Guilt. It’s a powerful emotion. Its an emotion that is so overcoming and so all- consuming that it’s easy to get lost in. Guilt is huge when it come to toxic relationships. It is one of the major factors in why some people stay in bad relationships long past expiration dates. The guilt of hurting the other person’s feelings, the guilt of walking away when you’ve finally have had enough, or even the guilt of putting up boundaries and actually sticking to them, are all enough to cause negative feelings that can end you back up in the same relationship you know is not good for you. When you’re stuck in a toxic relationship cycle it’s so easy to lose who you really are, lose your sense of boundaries being more than trampled on, and even lose your sense of self-worth. I don’t think that people necessarily know how it feels until you really experience the emotional roller coaster that comes along with the hot and cold nature of a bad relationship. One day he likes you, the next you’re nothing. One minute he’s telling you he loves you, the next he’s making you feel like you’re the worst person in the world. The intensity from one emotion to the next is what some may call passion, some may see as normal, and some may see as just plain toxic.
So why do we allow guilt to consume us while we are working on distancing ourselves from toxic people? Why do we let guilt take over as we are removing ourselves from toxic relationships all together? Why do we feel guilty for putting ourselves first for once and saying no? And why do we allow a man who doesn’t respect us, to consume such a huge aspect of our lives?
For me it was always hope. Naïve optimism is what I have now come to call it. The hope that one day he would change. That one day he would become the prince charming that I had always knew he could be, if he just dug down deep into himself. I had projected the man I wished he would become into a future that potentially could be, but likely would not ever be. I was living in a fairy-tale land where reality and fantasy, were two different stories. I hoped that if I just stayed a little longer, bent this boundary just one more time, or continued to hold on to what we had, eventually he would come around and would turn into the man that I saw the potential he could be… But eventually every girl gets pushed to her breaking point. The devastating point where reality sets in and everything around her begins to come crumbling down. She is forced to come face to face with the reality that this man isn’t who she has projected him to be. That the way her feelings are continuously taken for granted isn’t normal and she has to start to instill boundaries. Eventually she even knows she will have to start the process of exiting the relationship all together, that things can’t go on like this. She is forced to choose herself for once. Cue the initial sting of guilt that plagues her after the initial break-up “I’m better off without him” high has worn off.
The high that comes along with standing up for yourself is sadly, usually short lived after you’ve ended a toxic relationship. The guilt for potentially hurting his feelings come flooding in faster than you can even imagine. You may start to feel guilty for standing up to him, for cutting him off, or for walking away completely. Why do we feel this way? After struggling with this battle for years I came to realize it was always because I didn’t love myself enough to realize that the boundaries I halfheartedly instilled should have never been crossed. Somewhere along the roller-coaster ride of a so-called relationship, his feelings had somehow become priority one. I had put this guy on a pedestal where what he thought, and how he felt, mattered more than I did. The moment boundaries were crossed the first time, was the moment that I should have said goodbye. When they were continuously crossed over and over, and my feelings were continuously taken advantage of I should have simply walked away. But instead I allowed the guilt I felt towards him to push my feelings to the side once again. My emotional investment kept me in a place where I allowed his feelings to come first, and in turn, right back up on the pedestal he went.
The guilt that had been ingrained into my mind was just a natural reaction to every other fight I ever had with any of the toxic relationships that I allowed to come into my life. He would do something that took advantage of my feelings for him, I would get upset, and he would make me out to be a crazy person for apparently over reacting. The guilt would set in for standing up for myself and I would give back in to him. My lack of a backbone when it came to guys I cared about was a weakness. I would always be scared that he would leave me, he would end things with me, or he would say something hurtful and all my self-esteem issues would come flooding in. I couldn’t handle the rejection so I would do anything to get us back to the place where we were “normal.” I would let way too many things slide. My fear of being alone allowed men who didn’t really care enough about me to really care, take advantage of my emotions. I guess in all reality, I allowed it because I didn’t have a strong enough sense of self worth to say a solid no. This is every emotionally unavailable man’s weapon. His lack of empathy and lack of genuine feelings towards you are made clear in this moment. He knows he can manipulate your feelings to make you feel like it is your fault for whatever had just happened, and you unfortunately start to believe him.
Every time you start to feel like you did something wrong, you start to lose a little bit of your self worth. Every time you start to lose a little bit of your self worth, the more control he starts to have over you. You stay in the relationship because you have created these excuses in your mind that aren’t true. You start to think that maybe he is right, maybe you are crazy. Maybe you did overreact. Or the even worse excuse of he’s the best I am ever going to get. I love him, doesn’t love conquer all? Or even the excuse I have heard time and time again- I’ve put so much time into this relationship I don’t feel like starting over again. So what happens? You stay and nothing ever changes.
Ladies! Why do you think that someone who exploits your emotions, who plays continuous mind games with you, and doesn’t care enough about you to really care, is the best you’re ever going to get? You deserve so much more from life and from a love that is mediocre at best. I know he may be like the drug you can’t quit, but since when is a drug habit ever healthy? A toxic relationship is not ever going to be the best you’re going to get! One sided relationships are not worth your time. If he really and truly wanted to keep you around, trust me he would. I learned that lesson the hard way. It was time to stop living in my fairy-tale land and face reality. What if he doesn’t ever change? What if this is how he is going to be for the rest of his life? Are you willing to spend the rest of your life being unhappy, manipulated, and walked all over, all because you don’t think there is someone out there who really will love you the way you deserved to be loved? Don’t get me wrong, every relationship is going to have ups and downs. But it is only ever going to work out if both parties are equally invested. If you’re holding on to a toxic relationship and the other person is doing little to nothing to try and work at making the relationship better, then do yourself a favor and walk away. Let go. The longer you hold on to someone who doesn’t care, the longer you rob yourself of the opportunity to find someone who truly will. Dating is the time that your relationship should be at its best! If it’s terrible during the dating stage, what makes you think it’s going to get better once you’re married? Why torture yourself with spending the rest of your life feeling less than loved?
I know the guilt is real. You feel guilty because you truly care for this person. Your feelings were genuinely real and you’ve been engulfed in a relationship that is so one sided you’ve conditioned yourself to feel this way. You’re so used to always giving, that when you finally stopped you feel like you’ve done something wrong. You feel guilty because you’ve been manipulated into feeling like a horrible person any time you ever tried to stand up for yourself. This has become your new normal. You feel guilty because maybe you did hurt his feelings for a split second, but remind yourself of how many times he has hurt yours. That guilt will go away with time, trust me. You need to learn how to stay strong and slowly each day will get easier. The beginning is emotionally torture. It takes time to grow your self worth, so be patient. It’s like any other muscle you want to get stronger… You have to keep working at it and eventually your stamina increases.
I used to be a big believer in “it is hard for people to really change who they are.” I used to believe that people are who they are at their core, but maybe with a lot of blood, sweat and tears, toxic people could change a small part of themselves… eventually. I spent so many years trying to force relationships that weren’t in my best interest, all because I would hope something would finally give and either him or me would change and things would fall in to place. I always hoped that he would change for ME. Or I would change and just accept all the toxicity as my new normal and learn to be happy. It honestly got me no where but more and more heartbroken every time a new problem would arise. I stayed in relationships way past expiration dates and wasted precious time on people who had no interest in anyone but themselves. I stayed in toxic relationships all because the guilt of giving up on someone who claimed they needed me was too much for me to handle. It would continuously eat away at me. I found it so hard to find the strength to walk away…. So I prayed. I prayed for strength. I prayed for the courage to walk away and I prayed for the wisdom to know that I deserved so much more.
It has become so clear to me that you can’t force anyone to change… but God can. He has the ability to change anyone’s heart if THEY ask. It can’t be forced. While this gives me hope that people can change, I’ve also realized I need to remove myself from situations that are not in my best interest. I can’t sit back and hope someone will change and put myself through agony over and over because this change is never guaranteed. I’ve prayed over the feelings of guilt and I have learned to walk away. I decided to give it all to Jesus. He is the one who can move mountains. If it’s meant to be, it will be. I’ve seen Him make huge changes in people… but these changes can’t be forced, and they can’t be done by YOU. You can’t force anyone to pray for the changes, or even to be open to allowing God to make these changes. All you can do is decide what’s best for you, stick to that decision, and pray. Let go and let God.
I had someone who mentored me through a tough time tell me that God never wants us to go back to a situation that He has called us to leave, especially when it is something toxic that is draining us of our happiness. If you want the change, but they don’t, then that’s not an open invitation to just stay in the mess and pray for a miracle. Pray for the strength to leave, pray for God’s will in the relationship, and take the time to really listen. If you know it’s time to go, which deep down we always do when the relationship is bad, then it’s okay to walk away. Don’t ever feel guilty for taking steps back when the situation is toxic…
Like I have said before. Like attracts like. Broken attracts broken. Step back and really look at yourself. It’s okay to focus on making yourself a priority. To find out who you are, and to learn to really love yourself. Take some time to address the emotional issues hiding inside yourself that has made you think that someone who continuously exploits your emotions is the best you’re ever going to get. You can’t ever expect anyone to deal or fix these issues that even you don’t even want to address.
The hardest part of letting go of a toxic relationship is learning to put yourself first. Your needs. Your wants. Your boundaries. They all matter. Don’t let the guilt of standing up for yourself allow yourself to go back to a situation that doesn’t bring you the happiness you deserve. You don’t deserve to feel like you’re wrong when you’ve been mistreated. Don’t let yourself feel guilty for ending a relationship that is not healthy for you, or is no longer something you want. Its time to switch off heart mode and switch on brain mode. Listen to what your friends and family are saying, even when you don’t believe the words they speak. These are the people who love you the most and only want you to have the best in life. Stay strong, even when you don’t think you can. Every day will get easier so please don’t give up. Focus on yourself even on the days where it seems downright impossible. Pray to God for the strength to tackle this mountain, and eventually you will start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. You are worth so much more!