Sick of Toxic Relationships? Love Yourself Enough to Walk Away

“There comes a time in your life when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. Surround yourself with people that make you smile. Focus on the positive and forget about the negative. Pray for those who don’t treat you well and love the ones that do. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living.” ~José N. Harris

It may appear easy to let go of unhealthy relationships, but it can be difficult for people who have been deprived of their emotions.

Many of us feel unsafe from the moment we were born. From the very beginning, it was our norm. This was true in both our first homes, and our first relationships.

This was the most memorable experience of my entire life.

When I was born, my mother felt uneasy about me being in her home. Living with my father and her in-laws was a terrifying experience for her. At twenty-two, she had an arranged marriage and didn’t know her father-in law was an alcoholic.

My first alcoholism experience was also hers, although I was only a baby. She was too afraid to come into my house. This is how my body remembers it.

I was always on the alert for any eruptions and waited to enter this world. My crib was my first nightmare. I was wired to feel energy from this experience. When I was a baby, tension could be felt and I would hold my breath for my family.

It was something I discovered early on that unsafe people exist. How to control my fear was something I learned early on. Fear for me was normal. It made me constantly look out for potential threats.

My poor little body didn’t know how to survive, and my parents were preoccupied with dramas in our house, so I learned survival skills like freezing, not speaking, and pleasing my adult caregivers to keep the peace. As they calmed down, I was able connect with them and feel their love.

All of us learned how to survive as children in our families, so we had to be wired for it.

As I got older and came in contact with people I felt unsafe with, I would do the same—freeze, rescue, or please others and silence myself. It crushed my self-esteem and made me quite the doormat for other people’s drama.  Because I felt trapped and unable to get out of the pain, it made me suicidal.

People talked to me terribly. People used my trauma to get rid of me. I saw my parents doing the same and didn’t know it wasn’t normal. I thought being a punch bag for other people’s trauma was okay.

I didn’t know how to express my truth or have boundaries.

It became apparent to me as I grew older that I was a magnet for unhealthy relationships. These unhygienic feelings were reliving my childhood.

I gravitated toward people who needed me to help them with emotional regulation, just as I’d learned to do as a child. Although these relationships were draining and left me feeling in constant pain, I became almost addicted to them.

I had become so needless and wantless myself that I didn’t know who I was without these people. Once I made them feel better, it would give me a little dopamine rush.

My childhood home was my refuge from the pain and suffering that I felt. 

People who needed to be rescued because of their traumas or addictions attracted me. Either I wanted to rescue them, or they persecuted me.

I would say nothing when they blamed and shamed me without justification, internalizing their blame—just as I had as a child when my dad persecuted me for all the stress he felt. “If Dad says everything is my fault, then it must be,” I thought.

I saw it as my job to take care of other people’s emotions. When they are sad or angry I will help them. If they’re happy, I will make them feel better. When someone got mad at me, it was my fault.

The drama triangle was a concept that changed the way I looked at relationships. The drama triangle is composed of three parts:

Persecutor: Blames others for their pain

Victim feels powerless against a persecutor

Rescuer: Helps others manage their emotions.

For many of my relationships I was both the victim and the rescuer. I felt powerless to other people’s emotions and behaviors. As if they were my fault.

It was time for me to be responsible for my happiness, and to find the strength to break this cycle I’d been living in all my life. No more being a victim to other people’s trauma. 

After hitting bottom, it was hard for me to start investing my money, time and energy into myself. I started small with little acts of love—walking in nature, meditating, exercising, and cooking myself healthy, nutritious meals.

My body began to feel calmer and more relaxed. My own needs and feelings were recognized. I began to connect with the voice within me, which I couldn’t hear previously. It was always overpowered by other people’s voices.

The voice in my head guided me to start saying no to certain events, and prioritizing my time. I was guided by this voice to seek therapy and read healing books, as well as join support groups.

Without a healthy, stable and happy relationship with myself, there was no way to improve my relationships. This foundation gave me the ability to take more challenging decisions later in life.

My energy became stronger over time, which was something I’d never felt before. It was easy to see which relationships were safe, and what was happening when I received the things I wanted.

It also became apparent which relationships didn’t feel good and negatively affected my well-being. 

Unknowingly, my workplace was a place where I felt highly stimulated every day when I started this journey. When I realized that self-care was something I needed to do before work, during breaks and at lunchtimes, it was obvious that the job was no longer for me.

In relationships I was not comfortable with, I never spoke my truth. I kept my thoughts and opinions to myself and made up stories about what other people thought about me. That was how I got mad.

This behavior was unacceptable. I started to make a change by sharing my emotions in safe relationships. It was through communication that I discovered how relationships can be healthier and more fulfilling.

True intimacy was created by self-expression. I was always ashamed of my real self.

I had been single for most of my life because of my previous patterns, but after building a foundation of self-love, I was able to form a relationship with a man who is now my fiancé, who gave me what I’d learned to give to myself—unconditional love and safety.

With my growing relationship with myself, I gained the strength to end unhealthy relationships. Some were more difficult than others. I had never been okay with hurting people’s feelings, putting my needs first, or causing trouble.

Always the girl who was good. I had to have the courage to not be.

My family saw me as the selfish one or troublemaker.

You can only accept people who disregard your boundaries, and show complete disrespect for your feelings after you have had the privilege of growing up in relationships that respected boundaries. I realized it’s not healthy for someone else to avoid taking responsibility for their actions, blame you, and focus solely on winning an argument.

When you are not in the drama triangle, it is impossible to ignore its drama.

Because of their healing process, some people don’t want you to respect them.

You’ll realize how important it is to let go of people that you loved throughout your life. No matter how close you are to them, it is not possible to put yourself first in a relationship that doesn’t feel right for your health. Particularly when your inner voice calls for you to end the relationship.

The drama triangle is a common family system, where each person plays a role. We can let others grow by stepping out of this drama.

Family members will react naturally to any change in family dynamics. However, it’s not your job to alleviate their discomfort. It is up to the individual.

Through self-love, I was able heal my nervous system and past trauma and stress. Due to the strain of my relationships, I couldn’t get my body to work properly. Finally, I listened.

My investments in body-based treatment included craniosacral and trauma-release exercises, cognitive breathing, craniosacral therapies, and qi-gong. These treatments helped me heal my nervous systems from the past.

It took bravery and courage to step away from the toxic relationships in my life, but it’s been my greatest act of self-love to date.

Start to pay attention to your relationships. Which relationships make you feel good? Is your body saying something? Do you need to establish boundaries, speak your truth or walk away?

It doesn’t matter if it all makes you feel anxious, focus your efforts on building a foundation of self-love. And recognize that you don’t deserve to be blamed or shamed for someone else’s issues, and it’s not your responsibility to fix or save them.

Over time, you will find that your love for self grows and your determination to be the best version of yourself.

Relationships that give you joy, love, energy, and happiness are what you deserve. You are not responsible to rescue anyone or be the one who causes their pain.

Manpreet Johal

Manpreet is the creator of the Heart’s Happiness podcast where she talks about intergenerational trauma and is also a coach who helps people make peace with their past and rewrite their story by learning how to love themselves. Download FREE masterclass on Manifesting Happiness here. Next Power of No interactive workshop starts on Sunday 24th April at 8pm UK Time to help build and strengthen boundaries with others. Learn more on her website and Instagram.

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Sick of Toxic Relationships Tiny Buddha’s first post, Love Yourself Enough To Walk Away, appeared first here.

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