Sunday, February 1, 2009

Setbacks When Leaving - 4 Strategies to Give Yourself a Break Coming Out of a Toxic Relationship

Relationships are difficult, and often those that have an element of emotional abuse are extremely challenging to be in as well as to leave. Our partner or former partner may tell us what we want to hear, tell us that we are crazy and have the problem, minimize their hurtful and destructive actions, and otherwise cause us to second guess ourselves. Feelings of loneliness after a divorce, or any breakup, is normal. Being drawn back into a relationship, even a toxic one, is not uncommon. Here are 4 strategies to use to cut yourself some slack and come to greater peace and acceptance about the decision to leave the toxic relationship:

1. Accept that there were some good times. However, you left for a reason. Make a list of all the pros and cons of the relationship. Post it somewhere so that every time you are tempted to call or try to reconcile with your ex, you are reminded why you said goodbye in the first place. Being free of an emotionally abusive or toxic relationship is freeing and overall may be the best decision - but it does not mean you won't miss things about it.

2. Spend as much time around your support network - friends, family, counselor - as possible. These people love you, support you, and can help fill some of the time that is now vacant since you no longer spend it with your ex. Your support network will also help to reinforce your decision, particularly if they were witness to poor treatment you received. This is valuable recovery time and a good opportunity to reestablish and reconnect with relationships you may have neglected while being consumed with maintaining the toxic relationship.

3. Date if you like, but remember that it is important that you do the work on you before jumping in headfirst with someone else. Chances are there are some underlying issues you need to work on, perhaps with a counselor or therapist, to determine why you were attracted to and stayed in this relationship in the first place. Once you feel you have a thorough understanding of your part in the dynamic of your toxic relationship, and feel ready, start meeting people and enjoying the company of others in a dating format.

4. If you do "slip up" and go back to the toxic relationship, or have a reconnection with your ex, don't be too hard on yourself. Sometimes leaving is a process that takes a few tries. What is important is that you seek to take care of yourself and honor yourself throughout. Everyone makes mistakes. What makes the difference is how we react to them.

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