When I speak to youth groups one of the things I say often is, “It is great to have goals and aspirations in your life but also be open to change. Don’t be afraid of allowing life to take you where it will take you.” I also say, “I would bet that all adults, and you can ask them, would say that their life did not turn out the way they planned. This is one of the truths in life, life changes all the time.”
When I was a teenager I had my future laid out. My main focus was to get married and have a family, make a home, etc. I didn’t think much past that point in my life. Imagine my surprise to be in my late 30’s, looking back, to see how I could have never predicted what unfolded. Married and divorced then married and annulled TWICE and finally married a fourth time to an amazing man. I have learned in my life to never say never.
Each of my relationships were challenging to say the least. Recently I have had several conversations with friends where I have noticed how much the topic comes up around unhealthy relationships. Why do people choose into them? Why do we not see what is in front of us? I have thought a lot about these questions and relating it to my experiences. In knowing that so many struggle, like I did, I wanted to write about what I had experienced in hopes they might help someone else.
I have experienced relationships with abuse from borderline personality disorder, narcissism and bi-polar disorder. With these relationships I had blinders on, there is no question about it. It was only after time passed and I was ready to step out of the relationship when the blinders would start to come off and I would have the courage to be done. Usually it was at the help of someone else that started helping me to see, however I wouldn’t have seen unless I was ready to.
What is fascinating to me is that with any unhealthy partner there is a brilliance to how they navigate the relationship. They are quite smart, and very good at what they do. While I feel I am a strong, independent woman, I fell for it a few times. This is one of the hardest things for me to look back and heal. Why did I choose into these relationships?
Here are some of the flags that I have experienced in my relationships:
- Confusion. Do you ever feel that you get confused when having an argument with your partner? Does something not quite make sense but you can’t put your finger on what?
- Name calling. Does your partner call you names? Belittle you, make you feel small, bulldoze you? Do you do it back or shrink in response? What happens when you respond with similar behaviors? Is this something you normally do? If not, why are you doing it now?
- Addicted to sex. Does your partner NEED sex often? Will he/she wake you up in the middle of the night often as they need sex in order to sleep? Do you feel like you are forced to do sexual things that you normally wouldn’t do? Things that make you feel uncomfortable but you do them anyway for fear of upsetting your partner?
- Fear up upsetting your partner. Do you feel as if you have to walk on eggshells with you partner? Are you afraid of circumstances that happen that are out of your control for fear of your partner finding out? Like running into an ex-boyfriend.
- Isolation. Does your partner find reasons to dislike your friends, and they are convincing reasons so you push them out of your life?
- Fantasy type of love. Do you have extreme highs and lows with your partner. The highs feel like you are in heaven and this is your true soul mate? He/She says things like they would die without you? That it’s you and them against the world?
- Outbursts. Does your partner have random outbursts that seem extremely dramatic? Maybe yelling at you in the middle of a store?
- Threaten you. Does your partner threaten you when he gets upset? Does he threaten to end his life if you leave? Does he bring up past relationships as better than yours? Better than you? Comparing them to yours?
- Highs & Lows. Does your partner seem to change to a different person? Maybe claiming he/she has demons inside and begging you to stay with them as they attack and say all sorts of horrible, mean things to you? Do they say things one minute that are hurtful or threatening and then shortly after say something completely opposite?
- Lying. Have you caught your partner lying to you? Have they portrayed themselves to others as something other than themselves? Do they seem to cling to something as a truth because there is a small thread of truth in their lies?
- Manipulation. Do you feel and witness your partner manipulating you, others, your children? Do you find your partner saying things to you, accusing you of behavior that they are exhibiting?
- Mocking you. Does your partner mock you. Laugh when you communicate something vulnerable with them? Do they tease you when you start doing something for yourself?
- Sadness. Do you find yourself feeling sad and alone often? Feeling confused and feeling like you are the reason that you are not happier in your relationship thinking things like if I was better at this, or thinner, or prettier, or… you name it.
- Public Shaming. Does your partner publicly shame you? Maybe it’s at a dinner with friends, or in the middle of a store, or through social media?
- Arms Length. Do you ever feel like you can’t quite get close to your partner? This isn’t always an abusive behavior except for the fact that, in my experience, you start questioning yourself as to not being good enough. Or you continue to try to get their attention more and more while sacrificing your needs. This isn’t healthy, or desired, by anyone. The reality is this person is either using it as a tactic, or they have some healing they need to do first before being available for a new relationship.
Did you answer yes to any of these? If so how many?
I want you to know this, if you answered yes and your heart is racing right now, you are not alone! It’s okay and you have a choice. Love, I have learned, is a choice. What do I mean by this? Let me tell you a story… but first I want to explain that I have a belief that we choose experiences for lessons and understanding we want to have in our life. There is a reason why I, or anyone, choose into these unhealthy relationships. And sometimes it takes us awhile to understand why.
In my relationship with my former husband that had borderline personality disorder, let’s call him Joe, it was a very turbulent relationship and moved very quickly. It was months into our relationship that I had pushed my friends out of my life, had experienced abusive behavior and starting feeling really alone. In a conversation with my mother I communicated a few things, which I normally would never do as I knew Joe would be very upset, but I was desperate as my heart was hurting. Her response to me was, “Mandy that is abuse.” I was taken so back by this comment and started to cry. It had never occurred to me that this was abusive behavior. This new realizations for me gave me the courage to have a conversation with Joe as I didn’t want to have an unhealthy relationship. After all, I had already had one before! We started therapy quickly and it was challenging to say the least.
One day we were going to a store. Something happened that triggered Joe, I don’t remember what, and he had an outburst. Yelling at me in the store and then storming out. He took off and I had no idea where he went. He had done this before and it had become a normal thing. I would get blasted with texts next. This was the normal behavior for him. The texts usually were something around being done with our relationship as I wasn’t supportive of him. He would threaten to move out, etc… Often during fights he would take of his wedding ring and throw it. This time, however, because my blinders were starting to come off I could see more clearly and did not want to get into the drama with him. His threats were empty threats to me now. So I didn’t respond at first. Then, after I started driving home as I wasn’t going to wait around for him this time, I texted that maybe we should be done. This was the first time I had agreed to his threats for ending things. I am sure you will be surprised to know that his tune quickly changed. He called saying he was so sorry. That we were getting better, that he was getting better, that he loved me, etc, etc. I agreed to go pick him up and we drove home.
The usual pattern after we would have a fight, usually the fights lasted hours, Joe would need sex to re-connect. This time I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t be intimate with him so I told him I had a migraine and went in our bedroom to lay down.
A few text messages to give you a feel of some of the messages we would have. I am in the blue.
As I laid down I started feeling emotions that I had not allowed myself to feel up to this point. I felt a huge weight start to come over me. I could see myself going down a very dark tunnel and I had the instant knowing that if I chose to stay in this relationship that I would go down this tunnel and never come out. I did not want to choose this. Panic started to come over me as I wasn’t sure what to do. My friend Holli came to mind. She was the one person that I knew had unconditional love for me no matter what. I hadn’t talked to my friends for quite awhile and was grateful when she answered the phone. I told her I didn’t know what to do. I said to her that I knew this was unhealthy, that I could feel I was falling down a dark pit, but I loved him so I felt confused. Her response, and what I was here to learn from this relationship was this, “Of course you love him. Love is the constant thing in life, it is everywhere. You can choose in with him or choose out.” This is when I recognized that if I loved myself first, I wouldn’t choose into an unhealthy relationship – even if I did love him. I choose me.
The next day I flew out to be with my mom and her friends in Maui. The rest was difficult to navigate as with any unhealthy person it can be scary to get out of a relationship with them, even if they are constantly threatening to leave.
Here is some advice for leaving unhealthy relationships that I have learned:
- If you partner is AT ALL abusive, especially when you are trying to leave please go file a protective order. I had to do this with Joe and it was one of the scariest times in my life but it also communicated to him that I was standing up stronger to him and was protecting myself.
- Block him. In my relationships I had to block a few of them, especially the borderline personality disorder, as I would get blasted with texts and phone calls. Find a better way to communicate, if you need to, that creates strong boundaries. I realize this is hard, trust me it is, but it is necessary.
- Document the unhealthy behavior. Record fights, take screen shots of texts, if you are physically abused take pictures of your bruises and get to the police! There is no circumstance where physical abuse is ever okay!
- Get help. Please seek help through therapists, friends, attorneys and police if necessary. It is ALWAYS more traumatic to leave than to stay in the relationship but you and I both know that you have to get out. You will have a hard time staying strong so gather your support team to help you. You are not alone and you can do this!
- Your brain has created pathways now that are addicted to drama. This is a fact. Remember this and see if you can notice any addiction that you have to the drama when you are out of it. Do you long to be back in it? It’s because your brain has patterned the habit of these behaviors and released chemicals with it that form addictions. Your abusive relationship is most likely an addiction. The sooner you can recognize this, and start re-mapping your brain, the easier it will be to get out and this will help in not attracting the same type of partners down the road. I highly recommend anything by Joe Dispenza to help in re-wiring your brain.
- Chord cutting is something that I have done, and do quite frequently, when I notice emotions are high with a person. What is chord cutting? It is intuitively becoming aware of the chords, seeing them with your minds eye, that you have connected to a person. Cut them in whatever way you want. Some can be hard to cut. When this happens ask your higher self to come in and ask if this is in your best and highest good. If it is a yes, ask for help to be able to cut it. Call in your angels or God, whoever you have a relationship with, that can help you. If it is a no, ask why? Follow the train of thought to why it is a no. Usually it is because there is fear in the way. Allow yourself to remove the fear. Call in pure light of unconditional love to support to you. Allow it to fill your being and sit in it for as long as you need. When you feel complete, ask again. By cutting energetic chords and ties with unhealthy relationships it allows you to see clearer. It helps in removing the blinders.
If you, my sweet friend, are reading this and are in a relationship where you aren’t sure if it’s unhealthy or don’t know how to get out of, please reach out to someone for help. You can also reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Again, you are not alone!
If you have a friend that you believe is in an abusive relationship please support them as best as you can. Sometimes this may mean stepping out of the friendship and sending them love and protection. When they are ready you want to give them a safe place to go with no judgement.
With love and light!