For some reason, love often blinds us. We can be the most intelligent, careful, cautious people, but when love comes around it is like we lose it all. Love has a way of making you think and feel and do things you shouldn’t. What’s even more interesting is the fact that what we feel often isn’t even love. It’s infatuation, attachment, lust. It looks like love and feels like love, but it isn’t. Either way, they all screw with our heads and our hearts. They impact our ability to use reason and make sound decisions. Our emotions are all over the place and extremely intensified. I feel that love, and all those things we mistake for love, make us go a bit mad.
Think of our dear friend the Mad Hatter. This is a person who is a bit bonkers but not totally insane. Love usually makes us a bit bonkers as well. Sometimes love takes us to the extreme and we absolutely lose our minds, but we hope to retain a bit of sanity through it though. In reality, we don’t want to lose ourselves and our minds in it. This takes work. It takes work and a commitment to keep your focus through the highs and lows of the love emotions. It takes time to build up an ability to use reason while your world is spun upside down.
Trust me, it is worth doing the work for.
As someone who has been in toxic relationships, I wish that I had paid better attention to what was going on instead of getting caught up in the rush of the relationship. I missed clear and brightly blinking signs early on. I glossed over red flags thinking they were no big deal, and that I could change them. I lost myself completely in the emotions and in the moment. And I didn’t just do it once either. I’ve done it time and time again. And Every. Single. Time. I have regretted it immensely.
My last serious relationship was a whirlwind. It was as though I was caught up in a tornado of emotions, attachment, red flags, and life changes. I was high on the good times and high on the fights. We had an ugly argument only two weeks into our relationship. This was a clear sign of an issue and I ignored it. I had such passion with this person, that I fought to make it work. After that, we had terrible fights time and time again. Yet I continued to ignore them all. I was letting my emotions lead me and it only led to disaster in the end. Only after it ended did I see it for what it was, and that was because I finally chose to open my eyes.
With any life experience, I focus on learning the lessons from it and I actively work to make better choices in the future. I also retain gratitude for the good that came out of the experience.
But that doesn’t mean I keep on rose colored glasses to see it as something it wasn’t.
My relationship with him was toxic and unhealthy, period. He brought out the worst in me and I gave up almost all of who I was as a person. I was miserable and had completely lost myself. My life lost all meaning. I had only my child and the moments I had away from him to keep me going and give me something to look forward to. He sucked almost all of the joy out of my life. I was a prisoner in a hell controlled by him. What was left of me was a shell that he had created.
I fully believed that real love meant you stick it out no matter how bad things got. I was sure he was my true love, and I was determined never to quit loving him. He needed my love because no one else loved him. I was going to show him that someone loved him no matter what he did.
That is literally the stupidest thing I could have done.
Yes, I am calling my decision stupid because that is what it was. Notice that I am not calling myself stupid because that is unhealthy and untrue. Who you are is not what’s in question, your decision is. Do not attack yourself for decisions you make. You are not a bad person for making a poor decision. You are a good person who made a poor choice. And trust me, it happens to the best of us!
Let’s talk about how we can avoid getting so wrapped up in the “love” feelings that we make poor decisions.
Step #1 – You have to see things as they are. This is VERY hard to do in the midst of all those feelings, but it is a must! Do a reality check for yourself weekly. Take a look at your relationship from the perspective of an outsider or a friend. Even better, look at it from the perspective of a harsh critic. If you find yourself unable to look at it without bias, ask a close friend or two to tell you what they think. You have to find a way to see red flags when they come up and not stay in a toxic relationship because you refuse to see the facts for what they are.
Step #2 – Stop making excuses. If your partner berates you like trash whenever you upset them, this is not a healthy person or a healthy relationship. If they belittle your feelings or put you down for showing any emotions, this is not a healthy person or a healthy relationship. If they are emotionally or physically abusive to you, this is not a healthy person or relationship. If they try to manipulate you, use you, or con you in any way, this is not a healthy person or relationship. There are NO excuses for this kind of behavior. Stop making them! Stop allowing this person to hurt you and mistreat you. By making excuses for their behavior, you are showing them that it is okay to treat you like that. You deserve better treatment from a partner so show that by putting your foot down when they start to treat you badly! If there is a pattern of negative behavior, you have to take notice of it. It is HIGHLY unlikely this behavior will change. Time and love and attention will not change it. Nothing will. You need to accept this.
Step #3 – True love does not mean submitting yourself to horrible treatment. That is not true love at all. You should never have to martyr yourself for the sake of a partner. You should never force yourself to stay with someone who is toxic. It is not healthy for you and it is not healthy for your children. Claiming you are “staying for the kids” is a flat out lie. The kids need a healthy home environment and you staying is not providing them one. They need to see an example of a parent respecting themselves enough to walk away from a bad person who is hurting them. Don’t use your kids or your “love” as an excuse. You know you need to leave.
Step #4 – Let go of the attitude that it’s harder to leave than it is to stay. We all get contented in our relationships. Even if it’s a miserable one, we stay in it because it’s what we’ve known for so long and the unknown is scary. Plus ending things involves a whole lot of work and we don’t want to deal with that. But is your well-being and peace of mind really worth settling for the hell you’re in? Are you willing to give up the unknown, which could actually bring you many positive things and much happiness, all because staying where you are is easier? That’s a pretty lousy reason! Yes it will be hard at first, but then it will be freeing and wonderful! You will find happiness and yourself again. You’ll get to change your world if you just take the steps to do so.
Step #4 – This is the most important step and it is probably the hardest to do – WALK AWAY. There were many times that I knew I should walk away, if not RUN away, from that man. I chose to ignore those moments and that was a huge mistake. I subjected myself to years of pain and hardship because of that. When you have recognized there are red flags, when you’ve stopped making excuses for their behavior, when you know that it’s a toxic relationship, you need to leave. No, it is not always an easy process. If you live together, that means splitting property and one of you moving. If you are engaged, that means canceling the wedding. If you are married, that means divorce. If you have kids, that means custody battles and joint custody, and it means dealing with new partners and step-parents.
But in the long run, you will be happier without this person in your day to day life.
You will hate your life day to day, month to month, year to year, as your life goes on if you let this person stay in your world. You will grow more and more unhappy, bitter, miserable, sad, angry, and depressed.
It will only get worse, it never gets better.
I will not lie to you and tell you that my life is perfect now. I am still struggling to find my bearings and get things on a new track. I’ve had ups and downs, highs and lows. But I can tell you with all honestly that I am happier now, even on my hardest days, than I was with him. I dreaded my future with him. I imagined that I would make it until my kiddo had graduated, and then most likely divorce him. Only a few years in and I was already planning my divorce down the road! This is not a good sign.
Please, use these steps to really evaluate the reality of your relationship. If you are in a toxic relationship, start taking the steps to leave. Create a new life and a new happiness for yourself free of that person. It is so worth it!