25 August 2021

A Year After Leaving an Abusive | Toxic Relationship

Wild Flowers Kirstenbosch - One Year After Leaving An Abusive Relationship Copyright Vernon Chalmers Photography
"Remove yourself from people who treat you like your time doesn’t matter, like your feelings are worthless, or like your soul is replaceable" — s.mcnutt

25 August 2021 marked my one year anniversary after leaving an abusive and overall toxic relationship. It was an emotionally charged and challenging year, especially the first couple of months. I had to come to terms with getting out of the FOG (Fear | Obligation | Guilt) for letting go and walking away from someone that I thought (at the time) I have fallen in love with.
I have written extensively here on Reflections of My Life about some of my ex girlfriend's unacceptable behaviour that I have experienced during the relationship. I will therefore not repeat the well-documented encounters of her Abusive Behaviour towards me, her chronic Lack of Gratitude, my paradoxical Cognitive Dissonance and / or my interpretation of Love vs Fear.

25 August was my late mother's birthday. Celebrating this special day with her was one of the highlights of every year while she was alive. It is ironic that 25 August is now also associated with reminiscing the most challenging relationship of my life. It was not in any way scripted like this, but rather the unfortunate unfolding of events after some unjustified abusive behaviour towards me. I don't mind sharing this day between one of the best and the most disappointing relationships of my life - it places my mother's sincere character and sense of gratitude into such a healthy perspective (and reminder) in my own interactions with others.

A year ago I reluctantly, but sensibly removed myself from a toxic relationship with an attractive, intelligent and charming woman (although quite abrasive, egoistic and the phenotypical queen of grandiosity at times). After a few months of various unprovoked physical and verbal attacks I faced the daunting realisation of being close to the edge of clinical exhaustion as a result of a perpetual trauma bond with an emotionally unstable partner.

I isolated myself for a few weeks in going No Contact for essentially reflecting on her poor time management, limited empathy, abusive behaviour and lack of remorse that unfortunatly created an overwhelmingly toxic relationship environment. After a rather dramatic breakup I was consumed with disappointment and grief.  I spent the next six months in not only researching the psychological 'cause and effect' of abusive relationship behaviour and associated psychopathy, but also assessing (and understanding) my own codependent behaviour shortcomings for staying in an abusive relationship. 

🎓 What I have Learned from an Abusive / Toxic Relationship
  • I cannot take responsibility for someone else's (unacceptable) behaviour, I did not cause the inherent propensity towards aggressive tendencies and I do not have to be in the 'firing line' of any abusive and pathological behaviour towards me. I can only control my own behaviour towards other people and that I should be more mindful in terms of my own judgement, decision-making and social behaviour towards the actions and reactions of other people (in an intimate relationship and / or otherwise).
  • That I should be more vigilant towards pathological behaviour patterns and covert 'red flags' during any stage of an intimate relationship. I've read, researched and listened to an extensive range of world-class intimate relationship abuse recovery and psychology resources. Not only for the identification / understanding of psychopathy and related (spectrum) personality disorder traits, but also for assisting me with reference to responsible (re)actions towards any antisocial behaviour.
  • That there are indeed people who cannot say 'thank you' - with a preconditioned disregard for not expressing any gratitude whatsoever. It was the first time in my life that I have experienced such a profound sense of self entitlement (for any received goodwill) and / or deliberate rejection of thankfulness. It took me a while to understand and except that I should not just assume someone will say 'thank you'.
  • To address and improve my own relationship codependency behaviour in terms of setting healthy boundaries by not accepting any destructive behaviour tendencies towards me, not trying to please other people and not to feel / be responsible as a 'caregiver' when a more mature relationship disposition is required.
  • That processing, letting go and healing from an abusive / toxic relationship is an emotionally challenging detachment, especially without (proper) closure. It required a conscientious effort of personal introspection, own behaviour modification, resilience, forgiveness and acceptance to move beyond the realms of just accepting someone else's (false) sense of entitlement, lack of respect and incessant aggressive behaviour tendencies. 
  • Recovery and healing time from an abusive relationship is a different journey for anyone going through the challenge(s) of detaching from an unfortunate trauma bond. Its easy (in hindsight) to say it took me a year. A year ago I had no idea how long it would take - some days It felt it would never happen. 

🎓 What I have Achieved from an Abusive / Toxic Relationship
  • Apart from gaining an extensive body of additional psychological reference knowledge I have had many opportunities for discussing the abusive relationship with family members, friends and professional contacts. I did not (at any stage) consider professional counseling, but rather through no further contact, self-determination, honest reflection and informal psychodynamic talk therapy (with my professional contacts) pursued improved control over my own cognitive dissonance, emotional conditioning and relevant behaviour modification.
  • During the relationship I lost some of my creativity, sense of self and my own photography was severely compromised for focusing almost exclusively on someone else's omnipresent needs and wants. It took me a few months for regaining my normal confident self, my interest in my own photography, photography training and the daily management of my CFD trading portfolios.
  • Spending less time reading and researching about the 'cause and effect' of pathological behaviour / personality disorders. I spend more time lately with my own photography and the daily reading / researching about trading and investment opportunities / threats.
  • The ability to once again engage with a variety of people with trust, effective communication and the setting of assertive personal boundaries (when and where required). It has happened a few times recently where I had to set and enforce personal boundaries for protecting my privacy and personal space. 
  • I have always considered empathy and gratitude as important personal / relationship qualities - its only now that I truly understand the impact and consequences when these emotional values are completely absent from someone's Emotional Intelligence 'toolbox'. The words 'thank you' became the most important words in my vocabulary over the last year. 
  • Spending relatively long periods in solitude without anxiety (and worrying) about someone else's feelings, actions and reactions. Many hours were consumed with soul searching / self analysis to eventually emerge with a renewed sense of self, self enrichment and an ever increasing emotional intelligence.

Throughout the last year I have had invaluable conversations with many people about the toxic dynamics of this abusive relationship and the eroding effect on my emotional well being. I was brutally honest in describing the essence of every (physical) attack towards me, my integrity and the grandiose disdain for everything that I tirelessly offered during the relationship.

Letting Go of this transactional and toxic relationship was not an achievement as such, but rather the acceptance of ending a dramatic trauma bond with severe (and possibly long-term) negative consequences. I was unfortunatly enmeshed in an unhealthy relationship with someone that was emotionally stunted in the ability to trust, love and / or respect others as part of the reciprocal values required for an emotionally stable relationship.

Powerful Words of 'Letting Go'

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