You don’t have to face your traumatic relationship alone
In toxic and traumatic relationships, people often feel stuck in love-hate patterns:
- We love each other, but we make each other miserable
- We support each other, but we tear each other down
- He makes me feel bad about myself, but I need him to survive
- He’s the best man I know, but he makes me feel that I’m not good enough
While these relationships may be characterized by emotional abuse, explosive conflict, dismissiveness, controlling behavior, or ongoing criticism, at the core of each of them is an unhealthy, unsustainable relationship.
Almost always, toxic relationships involve emotional manipulation or even abuse. We may find that our confidence, self-worth, and belief in ourselves are shaken, feeling like it is our emotionally manipulative partner who decides whether we are fundamentally worthwhile. This can breed a pervasive need to be near our partner, even when his or her influence is largely negative. Despite chafing against being controlled or manipulated, we can grow used to depending on our partner for direction, approval, and resources.
Given the damage to one’s self-esteem often sustained in a traumatic relationship, it is often helpful to work with a therapist to rebuild your life.
Is it possible to heal from a toxic relationship?
I believe that the natural state of the human being is to feel free, happy, and self-fulfilled, and the best relationships support this state of being. For my patients in emotionally abusive relationships, however, their experience is more one of distress and panic, sometimes overwhelming their ability to cope, and causing feelings of helplessness and despair.
The first thing to know about trauma, including relationship trauma, is that you can heal it. With the support of a therapist, you can rebuild your confidence, self-esteem, and core feeling of self-worth. And, if both partners are willing to do the work, it is possible to heal the relationship as well.
With help, it is possible to heal from a toxic relationship and recover a life that you love.
How do I know if I need help?
Although all relationships have conflict and differences of opinion, healthy relationships tip the balance toward support, harmony, and happiness. When the balance in the relationship tips towards your feeling controlled or manipulated, consumed by managing conflict, or feeling dependent on your partner for emotional stability and approval the relationship may be toxic to your well-being.
It is important to trust your instincts, especially since toxic and emotionally abusive relationships can cause you to question your own judgment, reason, and even your own experience. If you are searching the internet for answers about whether your relationship is emotionally abusive or toxic, then you probably need some support to assess your circumstances and decide what to do.
Perhaps you are searching to ascertain whether a past relationship or marriage was toxic. You may be in a crisis of recovery, struggling to function in basic ways like eating, sleeping, or going to work. You may be having trouble accepting an ending or find yourself stuck in the break-up-make-up cycle. If any of these describe your current state, it’s time to unpack the experience with the help of a professional.
Here are some of the most common questions I hear about toxic or traumatic relationships:
Are you the right person to help me with my trauma?
As a relationship expert, I have helped many people end or repair toxic relationships, whether those were 40-year marriages or six-month affairs.
When a relationship is toxic, it doesn’t always matter how long it lasted; the pain, confusion, and distress are real.
In our work together, we may focus on:
- Whether to end the relationship, or whether it can be repaired
- How to end the relationship, if that’s what you choose to do
- Discovering why you are struggling to recover from a toxic relationship
- Why you might be repeating the same negative relationships
- How your childhood, and family of origin might be contributing to your difficulties
- How to rebuild your life and create happier, healthier relationships in the future.