We’ve lived in our new apartment for exactly one month today. It’s an average sized apartment but to us, it is huge! So big, in fact, that we manage to regularly misplace our phones, the remote, and sadly, our cat. One day, unbeknownst to us, he crawled into a cabinet and went to sleep. We shut the door. A while later we heard him knocking. The same thing happened with the linen closet. Caesar hopped into the laundry basket for a nap and was promptly shut away. This time, we were gone for hours!
When we lived in the tiny apartment, everything was always within our line of sight. Keys had a home on the side of the fridge. Remotes were kept in a basket. Caesar was almost always underfoot or chilling on the cool tile floor in the bathroom. We will, no doubt, adjust to the larger space and eventually find workable solutions for keeping everything we need close at hand, but right now, I don’t even remember where I left my coffee!
On the other side of town, my niece is also adjusting to new living arrangements. For the first time in her life, she’s on her own. In July, just 2-weeks shy of her 18th birthday, she decided to move in with her boyfriend of 3 years, the father of her baby. I had misgivings but they assured me (and everyone else) that they would make it work. There’s a lot that I could say here but the short of a long story is that within a month of moving in together, they broke up. More accurately, he was arrested and though it is difficult, she is trying to move on.
My niece could have gone back home to her mother. She could have moved in with other relatives. She chose none of these paths. Instead, within a week of the breakup, she had 3 interviews and landed her first job – at an office supply store. This was no small feat for someone who didn’t even have an ID, much less a driver’s license, and had been told over and over that she would never get a job. She also managed to talk the landlord into letting her stay in the apartment and pay a reduced rent. And together we’ve gotten her ID, a checking account, and a very affordable cell phone plan (just $3.99/month). I’m very proud of her. She had to grow up very quickly and I think she’s doing a good job playing the lead role in her own life for once.
Just a few days ago we stopped in to find her sitting on her bedroom floor amid a pile of stuffed animals.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Decluttering,” she replied. “I sold his furniture, boxed up the rest of his stuff, and now I’m sorting out the closet. Do you need any teddy bears?”
I took the bag of bears she was holding. Though she didn’t say, I knew he had given them to her over the course of their relationship. “I’ll find them a home,” I said.
Breaking up is hard no matter what age you are. I imagine it’s even harder when children are involved. The circumstances of their breakup makes it impossible for him to contact her right now but that won’t always be the case. Soon there will be weekend visitation arrangements and the daily bombardment that is social media to keep both of them apprised of the other’s every move. I hate it for her. I hate it most for the innocent little child that will end up in the middle of the drama. I know all too well what that’s like. I was once the child in the middle of a messy break up.
Toxic relationships are bad for everyone involved and they don’t get better. Unhappy people don’t just suddenly become happy with the same circumstances that made them unhappy in the first place. I don’t know what made DC (the boyfriend) so unhappy but I do know that he hasn’t been happy in a few years. The once sweet, smiling young man with plans for his life no longer exists. He’s been replaced by an angry young man overwhelmed by the gravity of choices made in the moment.
Staying in a toxic relationship is a death sentence, if not for your physical being, most definitely for your soul. The mind can’t function when it is surrounded by negativity and when you can’t think, it’s hard to plan, to dream, and even just to do the things that are necessary to live each day. Over the past month I’ve seen a huge change in my niece and great-niece. Outside the toxic environment, they are thriving. They laugh, they have fun, and they are not afraid. They are well on their way to happiness and it is my sincere hope that they stay this way.
It’s important to know when you’re in a toxic relationship so you can choose something better for yourself. I’ve borrowed the following excerpt from Tiny Buddha in hopes that it may help others out there (including my niece) who find themselves struggling to leave an unhealthy relationship behind.
When I was in my toxic relationships, I ignored my intuition in favor of my logical mind, which told me that losing that person was worse than having him/her around.
But our intuition knows best; unlike our mind, its only motive is our happiness.
“Toxic” doesn’t only entail obvious damage like physical abuse, stealing, or name-calling. It also represents all the internal turmoil that results from an unhealthy relationship. These are five signs that you are in a toxic relationship:
- It seems like you can’t do anything right.
The other person constantly puts you down as not good enough. They mock your personality, and you feel ashamed most of the time. You only feel pardoned when you take on the traits of the person doing the condemning or judging.
- Everything is about them and never about you.
You have feelings, too, but the other person won’t hear them. You’re unable to have a two-sided conversation where your opinion is heard, considered and respected. Instead of acknowledging your feelings, they battle with you until they get the last word.
- You find yourself unable to enjoy good moments with this person.
Every day brings another challenge. It seems as though they are always raising gripes about you. Their attempt to control your behavior is an attempt to control your happiness.
- You’re uncomfortable being yourself around that person.
You don’t feel free to speak your mind. You have to put on a different face just to be accepted by that person. You realize you don’t even recognize yourself anymore, and neither do your closest friends and family.
- You’re not allowed to grow and change.
Whenever you aim to grow and improve yourself, the other person responds with mockery and disbelief. There is no encouragement or support for your efforts. Instead, they keep you stuck in old judgments insisting that you will never be any different than you are now.
If you’re experiencing even just one of these signs, check in with yourself to see if the relationship is doing more damage than good. Evaluate the relationship and what it’s worth to you.
Embrace the answers that come from your intuition, as it wants the best for you—and this relationship might not be it.
Have you left a toxic relationship? What advice can you share?