We all know that staying with a toxic partner is a surefire path to misery, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to let go.
If you are in love with someone, your first instinct may be to forgive them when they hurt you, and just hold on and hope that things will get better.
Your head may be telling you to leave, but your heart wants you to stay.
Why Love Is Blind
Maybe you fell in love with someone who seemed kind and caring at first, but then turned out to be toxic and abusive. You aren’t alone.
Try to take comfort in the fact that most of us have our share of unhealthy relationships. There’s no instruction manual when it comes to love; lots of us make mistakes.
Attraction is a mysterious process. You may recognize that someone is bad news, yet feel drawn to them regardless. Your friends might have warned you about them, but something compelled you to stick with your new relationship.
Sometimes, it’s impossible to understand what brings two people together, and you need to accept that you might never know. Don’t berate yourself for falling for the wrong person.
Why It’s So Tough To Walk Away
Perhaps your partner was charming when you started dating, and made you feel like the luckiest person on earth. There’s no feeling quite like falling in love.
In the whirlwind of a new romance, we tend to ignore early warning signs and red flags such as a quick temper or jealousy.
When the honeymoon period wears off, both members of a couple start to show their true personalities. In a good relationship, they start getting to know and appreciate one another in a deeper way. In a toxic relationship, destructive behaviors and traits bubble to the surface.
You may discover that, when your partner is no longer trying to impress you, they resort to verbal abuse when they don’t get their own way, or that they don’t give you any privacy.
Unfortunately, it takes only a few months – in some cases, just a few weeks – to become attached to someone. This means walking away isn’t simple, even when you know that they treat you badly.
Understand That There’s Someone Far Better Waiting For You
To free yourself from the relationship, you need to realize what it’s costing you to stay. Taking a new perspective can give you the strength you need to move on.
In staying with your toxic partner, you are sabotaging your chances of finding meaningful love and a healthy relationship. You need to believe that the world is full of people who can offer you so much more than an unsatisfying, soul-sucking partnership.
Yes, ending a relationship is hard, but standing in the way of your own happy ending is a greater tragedy. Clinging on to something that won’t work is a waste of time.
Accept That Your Partner Probably Isn’t Going To Change
It’s a hard truth to swallow, but you need to accept it – you cannot afford to hang around in the hope that they are going to see the error of their ways.
Yes, people can change, but they need to make the decision for themselves.
You can’t force your partner to be a better person, to stop abusing you, or to treat you with respect. In fact, the more you push them to change, the more they might rebel.
Don’t waste your time with someone who plays these kind of games. Once you appreciate this simple truth, it becomes easier to move on.
Accept The Pain
As we all know, life isn’t an easy ride. We all have to experience pain and suffering, and there are few things more excruciating than a traumatic breakup. You’ll need time to process the end of your relationship, and that’s perfectly okay.
Well-meaning friends may encourage you to get over your ex by dating other people, but wait until you feel ready to meet someone new. Of course, you can also stay single and focus on your personal growth.
Keeping tabs on your ex or trying to stay “friends” will only result in more anguish. Implement the no contact rule and stick to it.
Remember, you are strong. Millions of people have survived toxic relationships, learned from them, and found love with new partners.
Sit with your emotions, and accept that you will feel an emotional attachment to your ex for a while. One day, you’ll be able to draw on your experiences and use them to build a relationship that nurtures your mind, body, and soul.
Ending an abusive relationship is hard. Learn why and what to do.
- What Is Narcissism?
- Find a therapist who understands narcissism
When we fall in love, it’s natural to become attached and form a romantic bond. But once in love with a narcissist, it’s not easy to leave, despite the abuse.
Although you’re unhappy, you may be ambivalent about leaving because you still love your partner, have young children, lack resources, and/or enjoy lifestyle benefits. Friends may question why you stay or urge you to, “Just leave.” Those words can feel humiliating because you also think you should. You may want to leave, but feel stuck, and don’t understand why. This is because there are deeper reasons that keep you bonded unlike in other relationships.
Why It’s Hard to Break Up
Narcissists can be exceedingly charming, interesting, and enlivening to be around. Initially, they and other abusers may treat you with kindness and warmth, or even love bomb you. Of course, you want to be with them forever and easily become dependent on their attention and validation. Once you’re hooked and they feel secure, they aren’t motivated to be nice to you. Their charming traits fade or disappear and are replaced or intermixed with varying degrees of coldness, criticism, demands, and narcissistic abuse. (See “Narcissus and Echo: The Heartbreak of Relationships with Narcissists.”)
You’re hopeful and accommodating and keep trying to win back their loving attention. Meanwhile, your self-esteem and independence are undermined daily. You may be gaslighted and begin doubting your own perceptions due to blame and lies. When you object, you’re attacked, intimidated, or confused by manipulation.
Over time, you attempt to avoid conflict and become more deferential. As denial and cognitive dissonance grow, you do and allow things you wouldn’t have imagined when you first met. Your shame increases as your self-esteem declines. You wonder what happened to the happy, self-respecting, confident person you once were.
Research confirms that it’s common for victims to attach to their abuser, particularly when there’s intermittent positive reinforcement. You may be trauma-bonded, meaning that after being subjected to prolonged belittling and control, you’ve become childlike and addicted to any sign of approval from your abuser. This is referred to as Stockholm Syndrome, named for hostages who developed positive feelings for their captors.
You’re especially susceptible to this if the relationship dynamics are repeating a pattern you experienced with a distant, abusive, absent, or withholding parent. The trauma bond with your partner outweighs the negative aspects of the relationship. Studies show that victims of physical abuse on average don’t leave until after the seventh incident of violence. They not only fear retaliation, but also the loss of the emotional connection with their partner, which can feel worse than the abuse.
Additionally, codependents, who are usually preyed upon by narcissists and abusers, often feel trapped and find it hard to leave any relationship. They can be loyal to a fault due to their codependency.
After You Leave
Narcissists and abusers are basically codependent. (See “Narcissists Are Codependent, Too.”) If you distance yourself from them, they do what it takes to pull you back in, because they don’t want to be abandoned. Narcissists want to keep you interested to feed their ego and supply their needs (“narcissistic supply”). Being left is a major humiliation and blow to their fragile self. They will attempt to stop you with kindness and charm, blame and guilt trips, threats and punishment, or neediness, promises, or pleas―whatever it takes to control you so that they “win.”
- What Is Narcissism?
- Find a therapist who understands narcissism
If you succeed in leaving, they usually continue their games to exert power over you that compensates for their hidden insecurities. They may gossip and slander you to family and friends, hoover you to suck you back into the relationship (like a vacuum cleaner). They show up on your social media, try to make you jealous with photos of them having fun with someone else, talk to your friends and relatives, text or call you, promise to reform, express guilt and love, ask for help, or “accidentally” appear in your neighborhood or usual haunts.
They don’t want to be forgotten but keep you waiting and hoping. Just when you think you’ve moved on, you’re reeled back in. This may reflect the intentional spacing of contacts. Even if they don’t want to be with you, they may not want you to let go or be with anyone else. The fact that you respond to them may give them enough satisfaction. When they contact you, remember that they’re incapable of giving you want you need.
Narcissism Essential Reads
Understanding the Dynamics of Workaholism-Narcissism
The Methods Narcissists Use to Traumatize Their Victims
You might feel guilty or tell yourself that your ex really still loves you and that you’re special to him or her. Who wouldn’t want to think that? You’re vulnerable to forgetting all the pain you had and why you left. (See “Why Narcissists Play Games.”) If you resist their attention, it fuels their ambition. But once you fall into their trap and they feel in control, they’ll return to their old cold and abusive ways. Only consistent, firm boundaries will protect you and disincentivize them.
How to Leave
As long as you’re under their spell an abuser has control over you. In order to become empowered, you need to educate yourself. Come out of denial to see reality for what it is. Information is power. Read up on narcissism and abuse on my website. If you’re unsure whether you want to leave, take the steps in dealing with a narcissist to improve your relationship and evaluate whether it’s salvageable. Regardless of your decision, it’s important for your own mental health to redeem your autonomy and self-esteem. Take these steps:
You might feel trapped by the soul-crushing grind of working a 9-5 job, hating every single minute while you are in the company of people that you despise, and what’s even worse, who bore you completely, but there are also fleeting moments here and there that remind you what life is truly about. All the grim and dark will cease to exist once you fall in love. It’s not that the world will magically transform overnight, but for all intents and purposes, you’ll feel like it had.
Unfortunately, the very source of your felicity could prove to cause you some other emotions, such as sadness, or even outright fear as well. We are not talking about the fear caused by the growing suspicion that you might not be perfect for each other, after all. Those situations happen, and although they are often described as “heart-breaking,” once you part ways, eventually, you’ll look back and think of it as a responsible decision.
Unfortunately, even though you might realize that the best way to proceed would be to call it quits, leaving a toxic relationship is not easy, especially if you are still in love with the other person. Below you will find how to go through this process relatively unscathed.
The Myth of Sisyphus
If you are trapped in a toxic relationship, you might find out that the story of Sisyphus bears quite a lot of resemblance to the situation in which you are in. Sisyphus is bound to repeat the same task – rolling a rock up the mountain’s top over and over again for all eternity. When it seems that he is just near the top, the rock rolls down again, and he has to begin the process right from the start.
Leaving a toxic relationship is hard because although deep down, you might be aware that you’ll end up hurt, either physically or mentally, there are still good moments. You might hate them for what they have become, or maybe they have always been like this; it’s just that despite the intense hatred, there is still a lot of love involved as well. We think that humans are relatively reasonable – somehow, we’ve managed to get to the moon but also create fidget spinners or design websites with sex stories, such as https://omgkinky.com/.
However, despite our incredible abilities, when emotions are involved, our analyses stop being so accurate. Even though you know that they are hurting you and are unlikely to change, you still love them, which is why you choose to cling to the 1% chance that things will become different soon. It’s really not that weird – such intense emotions are accompanied by powerful chemicals being released in your brain, making the cold calculations all but impossible.
We don’t claim to know the shortcut or a recipe for a potion that would allow you to stop thinking about all the possibilities. You will hear that you have to get away from them as quickly as possible and accept the pain that is ever-present in this process, but that’s not really helpful – what are the alternatives?
However, what we suggest is to cut-off the contact altogether. Delete their phone number and block them on all social media. Sure, for a long time, you’ll burst out crying when you hear certain songs played on the radio, or even when you feel a gust of wind while walking on a particular forest road. We know how it feels; we’ve been there.
And let’s be honest: parting ways is not that difficult. After a day or two, you might feel a little better, and you might even think that you are past this unfortunate situation. However, remember all the powerful chemicals that had been released in your brain when you were near them? The similarities to drug addiction are numerous: when you’ll feel especially down, controlling yourself and not giving in to the urge to contact them will be extremely difficult.
You know that it won’t be worth it in the end, but considering the long-term effects doesn’t always work. Drug addicts know that what they are doing isn’t healthy – it’s just that you can rationalize that the present moment is all that exists.
That’s why, once you get out of the toxic relationship, we recommend stuffing your schedule with as many activities as possible. Book clubs, gym, or even checking if every single item from Wendy’s looks worse in real life than on the pictures – the options are endless. It doesn’t really matter all that much what you choose, as long as your mind doesn’t have enough time to wander aimlessly.
Time heals all wounds – those on our body, but also on our psyche. A week or two might not be enough, but eventually, you will occasionally get excited again, maybe while you are reading a book, or when you go out with friends and the music in a club is just great.
However, right now, you need to regenerate. Ideally, you would do that by being active, but don’t be too hard on yourself, even if, at times, others might act cruel toward you, at least you be nice to yourself. And trust us, this too shall pass.
If you’re in a toxic relationship, please know that you are not the only one — and you won’t be the last, unfortunately.
A relationship should make you feel secure, respected, happy and cared for. On the other hand, a toxic relationship makes you feel insecure, drained, and depleted, almost as if anything you do isn’t good enough.
No one deserves to be in a relationship where nothing seems to be good enough for the other. What makes this especially difficult is when you still love this person despite how awful they may make you feel at times.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we were able to control our feelings for another? I know I would have liked to control my feelings in different relationships.
But imagine how dull life would be if you had that ability? You wouldn’t grow or experience the things that mold you into who you are today. This is why you deserve to be free of this toxic relationship you’re in. To be free and be you with someone who values and appreciates it.
It’s important to emphasize the concept of reciprocity. If you’re the only one giving and never receiving, it’s a one-sided relationship and isn’t fair to you. It’s hard to see a toxic relationship because sometimes, love is blind.
It won’t be easy and it won’t heal overnight. You will feel pain and hurt. You may feel guilt. Do not let that consume you to the point of going back to someone who you’re fully aware is not good for you in your life. But listen, here, beautiful one, the sun will shine again soon.
If you’re ready to leave someone you love because you know it is toxic for the both of you, read on for some suggestions and guidance on how to leave a toxic relationship, especially when you’re still in love with your ex. It will be hard and some days will be better than others, but the pain is temporary.
Here’s a list of suggestions and tips on how to leave someone you love that is toxic and unhealthy for you and your life:
1. You don’t owe anyone an explanation.
You don’t have to justify your decision to leave to anyone. Just remember that you know it is an unhealthy and toxic relationship and will not ever be good for you.
2. Know that you deserve the best.
Remind yourself every day that you deserve better and that sometimes, love isn’t enough when you’re not getting your needs met in the relationship.
3. Accept that they won’t change.
It’s been a while and your partner hasn’t changed. So what makes you think they’ll change months or years down the road? Do you really want to wait and see when you’re most likely going to end up disappointed?
You’re better than that and your partner should know this by now.
4. Know and accept that it will hurt and that you’ll feel pain and sadness.
Make sure you stay fully aware of this fact. It’s a loss and you need to grieve in order to start the healing process. If you stay aware of the possibility that it may get worse before it gets better, you’ll undoubtedly have the strength to get through it.
5. Cut off all communication with the other.
You will not be able to fully grieve and heal with the toxic person a short phone call or text away. It will be hard. But realize that the pain you feel is temporary and if you stayed, the pain would more likely than not be permanent.
6. Explore the reason this toxic person was in your life and what lessons you learned.
What did you compromise in the relationship that you refuse to in the future? What are you willing to compromise in a relationship? Find the lesson in the pain and your healing will begin.
7. Know that it is okay to still love the person from a distance.
You are able to care about them whether or not they’re in your life presently. But with that, remember why they’re not currently in your life and what led you to end the relationship.
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8. Accept that you could not control your partner’s actions or behaviors.
The only thing you have control over is how you act, behave and respond to others. You were never going to change your partner and they weren’t going to change if they hadn’t shown signs of improvement yet.
9. Know that it may feel as if leaving feels just as bad if you stayed.
In order to combat this feeling, make sure to live in the present and not the past. It’s easy to take a trip down memory lane and remember all the good times. But if you remain present, you’ll continue to be aware of all the reasons you didn’t stay.
You can leave the person you love because they are toxic. It doesn’t mean you are abandoning them or don’t love them.
It means you’re taking a stand for what you want and deserve in life. It means being with someone who brings out the best in you and supports your aspirations and dreams. It means you’re not willing to settle for anything but the best.
Love is blind. It distorts our perceptions of what is actually happening with what we want. We also don’t want to believe that someone could be this unhealthy and toxic for us.
The thought alone brings tears to your eyes. Again, I promise you the sun will come out again and you’ll notice it shine brighter than ever. It may not be tomorrow or the next day, but it will come out and when it does, you’ll understand that you did what you had to do to live life for you.
Brittney Lindstrom is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Rehabilitation Counselor.
How to Leave a Toxic Relationship When You‘re Still in Love
- Learning to Let Go. Letting go of someone you care about is definitely a difficult thing to do. …
- Realize That You Deserve Better. …
- Stop Waiting for Your Partner to Change. …
- Accept That It Will Hurt. …
- Use Crying As a Cure. …
- Take Some Time Off. …
- Happiness is Within Your Control.
Even if you feel like you already know what your needs and boundaries are, it’s worth revisiting them. The process of rebuilding a damaged relationship offers a good opportunity to reevaluate how you feel about certain elements of the relationship.
Furthermore, can someone leave you if they love you?
If someone loves you, they don’t leave. Despite the reasons some people have when they decide to leave a relationship, the truth of the matter is that they just didn’t love you enough. They may have feelings for you but their love wasn’t strong enough to make them want to stay.
What to say to end a relationship?
What to Say and How to Say It
- Tell your BF or GF that you want to talk about something important.
- Start by mentioning something you like or value about the other person. …
- Say what’s not working (your reason for the break-up). …
- Say you want to break up. …
- Say you’re sorry if this hurts. …
- Say something kind or positive.
6 Related Question Answers Found
Can toxic people change?
Toxic people can change, but it’s highly unlikely. What is certain is that nothing anyone else does can change them. It is likely there will be broken people, broken hearts and broken relationships around them – but the carnage will always be explained away as someone else’s fault.
Why can’t I leave my toxic relationship?
Leaving an unhealthy relationship can require a healthy dose of self-esteem. … “Having low self-esteem can play a role in staying in an unhealthy relationship because it can cause the person to believe no one else would want them, so they might as well stay with their current partner,” Madison says.
Can a toxic partner change?
Yes, toxic relationships can change. But that comes with a very big if. A toxic relationship can change if and only if both partners are equally committed to overcoming it with lots of open communication, honesty, self-reflection, and possibly professional help, individually and together.
Why is my relationship so toxic?
People often engage in toxic behaviors when they are coping with some underlying problem, such as a history of trauma, unhealthy familial relationships, or addiction. Working with a therapist can help you understand what might be at the heart of your unhealthy relationship behaviors.
Why do guys date right after a breakup?
Also, many men jump right back into dating after a breakup — but not because they’re looking for something serious. For the most part, it’s about the rush we all feel when we flirt and hook up with someone new. Because of this, men will often “rebound” with several women.
How toxic relationships affect your mental health?
Whether you‘re aware of it or not, a toxic relationship may negatively impact your physical and mental health. It can make you feel insecure or bad about yourself, leave you feeling drained and unhappy, place pressure on you to change something about yourself or may even be physically and emotionally harmful.
Last update: 25 October, 2020
A toxic relationship wears you down, damages your identity, and dilutes your self-esteem. It distorts your basic concepts of what authentic love, respect, and sharing your life together are all about. We’re aware that referring to certain relationships as toxic is in fashion. People use this phrase almost excessively to talk about any abusive, damaging, or controlling behaviors.
However, we need to carefully analyze a relationship in detail before using this popular term. Sometimes, a specific behavior may actually be caused by a different disorder that would require a different approach.
The bottom line is we must be careful about labeling things. People are complex people and most of us have complicated relationships. However, sometimes one person becomes the epicenter of problems and a whirlpool of emotional, physical, or psychological abuse. This is the true nature of a toxic relationship.
If you’ve ever experienced this and have managed to get out of the relationship, you’ll know that this process isn’t easy. Above all, we want to make it clear that the simple act of ending a relationship with a toxic partner doesn’t automatically mean you’ll experience immediate happiness and well-being. When you finally leave a toxic relationship, it’ll be a while before your life begins to improve. The process is neither easy nor fast.
A toxic relationship leaves wounds behind
Let’s imagine for a moment a person who is being led by the hand through a thick forest full of branches and brambles. This person allows themselves to be led because they trust the other person. However, the journey is exhausting to them, they’re out of breath, and the branches scratch their skin. None of what they see around them is beautiful or hopeful.
They finally decide to let go of this hand and go their own way. They do this to feel free, to recover their happiness, and allow the other person to walk ahead on a different path. When they do this, they experience intense and contradictory feelings:
- They barely recognize themselves as a result of this traumatic journey, they’re left with many scars and open wounds
- They feel exhausted and have a hard time breathing their only option is to stay still and quiet for a while to recover
- They’ve stopped in a part of the forest they’re not familiar with and can’t find their way
No doubt a person who leaves a toxic relationship eventually finds relief. However, the feeling of well-being isn’t immediate.
What they feel is the need to retreat, to find themselves again, to identify their wounds, to reflect and think about what they want to do with their life and what they should do next.
Time to heal, time to retreat
The last thing someone should do after leaving a toxic relationship is to look for comfort in a new relationship.
- Nobody can heal themselves by jumping into another relationship immediately and doing so is neither therapeutic nor healthy
- This is because nobody else can fix our wounds or stop the pain or be the medication we need to forget
- Overall, the best thing we can do is give ourselves time to take this inward journey. We need time to recover our self-esteem, repair our identity, nourish our hopes, and learn to trust ourselves
We must let go of hatred, fear, and frustration to emerge much stronger from our shells of intimacy much stronger.
- Whether we like it or not, we need to formalize some kind of concrete mourning process. In it, we must channel the anger and progressively develop a resilient attitude. We must know we deserve a good life because we’re worth it.
Only when we love ourselves again will we be ready to let ourselves find the right person.
The red flags to watch out for and advice on getting support.
Every relationship has its ups and downs; some days are happier while others are more like hard work. While this is a normal, expected part of any relationship, it’s important to understand when a line has been crossed between smaller blips you can overcome and major issues that signal a relationship needs to be ended. One such issue is being in a toxic relationship.
Toxic relationships are defined by Dr Lillian Glass, who says she coined the term in 1995, as: “any relationship [between people who] don’t support each other, where there’s conflict and one seeks to undermine the other, where there’s competition, where there’s disrespect and a lack of cohesiveness.”
“Toxic is a strong word, so we need to be clear that this is not just an unfulfilling relationship, or one where the love has faded. Toxic means it’s detrimental or even dangerous to your wellbeing, and much like any other poisonous thing we might consume, it can leave lasting damages. You might need help to heal after a toxic relationship has ended, to repair the damages,” said Michaela Thomas, Clinical Psychologist, Couples Therapist, Founder of The Thomas Connection and Author of The Lasting Connection – developing love and compassion for yourself and your partner.
It’s important to note, toxic relationships can occur between romantic partners, friends, family and even colleagues. They aren’t something you have to put up with. Here, experts explain how to identify the signs of a toxic relationship, seek support and remove yourself from it.
Signs of a toxic relationship
According to Michaela, these are some key warning signs of a toxic romantic relationship:
- You feel bad about yourself, like you’re a failure or not good enough, having less confidence and self-worth compared to before you met your partner.
- You try your hardest to get things ‘just right’ to be able to please your partner. Otherwise, there would be consequences and you won’t be forgiven easily.
- You get blamed for things which aren’t your fault and your partner takes no ownership for their part. You might experience ‘gaslighting’.
- You feel like a shadow of your former self. You stop doing things you used to enjoy, and withdraw from people, especially those your partner doesn’t approve of.
“Lack of caring for your wellbeing, paired with a strong sense of control, can be a strong indicator that you’re in a toxic relationship with someone. If you partner attempts to control your whereabouts or control who you see or how you spend your money, that is an alarm bell. Again, for it to be toxic, it has to go beyond reasonable disagreements you see within all relationships,” Michaela said.
“If you partner doesn’t like that you spent £500 on internet shopping if you are struggling financially, they have a right to express discontent. Toxic control is something different – leaving you feeling like you have no say at all in your relationship and that your partner knows better than you how you should live your live. It makes you feel small, insignificant and unimportant.”
“Toxic control is often paired with emotional or verbal abuse, belittling you or blaming you for what might be honest mistakes, and making those mistakes be about flaws in your character. Sometimes we talk of ‘gaslighting’, which means that your partner makes things out to be your fault, even if you were the one raising the concern. This could be them telling you have imagined things, that you have provoked the partner to act like this or that you are too sensitive to even be upset about what your partner has done,” she added.
Of course, it’s important to seek the support of someone you can trust if you are experiencing this kind of relationship.
“Think about this carefully, with the support of someone you trust. Even if your partner has never been physically violent towards you, if you threaten to leave or actually take steps towards leaving, your partner may cross that line into physical aggression, to still be able to have control over you,” Michaela said.
“This could get very dangerous, so if you are at all worried about your safety, contact the police and have a safe haven to escape to (either the home of someone you trust, or a place arranged by the police to protect you from domestic abuse).
“Remember that domestic abuse takes many forms, and even if the abuse you are experiencing isn’t violent or physical, you can still seek support from domestic abuse support organisations such as Refuge, Women’s Aid (for women) or Mankind (for men).”
Do not blame yourself
“Once the dust has settled and you feel that your immediate safety has been secured, begins your healing process. Seek the support of a trained professional to guide you through understanding the impact of this toxic relationship. It has likely knocked your confidence and sense of self-worth, so you need help building this up again. Know that this was NOT your fault,” Michaela said.
It can be hard to walk away from a relationship, even an extremely unhealthy one, so don’t be hard on yourself if you’re finding it difficult to do.
“It does take some time to get out of a situation that is unhealthy for you and that happens because we’re waiting to see if… things can shift,” said Nedra Glover Tawwab, Therapist, Relationship Expert and Author of Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A guide to Reclaiming Yourself.
“As a therapist, what I’ve always seen is clients leave when they’re ready. When you get to the point of leaving, do not beat yourself up for staying.”
Once in love with a narcissist, it’s not easy to leave. Despite the abuse and your unhappiness, you may be ambivalent about leaving because you still love your partner, have young children, lack resources, and/or enjoy lifestyle benefits. You may want to leave, but feel stuck, and don’t understand why. Outsiders often question why you stay, or urge you to, “Just leave.” Those words can feel humiliating because you also think you should.
Why It’s Hard to Leave
When we fall in love, it’s natural to become attached and form a romantic bond. Narcissists, especially, can be exceedingly charming, interesting, and enlivening to be around. Initially, they and other abusers may treat you with kindness and warmth, or even love bomb you. Of course, you want to be with them forever and easily become dependent on their attention and validation. Once you’re hooked and they feel secure, they aren’t motivated to seduce you. Their charming traits fade or disappear and are replaced or intermixed with varying degrees of coldness, criticism, demands, and narcissistic abuse.
You’re hopeful and accommodating and keep trying to win back their loving attention. Meanwhile, your self-esteem and independence are undermined daily. You may be gaslighted and begin doubting your own perceptions due to blame and lies. When you object, you’re attacked, intimidated, or confused by manipulation. Over time, you attempt to avoid conflict and become more deferential. As denial and cognitive dissonance grow, you do and allow things you wouldn’t have imagined when you first met. Your shame increases as your self-esteem declines. You wonder what happened to the happy, self-respecting, confident person you once were.
Research confirms that it’s common for victims to attach to their abuser, particularly when there’s intermittent positive reinforcement. You may be trauma-bonded, meaning that after being subjected to prolonged belittling and control, you’ve become childlike and addicted to any sign of approval from your abuser. This is referred to as Stockholm Syndrome, named for hostages who developed positive feelings for their captors. You’re especially susceptible to this if the relationship dynamics are repeating a pattern you experienced with a distant, abusive, absent, or withholding parent.
The trauma bond with your partner outweighs the negative aspects of the relationship. Studies show that victims of physical abuse on average don’t leave until after the seventh incident of violence. They not only fear retaliation, but also the loss of the emotional connection with their partner, which can feel worse than the abuse.
Additionally, codependents, who are usually preyed upon by narcissists and abusers, often feel trapped and find it hard to leave any relationship. They can be loyal to a fault due to their codependency.
After You Leave
Narcissists are basically codependent. If you distance yourself from them, they do what it takes to pull you back in, because they don’t want to be abandoned. They want to keep you interested to feed their ego and supply their needs (“narcissistic supply”). Being left by someone is a major humiliation and blow to their fragile self. They will attempt to stop you with kindness and charm, blame and guilt-trips, threats and punishment, or neediness, promises, or pleas — whatever it takes to control you so that they “win.”
If you succeed in leaving, they usually continue their games to exert power over you to compensate for their hidden insecurities. They may gossip and slander you to family and friends, hoover you to suck you back into the relationship (like a vacuum cleaner). They show up on your social media, try to make you jealous with photos of them having fun with someone else, talk to your friends and relatives, text or call you, promise to reform, express guilt and love, ask for help, or “accidentally” appear in your neighborhood or usual haunts. They don’t want to be forgotten, and they don’t want you to be with anyone else — even if they don’t want to be with you. Keep in mind that they’re incapable of giving you want you need.
You might feel guilty or tell yourself that your ex really still loves you and that you’re special to him or her. Who wouldn’t want to think that? You’re vulnerable to forgetting all the pain you had and why you left.
If you resist their attention, it fuels their ambition. But once you fall into their trap and they feel in control, they’ll return to their old cold and abusive ways. Only consistent, firm boundaries will protect you and disincentivize them.
How to Leave
As long as you’re under their spell an abuser has control over you. In order to become empowered, you need to educate yourself. Come out of denial to see reality for what it is. Information is power. Read up on narcissism and abuse on my website. If you’re unsure whether you want to leave, take the steps in Dealing with a Narcissist to improve your relationship and evaluate whether it’s salvageable. Regardless of your decision, it’s important for your own mental health to redeem your autonomy and self-esteem. Take these steps:
- Find a support group, including a therapist, 12-Step group, like Codependents Anonymous (CoDA), and sympathetic friends — not ones who bash your spouse or judge you for staying.
- Become more autonomous. Create a life aside from your relationship that includes friends, hobbies, work, and other interests. Whether you stay or leave, you need a fulfilling life to supplement or replace your relationship.
- Build your self-esteem. Learn to value yourself and honor your needs and feelings. Develop trust in your perceptions and overcome self-doubt and guilt.
- Learn how to be assertive and set boundaries.
- Identify the abuser’s defenses and your triggers. Detach from them.
- If you’re physically threatened or harmed, immediately seek shelter. Physical abuse repeats itself.
- Don’t make empty threats. When you decide to leave, be certain you’re ready to end the relationship and not be lured back.
- If you decide to leave, find an experienced lawyer who is a family law specialist. Mediation is not a good option when there is a history of abuse.
- Whether you leave or are left, allow yourself time to grieve, build resilience, and recover from the breakup.
- Maintain strict no contact, or only minimally necessary, impersonal contact that’s required for co-parenting in accordance with a formal custody-visitation agreement.
Breaking out of a toxic relationship is the best thing you can do for your soul. But is there a peaceful way to end this rough ride without the emotional trauma that it leaves behind?
Ending a relationship is not a happy ending but if you are looking to get out of a relationship then it’s better to solve this amicably with your dignity intact. This will leave a positive impact on the life ahead.
Everyone deserves to be loved and if you are not getting that from your partner then it’s better to end it here and seek it elsewhere. We have tried to help you get through this painful process by sharing our views on how to peacefully get out of a loveless relationship.
Accept your Share of blame
You may not want to listen to this but you have to share the blame when it comes to being toxic in a relationship. Whatever your responsibility was including reaching out for a consensus on mutual disagreements or communicating when things were not right, you can’t escape this fact that you were a part of this. You have an equally effective role to play and you are accountable for that role. Do some introspection and vow not to engage yourself in a toxic relationship ever again, because you are worth more.
Learn to let go
It is not easy to surrender someone that you have held near you in a long-term relationship. It is indeed a difficult thing to do but more important is the realization that your relationship with your ex was not meant to be. Even if you have to use a spouse monitoring app like Xnspy to know about his lies and cheating or bear his physical abuse, you have to sometimes force yourself to get out of that toxic “arrangement”.
In such a relationship, any blow could be unexpected but you still want them to stop hurting you. You want to understand you and change. But nothing affects them no matter how much you love that person. When nothing works against such a person, then remember he/she is not worthy of this royal treatment from you. You need to get that person out of your life. Find the strength to get yourself out of it and move on.
You merit a better life/ you merit someone better in life
Loving someone is not worth it if your partner is not reciprocating equally. This is like putting all your hard work in a dead thing that cannot be resurrected. No matter how hard you try and the tears you put it in, this relationship will never be the same again. In doing so, you are not only wasting your time on the wrong person but also preventing the right person coming your way.
How can a new person come into your life when you have already someone to fill that space?
You must realize that you had to clear that dead wood in your life for the new flowers to blossom. You had to let go of that relationship. It is highly likely that the next person in your life could be the one that trusts in love. If you are an optimist, then believe that someone much better is out there for you. You may not know who they are and where you would find them, but that someone is waiting for you to let go of that relationship so that he/she can come into your life.
Don’t wait for your partner to change
Perhaps it will be your biggest mistake to wait for a person to change who has been mistreating you for years. This is where you have to take charge of your life and decide what is best for you. Relationships heal when the guilty partners accept their mistakes and show the will to mend their behavior. They may make promises and their intentions could be genuine but the truth is that it will all be the same after a few days. Especially if the person has not fulfilled the past promises.
So you don’t have to wait for that person to change. Instead, change has to come from within. You don’t have to force it, it will rise within you and convince you that your time with this person may be over. Our clouded judgements may hold us their prisoners but regardless of what we think, some relationships are not just meant to be.
You control your happiness
After all that you have endured in this turbulent relationship, there is still life ahead. Believe that taking back control starts with you. You don’t have to go through this alone, you would need support like everyone else. There will be people out there that can help you. Seeking help from your close friends and family members can get you back on your feet. You have to overcome that situation to start a new life in which you can enjoy things that you used to love. No more worries about the future. Get that off your chest, make the hard choice, and you are one step closer to a happier tomorrow.
Andrew Carroll is a trained professional counselor who has been helping couples in dealing with their relationship issues. He is a relationship and marriage expert and has greatly helped couples in resolving their commitment and emotional problems for many years. He has vast experience and has been in the field for over a decade. He not only gives great relationship advice but is an expert in how one can remain in a healthy and loving relationship.
If you have found yourself in a relationship that has lost its meaning for you, how can you minimize the stress on your partner and yourself? How to leave a partner who still loves you without hurting the other?
Most people who commit to a long-term relationship feel positive about their chances of staying with their partner. They realize that all relationships wax and wane, and do their best to look at the good while ignoring the bad. Unfortunately, those feelings can change over time, and many intimate partners will at some point know that, for them, the relationship is over.
The majority of people in committed relationships don’t make these choices rashly. Most often, they’ve done everything they can to stay in love with their partners, but have not been able to regain the positive feelings they once knew. If both partners have come to that conclusion together, the parting can be amicable and they may even stay friends.
But if one partner wants out and the other is still fully committed to the relationship, the exiting partner must now face the sorrow they are likely to cause and deal with his or her own distress at creating it. Over decades of working with couples, I have seen many people suffer the wounds of these types of conflicts.
They ask me for guidance on how to leave a partner without causing any more distress than necessary.
They must deal with their own guilt as well as with the heartache of a person they once loved. Those feelings are compounded if they have known themselves what it’s like to have been left behind.
They want to know if it is ever possible to end a relationship and leave a partner with dignity and mutual respect. Most everyone who has loved another deeply does not want to leave hurtful memories behind or deal with someone who harbors anger and resentment toward them.
They didn’t start their relationship with the intent of abandoning the ship. Nor did they expect that they would someday no longer care for the person. Now they are faced with going back on promises and leave a partner wounded. The truth is that the expectations of the partners in a new intimate relationship often change over time and promises made in the earnest fade.
Most relationships face challenges that catch the couple unaware. They may unconsciously repeat destructive patterns from prior relationships, or choose partners for the wrong reasons, blinded by attractions that fade over time.
It is common for new lovers to put their best foot forward by hiding things about themselves that they fear might turn a new lover away. If the relationship gets a sound foundation, perhaps those imagined or real flaws would be more easily overlooked. Once those behaviors emerge, however, the new partner is likely to feel betrayed, legitimately wondering what else might be hidden. Sometimes the damage comes from outside pressures that neither partner could have predicted.
Even relationships that start out with authenticity can develop difficulties over time. Communication problems, disparities in desires, or changing needs can all create problems that neither partner expected or had the capacity to solve.
For whatever reason, the partner who has lost faith in the relationship begins to pull away, sometimes silently, but sometimes with a barrage of criticisms leveled at the other partner.
The partner still fully into the relationship often doesn’t see or ignores the dwindling intimacy until it is obvious that the relationship is in trouble. At that point, he or she will begin to inquire and challenge, seeking some clarification. If the needing-to-go partner is uncomfortable or not quite ready for the conflict, he or she might deny that anything is wrong, encouraging false hope.
Being stripped of the status of someone’s “most-important person” is usually traumatic.
A partner might initially respond by trying to invalidate the severity of the problem while simultaneously trying to erase the cause for concern. Those twin behaviors, unfortunately, can make the partner trying to get out feeling trapped.
The response promises something that has no chance of happening and may only cause more distress later when the need to end the relationship and leave a partner resurfaces.
Another common response when you leave a partner is to strike out with anger and blame, holding the abandoning partner accountable for the relationship’s demise. Being dropped in status is not something anyone wants to experience, and feelings of being displaced, erased or replaced create emotional pain and self-doubt. Sometimes the rage and counter-invalidations cover more vulnerable feelings inside that are too vulnerable or painful to share.
If you have found yourself in a relationship that has lost its meaning for you, It’s time to leave a partner. But, how can you minimize the stress on your partner and yourself? How to End a Relationship When Your Partner Still Loves You?
1. Look at yourself:
Is this a pattern in your relationships? Do you overcommit and then find yourself in deeper than you intended? Do you try doing everything you can to make your partner feel more important to you than he or she actually is, just to keep that person close? Do you withhold asking for the changes you need and then resent the other for not knowing what they are? Do you put partners on pedestals by ignoring things about them you will eventually be unable to bear? Do you accommodate and then resent your sacrifices?