Monday, 21 July 2014

Toxic Relationships

First of all two things to note.  Firstly, I feel that because I am the happiest I have ever been, I can write this and hopefully help someone else.  Secondly, I am not putting my ex on blast, as tempting as that has been in the past.  He made bad decisions but he too is entitled to learn out of them.  This is for all of those people who have let themselves get dragged into something and can't seem to find a way out.

I didn't realise that my last relationship was a toxic relationship until I started dating my current boyfriend.  A toxic relationship to me means that something is draining life and energy out of you. In an emotionally toxic relationship the focus of your attention will be entirely on the other person. You think that if they stopped doing whatever it is that is making the relationship difficult (drinking, lying, cheating or not working etc) then all would be well.  I missed a lot of warning signs very early on and out of the 3 and a half year relationship I was in, 2 of those years were draining.  To the point where my mother was constantly worried about me and even she could feel my strain and tension.  It wasn't very obvious in the beginning but the longer we were dating the more obvious it became.

The person I was with suffered with very low self esteem which resulted in his actions.  I have struggled with self esteem issues for most of my life so in the beginning we seemed to balance each other out.  He was a good boyfriend most of the time.  We had similar tastes in music and he was funny.  But after a while our tastes started to change.  I wasn't into his friends or generally many of the people he hung out or worked with, and he had no bigger career aspirations.  He would talk about getting out of the slump he was in but he wasn't particularly proactive about it.  He also had a lot of female friends whom he was very close to.  Whilst normally this wouldn't have bothered me it eventually became clear that these girls were there to feed his low self esteem and to give him what I apparently wasn't giving him.  Moreover, they were very much his type (alternative, tattoos, piercings) whereas I was a bit of an anomaly in his girl spectrum (no tattoos, no extraordinary piercings and I was growing out of my pop punk music stage).  These girls added to my self esteem issues, I was constantly thinking I was never enough.  I was trying to keep my self harm sheet clean too, in hindsight the emotional pressure I was under was huge.

All of this anxiety was juxtaposed with good times which made it even more confusing to me.  How could I have so much anxiety about someone I cared about? I felt like I had to keep tabs on him constantly, I wanted to know who he was with and what he was doing. My stress levels were even higher when I knew alcohol was involved.  We used to go out together a lot at the beginning of our relationship but those nights would always end in blazing rows instigated by me because only after a few drinks did I feel brave enough to bring up everything I was thinking.  When he was out drinking I was constantly worried who he was with and if any of the girls he spoke to would be there and if something would happen.  It was obviously not healthy.

It wasn't looking good but I still moved in with him.

I think I was afraid of being alone, I settled because for some ludicrous reason I didn't think I deserved better.  I thought that this was as good as it was going to get.  I felt like I was fighting for this guy constantly, although in hindsight he wasn't even that great for me. He was nice, don't get me wrong.  He did make me laugh and treated me well getting me gifts, buying dinner and spending money on me.  This made everything even more confusing when he was being evasive and I would feel bad for being suspicious.  But again with the gift of hindsight I think a lot of these gifts and spent money was to compensate for the guilt he felt whilst he was cheating on me.  I tried to trust him I really did but there were constantly signs I ignored.   Pragmatically I think I had fallen out of love with him for a while but the fear of being alone was all consuming and I latched onto this mess of a relationship like a life ring.

We lived together for three and a half months before the shit hit the fan.  There is no nicer way of saying it. 

I let this exhausting relationship go on for far too long and was too chicken to break up with someone 'without a valid reason'.  In the end I found out he had cheated on me for over six months with supposedly 'only' one girl.  My hand was forced and somewhere out of the depths of the old Nina I pulled out all the strength I had and kicked him out of the flat we had signed for whilst he was still sleeping with the other girl, and I got on with my life.  The people who knew me before and after all this have said that I am a completely different person now.  My mother and I have spoken at length about this and she said he was always holding me back.  I was afraid to take my big and important steps incase it left him behind. Again this is not how good relationships should work.  You either move forward together or you have to go at it alone.  It's better to go at life alone than to let someone slowly erode your confidence and self worth.

My golden rule in life is to always trust your instincts.  I knew probably about 1 year into our relationship that there was something going on between him and one of his female friends.  I let him talk me out of it.  That's what makes me the angriest.  I let him convince me time and time again that I was overreacting, that I was being neurotic suspecting him constantly.  In our last post break up conversation we had he even hinted that my behaviour made him seek out the girl whom he would sleep with for six months.  Because I wasn't giving him what he needed he went and got it from somewhere else.  Now I don't like to throw around words like emotional abuse but that's what it felt like.  He made me feel like I was crazy.  I struggled with self harm for about six years of my life so my mental health hasn't always been the best which made the whole situation even worse. He made me not feel like me.  He  made me feel like there was something wrong with me.  He tried to blame it on me knowing that I was quite fragile at times, but I finally took a stand.  

There are some warning signs you really need to watch out for if any of this is sounding familiar.  It's worth re-evaulating your relationship if:
  • Your self worth has taken a dive.
  • Your partner makes you more miserable than happy.
  • You can't trust your them.
  • You're constantly worried about who your partner is with.
  • You want to check up on all their movements on their social media.
  • If they have had a lot of relationship drama in the past that keeps getting brought up.
  • They are constantly on the phone and being evasive about who they are talking to.
  • You feel like you’re not allowed to grow and change.
  • You start to feel yourself compromise on what your gut is telling you
  • They belittle you and try to brush off your concerns.
  • Your partner calls you names.

The key to staying out of toxic relationships is to know yourself and your patterns. Sometimes I find myself falling into old ways, overthinking and panicking.  But then I take a deep breath in, check myself and remind myself that this relationship is different and I am different now.  Stronger.  According to Debora Schwartz "relationships will only work when you make a decision from a position of strength and not from a position of desperation."  A partner is not going to save you, you have to find your inner strength and if that means cutting a toxic person out of your life so be it.  It's worked wonders for me.

I'm not blaming the blame game.  I'm not blaming my ex, I'm not even blaming the girl he slept with.  I just want to make sure you know what the warning signs are so you can get yourself out of a negative situation.  You don't want to waste your precious time on something that is negative or counterproductive.  Don't be afraid to break up with someone who isn't good for you.  Don't be afraid to be the person who refuses to settle for a compromise because before you know it you're with someone who isn't that great and two years have flown past and you've been miserable.

Like I said, I didn't know I was in a toxic relationship until I started dating my current boyfriend.  Everything in this relationship is the complete opposite.  I've found someone who I can trust 100% and there is no tension or anxiety in me when we aren't together.  I have never been this happy with someone and sometimes that takes my breath away.  For one second I panic about giving my trust to someone again, but we have to grow and learn to give our hearts to the right person.  Once you break away from that toxic cycle you never want to go back to it.

Remember that every relationship is a lesson, even the toxic ones.  Learn your patterns, learn to love and respect yourself and most importantly: don't settle for someone out of fear of being alone.  You deserve better and you will find someone who is perfect for you.

This chapter in my life is now done.  It's been exhausting thinking about it but I am ready to put the lid on this box and be done with it.  There are new adventures waiting.
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