Despite our greatest efforts, even the best of us can find ourselves in toxic relationships. The descent is insidious and once you’re in, it can be incredibly difficult to find your way out. However, once you find the strength to cut the ties and move forward, you’ll find you’re headed towards a much brighter future, with lessons learned and a clearer perspective.
You accept infatuation isn’t love. An extremely hard lesson to learn, especially if you’ve spent months or even years defending awful behavior with “but we’re in love.” Eventually, though, you’ll have to admit that love doesn’t result in chronic anxiety or depression. The good news is, once you know the difference, you’ll be more equipped to recognize when the real deal comes along.
You become stronger than you ever thought possible. When a relationship ends, particularly one that was unhealthy and all-consuming, it feels like your world is falling apart. In my case, I couldn’t imagine feeling good again because it hurt so damn much. Then one day I looked around and realized not only was I over it, but I was happier than I’d been in years. When you’ve been cheated, abused and disrespected, yet emerge on the other side with a smile on your face, you realize just how strong you are. And that she-Hulk feeling is pretty satisfying.
Self-love becomes a priority. When you finally realize you haven’t been treated well, you learn to take care of yourself. You forgive yourself for the things you didn’t see (or didn’t want to see) and instead provide yourself the respect you deserve. This is the point when you realize the most important relationship you will ever have is the one with yourself.
You learn to trust your instincts. Toxic people are constantly trying to make you second guess yourself and shift the focus from the fact that they’re pretty terrible human beings. You begin to think that gnawing feeling in the pit of your stomach is just your own paranoia and that maybe you’re to blame for things not feeling right. Once free from the toxic grip, you’ll probably learn your instincts were right all along. Women’s intuition isn’t a myth, and knowing you can trust your gut is not only reassuring, it’s empowering.
You can identify control and manipulation. Until you’ve really experienced it first-hand, it can be tricky to know when you’re being manipulated. You’ve heard about people being controlling in relationships, but when you’re in the thick of it, often you’re in denial about just how much you’re being controlled yourself. Now, however, you can spot guys who are unaccountable, constantly playing the victim and passive aggressive from a mile away and you’ll never fall for these master manipulators ever again.
Your true friends are revealed. All hail the friends who stick by your side when you’re making the worst mistakes over and over again. My BFF deserves a medal for the hours of phone calls, hundreds of messages and numerous sad wine nights spent deliberating my nightmare of a relationship. When your friends are there for you when you’re the lowest, most frustrating version of yourself, they’re in it for the long haul. Those are the relationships you want to hang on to.
You discover what your relationship dealbreakers are. You put up with A LOT of crap when you’re in the midst of a toxic relationship. Sometimes you’re in so deep you can’t see the numerous issues that a level-headed person would never tolerate. Once the blindfold comes off, you know the red flags to watch out for and you’ll never ignore them again.
You learn to let go. When you’ve invested so much time hoping for bad behavior to change, having faith that things will get better and otherwise convincing yourself that everything is great, accepting it’s time to let go is really tough. When you finally do, you discover there is no shame in admitting you misjudged a situation. And you learn that letting go means being brave enough to walk away from situations that aren’t making you happy.
You embrace change. Toxic relationships have a sinister way of making you feel like you won’t cope without them. They cultivate fear of the unknown and convince you that it’s better to be in the relationship, unhappy, than going it alone. Once you take that first painful step into the unfamiliar you realize that change doesn’t have to be scary, and actually, it’s pretty liberating.
You’re set up for a better relationship in the future. Once you know what you don’t want in a relationship, it’s much easier to understand what you do want. From your painful experiences, you learn what makes for a healthy relationship. You know all the qualities to look for in a partner and will settle for nothing less when you’re ready to get back out there. It’s all onwards and upwards from here.
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