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Published on October 1, 2020

How to Leave a Toxic Relationship When You Still Love Your Partner

How to Leave a Toxic Relationship When You Still Love Your Partner

Learning how to leave a toxic relationship is never as easy as saying, “Hit the road, Jack!” – especially not when you are in love with your partner.

If you’ve been in a toxic relationship, you know exactly how emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausting they can be. But if a toxic relationship is so taxing, why is it so hard to leave?

In this article, you will find out why it’s difficult to leave a toxic relationship and how to leave a toxic relationship for good.

How to Know if You’re in a Toxic Relationship

Sometimes it’s hard to know whether you are in a toxic relationship or not. It is often because of the manipulation involved in partner -toxicity.

Another reason why it may be difficult to admit that you’re in a toxic relationship is that there isn’t any outward abuse. Your partner may not hit you or cross any obvious sexual boundaries,[1] but that doesn’t mean you’re in a healthy relationship.

Making a pro/con list can be a helpful first step when learning how to leave a toxic relationship.

Pros might be that your spouse makes you laugh, you enjoy the same hobbies, and you love them.

But, what are the cons of being in your current circumstances?

When you make out this list, it’s important, to be honest with yourself. Does your partner do any of the following?

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  • Doesn’t give you privacy
  • Cut you off from friends/family/finances
  • Prevents you from attending school or work
  • Is controlling and jealous
  • Makes all the decisions in your relationship
  • Pressures you into things you aren’t comfortable with
  • Makes “jokes” or criticizes you
  • Is unfaithful
  • Talks down to you
  • Destroys property
  • Sends threatening text messages
  • Invades your privacy (checks your phone/social media/follows you)
  • Threatens to do something horrible if you leave the relationship
  • Gaslights/acts like the things they are doing are not a big deal

If these toxic behaviors remind you of your spouse, this may be the wake-up call you need to take action and get out of your dangerous relationship.

Why Do People Remain in Toxic Relationships?

One of the main culprits is oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone in your body that releases during moments of intimacy. This could include making love, holding hands, kissing, or even cuddling with someone.

When oxytocin is released, it causes you to be more trusting of your partner, even when trust is not warranted. This sneaky little hormone is also guilty of promoting bonding, which can make it feel impossible to leave your spouse, even when you know they aren’t good for you.

In addition to the effect of oxytocin, here’re 5 more things that make leaving a toxic relationship difficult:

1. Abuse Weakens You Emotionally

Emotional abuse can be devastating to everyone, leaving the individual weak without self-esteem, making starting afresh a difficult decision to make.

2. It Can Be Life-Threatening

Leaving a toxic relationship can be dangerous, leading to all sorts of consequences, even death. Research shows that a toxic partner kills a larger percentage of women in weeks after leaving a toxic relationship than when they remain in the relationship.

3. The “It Will Stop Mindset’

Society has ingrained in us a “don’t give up on anything” mindset in which people follow even when they recognize it might result in something catastrophic. That mindset is also followed by having the thought that the abuse will stop eventually.

4. Social Pressure

There is always that social pressure from friends, family members, etc., to want a relationship – this pressure only makes the situation worse.

5. Social Reaction

People often don’t want to admit to anyone that they are going through a hard time, which cuts across relationships. People in toxic relationships don’t want to admit the kind of abuse they are going through because of fear or shame of being blamed or judged.

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The Effects of Emotional Abuse in a Toxic Relationship

1. Fear

This is a constant concern or awareness of danger. You start to have trust issues with anyone you find yourself with that building a relationship becomes issue overtime.

2. Shame

You don’t feel free to interact with anyone who knows what you have gone through like Friends, family members, etc., which often can result in loneliness.

3. Confusion

Your mind consistently wonders, and you seem to lose concentration and cant focus on a particular task.

4. Drugs or drinking

Abuse often results in excessive use of drugs and drinking. Thought that it could take away the pain is a delusion.

5. Suicide

When the pain and trauma get too much, it can often result in the party taking their lives.

6. Sleep trouble

You don’t get to enjoy sleep as you are supposed to. Thoughts and anxiety become the order of every moment.

How to Leave a Toxic Relationship

1. Know That You Deserve Better

Months or years of being told that you’ll never find anyone better than your spouse can wear on you, and you may even start to believe it. But this isn’t true.

Tearing down self-esteem and self-worth is what abusers do to keep their victims trapped in the relationship.

Let “I deserve better!” become your daily mantra. Remind yourself of your worth every day.

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You’ve tried your hardest to make your relationship work, but sometimes love is not enough, and you need to move on for your own mental and physical wellbeing.

2. Build a Support System

The emotions you go through for a toxic breakup are much the same as going through a breakup of a healthy relationship. You will feel conflicted, lovesick, relieved, depressed, and more.

Leaving a toxic relationship is especially difficult if you have been financially reliant on your ex – but don’t despair!

Instead of focusing on why this will be hard, focus on building a support system you’ll need when you take the plunge. Research shows that friend and family support during trying times lowers psychological distress.

Having a support system around will make it easier for you to move on.

3. Be Firm About Your Decision

Breakups are hard, no matter what the circumstance is. You’re leaving a life that you’ve grown accustomed to, and even if you know the relationship is no longer safe, it still sucks, leaving the life you’ve built for yourself.

There may be times when you are tempted to get back with your partner, but stand firm! You deserve a partner who loves and respects you.

Do not give your ex any false hope of getting back together. Be firm in your decision to leave the relationship and don’t budge.

4. Cut Off Contact

One of the biggest times for how to leave a toxic relationship would be to cut off all contact with your ex once you’ve broken up.

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Keeping in contact with your ex opens the door for you to get back together. Plus, seeing your ex across social media will make the memory of the relationship feel fresh in your mind. Here’s what to do when you experience that.

Instead of dwelling in the past, focus on the future, keep yourself motivated. Delete your ex from social media, block them on your phone, and find ways to avoid seeing them in person. These actions will make it clear that you want nothing to do with them.

5. It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken

If you’re at the point of breaking up, you’ve likely tried all of the tricks to get your spouse to change their toxic ways.

Maybe you went to therapy, took a relationship class, or made date nights a priority – but nothing worked.

Your partner is not going to change, and it’s important to remind yourself of this often.

You did everything you could to help them and reason with them, and it didn’t work. Do not expect miracles after a breakup.

Even if an abusive ex changes their ways, it is likely only due to the shock of the breakup. If you got back together, their likelihood of returning to their toxic behaviors is incredibly high.

Learning how to leave a toxic relationship is one thing, but following through with it is an entirely different story. If you are having trouble leaving an abusive or toxic partner, reach out to a trusted friend, family, or call/text/chat with an abusive relationship support line like Day One.

Final Thoughts

It is often a feeling of attachment or loneliness to wanting to get into another relationship immediately one gets out of a toxic one. Please take things easy, learn to discover yourself, and think of how the last one ended so you don’t experience the same thing. Take your time to heal completely from previous relationship hurts and pains before thinking about going into a new one.

More on How to Leave a Toxic Relationship

Featured photo credit: Max via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Sylvia Smith

Sylvia is a big believer in living consciously and encourages couples to adopt its principles in their relationships.

How to Leave a Toxic Relationship When You Still Love Your Partner How to Overcome Jealousy in a Relationship How to Stop Nagging And Communicate With Your Partner Better 6 Reasons Why You Should Not Give Up on Love 12 Relationship Deal Breakers That You Shouldn’t Tolerate

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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