Are you in a poisonous relationship? If you are reading this, chances are something is askew in your life, or the life of a friend or family member. If I’m right, I bet you to bookmark the following articles, familiarize yourself with what toxic bonds really are, and share them with others: Recognizing Abuse, Discovering Abuse, Gaslighting, Abuse on Men, Narcissism. But for now, this article moves past recognizing and getting out of poisonous partnerships and addresses the benefits of leaving them.
- You will feel brief, but undeniable relief, in the first days following. It’s that feeling when you stepped outside after being made to sit through mass as a kid; it’s when the nervous system drops its needles, thanks you with hours of rest, and when your imagination says “yes, there is hope;” it’s when your friends and family all share your sigh of relief, for the black mould has been removed from the building, and all can pull lungfulls of good air once again.
This period of time is short, however. You will have to heal the lungs from the long term damage. The nervous system will need help cutting new grooves in health and relaxation, and you will contemplate, from time to time, re-entering the church of the damned. Over time, this relief becomes a permanent state, which leads to number two.
- Now it is actually possible to heal. In the year after leaving my toxic relationship, I have had one cold; in all the previous years I was sick every month or two.
While living with your abusive, narcissistic, or just plain crazy ex, you may have read self-help books, gone to therapy, worked out at the gym, and practiced boundaries, but none of these can actually help unless the poisonous drip has been removed from your veins. Guilt cannot become self-care when your attempts at the latter are constantly challenged. Independence and interdependence cannot bloom when your co-dependency was the only form of relating validated by your ex. Boundaries cannot be worked on when you are cut down or physically attacked when you attempt them.
Now, only now, is it possible to really heal. Since the greatest attribute of health is living authentically in one’s own skin, the definition of toxic relationships diametrically opposes this. Leaving gives you and your soul a chance.
- Genuine assistance from the external world can stream in. Ask any health professional—it is vastly easier to help someone who is no longer habitually returning to a vice. Toxic relationships are vices. They are addictions. Bogging around in one reminds us of Odysseus visiting the Island of the Lotus Eaters. Having tasted the local fruit (a narcotic), Odysseus and his crew soon forget their voyage home (to themselves), to their loved ones (real authentic relationships), and their adventure (sense of aliveness). Refuse the fruit, leave the island, and the gods (friends and family and professionals) can and will blow fresh wind upon our sails. You cannot do this alone. Ask for help and trust me it will stream in en masse, but you will need to make the first move.
- Welcome to a new world of mental clarity and enhanced energy levels. All of your bound up energy that has previously fed your ex will now be yours. You may enjoy not having to take a nap during the day, or now you may actually be able to take one.
- Upon strong implementation of self-care, you will wonder what spell ever came over you in the first place. You will cherish yourself for your decision to leave. Leaving a toxic relationship is the greatest form of self-love you can offer that animated reality under your skin. Stepping out, you have given yourself the greatest opportunity in the Universe to really learn that self-love is the opposite of selfishness. In fact it is the greatest gift you can give to the world.
- Friends become important again. Being in a toxic relationship destroys important friendships and connections with family members. Those of us entrapped in toxicity often make excuses for our spouse, sabotage friendships, hide from family, all in an attempt to keep our narcotic narcissist relationship smooth. Upon our exodus from the Pharaoh that oversees and manipulates our life, we will once again discover how important it is to have friends of same or different sex, to have a say in those encounters, and the nurturing that comes from being transparent with healthy family members.
- You get to try out new ways of relating that won’t be as apocalyptic or catastrophic. Trying new ways of relating with a toxic partner just doesn’t work. They want it their way or else you will suffer for even mentioning some alternative. In my own case, I tried to talk to my ex-partner about Non-Violent Communication and suggested that we try it. My suggestion was quickly and utterly dismissed. Now you can date. You don’t have to dive in, you can practice being more yourself. You can end relationships that show red flags you ignored previously. You get to be you without the added pressure of pleasing the volcano sitting on the couch over there.
- Your children will learn that toxicity is not to be tolerated. Enough said. Those little sponges will thank you in the long run for this message, even though they will have to heal from a broken family.
Regardless of your gender, if you are genuinely considering leaving a toxic relationship, especially if you have children, please consider talking to a professional before making the dive. Getting out of a toxic relationship is the most important and difficult transition in your life, and you won’t regret getting professional help. In fact, when it’s over, you’ll thank yourself.