How I Found Peace and Self-Love After a Toxic Relationship

“Bravery is leaving a toxic relationship and knowing that you deserve better.” ~Unknown

After my divorce, I felt a deep void in my life that I had to fill.

My divorce brought with it the uncontrollable feeling of being rejected and unloved. These feelings made me want to escape, distract from the pain, and find a way to fill them. I found dating. As it turned out, I was far too young.

It was a distraction that seemed harmless, but it soon turned into what I needed in order to feel loved and wanted. It was an escape from the hard work of learning how to love and accept myself without external validation.

The online dating scene was a complete circus that I didn’t know how to navigate with all of my wounding. I ended up falling for a guy—let’s call him Steve.

Steve was friendly enough to meet me. Although he seemed a bit too quiet for my liking, he really got to know me and kept me coming back. It was great to feel valued again.

He was charming and kind, we shared some commonalities. We had fun together, and he was always texting me to say hello and chat—again, that made me feel wanted.

Steve became more distant over time. It seemed that it was only getting worse when I raised the issue. However, at that point I had become addicted to the pleasure of being together again. I was addicted to feeling wanted and loved, so leaving wasn’t an option I was willing to entertain.

I was able to activate my unconscious program in my brain, which would accept rejection without a second thought. All that I should have seen as a red flag, I started to justify. To keep Steve away from me rejecting him, I was constantly doing what I felt I had to. But it wasn’t enough. Unconsciously, I was obsessed with who I believed I was. RequiredTo win his approval and love.

Steve and I both had gone through separations and both of us were struggling with mental issues. We became codependent. I was able to take care of his needs and put my own interests aside. He wouldn’t return the favor, except when it was convenient for me. I just tried harder to convince him. want To return the favour.

The method has never been successful.

With each passing day, I became less self-assured and less able to accept and love someone else who wouldn’t be able give me the life I desired. He just wasn’t capable of it. He could never have enough of me.

I broke up with him but soon after, we began to re-enter into a casual relationship. Deep down, I didn’t feel this was showing myself respect, but I allowed it to happen because again, I was trying to be who he wanted me to be—a casual friend-with-benefits.

The relationship became more serious and we seemed to be headed back towards an exclusive status. However, I discovered that he had been seeing other women without my permission. I’m so thankful I found out about this because it was the singular event that made me stop and get intentional about respecting myself.

It was then that I realized just how much I had fallen apart in my toxic, dysfunctional and codependent relationship. My only concern was to avoid feeling rejected and unloved. This was my last straw and it was enough for me to stop tolerating. I had enough of letting him down to obtain something that he would never give me.

Steve and I parted ways that day.

You’d think that it would be easy to leave a relationship that is toxic. Toxicity is what we all want. But the truth is, it isn’t easy.

Why are we in these difficult situations?

After my divorce, I felt so hurt, rejected, and unloved that it was hard for me to accept the pain. EverythingTo avoid these feelings. Instead of being aware of the signs and listening to them, I just did it. I continued my quest for love by proving myself worthy.

When you’re always trying to feel loved and accepted, you’ll ask yourself questions like, “Who do you need me to be to love me?” You’ll shape-shift to fit someone else’s needs and abandon your own. To win your love, you might over-give or show affection to your partner. YouYou can be loved.

The end result is similar to being rejected because you end up feeling alone—except this time it’s because because you’ve abandoned yourself and your truth.

It is easy to lose your self, and it can lead you to feeling lonely, rejected, or unloved. That’s how it was for me. My worth was so inflated that I forgot who I really am and the things I deserve.

I didn’t realize at the time that I needed to Come home to meFirst, love me and then accept others before I can ever receive it from anyone.

The end of that relationship turned out to be an act of self love and the first step towards finding peace.

Is it hard? No. When I ended the relationship, there were many emotions that emerged for me. It was embarrassing to realize that I chose him over me so many times. It was difficult to feel the loss of a relationship. There was also the fear of never finding that acceptance and love I so badly desired.

So how did I do it? What is the best way to find inner peace in a toxic relationship?

It came down to finding peace. Within You.

We naturally try to fill voids with other things when we see them. However, attempting to fill the empty space with an external object is never a good idea.

Had I not tried to find something outside myself, that would have filled the gap after our relationship ended., I’d have probably bounced around from one abusive relationship to the next until I realized to look inwardly and nourish my inner self.

What can you do to turn inside? Part of the reason you’ve gotten into a toxic relationship in the first place is that you don’t know how to do that.

For me, the first step was to leave a relationship. It was huge. The feeling you get when you decide you’re no longer going to pretend you’re someone you’re not in order to gain someone’s love is empowering, and gives you a little boost of confidence that you’ve got your own back.

It’s an act of love toward yourself.

At the time, I didn’t think of it as an act of love, but in unpacking it later, I can see that it was. This was my first step towards rebuilding my love for myself.

Next was to connect with my self.

We tend to get our identities tangled up with our partners’, and it’s easy to forget who we are without our relationships. That happened to me after seventeen years of marriage, and bouncing right into an unhealthy relationship didn’t help. So much of my time was spent worrying about what I looked like and how I could be loved, that I completely lost sight on who I truly was.

To connect with yourself, you need to spend a lot time alone. While I’d been able to stay busy in my pursuit of loneliness, it was not something I wanted to do. I learned to accept the pain and discomfort that comes with being alone to help me heal.

Connecting with nature was a big part of my life. I took myself on dinner dates by myself and went alone to movies. And when the loneliness didn’t feel good, I sat with it while I cried tears of sadness, learning how to show myself compassion for what I was feeling instead of pushing the feelings away.

It can be hard for people who have spent so much of their lives trying to avoid rejection to find themselves alone. But it’s a necessary part of reconnecting with your truth, and you will learn, like I did, that it’s really not that bad. It’s actually refreshing and beautiful to have time with yourself.

My support network was also restored to me. When I was in the relationship with Steve, I didn’t make my friends and family as much of a priority as I once had. My quest to feel loved led me to become so obsessed with the relationship, that I neglected my family and friends. When I tried to please him by being the person I wanted to be, I made some poor choices. It was now that I had to reconnect with my real support network.

To find peace in a toxic relationship, the most important thing was to discover my own love.

I started with a list of all of the reasons I didn’t deserve to be treated the way Steve had treated me, written with dry-erase marker on my bathroom mirror. Each time I looked into the mirror I felt reminded how much I deserve. A list was also created of everything I believed about myself. Each day, I made a new list and, eventually, each one of those things became true.

So that I could work on my self-confidence and strengthen my relationships, I decided to not date. Therapy and life coaching helped me realize that I was unable to love myself because I believed I could control my emotions. I also learned to accept the limitations of perfection.

It was my experience that being happy in the present was what made me happier. Actually, this is what I came up with: All We are all just normal human beings. Everyone has their own unique abilities and talents. There is no need for us to compare to one another in order to be outstanding. Being average is fine. I have found that being more compassionate towards myself and others helped me to navigate my life.

Self-love is the most fundamental step that I made. It was learning to accept and surrender to each moment. When I felt a lack in self-love I could learn to accept it, and then send love to that part of myself. To not dwell on what-ifs, I learn to be present in the moment and enjoy who I am.

Your journey towards self-love is one of the most significant. Self-love is a work in progress, of course, but knowing where you’re headed helps to know who you are, know your worth, and remind you to always choose yourself unapologetically.

Although the relationship I had with Steve was difficult in many aspects, it taught me so much and I’m grateful. The codependency and toxic relationship caused me to need to find a safe place to be myself. I found peace knowing I would always choose my side, no matter how difficult it was.

It’s a serene feeling and I wish this for you too.

Information about Kortney Rivard

Kortney Rivard is a life and wellness coach and host of the podcast Real, Brave, & Unstoppable. She helps smart, passionate women rebuild their lives after a divorce, breakup, or other life transition by helping them get their bearings, discover what they really want, believe in themselves, and take action to create an authentic life they’re excited about living. Learn more at

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Tiny Buddha’s post How I Found Peace and Self Love After A Toxic Relationship was first published on Tiny Buddha.

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