What to Do if You Find Yourself in a Toxic Relationship

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What to Do if You Find Yourself in a Toxic Relationship

Are you in a toxic relationship? Sometimes it dawns on you all-of-a-sudden. At other times, you slowly come to realize that something is very wrong. If you aren’t sure, here are some signs. Is there a lack of respect in your relationship? Do you avoid one another and loathe the time you spend together? Does the atmosphere fill with negative energy whenever you are in the same room? Does the idea of spending time with your spouse or partner fill you with dread? Is there a lot of contempt and insults flying like knives whenever you are in a room together? If any of these sound familiar, then the relationship is toxic. Sometimes things get way off track, or something happened that the relationship is having difficulty recovering from, the death of a child perhaps or infidelity on the part of one or both partners. At other times, it’s the buildup of many unresolved problems that start to drive a wedge between the two. The more differences the further apart they are.

In a toxic relationship you can feel emotionally abused, neglected, manipulated, taken for granted, or deprived of a sex life. Your spouse or partner could have cleared out the joint account, disappeared for days on end or buffeted you with one juvenile remark after another. Whatever the situation, when you find yourself in a toxic relationship, where there is no way of resuscitating it and bringing it back to life, you have to find a way to extricate yourself as painlessly as possible, and that can be tricky. Though many relationships can be saved, in the case of one or both parties hurting each other repeatedly, a clean break is best. There are three easy steps that you can use to get out with as little discomfort as possible. First, have a clear understanding of why you want to leave. A charming lover can muddy the waters, confuse you, woo you back and make you forget, for a time, why exactly it was you were leaving. You need to have concrete examples you can hang onto when things get confusing. You can even make yourself a little slogan or mantra to remind yourself of why.

Make a clean break. Decide when you are moving out or when you are breaking up with them, do it and then close off all avenues of contact. You don’t want to get sucked back in again. Many feel vulnerable after a breakup. That means you may be more likely to be receptive to their charms. Also, seeing and hearing from them will keep those wounds fresh. You want to be given the chance to heal and move on. Unfriend them from your social media pages and erase them from your phone. It may seem drastic but it will also be effective. If you work with this person or see them regularly, keep distance. Be professional if not slightly cold and don’t slow down to chat when you see them in the hallway. Give them a polite nod, say hello and keep moving. Sooner or later they’ll get the message and will stop trying to get your attention. Feel your self-worth. It is when we feel bad about ourselves that we are the most vulnerable. When we feel good about ourselves, we usually won’t put up with foolishness. Don’t get sentimental about the relationship. Remember what they put you through and that you deserve better. For more advice read, Psychopath Free: Recovering from Emotionally Abusive Relationships with Narcissists, Sociopaths, & Other Toxic People by Peace.

How Long Does It Really Take to Get Over Your Ex?

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How Long Does It Really Take to Get Over Your Ex?

When you are in the midst of a breakup or a painful divorce, usually people are there for you. It’s the one good thing about it. What they say though is sometimes another matter. For instance, people will give you all kinds of wild and contradictory advice, including how long it takes to get over someone. For a long relationship, say lasting five years, some say it takes twice as long to get over. But does that mean you’ll be stuck in a rut for the next decade? Others say it doesn’t take double the time. Instead, take the duration of your relationship and cut it in half. How long does it really take to get over your ex? The problem is way more complex than a simple formula. Plus not everyone is the same. In fact, there’s a lot of deviation when it comes to dealing with the emotional pain that follows a breakup. Some people have a tryst with a new lover and feel rejuvenated. Others pine away, spending months on the couch in sweats watching romantic comedies and wondering why they aren’t feeling any better.

There are a lot of reasons a breakup is not easy. One is biological. Researchers at the University of Berkeley found that dopamine, the reward chemical, is released when you are in love, the same kind of feeling you get from a drug high. You are, in a way, literally addicted to that person and must go through withdrawal. But everyone withdraws in their own way. According to British psychotherapist Elly Prior there are seven factors that influence how long it will take for you to move on after a breakup. These are: how long the relationship was, whether or not the breakup was recent, how obsessive or intense it was, whether or not it was meaningful to you, how things ended, if domestic violence entered the picture and whether or not one or both of you had an affair. Other important factors include if this is your first breakup, if you have a support network in your life, what other stressors surround you, if property or possessions still have to be split up, if you suffer from depression, how you interacted with one another and whether or not you are surrounded by reminders, say a photo on a shelf or your ex constantly springing up on your newsfeed.

One simple formula isn’t enough to solve such a menagerie. You may feel like you are being swallowed up in a pit of hopelessness and despair. But realize that emotions such as these don’t stick around for long. Pretty soon it will start to subside. There of course will be moments when you are reminded of the person. But those also pass. It’s important to tend to yourself at this time. Vent, have a good cry, spend time with friends and reconnect with people you lost touch with. Think about your future and what dreams you want to fulfill now that you don’t have any dead weight pulling you down. Reflect also on what you loved about the person. If things feel incomplete, make your own ritual and find an appropriate way to say goodbye. You don’t need their permission. They don’t even need to be there. Do it on your own. Try to turn around a breakup or divorce and make it a positive experience, one that you learn from and makes you a better person. For more on breakup recovery read, How to Survive the Loss of a Love by Peter McWilliams and Harold H. Bloomfield.

Can we save our Marriage?

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Can we save our Marriage?

This is the number one question couples in marriage counseling ask the therapist. People never know when a relationship is salvageable and when to go their separate ways. There are many people who focus more on getting out of a bad relationship, than on making the one they have worthwhile. Focusing so much on getting out can make you ignore the positive qualities the marriage has. When the focus for one person is a breakup, their preoccupation may inadvertently be the thing driving the couple toward divorce. On the other hand, one should be cognizant that every marriage has its ups and downs. Every relationship has the potential to end. There are of course certain steps you can take to bring a relationship down from the ledge. But a better strategy is to form a deep emotional connection to one another. This will motivate you to work your problems out and build a stronger, happier marriage.  Practicing generosity, kindness, compassion, respect and honesty, mutually, will make the marriage far more fulfilling. When each person is fulfilled, divorce becomes the furthest thing from their minds. Sometimes though, there are significant forces working on a couple, making happy reunification unlikely.

Certainly not all marriages can be saved, or should be. There are lots of unhealthy behaviors that can inhabit a marriage; addiction with no willingness to seek treatment, chronic lying, serial infidelity, neglect, abusive behavior, whether physical or psychological, and much more. These are violations to the commitment you both share within the bond of matrimony. Doing these things violates the sanctimonious vow you gave to one another on your wedding day. The most important thing is whether or not both parties have a willingness to admit what has gone wrong, and work toward solving the issues that they have. Mere acknowledgment of the problem is not enough. If there is no willingness on the part of both parties to change behavior, there may be no reason to move forward with the relationship at all. Destructive patterns played out over and over again, without any hope of relief, is a recipe for divorce. Recognizing these patterns and the role each party plays in them is the first step. But trying different strategies when the problems arise, and varying those strategies depending upon the situation are also key. It’s important to remember not to get discouraged if things don’t work out just the way you planned. It may need some tweaking. If you love your spouse and are committed to the marriage, and they feel the same way, then everything you need is there to make it happen, and make things work.

There is no easy answer for knowing when to stay together and when to move apart. Each situation is dependent upon the individuals, what has happened between them, what they value and how they look at things. Perception is invariably important. Circumstances for one couple that would be deal breakers to another merely have to be negotiated. There are a few simple guidelines you can follow to have the best possible outcome. One of the things to keep in mind is that working through the problems of a shaky marriage can be painful, sometimes even excruciating. For those who don’t have the ability to tolerate this sort of pain, the impulse to end the relationship, or manipulate their spouse into filing for divorce, can be strong. Marriages that are in trouble are often helped through counseling. There are lots of situations in marriage that are difficult to maneuver. It is good to know when you and your spouse are in over your heads.  Each person should develop the inner qualities on their own that will help make this marriage work. You can be your own psychologist and develop your own inner workings in order to be more honest, compassionate, engaged and loving. When you give something your best, there is always the risk that it might not work. Evaluate the emotional level you are both at. Have a long, calm discussion. Give it a shot. If it doesn’t work, at least you tried. But you two may just come out stronger, and more loving in the end due to this time when you struggled together. For more help finding marital bliss pick up a copy of, Secrets of Great Marriages: Real Truths from Real Couples About Lasting Love by Linda Bloom, L.C.S.W. and Charlie Bloom, M.S.W.

Avoid these Bad Mental Habits after a Breakup

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Avoid these Bad Mental Habits after a Breakup

There are those relationships that you are relieved are over, even if it took a year to finally get rid of them. Then there are those that rip a hole in your chest and mash your heart into guacamole. Nothing is more painful. A recent study using brain imaging had participants who had recently broken up with someone look at a picture of their ex while hooked up to an FMRI. They found that the parts of the brain that lit up fit the pattern of enduring physical pain. So a breakup literally hurts. Trouble is, when we endure physical pain it goes away relatively quickly. Depending upon the relationship, you and the circumstances, you could endure the pain of heartbreak for weeks, even months. One reason that heartache lingers so is that people fall into certain psychological habits that inhibit healing rather than lessening the pain. Unfortunately, feelings of anger, sadness, rejection and loneliness can be compounded by impulses that feel perfectly natural to indulge. We often consider negative habits we have in our diet, when we exercise, sleep and other physical aspects. But we avoid or disregard poor mental habits that can shackle us to anguish rather than liberating our hearts from pain. Here are some bad mental habits to avoid after a breakup.

A lot of us sub-vocalize negative thoughts or feelings. Inside our head we repeat to ourselves our inadequacies, play over and over mistakes we made, hurtful names or phrases we or our former lover uttered and more. This constant rerunning of negative thoughts may be particularly poignant after feeling rejected or if the relationship ended through some fault of our own. When the ego is bruised and one’s self-esteem has taken a blow, such self-talk will make things worse. Instead, catch yourself when you get into this pattern and replace negative phrases for positive ones. Show yourself some compassion. Think of yourself as a friend trying to get someone through this. What would you do? What would you say? How can you put things in perspective? Brooding over mistakes you’ve made can lead to the same result. Contemplating them and learning from them in an emotionally unattached manner is one thing. But dwelling and obsessing over them is like tearing out your stitches after heart surgery. Isolate those instances where you blundered, learn from them and move on, or else you will be hindering instead of facilitating your own emotional recovery.

Don’t throw yourself into dating if your heart is still aching and you are pining away for your former love. But if you just feel too vulnerable or just scared, you may be missing an opportunity to move healing along, and a way to repair your ego and boost your self-esteem. A couple of months without dating is okay. Six months to a year is a little obsessive. Some people even benefit from a rebound relationship, while others don’t. Find what’s right for you but don’t be too cautious with your heart or you may lose out on a chance at finding love or rebuilding your self-image. Some people cut off everyone, stop taking part in activities they enjoy and wallow in self-pity. Instead, connect and reconnect with hobbies, friends, family members and more. Sure, the first few days you may want to sit on the couch and watch comedies, polish off a crate of sinful snacks and curse the happy couples of the world. But afterward, isolation and keeping yourself from the things you love will only make it worse. Lastly, remember the point is to get over the person and move on with your life. Don’t keep them in your newsfeed on your social media pages. Get rid of all the mementos or put them in a box in the closet or the trash. The fewer reminders you have around the quicker your recovery will be. For more on embracing positive mental habits and avoiding negative ones after heartache read, Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts by Guy Winch, Ph.D.

Science Helps with Breakups

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Science Helps with Breakups

We’ve all been there: the week in sweat pants, balled up tissues on the couch, a book of bad poetry in our lap, gallons of empty ice cream cartons all around (wine bottles too) and tearful moments wondering how you’ll ever get over the loss. Breakups are one of the most painful moments in life. Certainly wallowing in misery is not one the most healthful thing you can do. Reflection on the other hand can help the healing process along. That’s according to one study published in the in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. The difference between helpful reflection and wallowing is the point of your ruminations. How long has it taken place? Are your thoughts severe? If you are reliving moments over and over again, just making yourself sick then it’s time to stop and shake yourself out of this funk. If you are looking at it in a somewhat detached manner, to see where mistakes were made, learning about yourself and vowing to do better in the future, congratulations; you are truly helping to facilitate your own healing, and making sure your future endeavors in the realm of love will not be fraught with misfortune and peril.

Graduate student Grace Larson at Northwestern University conducted the study. She found that a period of asking one’s self questions and deep reflection as she told NPR, “…helped them develop a stronger sense of who they were as single people.” But this isn’t the only science-backed method to employ after a breakup. In fact, there is a rather impressive body of evidence on how to recover. We say we have a physical ache in our hearts and that’s literally true, according to one 2011 study. Participants underwent brain scans while gazing upon a photo of their ex and suffering a breakup. Neurologists found that the same areas where pain is received lit up when the person was longing for their lost love. Another study suggested Tylenol might help relieve such pain. A breakup affects you in other ways physically too, not just being heartsick. When people are in a long-term relationship their biological rhythms synch up. When you break up with someone and are living alone your heart rate, sleep pattern, appetite and even your body temperature is out of sync and must readjust. That means post-breakup, instead of letting yourself go you should go out of your way to take good care of yourself.

Once your body has readjusted, it’s time to take stock of your psychological state. After a breakup your sense of self and identity is in flux. Reestablishing a sense of who you are and what you want out of life is the key to moving on, experts say. Some calm reflection on the relationship is in order. But avoid dwelling upon it. Adaptation is the best route. But adapting to a new environment sans significant other is not easy. A good portion of our lives revolves around our partner. When they are gone a portion of our life goes with them. The good news is we also have a tremendous opportunity to learn from our mistakes and make plans for our future, one better suited for us. One study using brain scans likened breakup pain to cocaine withdrawal. This may be why some of us act a little bit nuts after we and our lover have split. Just ride it out. Most research finds that the first estimate of how long it takes to get over a breakup is far too long. In the aftermath, when the emotions have cleared most people feel they’ve learned something, that the experience helped them grow and made them more goal oriented. That’s according to a 2007 study. People who survive a tough breakup come out stronger in the end, find purpose in life and learn to move on their own power. What may feel like a painful extraction at first turns out to be liberating. For more pick up a copy of, Getting Past Your Breakup: How to Turn a Devastating Loss into the Best Thing That Ever Happened to You by Susan J. Elliott, JD Med.