Many of us live daily in a toxic relationship. Consumed, you realize that you need to leave. But how to leave a toxic relationship with dignity? Learn 3 ways mindfulness helped me out.
A relationship that consumes you
“I remember how I was exhausted that night. My tired eyes were sticky and couldn’t open, due to months of lack of sleep. My newborn baby was crying. And I still needed to stand up. I couldn’t count on my partner. I know today, that he never felt my desperation, nor understood any of my sufferings. All the world, including me, turned around him and his importance.”
Have you ever been in a relationship, in which you’re not loved, but needed? A relationship where you are used simply for what you offer. You feel vaguely this lack of attention and love. But you never figure out why it is so. Trying to justify for the other person all the time, you attempt to heal the relationship, and be ‘in harmony”. Your need and “self” become smaller and smaller in all family discussions and considerations.
“One day, we were on the way to my parents-in-law. My partner wanted to pass by the media library. Although my little son and myself were tired and wanted to reach our destination, I agreed with my partner to do the “stopover”. Because I thought it was important to him, as usual.
On the way of return from the library, my partner let us far behind. He was always walking faster. As my son was toddling, we fell far behind. He was very angry. I told him: “But we did this because you wanted to go there!”. He said: “You never know what you want yourself!”
That sentence shocked me. Today, I still hear each word, resonating like a hammer in my head, under the hot sun and the crowded street, suddenly becoming so silent”.
This is one among many stories you can hear about an unhealthy relationship.
Before realizing that their relationships are toxic, most people often struggle. Usually, we get mixed signals from our partners. Once in a while, the latter can be kind, or even loving. We have hope that things will improve. We also believe that if we work harder at the relationship, are more loving and understanding, the other will eventually change.
But “if a relationship is truly toxic, it is unlikely to change no matter how hard YOU work at it. Why? Because it lacks the fundamental building blocks of a healthy relationship: Empathy, commitment, personal responsibility, and true love” (Lisa Marie Bobby)
How to know that you are in a toxic relationship?
Not all relationships that are struggling and difficult are toxic. How to know if your relationship is toxic? Here are some signs to better recognize it:
- You’re not loved, but needed: The other person may show the need of you, for his or her own interests. But he or she doesn’t seem to truly care how you feel, and what you truly need.
- The other makes you think that you are not important. You feel “small”. Your needs, interests, or concerns do not seem to be legitimate.
- There is indifference regarding your suffering. Or worse, they take pleasure in it. Your partner does not seem to have the ability to understand your feeling or need.
- He or she does not support you in your difficult times.
- Your partner routinely shows a lack of interest or willingness to improve the relationship. He or she makes you feel that the problems are your fault or not legitimate.
Over time, a genuinely toxic relationship even interferes with your other relationships. You find it hard to focus on positive areas of your life. Your self-esteem, your dignity, and your love for yourself diminish with time.
Maybe one day, you’ll realize that you’re at the bottom. And you need to leave. But how to leave a toxic relationship with dignity and mindfully?
Leaving a toxic relationship with dignity needs deeper transformation
Leaving a toxic relationship is easier said than done. So many considerations and constraints get in the way. “Will my kids suffer? Maybe s/he still loves me? Probably s/he is kind, but I just ask him/ her too much? S/he does not drink, s/he is not violent, not going out with others, what else should I expect? Many people have much worse than me”… And the worse of all, you may still love him or her. And with those justifications, a toxic relationship can last long, for years, or decades.
I got finally out of the 13-year toxic relationship, simply because I was burned-out in the end. Exhausted, almost sick, I was about to cry each time we sat at our family dinner table. One day, my son disobeyed me outside the house in front of everybody, I burst into tears. At that moment, I was frozen of fear. I realized that I could not be the harbor for my kids anymore. Because I was not one for myself.
I packed and left one morning. It took me only a few hours to leave the family household.
But the act of leaving rooted a long time before. It was much deeper. That was the day I realized that I merited true love. That I was more worthy.
Your toxic relationship will finally be changed forever when YOU decide that you’re not going to participate in it anymore. When you commit to yourself that you are worthy of love and respectLisa Marie Bobby
In my personal journey, mindfulness has helped me realize my self-worth, love, and respect. So if you ask me today, how to leave a toxic relationship with dignity, my answer is: Practice mindfulness. Here are 3 ways.
How to leave a toxic relationship with dignity and mindfully
#1. Change the way you see yourself
I remember when I was seventeenth, almost all boys in the class fell in love with me. So many girls were of great beauty, not me. I was rather a small, ordinary, and unwell dressed girl. But I was feeling “special” about myself. At the time, I thought I had those feelings because people found me special.
Today, I know that it was the contrary. People found me “special” because I saw myself so. Naturally, and without knowing it, I came into the connection with my true self, with its highest potential. I was courageous, creative, and full of originality.
Unfortunately, I got completely lost, gradually, during the next 20 years that came. Myself, as well as my relationships.
At the place where I am now, I see that created the toxic relationship myself. People around me reflected the image I had of myself. No self-confidence. I also thought I was not worthy enough. And most of all, I didn’t love myself enough, to set the boundaries, and for others to do the same.
When I started to learn how to see the goodness in others, I saw myself changed. When I started to learn how to be compassionate with myself, I saw others changed.
#2. Find back the sense of authenticity and worthiness through mindful living
I began to leave my toxic relationship a few years before really “leaving” it. And it started by… doing Yoga! My sister brought me a CD on Yoga, and I practiced every day to reduce stress from work and at home. Doing yoga brought me relaxation, and an opportunity to listen to my body. Then came meditation. I started to read “The Art of Mindful Living” by Thich Nhat Hanh.
What a wonderful opportunity to re-connect with my own self. To listen to each breath. And to discover that my body was a wonder of the cosmos. To know that the water that ran through my body at that precise moment, came from a cloud. And that the air I breathed at that very second, came from the greenest trees.
I discovered that I was part of all that is. That I had no separateness with the rest of life. I felt the source of pure potentiality and connectedness. How can’t we see our worthiness when we are truly connected to ourselves?
Mindful living is a way to look more deeply into the nature of things. Eat mindfully, walk mindfully, mindfulness meditation, we learn again to connect with nature, with ourselves, and be more in harmony with the universe. We can find back our authenticity and the sense of worthiness. That should be the foundation of any “attempt” to leave a toxic relationship you might undergo today.
#3. Cultivate the ability to stop depending on an unreliable, hurtful person to love you. Instead, learn how to love yourself.
When we learn to love ourselves, we know that we are complete. We don’t really need to look for a “lid for our saucepan”. And the love we have to others reflects the beauty of our mind. Regardless of whether a specific person loves you or not, you still love yourself. Because you see deeply in what you truly are: Part of the wonderful and mysterious beauty and elegance of the universe.
When an adolescent asked him “How do I love myself?”, Thich Nhat Hanh said: “You breathe in, and breathe out mindfully. And you realize that your body is a wonder of the cosmos. It comes from plants, the sun, the rain, and generations of human, plant, and animal ancestors. You are a wonder”.
“To connect more deeply with others, you must face the one person that you keep on the shortest leash: yourself’ (Mindful). We never attract true love, because we believe we don’t deserve it. “But there’s nothing special you must do to deserve love”(Mindful).
Accept yourself as you are. It’s a very important practice. When you practice building an inner home, you become more and more beautifulThich Nhat Hanh
Practicing mindful self-compassion, you’re not dependent on a hurtful and unreliable person to love you. Because you love yourself regardless of him or her. The day you can truly feel this, that’s the day you attract true love. You can leave a toxic relationship with dignity, with proud, strength, and joy.
If I could say something to a “me” of 10 years earlier…
Here is what I would say:
“If today, you feel diminished in a relationship, don’t doubt yourself. Keep a clear mind in order to see that you are worthy, and you merit true love. And the person who can’t appreciate you as you are, may not stay in your life.
Practice self-compassion, self-love, mindful breathing, and mindful living. You will find back the connection with your true self, and the connection with the universe.
That day, you can leave a toxic relationship with dignity, heads up, and with joy”.