When you first realize your relationship is toxic, it’s like a light bulb goes on.
All that stuff he does to you isn’t just the normal behavior of a guy who gets irritated and loses his temper sometimes.
It’s the behavior of someone who’s controlling you.
He knows exactly what he’s doing.
Oh, sure, he blames it on you. He says that you made him do it. You pushed him too far. You’re so awful and horrible that he has no choice.
And for a long time you bought it.
You believed that if only you could do better—if you could avoid those topics that set him off, if you could criticize him less, if you could let him make all the decisions—then you’d both be happy.
Because your relationship is so, SO good when he’s happy.
You see so many amazing qualities in him. You see the man he could be. He’s just got this little problem—he doesn’t seem to like you very much sometimes.
Is that a deal-breaker? Can’t you fix it?
Or is it time to find a way out?
You’ve Got a Problem
Maybe you’re just starting to realize the damage your relationship is causing.
This pain you’re in isn’t okay.
It’s not normal. This isn’t how love feels.
When you love someone, it makes you sick to hurt them. Sometimes you can’t help it—we all have tempers, and we all make mistakes.
But what we don’t do is find petty little ways to put our beloved down. We don’t say something mean right when they’re happy. We don’t keep them in their place.
If (1) your guy is doing that to you and (2) he feels entitled to keep doing it, then you’ve got a problem.
Your problem is that you’ve got to find a way to leave him…
And it won’t be easy.
#1. Find an Ally
Leaving a toxic relationship is not like leaving a normal relationship.
A normal guy will let you go, because he respects the fact that you’re your own person and he can’t control you.
A toxic guy will try to destroy you if you leave him.
Because, in his mind, you belong to him. You are an extension of him. Losing you is like losing his car. He may not like you, but he owns you, and he gets to decide what to do with you.
That’s why the first thing you need to do, before anything else, is find an ally.
Your ally will be someone who is going to remind you why you’re leaving this person. They’re going to give you somewhere to stay. They’re going to commit to listening when you call them crying at 3am or break down because you don’t know if you can do this.
This will take time.
You’re not going to just leave him and everything will be fine.
You’re going to leave him, and things are going to get worse for a while. THEN they’ll get better!
But you need to have your strength and support system in place so that when things do get worse, you’re prepared.
Make sure your ally is prepared, too. It may take months before the dust finally settles.
2. Make Sure He Can’t Get to You
Second, you need to plan a way that you can go “no contact.”
When you leave a toxic relationship, you can expect repercussions. Right now, your guy is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Sometimes he’s wonderful, and sometimes he’s just awful.
It’s heartbreaking to know that the minute you say you’re going to leave him and he realizes you’re telling the truth, you will have lost that lovely side of him for good.
The person that will emerge may be so awful, and so ruthless, and so determined to destroy you, that you can’t believe it. Sure, he was bad to you before, but now he’s your enemy.
I think that’s the hardest thing of all: to know you have this enemy now, and he was the man you once loved and would have loved forever. How is that even possible?
Toxic relationship mess with your head. Everything you thought was real and true turns out to be a lie.
So you need to keep yourself safe, physically and emotionally.
And the best way to stay safe is to eliminate his ability to contact you.
How to Go “No Contact”
You’re going to need to figure out how to shut down any avenue where he can get at you.
Change your phone number, if at all possible.
Change all your passwords immediately, in case he’s found any of them out.
Block his email address or set up a filter to divert all his emails into a folder where you don’t have to see or read them.
Block him from your social accounts and lock down your privacy settings.
Consider whether you have mutual friends who might pass information on to him. You might believe that they’re your friends, too, but when there’s an acrimonious breakup, people take sides.
To the best of your ability, create a situation where he cannot contact you or find out information about you, even if that means taking a break from social media for a while.
When You Can’t Avoid Contact
For those of you who are leaving a toxic marriage, or who share a child with this man, or who have financial affairs to sort out, strict “no contact” is going to be impossible.
You’ll want to limit his ability to contact you to email—phone only in an emergency—and then not read those emails yourself.
Instead, pass them over to a friend you trust completely, who can read them for you and tell you what you need to know.
You don’t need his nastiness. You just need the facts.
#3. Get Professional Help
Finally, you’re going to need professional support.
If you’re going to divorce him, get an experienced lawyer. Don’t try to do it on your own.
Remember that he will use anything and everything as a weapon against you.
You still remember how lovely he is when he wants to be, and it will be hard to lock him out and give up on that dream for good. But a lawyer will help you.
Get a therapist if you can, someone who specializes in abusive relationships, because you’re going to need to rebuild your sense of self that he’s destroyed.
There are some wonderful organizations that offer free therapeutic support to victims of domestic violence. See if you can find one. Remember that domestic violence includes verbal and emotional abuse, not just physical abuse.
And don’t ever feel weird about calling a domestic violence helpline. Calling that number shouldn’t be scary. Just think of it as gathering more information.
You can also find a domestic violence forum. When you read other women’s stories that are so much like your own, it can really strengthen your resolve to leave.
So there you have it. The 3 most important things you need to know about leaving a toxic relationship are:
- Find an ally.
- Plan for “no contact.”
- Get professional support.
And if you want to find out more, these articles might help:
- How Do You Stop Loving a Toxic Person?
- What to Do When Your Boyfriend Yells at You
- 5 Warning Signs of a Toxic Relationship
- My Boyfriend Yells at Me
- The Verbally Abusive Relationship – Interview with Patricia Evans
- Why I’m Attracted to Narcissists
- What’s the #1 Dating Red Flag?
- Stop Being an Emotional Punching Bag
- How to Deal with Toxic People – Interview with Dr. Rhoberta Shaler
- Healing from a Bad Relationship – Interview with Susan Ball
Take good care of yourself.