This is one woman’s story about what she learned while healing from an emotionally toxic relationship. This is not meant to be taken as advice or counseling. If you are a relationship you feel is toxic, please seek help.
While it may not feel like it while it’s happening, I’ve learned the hard way that actually there are some silver linings that can come from leaving an emotionally toxic partnership. Acknowledging that a situation has become destructive, whether blatantly (such as your partner yelling at you) so or in more subtle ways (passive aggressive behavior or subtle, negative remarks), can be one of the most difficult things that many of us face, and ending such a relationship can require a lot of gusto, bravery, and willpower. The good news, though, is that making the break and rebuilding yourself can also be one of the most positive things you’ll ever do. Every situation and every person is different, and the journey is definitely not straightforward or easy, but for me it has proven to be one of the most liberating and empowering decisions I’ve made so far. Here are some of the silver linings I never saw coming when I started from scratch after ending an emotionally controlling relationship:
I learned how to set boundaries for the future.
When I realized that my relationship was damaging, I was able to see what was triggering my feelings of being unhappy and belittled, and knowing these things are red flags for me means that now I can steer clear of them in new relationships. Having the memory of what relationships are not meant to feel like has since helped me to avoid situations that make me feel that way. I’ve learned my personal limits in terms of what I will and won’t put up with in a partner. For example, I now know how important it is for me to avoid being involved with someone who is quick to point out and criticize my flaws, or someone who belittles my goals in comparison to their own. Knowing what your triggers are can actually ended up equipping you with a much better filter for future dating, and can be pretty empowering to learn.
I got a clearer idea of what I wanted from future relationships.
This is similar to the first point, but is another really crucial life lesson. By knowing what was negative and destructive in my previous relationship, and therefore what I don’t want, I also learned what is important for me to seek out when going into my next significant relationship.
Ending my bad relationship gave me a stronger idea of how I want to feel, be treated, and make other people feel as I go forward.
I became more confident in my decisions.
My manipulative relationship wreaked havoc on my self-esteem and emotions, but ending it gave me my independence back. I was finally able to make my own decisions again and get excited about my own future. Starting again meant that I could put the smothering feelings from my old relationship behind me, and shed the negative voice that had been belittling me, crushing my ego, and telling me what I couldn’t do. Moving away from a draining relationship gave me a new and different type of independence, and I felt far more confident being on my own and deciding what I wanted in my life.
I realized how strong and capable I actually am.
Ending my controlling relationship was a long and difficult process, but I learned that at the end of the day, regardless of whether I was going at it alone or with my support system by my side, the only person that could make any real and lasting change was me. Learning to own that decision showed me strength that I didn’t know I had in me. It’s amazing how much confidence you can glean simply by walking away from a draining situation.
I felt healthier and more energized again.
I learned the hard way that when a partnership is unbalanced or damaging, it can leave you feeling massively drained and tired. The link between mental and physical health is huge. A situation that makes you feel consistently anxious, insecure, or ‘on edge’ can end up giving you surprising physical symptoms such as headaches, tiredness or (as I experienced) nausea. By breaking away from my toxic relationship, I actually ended up feeling more energized, peaceful, and generally healthy again.
It’s easy to feel trapped and entangled in a damaging relationship, however long or short, and making the decision to leave can be difficult (and even dangerous in some cases). Even with the knowledge that a relationship is toxic, it can also still be heart-breaking to walk away – but for me, making that decision to take care of myself was the best thing that I ever did. There are several resources available for anyone that may need them, such as:
Anna Redbond is a born and raised British girl living in America and trying her hand at freelance writing. When she’s not writing you can find her hiking, climbing or otherwise exploring her new mountain world, or re-watching Lord of the Rings. You can find her on Instagram.