5 Reasons it’s Hard to Leave a Toxic Relationship

5 Reasons it's hard to leave a toxic relationship

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When we’ve finally realised we’re in a toxic relationship, you would think it would be so easy to get up and leave the person who’s been harming us for so long.

But sometimes it feels more troubling that even while knowing this person is no good for us, we can’t seem to get out.

In fact, not just that, but at times we keep going back for more.

Why do we do this and why is it so hard to leave?

We’ll get into 5 reasons why it’s so hard to leave and some of the ways to overcome them.

But just before that, I think you should remind yourself that feeling this way is normal, and you shouldn’t be beating yourself up over why you can’t seem to get yourself out, or perhaps even tried to and failed. This will be clearer as we get into it.

Reason 1 - Taking the Blame & Feeling Guilty

One of the main things that have happened to you in this relationship is getting the constant blame for everything.

You’ve been conditioned by the abuser that everything that ‘goes wrong’ is your fault, that all the horrific things you were subjected to were somehow because you brought them on.

This is false and is just a tactic that has been used to continually make you submissive, to manipulate you and keep you under their thumb.

That’s not to say we are perfect humans who have never made mistakes, but specifically, in the case of abusive and toxic relationships, none of what you have been subjected to has ever been your fault.

The actions of others aren’t yours to claim. It’s only theirs, yet they project onto you. How somebody chooses to behave and treat someone is solely their responsibility, not yours.

You can’t hit someone across the face and tell them it was their fault for being in the vicinity of your hand. The striker is the one at fault, yet a narcissist or someone with highly toxic traits will cleverly spin the event to make it seem like it’s the receiver’s fault.

If you feel guilty enough for the demise of the relationship and that you’ve been the cause of the problems, then you’re going to feel like it’s your responsibility to fix it. Narcissists have mastered the art of making you feel this way and will specifically use guilt to control you.

It’s always about how you haven’t done enough, you haven’t loved them, you reacted poorly to their assaults, you hid something from them – they will use absolutely anything to make you feel ashamed of yourself. To make you like you could have done more, and you start to question yourself and the events that have occurred and believe that they’re right.

The abuser will keep reminding you of these all your ‘wrongdoings’ and will never forgive you for them so that you continue to be tied to them, to continue trying to make it up to them.

The other form of guilt can also come from the narcissist telling you how awful their own lives have been, perhaps they tell you about their past or current difficulties, this is how they love to play the victim. Alongside this, they tell you how they rely on you to help them with this and that again makes you feel so responsible that you would feel guilty if you weren’t there to provide for them.

For example, many narcissistic parents tell their children they need them to help them navigate their messy life because they can’t cope on their own so it keeps the child tied to them, unable to escape, and feel like they’re responsible for the fact that their parent can’t get their life together and guilty if they ever would leave them and guilty for wanting to have a life outside of their parent.

The guilt you feel with regard to your relationship with your abuser is a cycle. Because while you try to fix it by being more present for them, abiding by their rules, making up for your ‘shortcomings’ and so on, another problem arises, and the abuser tells you that you aren’t doing enough in that area, or whatever you just did still wasn’t enough anyway, and so it never actually ends.

And none of this brings you any comfort or peace, it only gives you more anxiety and the feeling of being on edge whether you’re around them or not.

You don’t get appreciation, you don’t get a thank you. You get disrespected further and your boundaries are trampled on even more.

Solution: Refuse to Take Responsibility

This is a difficult thing to let go of, but you must understand that you are only responsible for yourself. If someone decides to go on a rampage, that’s on them, not you.

If someone is unable to get themselves together, that’s their problem, not yours. If they tell you they can’t go on without you, that’s still their call. Their inability to manage their emotions is not your responsibility.

They choose to behave this way, they choose to harm the beautiful souls around them, so it’s their fault if the relationship is now irreparable. Not yours.

Someone incapable of recognising their own mistakes and ill-treatment of others, such as narcissists who are inherently dishonest with themselves, will never be able to offer you a better life as they cannot change something they don’t admit to in the first place. You would be holding onto an impossibility.

Going along with what they want just to keep the peace doesn’t work because what peace is there really when your heart is in turmoil, and you can barely function or look after yourself?

It requires a lot of mental re-wiring to stop believing that it’s your responsibility and to start taking more autonomy for your own life.

Reason 2: False Promises & Snippets of the ‘Good Life’

You may also be thinking of the potential of what could have been, this is the picture of the relationship and of this person that was first shown to you at the beginning of the relationship, perhaps when you first met or in the first few months, years, when they were able to hide and only presented the façade that they created to entrap you.

This is when they promised you a wonderful life when they treated you with kindness, and you felt this incredible connection forming between you.

Every now and then, amidst the abuse, they will ‘remind’ you of this previous experience. They are very good at finding out your deepest desires, all the things that make you feel seen, heard, and wanted and they offer this to you in small doses.

Enough for you to feel an emotional relief or ‘high’, a feeling that seems to make you forget how badly they recently treated you. So, you let it slide. And over time, you become dependent on getting this feeling again (see trauma bond).

Holding onto to this ‘potential’ is stopping you from leaving as you think there may be a chance for change, but as mentioned above, with no track record of change, you must be convinced that there never will be, regardless of you, regardless of your actions, and regardless of life events that you think might change them.

If it was possible, it would have by now, and there isn’t something ‘you’re supposed to do’ for that to happen. The longer you think that there’s a chance, the longer you will stay stuck.

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Solution: Become Independent

Somewhere along the relationship, the trauma bond was formed, and it slowly made you dependent on them to feel good about yourself. Any shift they make affects your mood, your self-esteem, and the way that you see yourself.

They became your ‘source of being’ and you revolve around pleasing them in order to feel good. You think of your identity in relation to them. However, they shouldn’t be your source.

Your source of connectedness, value, approval, identity can never come from another human being, no matter the type of relationship, even if familial.

Our Creator is our source of all things. He brought us life. He values us for simply being His creation.

Our value doesn’t change from the way somebody treats us, we are not less worthy because someone called us a bad name. There is no weight in people’s perception of us, only God’s perception, which beautifully remains constant no matter what we do in this life. This is one of the most incredible blessings He has given us.

When we believe this to be true, not only can nobody ever devalue us or impact us negatively but we also start to take more control over ourselves and our lives.

Reason 3: Fear of the Consequences & the Unknown

The other reason is the fear of what will come after leaving. The backlash, the pain, the harsh criticism, perhaps the possibility of your life becoming worse, or being stopped, or even worries that the community will turn its back on you and being unsupportive of your decision.

Perhaps you fear the feeling of being left alone and shunned by the little support you may currently still have in your life. Leaving may mean losing more people in your circle than only the abuser and this can be a difficult thing to navigate.

This fear is warranted; the abuser most definitely will kick up a fuss for you trying to make something else of your life.

When they realise that they could lose their control over you and not be able to use you and manipulate you anymore, they will try any tactic they can like guilt-tripping and gaslighting (see reason 4) to inject some doubt into your mind. To confuse you. To use your empathy and emotions to keep you right where they want you.

This should serve as further proof that this person isn’t there for you, but for themselves.
Not knowing what your life is going to look like without this person can be scary.

This world is all you’ve known for a long time, whether the abuser is your partner or a parent or anyone you’ve been closely ‘connected’ to (and I put connected in air quotes because the relationship we have with a narcissist/abuser is far from the real connection we yearn for and deserve).

In this time, you have formed a routine, a life, even though it’s miserable and you’re unhappy there, it’s what you know, and as unfortunate as it is to admit this - you’ve become comfortable with this.

Every time you have tried to get out, the unknown aspect of the world (and the life you could have) is terrifying and uncomfortable and you find yourself right back with the person you want to escape from.

Solution: Use Fear to your Advantage

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Your fear of remaining where you are in a damaging relationship and the consequences to your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing can be enough to propel you to seek a life outside of them.

Let it drive you forward.

Whatever you face beyond leaving them may be difficult, but they will be far easier to handle than the long-term detriment to your wellbeing from staying.

What you have endured throughout the relationship should give you confidence in your strength, persistence, and your ability to still be standing despite the harsh conditions.

Instead of using these traits to serve an abuser’s self-centred demands, use these incredible qualities within to seize freedom and thrive in your new life.

Reason 4: Gaslighting & Confusion

The reason abusers gaslight is to confuse you.

If you can’t tell what’s real and what’s not, then you start doubting yourself, your memory, and even your own feelings.

You start to question the events that have occurred, the severity of the situation and think ‘perhaps they aren’t as bad’ as you’re making them out to be.

If you’ve told anyone about the terrible things that have happened, you may find yourself back-tracking and saying ‘oh but they’re not like this all the time’.

Or perhaps you think you’re overreacting, or that you’re too sensitive – names they have thrown at you many times.

These are things you’ve been told by the narcissist to distrust yourself, your instincts, your thoughts, and your emotions.

With this confusion, you feel like you don’t have solid memories or facts to hold onto and so it keeps you where you are, as you can’t find a justification for leaving, even if you wanted to.

Solution: Seek Clarity Within

It can be an impossible feat to make sense of what a narcissist is doing and why.

Running your mind in all directions to try to understand why they’re treating you this way, why nothing seems to make much sense, and why stories are so disjointed can never be unravelled. Attempting to extract sanity from insanity is a pointless activity.

The focus should be on yourself, not them. Your heart has been trying to tell you something all along but you’ve missed it because of all the chaos and drama.

Get some space, even if not physically, but mentally. Quiet your mind and try to listen to what your heart is telling you.

You will know deep down that what you’re dealing with is beneath you, your turmoil is associated only with this person, not anybody else. The cause of all the drama is them and it leads you to the truth – the solution to your pain and the answer to your freedom is to go on without them.

Reason 5: The Rare Praise

Haven’t you noticed things are ‘all good’ when you’re going along with what they want, you’re agreeing with them, you’re following orders?

This is one of the very rare times you receive praise from the narcissist, they say thank you, they appreciate your efforts, and say things that you can hardly believe are coming out of their mouths.

They can be this nice? This sense of approval and love from them gives you an emotional high, particularly when you’re mostly receiving their wrath. This is the trauma bond that makes you feel this way.

The good treatment doesn’t last, soon enough they’re back to despising you and treating you like dirt again. And it’s this back and forth that keeps you close, like a pawn in their game, that makes you keep trying to please them, to work hard for their approval.

Being in their good books is all you want to achieve so you’ll do anything for it and that keeps you hooked. It’s just like an addiction. You can read more about the trauma bond here.

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Solution: Set Yourself Free

Understand that the trauma bond was a multi-step process that occurred from when you first met this person to where you are now. Each stage had elements that created what I would call a ‘false bond’ between you, one that feels very real (but with any toxic person, it can never be), keeping you tied to the abuser, such as love-bombing, conditioning, devaluing etc. These are detailed much further in this post.

This, along with the physiological chemicals released in your body, make it very difficult to leave, similar to addiction but your awareness of this may help get you a step closer.

Know that their approval is not something that is worth pursuing. It’s never nourishing, it’s never going to fill you up. You can never rely on another human being for a feeling of self-worth and approval. It’s up to you to gain that from the Ultimate Source – God. The Highest Entity. The Infinite and Original source of love, acceptance, and compassion.

Although it may feel overwhelming to learn that so many things could be holding you back from breaking free of the abuse and toxicity, it can also be empowering.

The recognition of what is happening to you and inside you gives you the ability to create change for yourself.

Once you've placed some of these reasons from your own experiences, shift the focus from this person toward you and how you want to move forward.

You are the only person that can hold this power.

I welcome any comments and questions about this article. Did it resonate with you? What reasons have you noticed have stopped you from leaving and how will you overcome them?

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