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In a toxic relationship? Run for the hills (yes, even during lockdown)

Today is Valentine’s Day, the Hallmark holiday that splits opinion; one half relishes the opportunity to share that ‘the boy did good’ whilst the other baulks at the idea of organised romance. Personally, I’ve never placed much importance on V-day, whether single or in a relationship, but I do think it’s nice to mark it with flowers and a takeaway. I mean, why not!?

If you are single though, social media and all its cute pictures of loved up couples can be hell on a day like today. We’ve all been there. It can also be shitty for those who are in a relationship with a person who doesn’t treat them right; who brings them down more often than lifting them up.

Currently, I have a partner who is an incredible, kind man, someone who lifts me up everyday. I’m all the more grateful for him because I know what it’s like to be the person looking on at other happy relationships and willing my own to be more stable and less damaging. I know what it’s like to be in a toxic relationship where you feel trapped and miserable.

I’ve been in this kind of relationship more than once. The first was without doubt the worst; it lasted two and a half years and looking back, I can only describe it as emotional torture. The constant push and pull of affection, the gaslighting, the silent treatment, the casual cruel comments; I felt like I was going mad at points. I did find strength to walk away a number of times, but I always got sucked back in. When I finally did break free, it was like coming back up for air after drowning.

Unfortunately, I met another narcissist a few months later. This guy was the type to never text back or show me any support, instead making disparaging remarks, and he slowly stripped away any confidence I had managed to claw back.

When that relationship ended, I decided: never again. I spent time being single, trying to figure out why I was repeating this pattern of men, and re-built my self-worth and esteem. I had fun, I enjoyed my ‘me time’ and I truly learned that being alone is better than being in bad company. It was only then, when I was happy being by myself, that I met Conor.

I find it deeply sad, though, to know that people continue to tolerate relationships that are toxic to their wellbeing. We see it everywhere; even in pop culture, in the moments we're looking for escapism. I’m watching Married At First Sight Australia at the moment, where the men constantly try to convince the women that they are “overreacting” whenever they try to express emotions - this is the oldest trick in the book to diminish your feelings and make you feel like you’re the problem. On the flipside of the coin, some of the women put their partners down with snide remarks and mind games.

The pandemic doesn’t help if you’re in a toxic situation right now; especially if you live with the person, it would feel almost impossible to end things whilst in lockdown. And it seems scary being alone again when Covid will make it so difficult to meet someone else. But, my God, I cannot overstate the sense of peace and empowerment that you feel when negative, draining, unkind people are snipped out of your life. Sometimes that’s just what you need to do; cut and run. Delete the photos, block the number and begin to heal. And most importantly, to begin the journey of knowing your worth.

The one thing I would say, if you are currently that person unhappy with the partner you’re with and how they treat you, is that you are more resilient than you think. If you can survive the past year, you can survive without that arsehole who doesn’t appreciate what’s in front of them.

So, happy love day; to the partners who treat us the way we deserve to be treated, to our friends, and to our families. But most importantly to ourselves.

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