After getting out of an extremely toxic relationship that lasted for years, I couldn’t help but find myself completely mad and unforgiving towards myself. I couldn’t believe how I let someone do that to me for years and how I stayed all that time. I spent so much time not being able to forgive myself for what I tolerated or was okay with during this time.
But here’s what helped me out a bit during my healing journey and me trying to forgive myself. Toxic relationships are not so obvious most of the time. They are not them yelling at you or abusing you in a very obvious way. It’s not always clear aggressiveness. Sometimes it’s in the way they make you feel about yourself every single time you’re with them. It’s about how they completely let you lose your self-confidence. It’s about them belittling you and making you feel less worthy. It’s about them making fun of your dreams and not supporting you or making you believe that you can achieve all these dreams of yours. It’s about them constantly manipulating you and trying to guilt you every chance they get. It’s about them glooming your glow and sucking your energy and spark. And the thing is, they are not always romantic ones; for some reason, many people out there disregard how some non-romantic relationships fall under the category of being toxic as well and how they have such a huge impact on us.
We’re usually taught to spot the very obvious things, but not many teach us to pay attention to how we feel when a person walks into the room and how their presence makes us feel about ourselves. They don’t teach us that sometimes, even though others make us feel so bad and might do horrible things towards us, when they do one nice thing for us, we start questioning ourselves, thinking that maybe they’re not as bad as we thought they were. The thing is, doing a nice thing every now and then is not enough to erase all the horrible things they have repeatedly done on our behalf. It won’t change the way they made us feel towards ourselves or how they made us feel worse all the time. Doing a good thing doesn’t mean that they’ve changed or that they’re any different. You stay because these nice gestures every now and then make you question your judgment towards them. It’s a loop you keep falling into all the time. And It takes a great level of awareness to break this cycle and free yourself from it and know better than to fall in it again.
Right now, when you’re outside of this relationship and you look at it, it’s crystal clear to you how toxic this relationship was. But you didn’t have this awareness back then, so you can’t constantly beat yourself up for staying when you didn’t know any better. Sometimes we keep staying in such a harmful situation because we haven’t even acknowledged it as being harmful. It was not as crystal clear back then as it is to us right now. It’s not as obvious as people assume it to be—in fact, it’s pretty complicated. We, humans, want things to be either black or white. We want a person to be totally bad or totally good in order to know which category exactly we should put them in. But this is not very realistic because life is very gray and humans are not purely good or bad, they are a mix of both.
When we experience from someone the bad then the good, it becomes so difficult for us to categorize them. But here’s the thing: All along, you’ve been focusing on the person and where exactly to put them when you should’ve been focusing on your own self. If you want to know if you’re in a toxic relationship, you need to focus on how this person makes you feel and how their actions affect you. You need to assess their impact on you and your life. You need to stop going back and forth labeling them good or bad based on one thing or another that they do. You need to look at the bigger picture and see how they affect you in general as a whole in your life. That’s how you make things clearer for you. And that’s how you stop being mad at yourself as well, because these kinds of realizations don’t just come to you, you need experience and time to figure all this out. And unfortunately, most of the time you understand all this and you gain this level of awareness after staying in a toxic relationship longer than you should have.