The Honest Truth About Why I Stayed In My Toxic Relationship

It’s been three months apart. Three months of replaying red flags, rereading old journals, trying to understand why I didn’t see the signs. I did. I felt them, feeling less than, feeling alone. Being discarded by someone more important—being furious, and then relieved when you finally answered after the 20th call or came home six hours later. I was afraid; I didn’t want to let it go. Even after the times you walked away, threw your ring at me, or decided that it was over. I kept going. I fell pregnant. I married you. I had baby two, and baby three, even after you held a knife in front of me. 

It wasn’t because of you I stayed; it was me. It was my fear, my core shame; you sensed it and you exploited it. You charmed those that mattered, my parents, my family and friends. I didn’t care about the frills, but they liked them, the proximity to power, status and influence. For me, it was deeper. I was the very wanted only child. I was the rainbow baby, the one who lived. There was just one flaw. I wasn’t a boy. I wouldn’t further the line. I wouldn’t promulgate and continue the name. I could do everything or anything, but I would never be able to do that. 

So, after fits and starts, I settled for the next best thing, I chose someone as close as possible. It wasn’t the only reason, but it was the reason tied to my shame, my inadequacy. When he gaslit and lied and manipulated me, it made me feel like I wasn’t good enough—I had a lifetime of practice at that. It wasn’t true, my dad moved past that and evolved. In creating new lives my very womanhood became the source of the greatest closeness and achievement. But it tied me to him. It stopped me from ever really wanting to leave—because with him, we were enough. Alone, by myself, I didn’t believe I was successful enough. So that’s why I stayed, I wanted to be enough, even if it meant I kept drowning in isolation and hurt. 

Not anymore. I can face this shame, understand it, and let it go. I believe I am worth more, even if there is still so much I want to change and so much more I want to do. I don’t know how far I’ll go; I don’t know how much of it I can do. I know that I want more than you. More than feeling the agony of living with someone who hurts you and means it. More than living with you, who took all my honesty and trauma and used it to diminish me. It won’t work. I am enough. 

I’m not the son I wanted to be. Because of that, I am daughter and mother with a power that cannot and will not be extinguished. There is no fear or threat you can utter that can match me facing the darkest crevices of self. I will persevere because I will keep putting one foot in front of the other, day after day, no matter what obstacles I face. I will keep going because the promise of anything, good or bad, is better than the nothing you offer. Lies, cheating, betrayal—you cannot give more because you are not enough. I am. Today and every day from now on, because I choose me.