How do you let go of a toxic loved one who, in an ideal world, you would have loved to have in your life? How do you let go of the pain, the anger and the rejection, maybe even the love that you still feel for them? In today’s article we shall look at what will help you and what won’t.
The Revenge Piece
Today, I received a message from a woman who, ideally, would like revenge for all that her frightful, violent, Narcissistic ex has put her through. In addition to loving him, she helped him financially, even ensured he got residency in her country. He repaid her with hurt, humiliation and repeated infidelity.
She could, she says, wreak a terrible revenge and get him thrown out of her country. Doing so would satisfy her sense of justice. Unfortunately, it would also mean focusing on him and fighting legal battles fuelled by her – undoubtedly righteous – rage and hatred. She knows that she doesn’t need that kind of toxicity in her life. But, at the same time, she says, it feels so wrong to let him get off scot-free.
It’s a tough decision. She teeters between seeking justice and seeking – dare I say it? – closure, the closure of washing her hands of the whole business.
The emotional work you need to do
Anyone who has been wronged every which way by a toxic loved one – which is just about everyone reading this – has had their emotional work cut out for them. They are required to,
- Take a stand – which, likely, does not sit well with their beliefs about how the world should work
- Do battle with the whole gamut of conflicting emotions about love, relationships and self-worth that you are left with after an abusive relationship
- Somehow work through their own feelings of hurt to find some healing and resolution where there seems to be none and
- Rebuild their life.
Isn’t it just great how Life REALLY tests you when you feel least able to cope with even one more teeny, tiny problem?
So how do you dig deep to find the resources that you don’t even know you have, to solve a problem that feels too immense and raw to be soluble.
Let’s start with the caveat. My personal belief, and my personal choice, was to walk away and work on myself. I believe that is, in many cases, the best solution. It is the preferred solution of the majority of my clients. Most of us don’t have the temperament for fighting a long and bloody war – if it can possibly be avoided. We don’t want to have to live with any more “ugly” feelings than we have already experienced.
However, there are people, including some clients whose temperament is different. They have to feel that they have exacted justice. For them, walking away, without justice, would be the ultimate self-betrayal.
There is nothing either right or wrong about either choice. Wherever you stand on this, you are totally justified in doing whatever works best for you. However, if you do have your heart set on justice, the rest of this article may not be relevant to you.
With that caveat aside, a lot of us are left to deal with the frustration that our world does not work the way it should. That kind of awareness can generate feelings of helplessness. So, the question becomes, how do we find personal peace in a world that does not work the way that we believe it should?
Much as I would love to have the answer, all that I do have is a series of partial answers.
On taking a stand,
- Too much generalising is, generally, not too good for our mental health. Perhaps we need to scale down from talking about The World to acknowledging that the deliberate use of unjust treatment is the way that manipulative, conniving abusers get their world to work for them.
- You have to start factoring your own well-being into the equation. Knowing that the toxic person will inflict as much damage as they feel necessary to intimidate you, you have to ask yourself, just how much punishment you feel you want to take. If you decide against putting yourself in the firing line, you want to hold on to the realisation that that is actually self-care – not cowardice.
- Coming to terms with the true nature of the relationship already requires vast amounts of emotional energy. That is what is important. You have to find your own way to use the unhappiness of the past as your spring-board for a better future.
Your internal battles
- You have a whole new relationship with yourself to build. A toxic loved one works very hard to “disappear” you. They work to ensure that you lose sight of yourself, your values, and your strengths. The only thing that a toxic loved one does NOT discourage are the dreams that you have in which they stand, proudly centre stage, basking in the limelight. However, your personal aspirations have all been brutally discouraged. This means that you have a fair bit of internal digging to do in order to “find” yourself. The fun side is that the self that you discover will be so much more than your toxic loved one –and you – thought she was.
- You have to rebuild trust after someone has betrayed your trust so horribly. But the key lesson to learn, here, is that you never want to trust anybody over and above yourself. From now on, you want to rely on your intuition, first and foremost. If your seeming dream partner or scenario suddenly pops up in your life, but your intuition says, “No, not right.” you have to go with your intuition. Your intuition is the smartest part of you. Your job is to coax it back into performing its full-time role again.
- You have to free up emotional energy to make the mental shift from despair to healing mode.
Working through the feelings of hurt
Any abusive relationship leaves you with a shedload of painful feelings. Our culture is notoriously bad at educating us on what the hell to do with those bad feelings.
Mostly we are encouraged to get over them. That, in essence, means “For Heaven’s sake, can you just sweep them under the damned carpet because I don’t need to be pulled down by your bad feelings. I am sick and tired of hearing about them.”
Of course, we can be told to “get help with them.” That suggestion contains a kernel of good advice. However, what people rarely tell you is that,
- Not all help is of equal value.
- How to recognise appropriate help for you.
- You need to show up in any therapeutic situation as an adult and an equal with your own valid opinion. Plus, you need to be treated, at all times, with respect and empathy.
- If it feels wrong for you, you – and the therapist – need to honor that feeling.
Also, you have to get comfortable with acceptance. As someone who seems to have spent most of her adult life wading waist-deep through the choppy waters of acceptance, I have to tell you that acceptance is no fun. Acceptance requires you to wade that line between honestly experiencing your feelings and wallowing, or drowning in them.
You have to feel the sadness for what you have been through but without getting into a pity party. It was sad, it was wrong – and you feel sad for your suffering but without getting submerged with self-pity.
Healing lies on the other side of acceptance
You have to wade through acceptance in order to get to the other side and healing. Sometimes, you will trip up. Sometimes, you will backtrack. But the general direction needs to be through.
Fighting, denying or suppressing that pain just doesn’t work. You end up locked into internal trench warfare. That takes you nowhere.
Once you can sit, in acceptance with your own pain, it becomes much easier to work on your own happiness. When you stop trying to censor the pain, that legitimises your right to be happy. Once you own your own right to be happy, mastering the art of happiness gets a lot easier.
Rebuilding your life
When an abusive relationship falls apart, focusing on rebuilding your life feels like the most urgent priority. However, it is not. You can hardly rebuild when you don’t quite know which way is up. Once you have a clearer idea of,
- Where you stand
- Who you are – and want to be – and
- How to accept and move forward,
Then you are in a much better position to focus on the life that you really want for yourself. You can, as the cliché goes, aspire higher. You have put yourself back at the centre of your world which means you can use your energies constructively. As for the toxic loved one, you have accepted the sadness and injustice of the situation and decided that you and your future matters more than that toxic relationship. All the work that you have done on yourself has led you to let go of your toxic ex. Plus, the work you have done has given you a firm foundation for your future happiness.
Annie Kaszina, international Emotional Abuse Recovery specialist and award-winning author of 3 books designed to help women recognise and heal from toxic relationships so that they can build healthy, lasting relationships with the perfect partner for them, blogs about all aspects of abuse, understanding Narcissists and how to avoid them and building strong self-worth. To receive Annie’s blog direct to your Inbox just leave your details here.