Bad relationships come in all shapes and forms. Maybe your ex was lazy, manipulative, a liar, a cheater, used you for what you had, maybe they were just mean and miserable for no reason all the time, or they didn’t appreciate you… there are many things that could define a relationship as a bad one.
The worst relationship I was ever in was fiercely abusive – verbally, emotionally, financially and physically. My friends and family hated him. They didn’t understand why I didn’t just leave. It’s hard being in a relationship like that. All your confidence is stripped away, you become isolated, you’re being manipulated and controlled, all that’s left is a shell of who you once were. Fear also plays a large part in deciding to stay or leave. Not even going to front – so does love. It’s hard to imagine loving someone so terrible. The best way to describe it is intense and passionate. You get to see parts of someone that are hidden from the world, not just the bad things, but the good as well, and the vulnerable. People who are abusive are often the most insecure, so there’s always that lingering hope that they will love you enough to love you right… but they don’t.
There is no switch you can flip to get someone to leave a bad relationship. No two people or circumstances are the same, it is up to the victim to decide when they are ready. In my situation, he was always cheating on me, but then, he had a baby with another woman. Even with the pain I felt – which was indescribable – I can’t say for sure if I would have left or not, had he not gone to jail. That distance and time apart was a blessing.
These were the steps I took to move on:
1. Truly let go. Don’t hang onto anything you don’t need to. Unless you share a child together, there is no reason for you to have photos of this person in your home. You don’t need to have a pile of their clothes tucked away in case they want to come get them. You don’t need to be making plans with their family members or friends for a night out on the town to celebrate your new freedom. Walk away if you can, from whatever you can. It will symbolically free your mind from the pain.
2. Allow yourself to feel. You don’t need to walk around with your head held high all the time. If you need a safe space to cry, or scream, do it! Confide in a trusted friend, or find a therapist that can help you cope. No matter how bad a relationship can be, you are losing someone you truly loved, so mourn them. Mourn the loss of the happier days you shared, but always remember why you left. Keep that memory with you always so you can fight the temptation to go back to it.
3. Occupy your time. Know yourself well enough to know when you need support, and when you need to be alone. Make plans with friends and enjoy their company – do your very best to just have a good time and don’t harp on your ex in social settings. If alone time is what you need, find a hobby, exercise, read, or whatever makes you happy. Make sure you are not stuck in the house all the time!
4. Travel. I don’t mean you should backpack across Europe, but sometimes, you just need to get away! Remind yourself that there is life beyond loss. There is so much culture, so much adventure, so many new people to meet. Experience new food, do something you’ve never done before. It will do wonders in rebuilding your self-esteem.
5. Forgive. Forgive yourself and your ex. This is very important because only then will you be able to let go of your pain. Don’t hold everyone you meet accountable for the last person’s actions. Allow people to earn your trust again. Allow yourself to open up. Allow love to come into your life – but only after you’ve healed.