"God told me I took you as far as you could go. Your parents didn't really teach you how to deal with life-situations," he said over the phone, while I cried on my childhood bed. "Now you can go back to living with mommy and daddy."
I was twenty-five years old, had lost my "dream job" and broke the lease on my first "big girl" apartment. I moved back to Houston after living for nearly two years in a small town where I tried to create an independent life from my parents and form a long-term future with my on-and-off again boyfriend of nearly six years.
I was broke and depressed. I didn't eat and I barely slept. My clothes began to fall loose on my figure because I had lost so much weight. My bank account was in the red. My gas tank was on E. My life was like a bad soap opera, but I had created it.
After that last conversation with my boyfriend at the time, I never heard from him again. I kept hope alive because he said he still loved me and saw a future with me; I just needed to get mentally well. Of course, in my fragile state, I took that as a definite sign that he still cared and we would be back together in the future once I worked on myself.
I called multiple times and left several text messages. I even reached out on social media. He subsequently blocked my number and blocked me from all social media channels. I felt like an outcast. To know someone as more than a best friend, to see all aspects of them good and bad and then to become a stranger is the worst type of poison.
I felt that pain in my core and it took me months to cognitively realize that he was doing to me like he did with all of his previous relationships before me; he ghosted me.
With the support of more-than-generous friends and family, I repaired my self-esteem and focused on building my businesses as well as pursuing a Master of Business Administration. I found my zeal for life again. I found my inner confidence and embraced my quirks. I fell in love again with a man that valued me and saw himself building a future with me. I had discovered the secure, vibrant and ambitious girl I knew was hiding within the broken woman.
In the throes of a toxic relationship, you keep yourself above the current. You believe in your soul that no matter what harsh trials are thrown at you, love is still greater than hardship. You are unaware that you are a moment from crashing and being taken under. Once you come to your senses, you realize you were choking on all of the lies and being gaslighted. You realize you could have drowned and never recovered.
In realizing how blessed I was to come out of the other side, here are six things I realized over the course of an almost six-year toxic relationship:
You Can’t Depend on Others for Your HappinessGiphy
My ex-boyfriend was my first love. I was nineteen, inexperienced and naive. I had never had a boyfriend before and I thought being in a relationship would make me feel complete. I used to envy my friends that got gifts on Valentine's Day and as I got older, I envied their engagement rings. I depended on my ex-boyfriend to make me happy, even as I saw it made him miserable. As he strived to provide happiness for me, it ate away at his own happiness.
We were young and not even sure how we identified ourselves in this vast and often cold world. As a young woman, I searched for examples on how to act and as a young man, he looked to what he knew. I internalized his personal failings with other women and used that to define my worth as a woman. I craved his validation to make me happy. I desired elaborate gifts and fancy dinner dates to prove that I was where his heart lay -- at the cost of my self-esteem. When he ghosted me, I had to deal with my own personal problems. I was forced to make myself happy. I realized how unfair it was to blame him continuously for his misgivings and hold him hostage in a relationship that he obviously did not value.
It Takes Two to Make a Relationship ToxicGiphy
Often times, we try to blame the other person for a toxic relationship. The problem is that it takes two to make a relationship toxic. I was the first to talk to all my girlfriends and paint this vivid picture of how horrible my ex was: how he still communicated with a girl he cheated on me with; acted ashamed of me around his college friends; made fun of my insecurities and body-shamed me. The details I left out are how I would sometimes start arguments over past transgressions; make fun of how he looked and compare him to other men.
I remained in a toxic relationship, even though I had agency over my decisions.
I chose to ignore advice and stick with someone that made me miserable just to say I was in a relationship.
You are Nobody’s Baby Sitter or Mama
I loaned my ex a lot of money while he was a struggling teacher. I gave him $1,400 when his car faced repossession and hundreds of dollars here and there when he was late on rent. I wrote his entire graduate school application and he broke up with me once he got accepted into the program on a full tuition scholarship. I had written so many applications and college essays for him, even his previous Teach for America application, that it felt natural. I didn't realize that I was enabling him to become dependent on me as an on-demand Payday Loan or a muse for his applications. What I realized though is that as he didn't mind bank-rolling my lifestyle throughout college, I didn't mind being that constant ATM for him after college. It made me feel special that he looked to me to help him with his problems. What I should have realized is that sometimes you need to deal with your own problems. Alone.
Self-Care is Vital to Your Mental Well-beingGiphy
I didn't focus on making sure that I was mentally well when in the relationship and hid how I felt when around his family. One of his aunts even pointed out that I seemed like I had this dark cloud hanging over me and something was amiss with me. That dark cloud was the relationship and the pressures of balancing life, a career and constant parental feedback. Once I focused on checking in with myself, making sure that I wasn't hiding my problems under a pile of ambition or another relationship, I was able to heal.
Don’t Isolate Yourself from Your Friends and Family
I isolated myself from my friends and family because I knew they did not approve of the relationship. Within the first year of us dating, they pointed out how toxic it was and that he did not value me. My ex-boyfriend even pitted me against my friends by saying that they weren't really my friends and told me about how people at my college made fun of me and that everyone wondered why he would even date me; he was too good for me. He compared me to my friends and even told me that he wished he would have dated one of them because she was so much more mature and that I was a joke, silly and childish.
He crippled my self-esteem to the point where I hated leaving my college dorm because I was scared people were making fun of the way I dressed, talked or even walked. He became my world and I looked to him for validation. When he ghosted me, I realized that my friends were still there and my parents helped with my transition back home. Once he paid me back the money I loaned him, he was nowhere to be found. All along I wish I would have realized my friends and family did care for me and wanted to see me happy.
Exiting a Toxic Relationship Before You are Ghosted is EssentialGiphy
If you are being ghosted, you have missed all of the signs that the relationship is not working out and that it is toxic. There were numerous signs that he had tired of the relationship, from our multiple break-ups and make-ups to his continuous comparing of me to other women and the feeling of isolation even within the relationship. When I was a friend, I had seen how he treated a previous ex so coldly by ignoring their calls and acting like they didn't even exist. For some reason, when I witnessed these actions as his friend, it did not click that maybe he was the problem and not the other people. In my naivete, I believed that there was something wrong with them, that they were insane or could not provide him what he needed in a healthy relationship.
I believed that I could be that answer because I was his friend first.
What I realized is that he was a master of lies. He made himself look like the victim, while he was leaving the real victims broken. I am so glad I escaped that personal hell before I ended up in an even worse situation. I sought therapy to deal with this relationship and I am so glad he ended it the way he did. It gave me the chance to see my own major faults and realize that I am the master of my own happiness. People treat you the way you allow them to treat you. I will never again give a man that much power.
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