Being in a toxic relationship can sometimes be hard to spot—even the worst of relationships are good some of the time, which might make things tricky to see clearly. They're also addictive, and often when you're in a toxic relationship, you're usually being gaslighted by the other party or have your self-esteem stripped away, so you feel like you have no other choice.
Knowing you're in a toxic relationship is the first thing you have to do in order to break free of one, but it's not the last step, and the effects of a toxic relationship can be longlasting.
Recognizing A Toxic Relationship
There are some things to look for. If you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around your partner, or if you brace yourself for that "gotcha" moment when you'll end up in trouble, or you feel like all the effort in your relationship comes from you, then these might be some red flags.
Ultimately, if even a small part of you wonders if you're in a toxic relationship, there is a pretty strong chance that that question is coming from somewhere important. But even after you leave a toxic relationship, it often stays with you.
You Think You're Not Worthy Of Love
After enduring a toxic relationship, it can be hard not to feel like everything was your fault, and because of that, you feel like you're not worth loving in a real way—if they didn't love you, could anyone?
He Was Probably Right About Me
One of the trademarks of a toxic relationship is emotional abuse, which can come in the form of your ex tearing you down and making you feel like you're what's wrong with your relationship and that you're not a good person.
Those things end up so ingrained in you that they can be hard to shake, and those feelings of being at fault may stick around.
My Baggage Makes Me Unloveable
Everyone has baggage in their life because everyone has had some kind of struggle to overcome. There is a special kind of baggage that seems to come with being in a toxic relationship, though, and it might feel like that baggage is going to make you damaged goods.
My Mental Health Is Struggling
Realizing that you're struggling with your mental health is such an important thing to know about yourself, but knowing that might not be the same as you getting help, especially if you came from a situation where it was used against you or exacerbated.
I Didn't Try Hard Enough
This is a big one that a lot of people who leave toxic relationships feel in retrospect. Because they were blamed for so much of what went wrong during the relationship, it only makes sense that, after the relationship, that lingering feeling of being at fault would still be there.
I'll Never Find Happiness Again
In a toxic relationship, things aren't always bad. In fact, often, the great times were amazing in the same way that the bad times were awful. Those good times might leave you worrying that you'll never find that kind of happiness again.
I'm Worried My Friends Are Going To Judge Me
It's quite likely that the people in your life noticed that you were struggling with your relationship, and if they were good friends, maybe they even brought it up to you.
It can be hard to not feel like you're going to be judged or told, "See, we told you!" if you discuss it with them. If anything, they'll probably feel as relieved as you do to hear you open up about it.
I Don't Want To Be Hurt Again
This is a big one. The fear of being hurt the same way as you have been in the past is valid and often looming when you think about dating again. It can lead to you being very guarded in a way that stops you from letting people in.
All Men Are The Same
A lot of us joke about this, but if you've ever dealt with a toxic relationship, this is a real fear. It's hard not to hold the sins of an ex against future relationships. It's important to be careful when you let new people in, but it's also important to know that not everyone is your ex.
I Don't Trust My Taste In People Anymore
This is another way that we blame ourselves after coming out of a bad relationship. You chose that person in the first place, so there must be something wrong with you—or that's what you tell yourself, anyway. In fact, it's much more likely that the person you got to know was not a true representation of who your ex was, and you can't blame yourself for their lies.
I'm So Tired All The Time
Emotional exhaustion is a real thing, and you'll feel it in a real way after leaving a bad relationship. It will take time to recover from what you went through, and you have to give yourself the time to heal.
Maybe The World Isn't A Nice Place Afterall
After having your heart broken in such a devastating way, it's hard to see the world as a nice place, and you could find yourself feeling very negative and pessimistic.
What's The Point In Taking Care Of Myself
When your self-worth is at an all-time low, doing simple things like showering regularly or applying that luxurious skincare routine can seem like far too much work. Sometimes, it's just easier to eat bad food and never leave your house. It's OK to do those things sometimes, but not all the time.
I Feel Powerless
The biggest thing that a toxic relationship does to you is that it strips you of your power and your autonomy. When you leave that relationship, you still feel like you have no power to make decisions for yourself, or really even know where to start.
What Can I Do To Help Myself?
If you're seeing these patterns or struggling with moving on, there are some things that you can do to help yourself. It's difficult to come to a place where you want to deal with the trauma, so when you get there, you should be proud.
Accept That The Relationship Was Toxic
The first thing that you have to do is accept that even if you loved that person and the relationship was good some of the time, it was still toxic, and it's a good thing that it's over.
Seek Professional Help
The best thing that you can do for yourself is to seek some kind of professional help. You don't have to see a therapist forever or take medication if you don't want to, but a couple of sessions might help you put things back into perspective.
Be Open With Your Friends
Another thing you should do is to be open about what you went through with your friends and family. They'll be able to help you remember who you are and will be a more reliable lens for seeing the world, at least for a while.
Start Some New Routines
Change can be your friend. Starting fresh is a great way to get your life back on track after a dark time, even if that means doing little things like getting up at the same time every day or going for a walk. Reclaim your life and your time, and don't forget that things do get better.