LEAVING TOXIC RELATIONSHIP? Or thinking about it? If so, my heart goes out to you: You’ve already been through the wringer. As a therapist who specializes in toxic relationship addiction, and having researched and written a breakup recovery book, I know from years of experience that when you’re addicted to a toxic relationship, it messes with your mind. Toxic relationships trash your self esteem. They damage your ability to trust. But even worse, after tolerating months or even years in a toxic relationship it can make you feel like you can’t even trust your own judgement anymore.
This is completely understandable. For the record, anyone can get mixed up in a toxic relationship. Having this experience doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with you. It’s happened to me, too. It’s easy to get sucked in to an exciting, passionate relationship that makes you feel the chemistry you’ve been longing for. The early stages of toxic relationships often feel like what we believe “true love” is supposed to feel like — intense, obsessive, and all consuming.
This very reason is why toxic relationships are SO confusing. They are, by definition, fraught with the highest of highs. When you’re in an unhealthy relationship, there is an elation when you connect, a sense of “completeness” when you’re with the person you have such intense feelings for… but also the lowest of the lows. And the lows always come. Being mistreated, emotionally abused, betrayed, and having your boundaries crossed (and crossed and crossed) are also part of the experience of being in a toxic relationship. Throw in a little gaslighting, and after a while, you don’t even know which way is up anymore.
Why It’s So Hard To Leave a Toxic Relationship
Even if you know (intellectually) that it’s time to cut the cord to a toxic relationship, it’s easier said than done. Relationship addiction is a very real thing, and just like an alcoholic or substance abuser can have an unhealthy, yet very real, bond to a substance…you can also have an unhealthy attachment to another person. And just like any other addiction, being addicted to a toxic relationship isn’t something you can just quit easily. Breaking free from a toxic relationship is a recovery process that takes time, self-awareness, growth, and a lot of support.
Before you can leave a toxic relationship, if you’re like many people, you’re wrestling with questions that need to be answered before you feel confident to move on. Relationship questions like, “How do you know if a relationship is toxic?” or “Can a toxic relationship be saved?” or “What are toxic traits in a relationship?” are all very common questions, because when you’re in a toxic relationship…. it can be hard to tell. What’s normal in a relationship? What’s a toxic relationship? What’s a deal breaker, for ME?
Having the time and space to reflect, reconnect with yourself, and get those questions answered are a vital part of the healing process. For many people, the strength and clarity they need to cut the cord for once and for all only comes after they’ve answered those questions.
How to Recover From a Toxic Relationship
As a therapist who has worked with countless people around toxic relationship addiction, I know that getting clarity is not just the most important first step of healing — it can be one of the biggest challenges in recovering from a toxic relationship. Especially if you’ve already been mistreated, had your boundaries crossed, and are questioning your own judgment – you really need an outside perspective to help you reconnect with your own inner wisdom about what’s okay, what’s not okay, and what you need to do. Even more importantly, you need support and guidance to help you do the hard and often painful of breaking free from a toxic relationship.
That is why connecting with other supportive people, whether it’s a good therapist or wise life coach, or supportive person who’s lived through this themselves, can be so crucial.
Leaving Toxic Relationships: New Podcast
In order to provide you with the empowering support and perspective that can support YOUR growth and recovery, I’ve invited writer Shannon Ashley to join me on the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast. Shannon writes (and so well!) about topics like relationships, self-esteem, emotional health and wellness, and more for Medium.com, and other outlets. She has also written extensively about HER lived experience in a toxic relationship, and about the journey of growth that helped her break free.
Shannon is not the type of “official” relationship expert that I often have on the show — she’s so much more. She’s a fellow traveler who has walked through the fire, and come out the other side. She has been able to give a voice to the experience that you’re going through, and she has a unique perspective on what it really takes to heal from a toxic relationship. I’m so pleased that she’s here to share her hard won wisdom with YOU today.
If you’re struggling to break free from a toxic relationship, I hope that you listen. (Or, if reading this makes you think not of yourself, but of someone you love who may be dealing with this, I hope you share this episode with them.)
Wishing you all the best,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby
PS: If you’re in an “iffy” relationship and want to get clarity about whether it’s healthy or not, consider taking my free “How Healthy is Your Relationship” quiz. Here’s the link.