Written by Heather Hans, published by YourTango on February 27, 2018
You have already endured the most painful part, which is being in the toxic relationship.
One of the most difficult experiences you can have in life is to get out of a toxic relationship when you still love the person. But an even more painful experience is being in the relationship! Leaving it is not as hard as being in it.
Love prevails through death of a relationship, but that death allows you freedom to live a happier, healthier, more fulfilled life. And the happier, healthier, and more fulfilled you are, the better it is for all of us who share the planet with you. Self-love is a responsibility not just to you, but to all.
The more intimate the relationship, the more painful it is to exit, but also the more positively transformational it will be in your life. Based on my personal and professional experience, the most intimate relationships are those between a person and their parents. Severing ties with a parent is life-changing, but if you’ve gotten to that point, there are certainly strong and valid reasons.
Relationships with romantic partners and close friends can be extremely difficult to leave, as well, even when they are toxic. When in relationship with someone your energies start to mix and they become a part of you.
As psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, said, “For two personalities to meet is like mixing two chemical substances: if there is any combination at all, both are transformed.” Leaving the relationship then, is like killing a piece of your existence, your roots and identity in this world.
But fear not, life is a continuous cycle of birth, growth, crisis, death, and transformation. Death is necessary for something new to be born. As a child leaves childhood and becomes a young adult, those precious young times may never again be visited, yet the new day brings a blossoming young adult who begins their own life and contribution to the world.
In order for you to have what you want and need in your life, something has to die. Life as you know it cannot stay the same if you want something more. Hence, the health and happiness you seek cannot occur while a toxic relationship is in your life.
Three common obstacles make it difficult to leave a toxic relationship when you still love the person. Here’s how to handle them with more ease and control.
Research shows that guilt and shame produce feel-good hormones in our brains, so people become addicted to them. However, they are also highly destructive and have also been shown to make you attracted to behavior that causes legitimate guilt and shame, such as overeating or drinking too much.
The way to success is to forgive yourself, avoid blowing things out of proportion, and avoid making your actions about your worth. In the case of leaving a toxic relationship, you have done no wrong anyway, but these facts are helpful to keep in mind.
You are the only one who can truly take care of you and if you don’t, there will be grave consequences. Know that by leaving a toxic relationship you make a declaration to the world that you love life and yourself. When you love life and you love yourself, you uplift the world. You do everyone a good deed, including the person with whom you must part ways. Staying in relationship with them feeds their toxic behavior and ultimately weakens them.
Leaving a toxic relationship can be extremely confusing. You still love the person, yet being in relationship with them hurts you.
If others criticize you for leaving the relationship, it makes you question yourself even further. You wonder if you’re overreacting or somehow wrong. But the very fact that you are reading an article about leaving a toxic relationship means that it is toxic.
Trust your intuition. You actually send an enlightened message of strength, courage, and boundaries by getting out.
All relationships have difficulties, but that doesn’t mean they are toxic. A toxic relationship is one in which you are not consistently valued and cherished, based on the other person’s actions and how they treat you. It is one in which you cannot trust the other person, and/or they repel you.
If there are times in the relationship that are good and loving, it does not negate the above factors, which indeed make it toxic.
Leaving a toxic relationship when you still love the person can leave you in a state of temporary isolation. The more significant the relationship in your life, the more space it filled not only in your time, but in your mind and heart. Without this person, you likely feel alone and lacking a sense of belonging. While these feelings can be painful, they are temporary, as nature does not like a vacuum and seeks to fill it.
Our deepest fulfillment comes through transformation, which is preceded by loss and pain. Let yourself feel sad. Create rituals to mark this rite of passage in your life, and know that a brand new world awaits you.
When I had to get out of the toxic relationship with my biological father, I held a memorial service, just for me. I cried tears of joy for the life he gave me, and then burned his pictures and said goodbye. It was a meaningful way for me to move out of the harmful relationship that I finally had the strength to leave. Though nothing can break my love for my father’s soul, our relationship on earth is permanently dead. It ran its course and I could not have grown or been healthy had I tried to continue a relationship that was troubled from the start.
Getting out of a toxic relationship when you still love the person is never easy. But then again, neither is the road to any greener pasture. It’s through your pain that you are able to create a new and better life for yourself. Those who have guts get the glory. Your courage and efforts will be rewarded, if you allow yourself to step into the unknown.
Heather Hans, LCSW, MBA is a public speaker, psychotherapist, and author of The Heart of Self-Love. She uses creativity and entertainment to help people find their joy. You can subscribe to her newsletter or watch her live streams on Twitter at @HeatherHansTV.