Some time has passed and your ex is but a far distant memory. They are no longer in contact with you but you know all it takes is a small amount of social media stalking and you will be brought right back to where you two left off. And that’s exactly where you bring yourself, only to discover they have a shiny new life and a new partner. They have moved on, before you? You imagine how wonderful life must be for them, you envisage the new partner with angelic qualities ‘putting up’ with all the neediness, temper tantrums and drama. If they can put up with the world of one, you ask yourself why you couldn’t.
When you have finally binged on every season of all things magical in their life, awful in mine. You tune into reruns of ‘why I must be the flawed one?’ The main character is living the life you could have, if only you could have ignored all the times when; they did not consider your feelings unless it served them in some way, they made decisions for you (them) without consulting you, they punished you for having an opinion they disagreed with and shamed you for being you, the silent treatment, looking you dead in the eyes devoid of emotion, blaming you for all their problems, the dramatic outbursts followed by acts of normality, their inability to answer a straight question, feeling like you were going crazy. If only you could have accepted all of these crazy making ways, you would have someone to come home to, even if they were ignoring you.
If you have experienced an unhealthy relationship, confusion, wanting to get back with your ex, loneliness and self-criticism can all be normal responses to the pain you are feeling. The term ‘trauma bonding’ may help you to understand why even though someone may have treated you terribly you may still crave them and it also helps to explain why people find it so difficult to leave unhealthy relationships. If you are currently in a relationship with someone and something feels off or unhealthy, it probably is. Consider researching ‘emotional abuse’ and list all the ways it may be alive in your relationship, then seek all the support you need*. I deal with countless numbers of clients who experience emotional abuse in their intimate relationships but do not recognise it. The earlier you can detect the red flags when dating, the better (See Unhealthy Relationship Series: Pt 1// Red Flag Awareness// Dating).
Do not breathe life back into unhealthy relationships. Do not put on your rose tinted spectacles to announce ‘they weren’t really that bad’ when all the evidence suggests otherwise. Unhealthy behaviour generally instinctively feels off. However, if you have grown up in an environment of emotional abuse unhealthy behaviours can feel normal to you and much more difficult to detect. If you recognise yourself as the person I’ve described here try to gain as much understanding as you can of what is really happening before jumping to the conclusion that you are somehow to blame for the ‘failings’ in your relationship. The quality of your life is impacted by the quality of your relationships. It’s so important to understand the dynamics of abusive to avoid the serious damage that can come from these kinds of relationships.
*Domestic abuse doesn’t always include physical violence but it can be part of the abuse. Contact Women's Aid if you feel unsafe or confused in your relationship. 1800 341 900 National Freephone Helpline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
*Amen is the only dedicated support service for male victims of domestic abuse in Ireland providing crisis intervention, helpline support and face to face supports. Confidential Support Line: 046 9023718. Confidential Support E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.