When it comes to toxic relationships, holding on instead of letting go is, more often than not, the norm. The strength that it takes to walk away from any relationship, much less a toxic one, is huge and the fear of the pain that we might feel in the aftermath is even worse. If you want to find the strength to stop holding on to a toxic relationship, it’s important to understand the reason behind the action of “holding on” – what is it that motivates us to not let go and walk away from something that is only making us miserable?
To help you understand, here are 4 reasons you might be holding on to a toxic relationship and ways to push back on those reasons so that you can move on.
Reason #1: Fear of being alone.
It is the human condition to want to be in a pair, to have someone to share one’s life and experiences with. That is the goal. Unfortunately, for many of us, we are willing to settle for ‘good enough’ when it comes to finding the other half of our twosome. The prospect of putting ourselves out there again so that we can find that person is overwhelmingly daunting. So, we hold on to the one we have now – no matter how bad they are for us.
Let me tell you - from decades of personal and professional experience, there is always another person out there for us. We might not find them right away but we won’t ever find them if we stay in the relationship that we are in. So, if you are staying in a toxic relationship because of the belief that you will always be alone, don’t fall for it! There is a person out there for you - a person who will be your perfect half and will make you feel whole.
Reason #2: Low self-esteem.
When I was in a toxic relationship, my sister asked me, “Do you tolerate this behavior because you feel that this is the type of love you deserve?” I was shaken by this question because, deep down, I already knew the answer, and I realize now that I wasn’t alone. I can’t tell you how many of my clients who are in toxic relationships suffer from low self-esteem. They just don’t believe that they are worthy of good love and, if they do, they have no idea how to go out and find it. Unfortunately, the result of toxic relationships can be the lowering of self-esteem. We are unhappy, isolated from our friends, belittled for any perceived shortcomings and on top of that, we know deep down that we aren’t being treated well. And if we don’t feel good about ourselves, we attract partners who don’t feel good about us either.
For me, part of letting go of my toxic relationship was focusing on my fitness, hobbies, and anything that made me feel like “me”. I was able to redirect the pain of letting go of the relationship into things that made me feel really good about myself. And feeling good about myself allowed me to let that relationship go and find someone who sees just how awesome I am.
Reason #3: Self-blame.
One of the most insidious things about toxic relationships is that, after a while, we start to blame ourselves for everything that is going wrong. Do you blame yourself for why your relationship is toxic? Do you believe that if you could just have been a little bit nicer or paid more attention or kept your thoughts and feelings to yourself when your partner wanted you to that everything would be just fine?
If yes, stop! No relationship is perfect, but one sign of a healthy relationship is to have enough grace to make mistakes, communicate, and grow stronger from them together. You might play a role in the situation, but it takes two to tango and your partner should take responsibility in the role they play as well.
Reason #4: You believe you are soulmates.
Does this sound familiar? “Our relationship is like no other, the intense passion and connection that we share cannot compare with anyone else’s relationship, and letting it go just feels wrong.” At some point in time, everyone feels that way about their relationship. While the love you have for your partner might be strong, I also encourage you to reflect on what it’s costing you. If this relationship does not feel safe, stable, steady, calm, and warm, I want to assure you that letting go of it will not be the end of love for you. It is normal to believe that love should be a fairytale, that it should be effortless and feel like fate, but true love is not easy – it does take work, time, and growth. As a matter of fact, if you can let go of your toxic relationship, then you are way more likely to find a connection that is unconditional, genuine, and real.
The Final Word
Holding on to a toxic relationship often happens because we fear the pain that we will feel if we let go. But holding onto a toxic love because it feels familiar and clinging onto a romanticized version of your partner in your head will prevent you from finding real love and having a happy life. While toxic relationships can have some good moments, can you imagine spending the rest of your life living with someone who makes your life miserable more often than they make you happy? Could you ever be happy if the rest of your life is the same as your life today?
I understand that letting go of a toxic relationship is scary, and that sometimes the fear of not knowing what’s out there and what comes next is more overwhelming than the relationship itself. Whether you’re ready to make that change or if you just want to have a conversation about it, I’m happy to be a safe space for you. Book an appointment with me and let’s talk.
Maigen Pham, LPC, CST-Candidate
Maigen has worked with children, adolescents, adults, and couples – in addition to providing behavioral therapy to children with autism. Her approach to counseling is holistic, eclectic, and collaborative in order to help individualize sessions for each person. Additionally, as a Certified Sex Therapist-Candidate, Maigen provides therapy for individuals experiencing problems with sexual intimacy.