The romantic in me would like to pretend that relationships are always better than being single, but the truth is, that’s not the case. I’ve definitely been in my fair share of “bad” relationships – ones where we were just completely wrong for each other, but we were too stubborn to give it up. We like to think that this is us being true to the word of love, but one thing you learn when you’re letting go is that love is not supposed to hurt. If the one you love is hurting you more than they’re making you happy, you owe it to yourself to let them go.
I know… Easier said than done. I was in one such relationship for almost four years when, realistically, the relationship was only good for the first few months. But I thought she was my soulmate – so I looked past a lot of things I shouldn’t have.
Then, one day, it reached a point where I couldn’t stand by anymore, and as much as I hated myself for not “being patient enough” to wait it out, the truth is that once a relationship hits a certain low point, it’s unlikely to recover.
A not-so-great relationship has room to improve. A toxic relationship does not. And it’s important to understand the difference.
What else do you learn when letting go of the person who’s all wrong for you?
1. Staying in a bad relationship does not make you stronger.
As much as it hurts to let go of the one you love, the pain of walking away is often much less than the pain of staying. We want to tell ourselves that we’re sticking around because we believe our partner has potential, but the reality is that we’re just too stubborn to admit we made a bad choice in partners. It happens sometimes, and you need to give yourself permission to admit that you were wrong.
Breaking up with someone who’s no good for you is not a sign of weakness, no matter how much it might feel that way. The truth is that saying goodbye is the strongest choice – which is why it’s so painful.
2. What you want and what you need are two different things.
In my past bad relationships, what I wanted was that person – but what I needed was to be fair to myself. I had a pretty long string of girlfriends who didn’t treat me right, and I rationalized that I must “need” that “tough love” – otherwise, why did I keep getting it?
But there is a difference between “tough love” and “your girlfriend is an asshole” – which I didn’t understand at the time. I was young, and significantly less wise. It took time for me to realize that I wasn’t giving up on the relationship – I was prioritizing myself for once.
3. Your friends and family probably aren’t out to sabotage your love life.
One of the biggest downsides of a toxic relationship is that the two of you have probably convinced yourselves that you’re perfect for each other, despite what the outsiders think. But if the “outsiders” are friends and family members with your best interest at heart, they might know something you don’t.
Please note: You should probably not leave your girlfriend solely because your friends and family don’t like her. But you should take into consideration their advice, even if it’s unsolicited. Chances are, they can see a pattern of behavior that you’ve made yourself blind to, and they’re looking out for you when they tell you that your girlfriend is no good.
4. Your heart will mend – probably faster than you think.
When you feel trapped in a toxic relationship, your partner might even say things like “You’ll never find someone like me” – so you believe her. After all, you should be able to trust her, right? But the fact of the matter is, if someone is making it sound as if they’re the best you deserve… They’re not. The best woman for you is one who considers you an equal.
We often put off letting go because we know how much it’s going to hurt. But the pain will subside – unlike the pain of staying in the relationship, which will stay there until you either break it off or become numb to everything. (Note: Being numb is not a good thing. Please don’t let yourself believe that numbness means you’re getting stronger.)
5. You will find someone better.
I know how much it can hurt to feel like your partner is the best you deserve. But if this was actually true, you wouldn’t have to wonder – your partner would blow your mind. Everyone deserves someone wonderful, but your toxic girlfriend may have broken down your spirit and made you think that she was the best. She wasn’t.
Once you get out of your toxic relationship, you will start to open your eyes to all the great things you have to offer another person – all without any extra effort on your part. When you don’t have a partner dragging you down, you will be happier just being yourself, which will definitely show through and help to attract a better caliber of partner.
6. Being single is better than being with someone who makes you feel alone.
Once you’ve finally got up the nerve to say goodbye to someone who does nothing for you, you start to appreciate your single-dom a little bit more. You learn to appreciate the activities you like – you know, the ones your ex told you were stupid. These things aren’t stupid. If they bring you joy, and don’t hurt anyone else, they’re just perfect.
More than just that, though, you start to notice the difference between sharing a bed with someone who obviously doesn’t want to be in it, as opposed to having the whole bed to yourself. Sharing a bed with someone toxic makes you feel much more alone than sleeping alone ever will.
7. You are beautiful, inside and out.
I’m not sure about your toxic girlfriend(s), but mine was constantly belittling me. I’ve been an independent contractor for quite a while, and she was always telling me how she was “more successful” because she had a “real job”. Once, she even offered to prostitute herself for more money – because she saw that as a more viable option than me finding success with something that didn’t violate the monogamous relationship that I thought we had. (Which… We didn’t.)
More than that, she often took to calling me disgusting when we were fighting. I had lost a lot of weight when we were together, and as such I had a lot of extra skin. Every time I got just a little bit too proud of myself for losing the weight, she’d have to chime in about the things that were still wrong about me. Don’t ever let anyone dull your sparkle – you are a friggin’ diamond, damn it, so act like one!
8. Not everything negative she said about you was wrong.
When you get out of a bad relationship, you might have the urge to dismiss every complaint your ex had about you. But the truth is, relationships are very rarely one-sided. Chances are, some of her complaints were legit – even if only a few.
When you get out of a bad relationship, it’s completely healthy to examine your list of perceived faults and pick apart which ones were actually there, and which were her projecting her own insecurities onto you. It might take a while to work out which are which, but your friends might be able to help here – let them!
9. Your friends are going to be there for you.
This applies in multiple situations. One of my friends made herself responsible for my healing process – she took me out to dinner, paid me (sincere) compliments on things that were going well in my life, and helped me work on things that should have come naturally to me that… Well, didn’t.
Another friend cheered me up by sending me a bunch of hilarious memes that she felt described my ex perfectly. While it probably wouldn’t have been healthy for me to say the things myself, it did help cheer me up a bit to hear those things.
10. You will be OK. Probably not today, maybe not even next month, but you will be okay.
If you’ve just left your toxic partner (or if you’re still in the planning stages), it seems like things will never get better. This is actually a healthy part of the process, because you are losing a part of yourself in every breakup. But, if you’re doing it right, you’re also finding parts of yourself that were repressed during the course of the relationship.
It takes time to get over someone, even when you know they were wrong for you. The people who move on right away were probably not really in it in the first place – they just thought they were. You need to feel the pain, because it will help motivate you to move forward. If it didn’t hurt, you wouldn’t learn anything from it – and sometimes the worst experiences in life are our greatest teachers.