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.

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.

Does Unconditional Love Really Exist?

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Love in our view is boundless. It doesn’t have conditions. We are to lay down everything in its blinding presence and expect the object of our love to do the same for us.  Though a beautiful, entrancing sentiment, is it actually true? Does unconditional love really exist? Is this really how some people experience it or merely the blindness of infatuation we experience when we first fall hard for someone? Love is somewhat unconditional in the sense that it doesn’t depend on outside forces to shape it. Instead, love is a reflection and is reflected by each partner. Most people when they are in love feel that it is boundless. It has fathomless depths. It exists in a continuum that will never end. Still, this ideological view is often contradicted by psychologists who prescribe moderation, compromise, and other more practical traits when dealing with the day-to-day areas of a relationship. The problem occurs when we try to balance these two spheres, and incorporate our ideological view of love with the practical administration of a relationship. Oftentimes those in love ignore the realistic problems, preferring to hide in this ideology instead.

Instead of a tug of war between these two poles of love, the practical and the romantic, they can work together. The romantic feelings can be used as motivation to fix the problems that inevitably surface in any relationship. Instead of ignoring the reality of the situation then and letting problems build without resolving them, we can come to accept the faults of our partner, and our own faults as well. What’s more, we can use this motivating love to search for solutions to the relationship’s problem. After all, out of feelings of love compromise, hope, sacrifice, commitment and faith can spring. These traits are essential to a healthy, happy, well-adjusted relationship. The idea of boundless love fits in with psychologist Herbert Simon’s theory of “bounded rationality.” This is the idea that logic is used in certain aspects of people’s lives, while other aspects are decided emotionally. Love should not be boundless however, or it will be a means to place blinders on, ignore reality, and the problems of the relationship will grow larger and larger until it swallows it whole.  Psychologist and former president of the University of Haifa in Israel Dr. Dr. Aaron Ben-Zeév, Ph.D. suggested that we use “bounded love” instead, linking our love to the practical realities of maintaining a healthy relationship. This love sees the obstacles and finds practical solutions, building a firm house for love to live in, and to endure the winds that will inevitably rock every relationship. To find out more, read Dr. Ben-Zeév’s book entitled, In the Name of Love: Romantic Ideology and its Victims.

Calming Down when you’re Angry at your Spouse

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Sometimes it seems like no one on earth can make you angry like your spouse can. They really know how to push the right buttons. And since you live together and see each other all of the time, reminders of your anger can be relentless. But getting over anger and resolving issues quickly, conscientiously, and with the utmost care is one of the secrets of a great marriage. But you can’t work things out while you’re still mad. Your anger will cloud your judgment. Here’s how to calm down when you’re angry at your spouse so you can have a healthier, happier marriage. First, instead of bursting out into a comment or a string of them that will insult your spouse and make matters worse, hold your tongue. Tell them that you are feeling very angry and need some time to sort out your feelings. Then get out of there. You can revisit the issue when you are calmer, have worked through your feelings and know exactly what you want to say, and what will make things better on your spouse’s end such as an apology, fixing a situation, buying a new one of whatever they’ve broken,  or what have you. There are many different techniques you can use to calm down that aren’t bad for you. Taking it out on someone who doesn’t deserve it or grabbing for unhealthy alternatives to assuage how you feel are not good techniques.

Instead, go for a walk. Count down from fifty. Listen to a song or some songs that have meaning for you and soothe you. Try to learn meditation if you are interested, or take up yoga. Chanting is good at focusing the mind, soothing it and relieving stress as well. Cry and let it out. Write down your feelings. Go for a run or exercise, just be sure not to overdo it or strain yourself. Sometimes just stepping into or sitting in a dark room for a few minutes and listening to your breathing and bringing it slowly down can help calm you. Another good technique is deep breathing exercises. Breathe in for four seconds, hold it for eight, and release that breath for another four seconds. You will soon feel the tension leave all your limbs, your chest, back and belly. You will be thinking more clearly, with all the access oxygen rushing toward your brain. Go to a natural environment and go for a hike. Use positive self-talk and bring out your positive feelings. Once you are calm, take a step back, sort out your feelings, and find the quickest, clearest and simplest way to say what you are feeling, what went wrong, and what needs to happen to make things right. Sometimes we aren’t even mad at our spouse, and when we take a step back we suddenly realize it’s the situation we’re angry at, not them. But without that moment of tranquility and reflection, you’ll have jumped down their throat without realizing. For more tips on how to control your anger, read the advice of Matthew McKay and Peter Rogers in their book, The Anger Control Workbook.

How to See Yourself as your Spouse Sees You

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Once we say “I do” everything changes. It seems that all of your life decisions, big and small, have to be run past your wife or husband. The two have become one. That means that their joys are yours, and yours there’s. But the same is true with shortcomings. When one person’s problems damage the relationship, both people are affected. But we don’t often see what issues we bring. Instead, we hold stalwart to our own point of view, making our spouse dig in as well.  It drives a wedge between husband and wife and the household falls into disharmony. Instead, learn to see yourself how your spouse sees you. You will become a better husband or wife, undo this digging in phenomenon and change the dynamic from one of opponents to partners, helping each other and working together, just as it should be. First, realize that your spouse reflects you. People respond to the signals, body language, gestures, facial expressions, and the things you say. Children or people with a developmental disorder are great at reflecting others. Many people tend to mask what they are reflecting. So watch your spouse carefully. See how you are treating them, what you are saying and doing, and how it is being reflected back at you. See what phenomenon starts with you and is picked up by your partner, and what they are doing that you are picking up.

Begin to notice your own behaviors in situations. But also see when your spouse or others around you act just as you do in the same or similar situations. Why do you act this way? How do people react to it? And what chain reaction is set off? Begin to notice when your spouse or others manipulate you. When they say a certain thing, do you do something that they know you will do? Why do they do so? Instead of having a knee jerk reaction, you can evaluate the situation and see what a better way to react would be. Why not switch roles for a day. You may not be able to go to their job. But if they are a homemaker, stay at home one day and see what it is like. Switch chores for one day or even one week and see it from the other person’s point of view. Reflect on what you learned and discuss it with your partner. Why not simply ask them what you can do to improve the relationship and take the marriage to a whole new level? They should be open to the same question from you as well. Discuss what phenomenon often comes up, who starts it and how the other reacts when an argument occurs. What is the best way to address the issue? How should both of you act instead? Why not talk to one of your enemies and ask them how they see you? Why is it that you two are enemies anyway? What can you do to become friends? They reflect you just as your friends and spouse do. There are lots of ways to become more self-aware, and use that knowledge to improve yourself and your marriage. For more guidance on how to strengthen your marriage, read the advice of Russ Harris in his book, ACT with Love: Stop Struggling, Reconcile Differences, and Strengthen Your Relationship with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.