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

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. 

475 Comments

Mark

Well, I’m a 36 year old man who has just left a 7 month toxic relationship with a woman. It’s hard to know where to start. She was addicted to cocaine and did it behind my back and bled my credit cards dry feeding her habit. I gave her and her young 11 year old son a home and he was just as toxic. He is only 11 but he started fires in the driveway, he stole scooters from other gardens in my street, he also got kicked out of his school for stealing. She could not discipline him and used to physically throw him out of the door. It was awful. My own children suffered witnessing this. She was also emotionally abusive and would say things like “prove how much you love me, put 100 in my bank” and things like that. It felt like I was buying her attention. Now, 3 days ago she cheated on me with a guy she’s known for years and spent the entire weekend with him. I’ve always made excuses for her and kind of excused her behaviour as “oh she’s just a product of her dysfunctional upbringing” but I can’t do it anymore. You know what, even when I found out she had cheated on me, I was still messaging her and begging her to come home and told her we could work things out. She kept telling me she loved me (she told me as recent as yesterday) and constantly plays on this emotion. My head is mashed. I’ve finally just blocked her on everything and hope I keep her blocked this time. I always unblock her. I think it’s the fear of being alone. We put up with so much abuse because we don’t want to live alone. The day to day things we miss such as waking up together, eating together, watching films etc. Even talking about our day to each other and sharing in events in each other’s lives. But I can’t do it anymore. I am tired of being a doormat and I really hope I can keep her blocked.

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Jenn

My husband and I have been together for 20 but recently the spark is gone and replaced with anxiety and fear. I feel stuck and helpless.

I have MiDD (Maternally inherited Diabetes and Deafness). I am diabetic, have balance spells, and my hearing has deteriorated in the last 5 years. I constantly get migraines out of nowhere. I can no longer learn to drive as I always wanted. Getting a job is extremely difficult and if I get any offers, they are several counties away. I do all the chores even if I am diabetic, dizzy, near deaf, and until I am in too much pain. While trying to find a job. And look for affordable housing because he won’t (we live with my parents who need help now and then, which I do as well). I was sick for a week and asked him to care for the fish and the cat. He did not.

We originally fell in love over shared interests in shows, DIY crafts, creating stories, and the dream of starting a tiny farm. Last year he said he wasn’t interested in any of those that I wanted to do. He just told me that during important parts of shows I like he had left and he watched shows I was interested in without me while I was working from home. I keep encouraging him to stream reviews with him because I like his opinions even if they are different from mine or to play games together or to go out or try new things that are free or even his own projects such as writing his own stories or painting or learning to play the guitar. The shows he missed? He left to go smoke weed, watch youtube, and scroll through reddit. Any projects of mine? Same. Chores? Same. Doing things together? Same. His own projects? Same thing–weed, youtube, reddit.

When he does want to chat, it’s usually about the Game Magic the Gathering, which he loves the toxic and nonsensical parts of despite many people hating those (including me). He will offer to help me play, then shut me down so I can’t play and he takes more time during my turn than I do, then wins the game and wonder why I didn’t like that he set me up for a very cruel trap, recently due to rules he didn’t explain to me. Then he tells me ‘it’s too complicated’ for me to understand.

Today he asked me if I was okay emotionally and I told him I had to do all the chores, take care of the pets, watch the parents, do ALL the projects including what I tried for years to get him involved with, look for a job, and plan a convention appearance and a move all by myself, including replacing very special parts he lost and refuses to find. His only reaction was to get mad that I told him he left to smoke weed instead of doing any of that (I told him twice last year I did NOT want to have to take over everything).

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Jenn

My husband and I got married purely for tax purposes, but we have been together for 20 years now, and only recently have I fallen out of love. I have MiDD (maternally inherited Diabetes and Deafness). I get migraines, balance spells, and over the last 3 years my hearing has been going. Driving is now impossible. Getting jobs is extremely difficult and if get any offers, they are from several counties away.

We connected over our love of games, shows, interests in DIY crafts, creating stories, and having a tiny farm. Last year he admitted he doesn’t care for any crafts, the stories I want to tell, and he’s not interested in farm unless it practically falls out of the sky and he doesn’t have to do work. I was sick for a week and asked him to care for the cat and the fish. He did neither. Shows? It turns out he left the room at any important parts of what I like. I am doing nearly all the chores and he has said for years he doesn’t like helping with any of them (reaching high places to dust, cleaning his side of the room for almost 20 years, telling me if the food is the right flavor and how to adjust it).

He doesn’t want to play any games, go out, or try new things even if they are free and local.

Today he asked me if I was okay emotionally and I said I was burned out going all the chores, planning our future, looking for a job, and taking over ALL the projects he said he doesn’t care about including the ones I have spent years trying to get him involved in because I wanted him to have fun doing them or his own personal desires such as painting, writing, or learning the guitar. He just got mad when I told him he keeps leaving to smoke weed, watch youtube, and scroll through reddit instead of chores, connecting, helping me, or even his own projects.

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Jenny

I have been in a relationship for 6 years. Every 2 years he gets restless and wants to leave. We have a good, honest relationship. At least my opinion. We talk about everything. Rarely fight. We discuss disagreements. He has never had a successful relationship. He comes from a very broken home. No one has ever stood by him. He thinks he doesn’t deserve it. He also likes variety and recently brought up that forever is a long time with only one person… I don’t know I’d this is normal or not. I have a visceral reaction to the idea of us splitting up. Anxiety so bad I pass out. We have been through so much together. He says he wants to be with me forever or single playing the field…. am I struggling to stay where I’m not wanted? But when I tried to leave he cried and told me he didn’t want me to leave… I’m so confused…. I think he is too…

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Tiff

My husband is a cheater and is all about himself he cheats and then treats me like a queen but then he goes back to being him again he makes comments about being a bachelor again he is always on his phone of has to work in his shop.
I don’t feel loved I feel used

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Georgia

I am 56 years old and feel like I am trapped. I used to use the excuse that I didn’t want the children to grow up without their dad. But secretly, I was hesitant to leave with them because he did not have family close by and I always felt sorry for him that he would be alone. I didn’t want to hurt him. I get mad at myself and ask myself why do I care so much? Why can’t I be like other strong women and just walk away and not care less?Now the kids are gone and I am still here living in a house with a husband doing habitual things and not on speaking terms over one year now. I am such a weakling and I am realizing I am hooked to an unhealthy and toxic relationship.

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Stephmakel

My Fiancee who got married to another woman he impregnated when we were dating and also got married to her is right at my door.

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Kitty

I’ve been married 24 years. My husband stopped touching me 10 years ago after he became enamored with a friend of mine. Nothing happened between them and she married someone else. Sex has not resumed between us. I would rather be alone and lonely than to be married and lonely. 2023 will be the year I leave. I can’t take the utter consuming loneliness anymore.

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Paige

After 3 years, it all ended with a huge physical altercation last night. – I’m feeling huge guilt and fault

He cat called me in June 2019 and we were inseparable for the next 8/9 months. No issues – the honeymoon stage I expect. He took me on holiday for my birthday in February 2020 and it was fun but we would argue about still having contact with “flings”, and agreed we would become exclusive.

I moved into his parent house during pandemic. This proved difficult as his family dynamic seem dysfunctional to me (mum and dad in separate rooms, no meals together, parents would do anything together/dates/holidays, no friends would visit). I was so far away from my family and friends. My life just became his. He became my happiness justification.

August 2020 we go away for his birthday, I’ve got drunk and walked off from the venue we were at, towards the road where the transport was to get home. Unbeknownst to me he was behind me not infront. He had thought I had walked off from him and in rage he slapped me. I forgave him because I knew i could’ve just stayed where I was and tried to look for him before walking off and didn’t.

Some time in 2021, he started to act distant, protective of his phone and avoiding. I had found out he was speaking to several other girls behind my back and pursuing them. It broke me. I lashed out and hit him in rage. He seemed remorseful even though it had taken me to look for the evidence after he didn’t answer my countless attempts for honesty. I forgave him as he said he would don’t it again and loved me.

He did it again. I still stuck around. Trying to persuade him of my worth and that I loved him and I should be enough for him. It felt like I was trying to convince him but he said sorry and I stayed.

He came home at 11am one morning after a night out and hours of no contact. I was worried for his safety. After drink driving home I opened the door for him and asked where he’d been – to which he said “at a party”. I asked what party finishes at 11am? Where did he sleep? He said he didn’t sleep. In shock I slapped his face to tell him how worried I was and that he could’ve just text me to let me know. Especially considering the cases of the text messages. He said I was horrible for hitting him and that if he was with a girl he would’ve told me (he didn’t tell me about the messages before).

I tried to justify my reaction but he said he didn’t want to be with me. I was devastated but left the house. For the next 6 months he had made clear he didn’t want to be with me and I wasn’t the one for him. Yet he stayed in contact, would sleep with me, took me on holiday, would spend time with my family for birthdays etc and I went on holiday with his.

We had agreed to be committed to eachother again a few weeks after and we decided we would move in together as we were doing okay and there seemed to be trust and forgiveness. We thought living together would help us recover. He had also booked a holiday for us in 3 weeks time. But I had got filler in my nose and lips for me – subtle and enhancement. And he had flipped out and said he didn’t like that stuff (even though half the population has it, including the girls he was pursing). It broke me down. He asked for distance as he said he felt suffocated so I didn’t contact him for a week. He asked me to go for Sunday dinner and although he was there he wasn’t present. So later that night I sent a text asking if he been contacting other girls again and if he had in the last week. I also asked why he thought it was ok to ignore me the whole week but speak to other girls. He read the text but didn’t respond. I deleted him from my social platforms so he messaged in the morning to ask. I just resent the questions. Again he read and didn’t respond. So I said I’d take his silence as an answer. He replied “you’re never happy with anything I do nk matter how hard I try to make you happy. You always look for a reason to ruin things etc”. Essentially just blamed me and didn’t answer the questions.

I then logged onto his social media and seen he’d contacted a girl on the Saturday before he asked to see me. I was in rage. I just wrote to all the girls he had contacted recently letting them know he had a girlfriend for 3 years but wanted to fuck them. I said to him good luck finding your car (I hadn’t taken it) I guess it was a threat to get a reaction. He said “take it, I’ll get another one”. So I took it. I said he could get it back when he returned £,£££ he owed me.

I asked a friend to give him his car and keys and house keys so i wouldn’t have to see him and he said he’d transfer the money at the same time. Last night the time came and he paid £1.5k short. We said he wouldn’t get the keys until the rest was returned and he assaulted me and my friend. But we fought back and we fought back hard. He was the one left worse off and I feel terrible.

The car was returned and the keys. And so was the remaining amount. But I’m in so much shock and feel so guilty that it had to get to this. I feel responsible for physical actions and guilty for feeling like I forced him to be with me. I feel like he’s a narcissist but I’m worried I may have become one too. I don’t know if this is still the psychological abuse making me feel guilty even though I’m not?

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Cesar

I am now 79 years old I had 2 marriages (3 Kids – 2 on my first and 1 on the second) and divorced the first was my fault (Marriage too young) the second was great for many years until became toxic my ex start drinking and drinking and that was the same for her family I try to stop her to drink but not success even my young kid with her is now alcoholic – My other 2 kids are ok.

Now I am on a relation for the last 10 years, but I have been blind of her personality because she was looking after me and sex took control of the relation, but I stop now I start looking the reality and got to the conclusion that the relation is a toxic relation because of a daily argument she is only her her her and her has no idea of sharing or communicating only what she wants and when she wanted … no jokes accepted … what ever goes wrong is always my fault …. and I am very unhappy now for at least 1 year … we move to small farm property she likes, and I think that moving to the small farm land was going to get better, but I was wrong because is getting worse …. what ever i do or fix anything in the home I never get thanks or a good comment just silence and make me loss interest in doing anything because when she says something about the work is always negative also her saying for almost everything is “UP TO YOU” she also has 2 kids for a previous marriage, and she does not care what they do and say all the time “UP TO THEM” wowowowo her own kids …… I am totally without any feeling to do anything else. I told her that i was living very soon …she answers …dolt do not talk just dolt ….so my happiness is more important than any material stuff or toxic relation, so I feel that is my time to go and live a better life for the next small years left of my life ……… Thank you for reading, and thank you for your comments good or bad all welcome thank you

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Charlotte

I can relate to most comments on here & feel for you all.
I’ve been struggling with my break up, we were only together 5 month but had known each other for about 6 months prior, I changed my mind about dating him cos I seen a soft caring side that I liked, but that all was gone about 2 mo ths into the relationship, he started abusing me we would have arguments more offen then not, we’d break up & I’d go back hoping things would be different but he’d be back drinking his box every night, then all his Insecurities came out & trust issues, I started seeing our relationship as a week by week basis cos didn’t know if we’d make it to the next without breaking up.
It took a real toll on my kids & me, we’ve been split for 2 weeks now & my son seen him with another girlfriend all ready. When my son told me this when he came home I was heart broken, I can’t work out why I am cos getting away from the toxic relationship for good is the best thing I could have done I just can’t understand why I’m feeling like this.

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Donice

I’ve been on and off in my relationship for two years now. I’ve kind of given up. I can see myself as the enabler and the victim in this. There has been cruel pranks that are emotionally triggering, always going back on her word, how mean she can be when somethings bothering her that I didn’t do to her, any time we get into an argument, she likes to ignore the feelings part and bring up facts and they’ll be facts that she is in fact a good person and the fact of who I used to be and not who I am now. I feel like forever fighting my own shadow and I do that in my own personal life. I’ve pushed for therapy, I went sober, I stoped talking to friends. The one thing I really love is we have separate places but we still live in the same apartment complex so when I need space she never respects it. The last time she broke up with me because I wanted to do something nice for myself on my birthday and she was sick. Instead of going to her place, I wanted to stay at mine and work on a vision board, I did offer to take care of her at my place but she took it as me abandoning her. I felt it was extremely selfish being that I changed my plans The Weeknd prior to my birthday and I took care of her two days in a row and I just wanted some time to myself. She broke up with me and then pushed me around in the heat of anger. Now I’m giving her another chance and I feel extremely stupid because I just don’t know if it was the best decision to make. Of course she’s always around so I’m not really ever away from her to clear my head. It seems like nothing has really changed but I have once again made changes and just said okay, and hope that this is a healthier time around. There are already quite a few things that don’t sit well with me but to avoid an argument and feeling like I’m in the wrong, I just agree or say yes. It makes me very lonely. She deletes threads, she’s hung out with people who’ve shown an interest in her and yet she find the need to sneak through my phone, and ask about my co workers. I did like this article. I have kept a journal about the relationship, to one point she read it and got upset with me, so now I don’t feel like my privacy is respected. But I also sold the computer and keep the notes in my notepad and she usually never looks there, but I’ve been writing in it for quite some time and I just seem so unhappy all the way through. Is it worth is? You never know unless you give it a chance but that’s the thing….it doesn’t feel right even now. I don’t know what to do and I don’t know how I’d get away from her

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Lucie N

I finally got the house for my self
My husband’s little toxic adopted daughter is finally gone. Our relationship is never being the best and I thought once she was gone things will finally work out but I realize I’m just in this for the comfort , I’m not used to not worry about money .
Everything happened so fast. I just want an easy life .

My husband has a lot of luggage and issues of his own , I hesitated to marry him at first but I guess I’m also entitled of the house and make sure I’m looked after if things don’t work out

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Ana

I was married for 23 years with the love of my life, we had a happy family with 3 children. Now they are all grown up. One year and half ago he ghosted me, and he speaks very little to our youngest son. Six months ago our divorce was finalized. Everything happened so fast, I’m still numbed and my kids are devastated. My 2 daughters won’t speak to him at all.
I don’t know anything about narcissism, but we had him in a pedestal because he worked so hard for our family, we understood if he was having a bad day several times a week. I always nade an excuse for his behavior and my kid’s followed my example. Always trying to keep our home in peace.
Reading your article I’m learning at my 53 years old that I’m the enabler. But the worst part is that taught my children to be one too, how to undo this will be impossible. I’m older and I lived my life, but what about my children, are they going to have my same fate? Marrying an abuser without knowing it.

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Gabriella K

Ana,
I married a man who has narcissistic traits. I was madly in love with him. I invested so much in our relationship. I am crushed and devastated. Struggling to make a decision. He has betrayed me, lied to me, deceived me and then abused me emotionally on top of it.
It is so hard to find yourself at a fork in the road in your mid 50s. How do you move on?
Now he is ready for a divorce. While I am conflicted. I know that the way he has treated me is not how I want to be treated! Take care Ana. Stay strong! Gabriella

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A

I feel your pain/guilt and have done the same exactly. 23 years married 3 children and enabled his bad behaviour… we did what we thought was right for our children at the time….

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Linda

I left an abusive husband of 52 yrs. Over the yrs I’ve left many times and gone back because of promises he made to be different.

I couldn’t take the mental and physical abuse any longer.

I heard he may be seeing someone and I’m ashamed to say it bothers me.
Why would I let that bother me after all he’s done to me?
Lynn

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Daniele

I feel all of this but still feeling so confused like maybe I could have been a better partner like he said and we could have avoided getting to this point. I reached my breaking point one day and abruptly ended the relationship.I couldn’t take how he was speaking to me anymore. And I feel guilty. Like I should have communicated better and maybe we could have resolved things. He says I abandoned him and why didn’t I communicate what I want? I thought I did, but maybe he’s right? We were together 3 years isn’t that enough time to know? Shouldn’t it have felt right by then? Struggling to accept my decision with all of these thoughts. I’m 37 and feel like I’ve imploded my life and chance for a family. Moving back in with my mom once again.

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Chris

I feel you I’m in the same position at 35, I’m left confused trying to understand if I’m making the right decision or not, trying to follow my gut but understand how my heart feels at the same time your not alone ❤️

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Shauna

I hope your circumstances got better. I’m 44 and moving back in with my mom. It’s so hard, but I know it’s the right thing. 17 years of doubt and remorse no more. I now know what I don’t want and I’m done with relationships until I know what I want.

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joe

i to was ,and still am ,that person will always be in my heart forever ,she was my one and only ,no women could ever replace her ,my world has gone ,since she waliked out of my life ,iv never been the same ,i could never be in arelationship with an other women ,we both made mistakes ,i always hope one day we will be together ,

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Marylyn

We’ve been married for 5 yrs and unlike other marriage couple I always make ways for our living he became dependent. And I like it but as yrs goes by he changed he’s not a man I used to know anymore he always insult me, don’t listen to what I say it seems like everything I’m going to say is not good for him and the worst thing he even hurt me physically. I don’t feel respected anymore and it kills me inside. God knows how much I tried and hold on for our marriage I even forgive him having an affair and accept for who he is.. I look myself in the mirror and I really hate the feeling pity for myself. I’m not happy anymore everytime I see him I’m hurting. I don’t know how to cope this anymore and be be the person I used to be. I’m a strong woman but I have my limit. Don’t know what I’m lacking or did I caused him to be this person I don’t know anymore.. I know I don’t deserve this but how can I move forward? All I want is a simple life. Being loved,respect and being with him but how long should I endure this? Or must I let him go and be strong for myself?? Hope someone could at least give a piece of advise. Thank u☺️

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Lauren

I am just coming out of a long, destructive relationship. With a man , that mentally and emotionally sucked the life out of me and has bled m dry. But I loved him.And went back over and over .Why??? Fear of being alone. B fore he came along I was alone many years. He did have some goodness. He has BPD . I am not young and fear never finding anyone.The end has dragged on for weeks.This time am not going back when he sudd enly decides he still wants me.

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Destroyed by madness

Lauren,
I am in the same boat as you~ Mine spouse has BPD and drained me in all aspects of life!
I out a stop to it. We also went back and forth over the last several years.

Stay strong, you are not alone! People like the ones we encountered are selfish, self centered and are soul drainers.

Learn to love you and you be selfish, don’t be a victim.

Make the free ride stop!

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Steph

Seriously – Anytime I have had a free minute for the past 2 days, I have been reading & rereading this article. Something just clicked for me. I feel like my eyes are finally open to just the reality of things for the 1st time in 6 years. I keep saying I’m still head over heels in love with him & was about to just say that now, but I honestly don’t really know right this moment. It’s crazy how much this spoke to me. Either way, I made myself an event in my phone- October 17th is my deadline -I really hope I’m this strong minded throughout this entire time. Uggg…. Thank you for posting this – it really truly is changing my life!

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Gabriella Katz

I have done the same thing! This is my 3rd separation in 18 months. Each time I hope for something different. He is in therapy but nothing sticks. It is so confusing and devastating! Wish it was easier. Take care Lauren. Gabriella 🙁

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Christine

Great article and I’ve read many. I am trying to take the first steps to try and become strong enough to leave my 3.5 yr relationship. I am being used and abused sexually and emotionally by my bf and I look back at his messages and go: why? Why are you letting him !? I feel weak and stupid .. people say he is bad for me snd they don’t know half of it. I am too embarrassed to tell them

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Zach T

This article was everything. Best thing google has given me in a Time like this. I wish I read this before
I emailed him

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Lisa

This is exactly what I needed to hear right now. I appreciate the nuance and compassion woven through this article. And so many unique perspectives that most articles like this never go deep enough to even touch on. Thank you!

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T G

Me too same thing going on with me. My fiancé passed away. As soon as I decide to try and live again. I get the worse man I ever meet treated me lile pure s. At the beginning it was good then came the lies secrets gaslighting mental abuse. I wish my fiancé didn’t die. He was the best man I ever been with . I pray that u will be able to leave and get your power back. Peace an blessings.🙏

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joe

i hope shes ok ,wherevshe is ,i know she regretts what happened ,9years together ,i cant just let go .we done alot together .been threw alot .even tho the situation she put me in ill always be here for her.im sure we can fix things up ,but sitting here dreaming aint doing me any good ,everyone needs a second chance ,like that they learn from there stupid mistakes ,iv learned

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Nick

All the comments are from women. I’m a guy and I am stuck in a very toxic relationship. I need to get out of it. Men are people too. The woman is mean, demanding, cruel even. I don’t know why I put up with it.

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Christine

We sometimes forget woman can be abusers too. Abuse happens to men and women. Why do you stay and let her ?

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Chelby

Oh f*ck off Christine have you ever been in an abusive relationship?
There is no “letting” her abuse him. The emotional and psychological abuse beats him down long term and ultimately forces him to stay.
Nick leaving will be hardest, but most rewarding thing you ever do I promise it is worth it. Have faith in your future without her even though it feels impossible.
You’re not alone.

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Daisy S

I feel myself stuck I know im very young but this man I know he loves me and whne things are good they are really good. No physical abuse. But I do feel like when things come up they usually start in his head and spiral out of control. I try to explain myself yet he insists on how he feels so I tend to get frustrated because I don’t feel heard so at some point I resorted to speaking angrily, yelling amd saying things sometimes that I don’t mean. I know its not right yet it happens alot. He gets so mind clouded that he take it out on me and I try and try and now I feel drained but I feel like I want this relationship to work because I know that despite that we are very good together but its quite a bump im not quite sure how to resolve.

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Kelly

Omg. I am in the middle of this. My partner of 4 years refuses to leave, but its my appartment so I cant go. He has pushed my 3 children (adults) out of my life and at Christmas I got drunk and it all came out. I struck him (I’ve never done that before or since) and thought people would be ashamed of me but they weren’t, because it’s so obvious to me and everyone else that he is using me. I darent argue with him or I have to undergo ‘punishment’ which is humiliation (won’t go into detail but the one at Christmas left me traumatised) I can’t talk to him as he argues everything, he can’t hold down a job, he refuses to travel anywhere, he is anti social and is constantly drunk stoned and/or playing Halo. I can’t remember the last time we were intimate as he tells me i am fat so I’m great full he doesn’t touch me. I know how pathetic I must sound, but I have never experienced this before and to be honest … if it was his place I would have left years ago … sorry for the rant but there are amazing points in this article that I will read again .. and thank you all for sharing your experiences as today I at least feel like its not just me xx

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Stella

Amazing text and really helpful. It resonates a lot with what I am experiencing and I was able to clearly see what path I should take. Thanks for much for sharing.

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Betty

How long were you guys together?

Like i did with my ex-husband, i offered him a second chance to change but he refused saying there was no problem. My path was difficult but clear like yours.

There are instances where people do change, if they truly understand what they have done and dedicate work towards changing. My Daughter and her husband have been quite happy for the last 5 years since going to counselling together ,as it was just a wake-up call he needed, it really did make their relationship stronger.

However like my ex,if you feel you have truly tried giving him a second chance, its best to walk away.

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Jvfer

I am married for 27 years. 2 years ago, before covid started, I thought I had the husband that I would cherish till eternity. But covid happened, I couldn’t go home coz I got stuck in Hong Kong where I was working. And early 2022, I came home only to realize I wasn’t wanted. My husband came to fetch me at the airport and never stayed to even eat lunch with me while my nanny for 26 years who I confided re the surprise homecoming for my children didn’t prepare anything except for the roasted pork which I ordered and blamed it to my husband. I stayed for 7 days at home for quarantine, , too scared to even see my mom because I might contaminate her. And with the 7 days, I felt my husband’s coldness and how he laughs and talks to the nanny. One time I saw the nanny waiting in the guest room while my husband was bathing in the toilet. Then another time, she went straight in our room and off to our bathroom while my husband was bathing. And when tod her that my husband was bathing, she just said that she needed to get something. To make story short, I tried to fix the puzzle, and somehow, made a conclusion that they had a relationship while I was gone. I confronted my husband and demanded that he fire the nanny. It took him awhile to do so but after I talked to her, he gave her 2weeksto stay. And she managed to steal some of our stuff. The problem now is, I think he gets so attracted with maids. He stares at any of them while we go hiking in our village. And one neighbor has a pretty and young helper, and he recognized her. The worst is I got covid and I was too weak with fever and all, and he made love to me,after watching lady chatterly love in Netflix and was telling me, if he gets paralyze, will I be doing it with the houseboy. I may be too weak to refuse him but not too weak to know what i heard. The day after I felt better, I told him, how sickening it is. I respect my children and know they wouldn’t want me to divulge this scandal to anyone. So I kept it a secret from family and friends but I feel this is just do hard to handle.

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Marie

This article was extremely helpful. Been in my marriage for 17 yrs (dated for 10 before), and I’ve never felt good about it. He has been emotionally/verbally abusive and yet I still want his validation. I realize I have some self-esteem issues. I am educated with a successful career and yet here I am longing for his approval and spending most days unhappy and uncomfortable. He has adhd and I’m constantly walking on eggshells. I’m financially stable since I had been the primary breadwinner up until the last few years and could leave, but don’t. This article truly gave me perspective and action steps.
Thank you so much. I’m in tears as I respond to this.

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Deborah

I’ve been in my relationship for 20yrs. Married 13yrs. 4 teenage kids later. I’m always walking on eggshells. He wants a maid not a wife. He’s emotionally abusive. I feel I want to leave but wander why it’s hard to go. We both had trust issues. We both cheated in the past but I recently found more evidence that he denies.We also have culture difference. He’s from Mexico. How do I let go and walk away?

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Julie

I have now tried leaving my ex so many times but he keeps coming back to me. He won’t let me go. I am weak because I’ve gone back every time but I am not happy! Why is it so difficult to leave. I’m sick of myself!

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Fearful50

I feel the exact same way. I am well aware that my relationship has become toxic but I keep going back to him thinking that it could work out. I’m afraid and believe that I might not find someone else or I fear having to start the whole dating thing again after vesting a whole year with this man. I fear that because I am now 50 years old, It won’t be so easy to find someone else. I hate myself for allowing this man to treat me the way he does sometimes. I dismiss things that I would have NEVER tolerated before.
Just crazy, I need to get out of this funk!

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Charla

WHY is always the question!! Here i am AGAIN at 3am screaming at myself WHY do you let him continue to manipulate his way back?? Our relationship, or lack of, has never really been happy or healthy. He has never been faithful especially right at this moment but I still cling to his all powerful words WE’RE GONNA GET THROUGH THIS….I know exactly how you feel and the self loathing is unbearable 😫

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Gabriella K

You are not alone. Toxic relationships are hard to let go of. I am doing the same thing. I am driving myself insane. One day I am ready to file for divorce and the next day I talk myself out of it. I am not happy with how he is treating me. This is not how I want to be treated. I have never felt so stuck. I am frozen!

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Jeannina G

I have been in a relationship for 13 years and just last jan I found out he was talking to another woman from his job, I looked up my phone records and her number was on his every day they would text all day and when he would get off of work they would talk for hours at a time, I work 12 hour shifts so he had plenty of time to do this. He lied and told me they were just friends and that he would stop talking to her, that she was not important enough to even care to stop talking to her, he said I would never see her number on my phone, he berthed me to forgive him and to give him a chance to make it right. I decided to give him a chance, ate all I love him everybody makes mistakes and I wanted to give him a second chance. Fast for forward to this jan. He was still doing Everything right , he was calling me on his lunch calling me on the way home from work, very loving and affectionate towards me ,I had a tracker on his phone, he knew this. we even had lots of sex , but my mind always wondered cuz she works with him, so I put in a secret camera, and bam I just do happened to open the camera app at 9am on the morning and I see them walking to the from doorand he kisses her then she leaves. I know he slept with her, I had gone to work at 630 on the morning and she came over. Im still in shock and devastated 😢, I told him to be honest with me , he said he thought he could get away with having a side chick, that he would Newberg leave me for somebody like her. I just need the courage to leave the thought of starting all over and being alone hurts so much but I know I have to leave this relationship , I asked him why would you just leave me? His answer because im a good woman that does everything for him. Help

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Annette S

Sounds like he enjoys having a Moma that takes care of him, even sexually. He may love you, but his actions hurt you. Your trust has been destroyed. Unless you can live in an open relationship, you must leave. The door to happiness in another relationship cannot open as long as you hold on to him and compromise your own personal desires for security within your relationship with him. Once a cheater, always a cheater. Maybe he says this is one he couldn’t leave you for. What happens when she gets tired of his refusal to leave you, and he goes on to the next one. What if she’s the one he could leave you for. Take the leap and leave. Open the doors of your heart to the possibility of new love. Is being alone really worse than this torture?

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Kenya

Wow, this happened to me two years ago. My husband is the reason that she works at the same employer and they still work on the same team. He expects me to trust him that nothing is going on but just like you, my mind wanders every day. I know how devious they both were to keep the relationship a secret for four years, but I’m supposed to believe him now that nothing is happening? I’ve realized that our relationship can’t progress or get any higher we are functioning and maintaining out of habit just like the article states. I also caught him by my own means.

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Anna

I 100% understand how you feel. After 7 years of a toxic relationship, feeling physical sickness as a result, I have had to let go. I love the guy, but cannot endure anymore stress as I am not coping and it’s affecting my ability to work. Likewise, it is having flowing effects with how I deal with issues with friends and family, and I am constantly being out down, told I have daddy issues etc. As painful as it is, I’m starting to realise it’s not worth it sometimes. It’s not worth having half a life, because the other half of you is numb, hurt, or mentally absent. I recommend moving forwards. Don’t think about (future) friendship or love with them. Honestly, this won’t help one but. Just focus on how you feel right now. After dismissing my own feelings for years, my counsellor of a few weeks told me to just focus on the present- be present. She also said listen to yourself, because you have the answer. Do not dismiss your own feeling as deep down you know the truth. Sometimes your mind has to override your heart. Just keep living, but do not spend your time waiting for this person. I have spent months, if not years waiting and I have lost so much time and am no longer that young. Stay strong. You must stay strong and just try to get through each day. It will get easier. You will always love this person, but eventually in a different way, and you are likely to meet a better version (for you)of this person if only you believe in yourself. Do not dismiss your emotions.b It’s not worth being unhappy so frequently.

Alternatively, if they’re willing to, and you’re able to get to that stage, participate in therapy with them and alone. If you don’t get this opportunity, see a therapist on your own and focus on yourself. You sound like a lovely person that is hurt and caught up in a toxic relationship. it’s not at all your fault, as sometimes life isn’t particularly friendly. But trust that it will get better if you give yourself time. I’m sending my love your way.

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Gina

Honestly this is the only article that is realistic and helps. It really feels like you know what it’s like to be in the shoes. The advice are all very very helpful, and to the point. They all helped me leave my ex-husband. Thank you so much. You’ve changed lives.

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xxx

im stuck and at the first stages of wanting to leave. ive been in a relationship for 11.5 years and just found out hes been cheating the last year, we dont live together but we are engaged. this is the second time ive found out hes been cheating, what do i do???? he has no job, i work 40+ hours a week and support him. please help me, i am afraid to leave and be alone and start all over again, i am 30!

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Indecision

30.. so much potential! You are accepting less that you deserve. Love won’t fulfill you if you have to be constantly on guard. The hard times with kids etc are even harder without trust. I’m 31 and accepting less than l deserve. I want kids but am realising that the foundation l have with my partner won’t survive the tests that come with children.. l think our relationship will end soon.

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Gabriella K

I am 56 and have to start all over! Scary for sure! Write down pros and cons of why you stay and what would happened if you left! Hang in there!

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Faye

Good for you! I am looking for my strength to get out of an abusive 18 year marriage. Good luck! 💕

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Rachel

My relationship started being madly in love with that man since 2014, and knowing he is not interested, as I already got rejected while trying a vague approach. Still it wasn’t so clear for me if he liked me or not because he is of flirty nature. So by 2018, when I got totally obsessed and destroyed by that situation of not knowing and ongoing obsession, I reached out and told him about my feelings.
He answered that actually he’d been in love with me before 2014 but I was mean to him so he erased me from his mind and behaved like never liked me since…
So little by little, even though he was very closed to my affection, very locked, with time he opened up a little, at least we had sex, the best sex ever possible on this earth, really. We kept seeing each other for two years, arguing a lot and all the sex led to pregnancy… we felt the magic of this event and wanted to keep the child but at the same time were very very scared so eventually I had an abortion as planned. He couldn’t be there for me emotionally, because he was traumatised apparently he experienced this event as being my decision and he felt powerless and sad about it. So he couldn’t even help me walk from the hospital, couldn’t give no support, he was in freeze mode. This relationship continued after, with still very bad arguments, much blame shifting etc, me always feeling insecure, stressed and worn out even just by seeing him, although I really wanted to…
This relationship was also a deep feeling of union, a strong physical proximity, and I do really love him and would have loved to be with him.
After many times of heart, mind and body breaking arguments and misunderstandings, we had a final one last week. I decided I couldn’t take it once more or I would literally die of exhaustion and of this unbearable feeling of injustice and misunderstanding.
He told me he had put our relationship to trash because the last time we saw some friends, he felt like I was flirty as usual, because I am who I am and I am always flirting with men… while I literally actually never flirted with anyone except him since 2014…His jealousy problem stems from a deep fear of abandonment, so he attacks before anyone attacks him, incapable of a secure bond, incapable of holding space, unable to engage truly in this relationship. At the same time, he is very conscious of many many things, very sensitive and loving, really, and this situation is so unbearable mostly because of this. Because there are a couple things he just won’t aknowledge in himself and blames me instead, endlessly.
For two years I’ve been in this turmoil of a relationship, hoping endlessly that we will arrange this, that he is conscious enough of his flaws and patterns to be able to evolve… but he is still blame shifting and unconsciously manipulating me into believing that I am the problem, that I am not trustworthy as a woman and that I always seduce men which hurts him so much…
My dream is that he would heal from his problem and we could be together one day ..
I am a sick person for hoping that ?

Reply
Monica

I can totally relate and would love to have you as a friend, we could support each other! Talk to me on my Snapchat: miss_keettlynn.

Reply
Anna

Please refer to the response written above your own in the comments section of your page. I am going through something similar and wish to share my experience with you. I feel for you and send my love your way. I’m in my early 30s and have spent many years in a relationship not too dissimilar to your own. I wish you the best of luck and truly hope you do what’s best for you today, if not for the future. Though I realise you probably wrestle with this answer everyday, I believe that you may, deep down, already know the true answer to your questions. Do not hesitate to write back if you feel the need to talk it through. Take care of yourself and please out yourself first. Please do not feel like you’ve failed if you choose to leave the relationship and move forwards. If you choose to stay, it may be worth going through some form of therapy, either alone or with your partner if they accept. I wish I could give you a huge hug right now.

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Honestly isn’t this the way it is for all of us though?♥️

#childanxiety #parenting #separationanxiety
Big feelings can be so beautiful. And so tricky. 

We want our kids to know that all feelings are okay, and we also want to support them to handle those feelings in positive ways. This is going to take time. We were all born with feelings, but none of us were born able to regulate those feelings. That will come with time and lots (lots!) of experience. 

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To register or find out more, google ‘hey sigmund webinar separation anxiety’ or see here https://www.heysigmund.com/upcoming-live-webinars/ ♥️

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