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How to Let Go of Toxic Relationships and Be Yourself Again

How to Let Go of Toxic Relationships and Be Yourself Again

Toxic relationships come in many forms, physical abuse, mental abuse, verbal and even emotional abuse. Sometimes the toxicity is almost subtle. But if you constantly feel controlled, manipulated or berated, then you may need to do some introspection. Toxic and abusive relationships are more common than you may realize. In fact, one statistic claims 1.5 million high school students experience physical abuse from a partner. And that’s just in a single year [1]. More troubling, 43% of college women experience violent and abusive dating behaviors but 57% say they don’t always know how to identify it. And an incredible 58% say they don’t know how to help a friend in a bad situation.

In an even more unfortunate twist, many people who experience abusive relationships don’t think their relationships are abusive because they may not be getting physically assaulted. Yet for those who do manage to recognize the relationship they are in is a bad one, the impact the toxicity had can be a lingering one. The cruel words and treatments of an abusive partner can trick the victim into believing they are worthless, ugly, fat, stupid, and more. They can even begin to believe they deserve to be mistreated and fall into relationships that mimic the abusive behavior.

Why it should be fixed:

Abuse should never be tolerated. Period. And yet only 33% of teens who experienced a violent relationship actually told someone about it. This shockingly low statistic is not helped by 81% of parents refusing to believe teen dating violence exists. And that’s the other thing: Over 80% of parents feel they would definitely know if their child was being abused in some way, yet only 58% of those parents were able to identify warning signs. A lack of recognition from loved ones can further push you to believe you deserve to be mistreated. And it isn’t true.

Yet the side effects are chilling. Check out these facts from loveisrespect.org:

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  • Violent relationships in adolescence can have serious ramifications by putting the victims at higher risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, risky sexual behavior and further domestic violence.
  • Being physically or sexually abused makes teen girls six times more likely to become pregnant and twice as likely to get a STI.
  • Half of youth who have been victims of both dating violence and rape attempt suicide, compared to 12.5% of non-abused girls and 5.4% of non-abused boys.

It’s clear the effects of having an abusive and toxic relationship seriously and harshly impact the victim, even if they are able to leave the abuse. And even if you have experienced a toxic relationship and feel you successfully moved on, you should ask yourself if you truly have.

How to Identify a Toxic Relationship:

Before trying to get back to your truest self and move on from a toxic situation, it’s important to identify the warning signs that you are in one to begin with.

  • Narcissism: If your partner is uber obsessed with him/herself, it will be impossible to ever feel like a partnership. This doesn’t mean your partner loves to take selfies, but rather extreme selfishness when it comes to their own talents and the need for admiration.
  • Drama, Drama, Drama: If you are in a toxic relationship, you may find yourself more stressed out than you’ve ever been and feeling that your life is incredibly complicated. Remember that a healthy relationship improves your life. All relationships (healthy and otherwise) come with occasional drama, but if it’s consistent, take note; it may be a bad situation.
  • You just can’t seem to do anything right: Do you ever feel like you’re always being told that something you did was wrong? A toxic relationship can cost you your sense of self worth and success. Don’t waste your time!
  • Their jokes are anything but funny: When your partner teases you, do you get the sense they are actually saying cruel things to you behind the mask of humor? Teasing in a relationship is fine, but when the teasing seems more like bullying, it may be time to step away.
  • You no longer recognize yourself: If you’re in an unhealthy relationship, you may realize you’re acting strangely to those around you. Maybe you’re more quick to anger, or your drinking/smoking habit has increased. Perhaps your work has really become lackluster but you don’t care to improve upon it. This is a big red flag that you’re in a toxic relationship and it is having a terrible effect on you.

How to get out and get help:

Getting out of a toxic relationship is often times not easy, but it is necessary. So many of us feel like we need to be in a relationship, but that isn’t the case. In fact, feeling completed only when in a relationship is a sign of codependency. And that isn’t healthy. And if you’ve been reading this as a single person and yet you identify with the words, know it is possible to be in a toxic relationship that isn’t romantic. If your mom is constantly telling you you’re overweight or not successful, you’re in a toxic relationship with her! No matter who you find to be toxic in your life, it’s crucial to get out before you lose all sense of yourself.

Accept you are in denial.

We all want to believe we are happy, but sometimes we aren’t. And often times, it’s not your fault. If you feel depressed or depleted after spending time with a certain person, go back through the warning signs. If they all line up, recognize that you need to get out.

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Heal.

When you get out of a toxic relationship, you often feel emotionally damaged. Make a list of the things you used to love about yourself. Can you claim those same things now, or did that toxic relationship convince you those traits weren’t attractive? Surround yourself with positive people who inspire you to love your true self again.

Kelly McDaniel, author of ‘Ready to Heal: Women Facing Love, Sex and Relationship Addiction says the following:

The energy it takes to endure withdrawal [to an addictive or toxic relationship] is equivalent to working a full-time job. Truthfully, this may be the hardest work you’ve ever done. In addition to support from people who understand your undertaking, you must keep the rest of your life simple. You need rest and solitude.

Stop all contact! Period!

Any kind of breakup (healthy, toxic, romantic, non-romantic) is hard. And we often feel the need to hang on to some kind of friendship with that person. Even if they were abusive, we want to reach out on occasion in a friendly text so they know we don’t hate them. Why? This is one of the worst things you can do if you are trying to overcome a toxic relationship’s hold over you. Many abusive and toxic people have a sweet side. This is often what causes us to think they can change, or that it wasn’t really that bad. But don’t be fooled into reengaging. Do whatever it takes to strive for zero contact [2].

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Expect more drama.

Unfortunately, in today’s world of social media and instant gratification, breakups tend to come with a lot of shade from the ex. This can sometimes mean being made out to look like the bad guy, even though you may have been dealing with abuse. While this can be so heartbreaking, it’s important to remember that you know the truth.

Don’t give in and look like “the crazy ex,” but do surround yourself with people who love you and care about you. Remember that you did what you needed to do for yourself, and any argument you encourage based on lies will only cause the toxic person to persist. Block them on social media, block their number and don’t give in to the drama. You’ll never be able to truly overcome the experience if you allow yourself to look at the continued abuse every day.

Force yourself to overcome!

For some people, writing a letter to the person you want to let go is helpful. Obviously, you don’t want to send the letter! In fact, you can burn it or even bury it to signify the end of the relationship and gain closure. Pour out all the feelings and words you wish you could say and end the letter with acknowledgement of release. Try: I release you across all space and time. Thank you for helping me learn and grow.

Don’t ever tolerate it again.

Perhaps most importantly, don’t ever allow yourself to be mistreated again. When you’ve experienced a toxic and/or abusive relationship, you walk away knowing what to look for. If you find yourself dating someone who reminds you of that person, recognize the pattern you may be falling into and do what you need in order to get help and walk away.

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If you are in the U.S. and need help identifying whether you or someone you love is in a toxic relationship, text loveis to 22522. You’ll receive a response from a peer advocate who can answer questions you may have.

To speak to someone, call 1-866-331-9474.

If you or someone you love has been driven to consider suicide after a toxic relationship, please know there are people who care. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 1-800-272-8255. For anyone outside the United States, click here to find help in your country.

Featured photo credit: William Stitt via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1] Love Is Respect Org: Dating Abuse Statistics
[2] Psychology Today: Three Steps for Getting Out of a Toxic Relationship

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Last Updated on May 7, 2019

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Work in any competitive field long enough, and you’re bound to run into a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a powerful image. A shepherd watches over his flock to protect them from harm. He’d chase away any predator that tried to make its way into the flock. A clever wolf wearing the skin of a sheep as a disguise can sneak by the vigilant shepherd and get into the herd undetected.

The story isn’t just a colorful description–it’s a warning to all of us to beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They may seem innocent, but they have ulterior motives. They’ll use different tactics to camouflage their intentions.

The person who is kind to you, but undercuts you when you aren’t around is a wolf in disguise. A wolf in sheep’s clothing might pick your brain for ideas and then pass them off as their own to get a promotion. They’re always looking out for themselves at the expense of everyone around them.

Wearing a Disguise Has Its Advantages

People don’t go out of their way to manipulate others unless they’re getting something out of it. Hiding their intentions gives wolves the chance to manipulate other people to advance their own agenda. They know that what they’re trying to do wouldn’t be popular, or it might cause struggle if they presented themselves honestly.

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    They’ll be able to do what they want with less interference if they put on an act. By the time people figure out their true motives, the wolf has what it wants.

    Signs That Someone Is a Wolf in Disguise

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        1. They live to take power instead of empowering others. A wolf uses people as stepping stones to get the things that they want. They don’t care what happens to anyone else.[1] A wolf at work might make you look bad during a presentation to make themselves look amazing in front of the boss.
        2. Wolves seem sweet on the outside, but they’ll show you their teeth. If wolves revealed their true identity, people wouldn’t associate with them. They develop a friendly or kind persona, but they can’t keep up the act 24/7. Eventually, they’ll reveal their aggressive tendencies. A wealthy person who likes to break the law may make sizable charitable donations to convince people that they are kind and thoughtful. These donations largely keep them out of trouble, but if someone calls them out, they destroy that person’s reputation to stifle the criticism.
        3. They manipulate through emotions to get what they want. Wolves know that they can get ahead by appealing to your emotions. They find out what you want and need, and they give you just enough to keep you quiet and compliant. Imagine that your boss is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and you want to ask for a vacation. She might try to play on your guilt and feelings of insecurity to get you to skip vacation or take fewer days off.
        4. A wolf will charm you first. Wolves are experts at manipulating the people around them. They appear interested in whatever you’re doing, and you’ll get the impression that they care. After they get you where they want you, they do just enough to keep you on the hook. This is the coworker who may start out being your friend, but they end up dumping responsibility onto you. When they see that you are growing frustrated, they’ll surprise you with something to charm you some more. Then, they’ll continue to do whatever they want.
        5. Their stories are full of holes.  Calling a wolf out is the surest way to make them squirm. When this person tries to come up with a story, it won’t make much sense because they are improvising.[2] The classic example of this is the significant other that you suspect has cheated on you. When you ask them why they came home so late, they’ll either become upset with you, or they’ll make up a weak explanation.

        How to Spot a Wolf

          Know What’s Real So You Can Spot the Phony

          Do some homework so that you have as much of the story as possible before you work with them. Research how they respond in certain situations, or give them hypothetical problems to see how they respond.

          A job applicant might tell you that she’s always positive and thinks of herself as a team-player. That’s what every employer wants to hear. During the interview you ask applicants to work in groups to solve a problem to see how they handle the situation. The applicant “positive team-player” is bossy and negative. You’ve spotted the wolf.

          A wolf will tell you something that ultimately benefits them. Gather evidence that proves or disproves their position, and see what happens. Chances are, when you choose the side that supports their agenda, they’ll act like your best friend. If you disagree, they’ll become aggressive.

          Spotting a potential wolf–especially if you are one of the sheep–can present you with some challenges. If your gut tells you that a wolf is lurking among all the other sheep, pay attention, and make sure you take the next step.

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          Ask Questions, the More the Better

          There’s nothing wrong with asking questions to uncover the truth. The safety of everyone in your group is at risk. Since wolves often make up stories, you may be able to call them out when their tales lack details.

          When they state an opinion, ask “Why do you think that?” or “How do you know it’s like that?” They’ll have trouble coming up with enough information to pull off the lie.

          Since wolves are always pretending to be something they aren’t, they don’t usually have a clearly thought-out reason for what they say. In a debate, they won’t understand the root of an issue.

          They may also tell you what they think you want to hear, but when pressed for more information, they won’t have anything to add. Their knowledge is superficial. No matter how much you try to encourage discussion, they will not be able to carry on a conversation about the subject.

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          Wolves Are Everywhere

          As much as we want to believe that everyone has the best intentions, it isn’t always the case. Some people only do things to benefit themselves, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

          Wolves in sheep’s clothing can be found in almost every setting. You can’t get rid of them, but if you can spot them, you can avoid falling into their traps.

          Reference

          [1] Association of Biblical Counselors: Three Ways to Spot a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
          [2] Power of Positivity: Beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing

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