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4 Healthy Changes that Come from Ending a Toxic Relationship

4 Healthy Changes that Come from Ending a Toxic Relationship

A meaningful relationship tends to plant its roots very deep in the lives of two people, and it doesn’t stop there, because its influence also extends to families and social life. When those roots are ripped out of the little universe these two people tried so hard to create, things can get really messy.

Ending a long relationship is ugly, no matter what kind of person you are. In my case, it was six years of love and sharing and a bonus year of hatred and hurt. There were dark moments after our breakup when I thought it wasn’t worth it because it was too much anger and frustrations in the end, and both of us were left with deep scars that still haven’t healed.

Although I didn’t believe this – time does heal, and for some, it may take longer to get back on their feet, but it does happen eventually. However, it won’t happen on its own and it’s not simple – it involves a lot of hard work and you need to do it by yourself, because no one else will.

1. Back to Independence

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    Sharing your life with another person can be very beneficial for both sides – managing incomes, planning the future and helping each other out is a wonderful thing, but it does imply mutual trust and that you’ll depend on another person. Both have a tendency to fade out when a relationship has ended.

    Fear is a great factor when the relationship comes to an end – at least it was for me. I completely lost all faith in my skills and my confidence was in the negative spectrum for longer than I’d care to admit. That being said, my decision was impacted by me being afraid that I’m not capable of being on my own.

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    Naturally, that isn’t something I realized right away – it was buried somewhere in my subconscious. Therefore, the very first piece of advice I’d like to give to anyone who’s ending a relationship that became poisonous for both parties is not to run away from solitude and treat it not as being alone but as being independent.

    I’m sure you must remember how excited you were when you first left your parents’ home to make it on your own. Well, this is a chance for another fresh start. Besides, if you can’t trust yourself, chances are you can’t really trust anyone.

    2. Introspection and Growth

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      I was able to see some clarity just before we decided to take different paths in the very next intersection because a single thought filled my mind. I don’t know if I read or heard it sometime earlier, but it came to my memory in the right moment – I won’t get anywhere if I continue repeating the same actions and continue expecting different results.

      The thing is that I did everything in my power to save what we had, but that still wasn’t possible because we were so deep in a rut that we couldn’t help each other out, no matter how much we tried. I was constantly angry with him, and me as well, because it wasn’t clear to me how two smart people who love each other very much can be that helpless.

      The worst feeling I ever experienced is having my hands tied. It seemed like anywhere I move and get my hopes up just for a bit, and it turns out I’m actually going two steps backward. That’s just frustrating, to say the least.

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      Unfortunately, I know a few couples who happen to be my close friends, who have gone through the same things and I had their example (not) to follow. Some of them became impossibly ignorant to the world around them and being unable to realize that their disappointment made them dull, while others fell into despair and started questioning everything because of their insecurities.

      Instead of doing any of those two extremes, I tried to turn to developing introspectiveness. That’s a lie actually; during the first period, I was all about not thinking about the relationship at all, because that made me feel depressed. After that was over, I started thinking about what actually happened. What were the events that lead us to the point of no return?

      I’m not speaking about nostalgia and crying over spilled milk – I tried to use retrospection to my advantage and learn from my own mistakes so that (hopefully) I never have to repeat them again. I’d say this method was fairly successful and that I was able to grow as a person.

      3. You Become Stronger

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        Which brings me to my next point – co-dependence implies weakness. I understand that this might sound a bit bitter, but I have my reasons to be resentful and question this whole philosophy that stands behind monogamy and everything that goes with it.

        My ex and I made a mistake in the very beginning because we started a relationship where there were no adults – we were just a couple of immature children, nothing more. I wouldn’t even dare to deny we had a couple of golden years when we worked as a well-coordinated team and when every problem we encountered was simple to solve. We were each other’s gravity and just being able to feel that kind of connection makes everything that came afterward worth the trouble.

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        However, growing into an adult isn’t easy when you should be one already, and taking responsibility for things that happened in your life feels like being cornered. Obviously, it’s necessary for you to give yourself time to mourn the possible future that’s never going to happen, but you also need to realize that it’s not like anyone died.

        So, you have two different choices here (although only one of them is the right one) – you can either spend the rest of your life as a shadow of a real live person, or you can come out of this stronger and more powerful than you ever were. A variety in experience makes us tough; I know this doesn’t sound very comforting right now, but the fact is that you can learn from this and go into the next relationship prepared for whatever’s coming.

        I read somewhere recently how a significant percentage of relationships are doomed to failure because the two people involved in it spend way too much time and effort working on their other half and thus they neglect themselves, their future individually, and the plans they made as a couple. In order for a relationship to work out, two people need to stand firm on the ground before entering a serious relationship – you shouldn’t be each other’s project, you know. The only project you should be working on is building a future together.

        4. Time to Work on Yourself

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          And now, I’d like for you to be realistic and ask you this one question – what would your future be like if you stayed together? Many couples fool themselves by taking drastic measures in times of despair, like moving in together, getting married and even having kids, in the hope that they will solve their problems.

          All of the aforementioned are temporary solutions which can create an illusion of happiness for a month, a year, or a couple of years at best. If you do have a good reason to break up, something that simply makes you unhappy, you shouldn’t try to cover it up with life changes.

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          Being uncertain of yourself and the decisions you make will reflect on your relationship sooner or later, and trying to sweep the dirt under a brand new carpet doesn’t mean that the nasty will go away. As a matter of fact, it will only multiply and become even more difficult to clean up in time.

          Whether you decide to treat it as a gift or a curse, you are now single and you should use this time to become everything you always wanted to be. Your focus is now on you and you alone, and the vision of your future self is yet to be fashioned; this is something terrifying, difficult and exciting, all at the same time.

          A breakup shouldn’t define who you are, nor should it control your future. Relationships past should be there to make you learn what you really want and teach you not to settle for anything. Be that partner you want for yourself and the pieces of the puzzle will fall in their place eventually.

          Featured photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/fk3XUcfTAvk via pexels.com

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          Last Updated on January 15, 2021

          7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

          7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

          The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

          Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

          Posture

          First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

          • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
          • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
          • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
          • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

          All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

          Facial Expressions

          Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

          • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
          • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
          • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

          If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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          1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

          A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

          The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

          This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

          2. Relax Your Face

          New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

          The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

          To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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          3. Improve Your Eye Contact

          Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

          The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

          To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

          3. Smile More

          There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

          Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

          4. Hand Gestures

          Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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          It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

          5. Enhance Your Handshake

          In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

          “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

          It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

          6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

          As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

          Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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          Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

          Final Takeaways

          Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

          If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

          More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

          Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

          Reference

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