“You don’t let go of an unhealthy relationship because you stop caring about them. You let go because you finally start caring about you.” ~Charles Orlando
Most of us have experienced the pain of being in an unhealthy relationship.
It took me a long time to admit that I was in one. When I finally took off the rose-tinted glasses, I saw my relationship for what it was: an exhausting, lonely experience, with no real long-term benefits, that sucked the life out of me.
I recognized that the relationship was causing me to feel worse about myself, not better, resulting in low self-esteem and a lack of personal growth. I thought I needed this other person, but I learned that I needed myself much more.
Why do we stay in unhealthy relationships that have clearly run their course? Well, first, because it’s better the devil we know that the one we don’t, right? As creatures of habit, we find it difficult to break away from familiarity.
Low self-esteem is another contributing factor. We feel stuck because we've conditioned ourselves to believe that we will never love again, or that nobody else will ever want us.
For so long I made excuses to stay, even though I knew it was over and wrong for me. I convinced myself that the relationship was normal, and that the dysfunction was just part of the journey of love. Eventually, I realized that it shouldn’t be that hard.
After I stepped away from the emotional chaos, I realized that I wasn’t being true to myself, doing what I enjoyed, or taking care of myself anymore. So I focused on developing and strengthening the relationship I had with myself.
Whereas before I’d neglected my well-being, I began prioritizing self-care.
I practiced meditation on a daily basis and used this as a therapeutic tool to calm my anxiety and help me learn to live in the moment.
I also made a list of a few simple words that represent my core values and boundaries. I then recognized that my relationship was not in alignment with any of those.
After deep reflection, this list turned into a gratitude journal. I’d write down everything I still had going for me, including my best qualities, to give myself strength when I felt weak and hope when I felt there was none.
As a result of making these positive choices for myself, my intuition became stronger and I knew it was time to let go and move on. If I’d ignored my intuition and the clues that my relationship was unhealthy, I’m convinced that the situation would have gotten much worse over time.
Don’t allow your unhealthy relationship to dictate your future like I did. Make a choice that your future self will thank you for.
Not sure if you’re in an unhealthy relationship? Here are seven clues.
1. Everything you do seems wrong.
No matter what you do, it doesn’t feel right, and the blame always falls on you. Your self-esteem has been knocked so low that you've started to believe every negative thing your partner says about you. You may also feel like everything you say and do is wrong. It’s always about them and what they want.
2. You can't be yourself.
You find it hard to speak your mind or express your true self around your partner. You have to become someone you’re not in order to be accepted or loved by them, so you forget about who you really are and what makes you happy.
3. You always feel drained and exhausted.
You’re always trying, the one who puts in all the effort with no compromise. As a result, you’re left feeling exhausted and burnt out. They drain your energy, which leaves you feeling empty and alone inside.
4. You avoid the issues.
You prefer to keep the peace, so you avoid discussing the underlying issues in your relationship. You make excuses for them to protect the relationship. You pretend you’re okay when you’re not, telling yourself it’s normal. You are scared of seeing the relationship for what it really is, because it hurts.
5. You struggle with trust and dishonesty.
Your intuition and that little voice in your head always tell you not to trust them, because they’ve let you down and been dishonest before. The relationship is based on secrecy, and there is no open and honest communication going on.
6. There’s a lack of communication.
There isn’t enough or any open and honest communication, or perhaps the communication is hostile, leaving you feeling like you are always the one to blame. Perhaps you feel ashamed to communicate how you feel because you are scared of being ignored or rejected.
7. You feel resentment.
You are starting to feel angry or negative toward yourself or your relationship because you can’t let go of the past and everything they’ve put you through. It’s gotten to the stage where an apology just isn’t enough. Too much has happened. As a result, intimacy has stopped and you feel uncomfortable getting close to them.
If any of these things are true for you, know that it’s far better to be alone than in the wrong company.
Focus on strengthening the relationship you have with yourself by focusing on your good qualities, your strengths, and everything you still have to be thankful for.
Get to know yourself better by understanding your values and boundaries, and don’t be afraid to walk away from any relationship that is not in alignment with them. Remain true to yourself, and the right relationships will come in time—one that doesn’t hurt.