Over and over again, I seem to find more people falling into and remaining in toxic relationships. According to PsychAlive.org, a toxic relationship “is often characterized by repeated, mutually destructive modes of relating between a couple. These patterns can involve jealousy, possessiveness, dominance, manipulation, desperation, selfishness or rejection.” In my experience, a toxic relationship feels like one you can never get out of, trapped in a shell of mutual selfishness for fear of letting go. It’s an addiction.
When it ends, it is the most earth-shattering feeling in the world. Your life is upside down, and you feel as if you have nothing to live for anymore because you spent all of your time living for a person that isn’t yourself. After my own relationship ended, I lost 20 pounds in three weeks, and my tongue turned grey from malnutrition. I couldn’t eat or sleep. I ran the shower in my apartment for three hours and would sit and listen to the water fall onto the shower tiles just to avoid the deafening silence of loneliness. But once you break away from that, and realize that the only person to live for is yourself, you will uncover a resilience within you that you never knew you had.
Last July I uprooted my life, packed all my possessions into my Honda Accord, and embarked on the 17 hour journey from Central Kentucky to Northern Maine. I was sad, but I was ready to begin my new life and get away from this person who dominated every second of my life for almost three years. At 21, that time equaled a seventh of my entire existence. I was free and liberated, and today I am more myself than I ever thought I could be.
Author Anais Nin writes: “From the backstabbing co-worker to the meddling sister-in-law, you are in charge of how you react to the people and events in your life. You can either give negativity power over your life or you can choose happiness instead. Take control and choose to focus on what is important in your life. Those who cannot live fully often become destroyers of life.” The first step in living fully is recognizing your worth and how you deserve to be treated. I wouldn’t know how sweet life has the potential to be had I not experienced bitterness at the hands of toxicity.
Psychology Today elaborates on the idea of toxic relationships being mutual in an article written in September 2017. “Not all toxic relationships are caused by two unhealthy people. It does not always take two to tango. In some cases, unhealthy individuals target and prey upon others for their own personal needs and gratification.”
Regardless of whether your relationship is mutually or individually toxic and destructive, the best and hardest advice I can give is to get out. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. The sun will seem brighter, flowers will smell sweeter, and you will be better because of your experience. I am thankful for my toxic relationship, because it gave me a sense of independence and self-love that I’d been robbed of for three years. I took my life back; go take yours.