Part of breaking free from abusive cycles is identifying the voices in your mind that keep you tethered to the stink pole. Here are 9 thoughts that may slip under your radar, or evade the awareness of someone you love.
“They have been through so much in their life. Who’s going to love them? They deserve love too.”
You are not running a care home. Care homes exist for people who cannot function on their own due to limiting physical or mental conditions. Abusive and manipulative people often thrive on their own, yet when they enter into a relationship with you, they are suddenly extremely dependent. This is not true dependency, however, but a masked helplessness that is genuinely rooted in measures of control.
One must be careful here, as abusers will often become physically ill as you gain in emotional and psychological strength – to ensure your shackles remain intact.
“Maybe I should just give up my routine, change that characteristic about myself, or go to therapy to work on my issues. Maybe then things will get better.”
Self-care is not an act of selfishness (it’s actually the opposite); one cannot gift from an empty pocket. At risk of sounding cliché, we must continue, with great endurance, the activities that allow us to feel like we are healthy, belonged, and accomplished. Sacrificing sleep, time with friends and family, and skipping meals to continually appease another is a lie if you think it’s going to help your situation.
“What if I don’t find anyone else?” Being alone forever is way worse than the fights and feelings I’m going through now.”
The difference between solitude and loneliness is formidable, and worthy of investigation. Loneliness is what you are feeling in an abusive relationship, because loneliness is what happens when you are surrounded by people who don’t see you for who you are. Solitude may be an area you probably haven’t spent much time in, but it involves cultivating an ability to enjoy time with yourself. We want to grow in union, and our Western Psyche is relationship obsessed. Few have ventured into therapy (my email and website are below if you wish to seek this out), learned the art of meditation and basking in silence, or discovered creative ways to enjoy their own company. Take the weeks or months it takes to harness solitude, and it won’t even be worth it to entertain abuse. You will simply feel the difference and relief.
“Why can’t they just be nice, thoughtful, understanding, or just plain old respectful. Is it really that hard? I mean, sometimes they’re nice. Maybe if I just showed them how…”
If you have to ask this question, that heavy boulder you almost rolled up the hill just tumbled back to the bottom. Attempts at changing another person is one of humanity’s most common Sisyphean tasks. You cannot teach empathy, compassion, or authenticity to another adult. No amount of modeling will ever be enough to break open a heart that is closed. People who control deal kindness like a currency, always expecting something in return, and enjoy the fact that you hope, one day, they will change. Each time you do this, their exchange rate goes up, and you pay more.
“I haven’t given this relationship all of my effort. I need to make sure I do everything I can.”
The greatest trap ensares because it is adorned with the most delectable treasures. It is debatable whether getting into a relationship with an abuser is foreseeable. They love you, compliment you, sex you, and perhaps even heal you in the early go-rounds. You have to try your best. If you don’t, you will never know. As soon as your trying your best turns into you being the only one really trying, this thought begins to lie to you – beware.
“The financial loss of separation or divorce is too much to bear.”
Financial loss is never a reason to stay in a toxic atmosphere. Just ask the guys who worked in coal mines or the drywall industry. I get the social pressure to make tonnes of money, but that, and this thought, are plain false.
“We just have to get back to the way things were. Work and other things have put so much pressure on us. Things can get better”
The bar with which to measure the status of your relationships is the day to day status of your nervous system, not love’s cover page or introduction. Conclusions, like a fully mature tree, are dependent on the love and nurturing that detail the journey. Turn back to #5.
“Me feeling terrible is my problem. I don’t have to let it affect me so much. Maybe I just need to find a way to get over my own wounds, and then we can live better together.”
Feeling terrible is your problem, yes, but it is also your responsibility to remove yourself from situations that perpetuate this. Subtle twists in logic can end in a choose your own adventure nightmare. You wouldn’t keep your child in a daycare where the teacher enforces capital punishment or favoritism toward one gender, and then tell them to stay positive. Treat yourself with the same dignity.
Life provides adequate challenges based on our current inner framework. It knows when to blow wind and when to rain and it knows when you need a dose of pain. No need to go out of your way to produce additional strife. This is actually something I believed while married to an abusive partner. I thought I could rise above it, and sublimate my way to another level. All I did was wreak havoc on my immune system. Loving and validating environments bring more opportunity than anything else.
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.
This article is a follow up to my previous piece, dubbed Men Are Victims Too: Recognizing and Dealing with Abuse. If you feel as though you may be exposed to various kinds of abuse in your relationship, but aren’t sure, please take some time to read the previous article. It may shine some clarity on your situation. Many readers were left feeling validated in their position as an abused male, but questions arose as to what to do after the fact. Well, my friends, it is time to clean up what has become quite messy.
The first stage that accompanies the knowledge of abuse is self-doubt. We think things like:
“All relationships have difficulties.” “I’m over reacting.”
(No, you’re not).
“There are some really good times, though.”
(Yes, because you are doing what they want and these good times, more often than not, come at a price. Good times are also much easier to remember).
“We have kids, I can’t leave.”
(Can you leave if you realize that you are contributing to your kids being okay with having an abusive partner when they grow up?)
“Maybe I’m the problem here.”
(Well, you’ve definitely been made into the problem if your partner is abusive. This is a corrosive vat to swim in. If you have not gotten to the point of realizing that relationships must be a two way effort, you are enabling your own abuse).
“I will never find a good relationship.”
(This means that you will secretly keep yourself engaged with terrible treatment in order to avoid being alone. This type of thought is quite revealing of the abuse you are putting yourself through. Your partner is, in some ways, a mirror of this abuse. It also means that you probably grew up in a home where you were invalidated, cut down, or manipulated. Oh, and yes, you can find a health partner in life.)
“If I give up, that means I’m a quitter and an abandoner. I don’t quit or abandon.”
(Firstly you cannot abandon an adult. Only children can be abandoned, and if you have children you will fight to be in there life anyway, so you are not abandoning them. Quitting is surefire health if your life, energy, vitality, health, is compromised in any way. We’re not coal miners at the turn of the century. We have a choice, and quitting is something really damn awesome. Some call it letting go of that which does not serve)
Emphatically, it is without doubt that good relationships exist, and that you can have one in your life (see here).
So here are six things to do when abuse has found you.
Reach out to as many people in your life as you can who, and this is a big who, you know, with certainty, will validate your experience and not doubt you. Sometimes family members will love you, but not understand, because it would require to look at themselves, and the way they treated you when you were a child. Read as many articles online about narcissistic and co-dependent relationships as you can. Let them feed your psyche. Watch videos on it. Read Codependent No More. Allow yourself, for a while, to accept that you have been a victim (before you take your power back).
- If you are married, call a lawyer, or friend who has been through an abusive situation, and get to know all the ins and outs of what divorce will cost you, what will most likely happen with the kids and the property, knowing full well that your abusive partner will do everything they can to tear you apart if you try to break away. If your children are in danger, it is best to leave with them and get to safe place as soon as possible.
- Begin a healthy a diet and fitness regime as you possible can. You will need the extra strength and endurance. Call your naturopathic doctor, or get one if you don’t have one, and ask them what you can do to enhance your energy levels and mood. Grass-fed, free-range Bone broth is a lifesaver. So are multi-vitamins that target your adrenal gland and garner it with support. Buttress your brain with fish oils, green tea, blueberries, and turmeric. Your body has and will go through a lot.
- Record anything, either by written word, tape, or video that might be constituted as abuse. Whenever something really bothers you, twists you to your core, write it down so you do not forget. One of the most important aspects of breaking abuse is standing up for your own well being while refraining from apologizing for things you should not. You should not apologize for having an emotion. You should not apologize for sharing that emotion. Start doing this, and notice what happens. Start taking more care of yourself and give attention to your abusive partners reactions. A healthy partner encourages health—remember this at all costs.
- If at all possible, by any stretch of time or imagination, book a week away for yourself, or pray that a slot of time becomes available to you. Even if it’s only a night or two away where you can be with yourself, and out of the fire. In extreme situations you may need to check yourself in to the hospital and say you think you’re going crazy. If you stay in an abusive situation, you are somewhat crazy anyway.
- Lay down and feel yourself, your body, the space around you, and imagine the space between your ears filled with things you love to do, activities that illuminate your heart, and pretend as if you do not have to interact with your partner. How does it feel? Do you feel any relief—one of the surest signs that you have been under an abusive roof? In close second to relief comes excitement for your own life. Close third comes a spring of energy that may bring clarity about your situation. None of these will last long, as old patterns die hard, but if they spring up, know you need more of you.
Find a psychologist or psychotherapist (I am one, and you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org), as well as some type of body worker. Start with at least weekly or bi-weekly visits to untangle some of the misconceptions, amnesia, and cloud that you are emerging from. A therapist can help you see why you might have gotten into this type of relationship in the first place, can help you see a way out, and formulate effective solutions to deter it from happening again. A body worker will help you get the trauma out of your cells, creating space for new love and relationship.
It is important to take all of this slowly. Remember that as you start to break away, the abusive behavior can become worse. This is both a good sign that you are doing what you need to do, for you, and one to take extreme caution because you are putting a steel pipe in spinning cogs or horrendous force. I wish you all the strength and support you need! Be well.