! I am going through menopause,mso I know I haven’t been great either, but there just wasn’t any support or caring, he says the right things, but does the opposite! He even told me I wasn’t good enough for him! (I am a vet nurse, he is a retired primary school teacher!), he honestly feels superior! He refuses to marry me or even live with me, because, “he has done it all before”! In the end, all I wanted was to be accepted, not refused to go to family weddings, etc., he wants to keep me in the dark! Says I have anger problems (I probably do, however, his actions cause it!). It really hurts to let go, as I love him dearly, but I can no longer keep going like this either. I have to be worth more than this.

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

Inge you are absolutely worth more than this! Anyone who doesn’t see that, doesn’t deserve you. Letting go of a relationship is never easy, even when you know the relationship isn’t right for you. It sounds as though you have worked hard for this relationship, and have made this decision with strength and clarity. Keep moving forward, and let the love that deserves you, find you.

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Adam

Thank you so much for the wisdom shared in this article. I have been in a toxic relationship for the past 3 years experiencing unhappiness, depression, and resentment.

My ex fiancé cheated on me every year of our relationship, I always took her back. I was so afraid of being alone and venturing into the unknown that I put my happiness on the back burner.

Today the relationship ended and she has moved out. It took a lot of courage and prayers to finally take control of my life.

I prayed constantly asking God if I should stay in the relationship. I received an answer yesterday telling me to look inside my heart for the answer. My heart does not love, trust, or respect my ex. I finally realized what I needed to do for myself. God did not want to tell me what to do, he wanted me to make a decision based on what my heart felt.

It was the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make, but I know in my heart that it was the right choice. I left the relationship because we bring out the worst in each other. It was time to let go and seek out my happiness. I spent the entire relationship putting my ex and her daughter first, my efforts were rewarded with infidelity and disrespect.

Have faith and courage in the pursuit of your happiness and know that there is someone out there who will love you and bring out your best characteristics – healthy relationships uplift your spirit and shine the light of God into your soul.

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Jade Ford

I hope this is posting to the man who just broke up with his girlfriend (who has a child). I believe in the old quote: Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Cheating is a serious trust issue and a deal breaker; sounds to me from your post tha since she’s cheated on you every year of your relationship – well that’s not love – that’s pure and outright infidelity. Before you enter into next relationship may I venture to request that you question yourself – what draws (attracts) you to women who unable to be trustworthy, and why do you unconsciously feel/believe that you are not worthy of a woman who will love, adore, cherish, and sacrifice and compromise for your relationship with her?

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Mag

Hello!
I am writing form Europe.
I was born into a very toxic family. Now, I know it.
My childhood was sad.
I always strived to please my parents, but nothing was never enough…
All you’ve written (by the way, thank you!!!!!) reflects on my own experience…
Please, can you help me more? How can I heal my childhood wounds? You know, even today (and for all of my adult life) all that child abuse continues to sabotaging me. And I still have to visit my parents. It’s hard, very very hard.
Well, nothing more. Let us think about a positive way forward, OK?
A joyful day for all of us!

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Karen - Hey Sigmund

I love your openness to moving forward in a positive way. It’s not easy to let go of the hold that a toxic family can have. Here is an article that will hopefully give you some stategies and strengthhttp://www.heysigmund.com/toxic-parent/

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Schellie lansing

I feel for you and have the problem of getting over the past too. I’m 51 and still can’t get out of it. Hard and really wonder if we ever can. Prayers to you and your days ahead. We have to try and let it all go because we can’t change it no matter what. Say little prayers throughout the day in your head. And right before you have to see them. Will help you. And now only think about you. Xo. Schellie

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