17 Dec
Breaking Free: A Journey to Escaping Toxic Relationships

In the tapestry of our lives, relationships form the intricate threads that weave our stories. While many relationships contribute positively to our growth and well-being, others can become toxic, stifling our potential and draining our happiness. 

This year, I have had a significant number of clients approach me seeking assistance to break free from toxic partners and relationships.  

Escaping toxic relationships is a courageous journey that requires self-awareness, strength, and a commitment to one's own well-being. This is so for familial, platonic and romantic relationships that hinder your wellbeing, growth or development. Leaving relationships is something that requires significant reflection and introspection. Often, toxic partners will engage in manipulative behaviour like gaslighting or attempting to wear down your sense of self. Another common occurrence is for toxic partners to cunningly use information from your past to make you think you are the cause of the relationship issue when in reality, they have done something horrible and simply do not want to acknowledge it or take accountability. 

Toxic relationships are seldom straight forward. If you are concerned about your relationship and have suspicions it may be toxic, it is a good idea to start looking into what actually constitutes a healthy vs toxic relationship, then considering how your relationship measures up. Here are some characteristics of a healthy relationship:

  • They help us grow
  • They are supportive
  • They encourage us to be the most authentic version of ourselves
  • They are built on a sound foundation of trust and mutual respect
  • They cheer us on as we seek to achieve things that are important to us
  • They nurture us to become the version of ourselves that we want to be rather than forcing us to conform to societal norms or expectations of others. This is important because authenticity and mental health are closely related
  • They offer constructive feedback about things we need to work on 
  • They provide a safe place for us to express our feelings, thoughts and emotions
  • They contribute to our wellbeing and encourage us to love and respect ourselves
  • They do not turn a blind eye when we are in need of support
  • They do not seek to deceive or manipulate for personal gain
  • They do not contain any element of physical abuse 

If you have suspicions you are caught in an unhealthy relationship, it may be helpful to start recording events, thoughts and feelings in a journal. Educate yourself. Research some simple things like narcistic personality disorder, borderline personality disorder and factors that contribute to overall compatibility in relationships like personality types and core value systems. 

It is important to understand that some level of criticism and conflict is acceptable in relationships, particularly if you want to grow, evolve and develop as a human. However, if someone places themselves on a pedestal, makes derogatory comments towards you or your loved ones, attacks your sense of self, fails to acknowledge their mistakes, attempts to psychoanalyse you when they are not qualified to do so or frequently alters a narrative to paint themselves in a more favourable light, you may be in a toxic relationship and further evaluation is required. It may also be helpful to look at how you have evolved as an individual over time in the relationship.    

Toxic relationships can have profound effects on one's mental, emotional, and physical well-being. They can erode self-esteem, create anxiety and depression, and hinder personal growth. Understanding the detrimental impact is a pivotal step toward realizing the necessity of breaking free. 

If you determine the relationship is not healthy after spending some time in reflection, the journey to freedom begins with several steps: 

1. Establish Boundaries: End the relationship. Clearly define and communicate your boundaries. Toxic relationships often involve a lack of respect for personal limits, so it's crucial to establish and enforce them. 

2. Seek Support: Reach out to friends, family, or a therapist. Building a support system is essential for encouragement, guidance, and emotional validation during the challenging process of breaking free.

3. Create a Safety Plan: If the toxic relationship involves physical danger, develop a safety plan. This may include identifying safe spaces, informing trusted individuals, and having an exit strategy in case of emergencies. 

4. Let Go of Guilt: Understand that putting your well-being first is not selfish. Develop a bullet proof mindset and be prepared for the other party to be upset, psychoanalyse or gaslight you to create a narrative that best suits their idealised version of themselves. It is best to ignore them rather than let their words impact you or influence your decision. Let go of any guilt associated with ending the toxic relationship. Your mental and emotional health are valuable and deserve protection. 

5. Focus on Self-Care: Prioritize self-care activities that promote healing and rejuvenation. Engage in practices that nourish your mind, body, and soul. 

6. Cutting Ties: Depending on the circumstances, cutting ties with the toxic individual may be necessary. This could involve blocking communication channels and creating physical and emotional distance.

7. Rebuilding: Use this opportunity to rebuild and rediscover yourself. Focus on personal growth, hobbies, and positive relationships that contribute to your well-being. 

Escaping toxic relationships is a transformative journey that requires courage, self-love, and perseverance. By recognizing the signs, seeking support, and prioritizing your well-being, you can break free from toxicity and open the door to a life filled with self-love, positivity, growth, and authentic connections. Remember, your journey to freedom is a testament to your strength and resilience. 

There is a big difference between running away from a problem and moving towards a brighter future. Don’t feel any shame for seeking the support of trained professionals. We are here to help you through the process.

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