Healing from a toxic relationship can be a long journey. Stepping away from a person that has poisoned your life with lies, manipulation, and control takes courage. And healing requires patience – with yourself and with the process. Ongoing pain and trauma may accompany you. Take the journey one day at a time, and don’t go it alone.
Rayne Wolfe, of Toxic Mom Toolkit reminds us that “with grace and kindness, anything is possible.” Even healing and building new, healthy relationships over time. Part of experiencing a new sense of safety is getting with safe people. Who are the people in your life who genuinely love you and want to support you? If you have a hard time answering that question, you may want to see a therapist to discuss building a safe community. Or join a support group, like Co-Dependents Anonymous. Gathering with others in a structured environment can provide the safe space needed to deal with emotional trauma and pain.
As mentioned above, take care of yourself. Notice your needs. Notice where it hurts. Treat yourself how you need to be treated: with respect, love, gentleness, and care. If you can, put healthful food in your body. Exercise. Caring for your body will communicate to your heart and mind that you are loved.
Be honest with yourself. Allow yourself to feel all of your feelings without judging them. Be clear and gentle with yourself. Acknowledge the bad. Hope for the good. And enjoy good things, as they come. In the toxic relationship, you may have been led to believe that you are worthless. As you allow yourself to enjoy moments in life – like the feel of warm sun on your skin, the play of light over water, or the warmth of a cup of coffee – you can begin to feel the goodness of life. You can begin to feel that your own place in life is good.
Seek spiritual guidance and connection. Studies have shown that people who tend to their spiritual lives do better in the long run. A spiritual journey towards a loving creator can help you begin to experience yourself as loved, no matter how others treat you. Walking through spiritual wholeness can lead you on the journey of healing and help foster forgiveness – for the other person and for yourself.
As you heal, your expectations of others will change. As you surround yourself with supportive, healing people, you will begin to feel the goodness of relationship again. No one will be perfect. But you can expect good from others and from yourself.
The journey may be long, but goodness and help will come along the way, even in the midst of pain. Shannon Thomas, author of Healing from Hidden Abuse, reminds us, “no matter where we might find ourselves, we can make slow steady changes that will add up and get us pointed in a new and healthier life direction.” Keep to the path, dear traveler.
Preventing Toxic Relationships
If we don’t know the arrow is poisonous, we might not know how to effectively protect ourselves when it comes. You may not be able to prevent contact with toxic people. You may be related to them. But knowing the types of toxic behaviors can help you detect them and protect yourself from their effects. In addition to building awareness of toxic behaviors, there are some things you can do to prevent yourself from being pulled into a toxic relationship.
Listen to yourself. What are you trying to tell yourself? Often, our bodies will react before our minds catch up. Take a listen. How do you feel in this relationship? Is there pain in your body when you’re with a certain person? Does your chest get tight? Or perhaps you have a stomach ache or a headache. Pain can indicate where the arrows are hitting home. It takes courage to be honest. Especially if the toxic person is telling you that everything is fine. Take this conversation with yourself seriously. It may be one of the most important conversations you will ever have.
Once you’ve heard yourself out, one of the most helpful things you can do in your relationships is to set healthy boundaries. Co-Dependents Anonymous tells us, “throughout the recovery process, we constantly rediscover that our first responsibility is always to ourselves. Boundaries help us to clarify where our responsibilities end and where other people’s begin. By establishing healthy boundaries, we slowly learn to take care of our issues and recognize that others have the same privilege.” Boundaries apply to every aspect of our lives.
Similar to not being a toxic person, preventing toxic relationships includes caring for yourself. Pursuing your health, needs, hopes and goals will help you notice when others try to sabotage them. Toxic relationships are tricky. None of us are perfectly wise. None of us can precisely predict the actions of others. When we decide to trust someone, we assume risk. How they treat us is ultimately up to them. How we respond is up to us. The more we value ourselves, trust that we are loved, and recognize toxic behaviors, the less susceptible we are to being pierced by them.
Has anything in this article troubled you? Do you want to learn more about something? There are many useful tools, books, and programs that aim to bring health and healing into people’s lives and relationships. A few of them are linked above. If you feel you are in danger, you can reach out to www.thehotline.org for live help. Wherever you may find yourself, hope waits.