Relationships are hard. Everyone that has ever been in a relationship of any kind knows this to be true. Be it a friendship, a professional relationship between co-workers or bosses, a significant other or spouse, it took work from both parties. There were problems. There were moments when it was anything but easy and you or the other person wanted to bail. Everyone comes from different backgrounds, has had different experiences that shaped them and affected how they interact with others, and has their own set of baggage. So when two affected imperfect people come together in any way, there’s bound to be friction at some point. At some point, you both have to choose whether you want to work through it and find a way to interact with each other better or just end it.
So, what happens when you stay in a toxic relationship longer than you know you should? What happens when it causes you emotional trauma and scarring? How do you move on? How can you even fathom entering into any kind of new relationship with someone new? At first, you don’t. You keep to yourself for a while and maybe surround yourself with supporting and comforting friends. You spend a lot of time assessing the damage from what happened to your emotions. Was it me? Was it him? Well, it was both. The truth is that you don’t deserve to be treated that way. No one does. Emotional abuse is still abuse and it can affect you for the rest of your life. It will affect how you act in new relationships.
I heard it best explained to me like this: I was the one that got shot and he’s holding the gun. I have an open wound, I’m bleeding out, in pain, and I need assistance. And he needs help. Or punishment for his actions. In this case, he needs both of those things. Him apologizing doesn’t heal the bullet wound, only actions can patch it up. If those actions don’t take place, then I have to stitch it shut on my own and heal. It takes time…lots of time. Eventually you start feeling normal again, more like yourself. I don’t know if I would say that you’re ever the same after being mortally wounded because a piece of you dies and will be absent for the rest of your life. I do believe that you return to being as much of yourself as you are able to be without that piece.
Also, no one is allowed to tell you how to heal. Ever. Your healing process is your own, there is no wrong or right way to do it because no one else would want you telling them how to deal. If you need to stay at home and reorganize your closet and kitchen a thousand times, do it. If you need a sippy cup of wine every night, do it. I gave myself a deadline to be a hot mess, and then after that I would cut off all of my vices and deal with it for real. And that worked for me. I just needed to let it all out at first and get it out of my system so that I could organize my thoughts later. That may not make sense to anyone but me, but I didn’t want to become dependent on those vices and have them turn into habits that I couldn’t quit. Once I did, I felt better. I didn’t judge myself for it or let anyone else judge me because they weren’t in my situation. I owned it, I dealt with it, and I moved on.
Then the prospect for a new relationship entered my life, stage left. I was terrified. How do I not act like the wounded animal that I am with this new person? None of this was their fault, so I cannot make them pay for someone else’s mistakes. That’s completely unfair. But how do I keep this wound covered up? Again, you don’t. If you keep a wound covered for too long, it starts to smell. So you talk about it, lay it on the table so that they know how you’ve been hurt. If they care, they will listen and be very sensitive to your pain. Even so, it’s extremely hard not to act wounded. It’s hard to act tough, no matter how long it’s been. It’s important to be able to recognize that behavior in yourself and when you feel yourself cowering, instead you pick your head up and command yourself to be different. Demand that you react the way you know you should because they deserve it, rather than reacting the way you did to the one that hurt you. They’re different. It’s hard. Relationships are hard and no two are the same. When you find the one that’s worth it, you’ll realize that you aren’t forcing yourself to act right anymore, you’re doing it on your own. Success.