You Hate Your Ex. What’s Next?

When their name is brought up, your friends groan and your family cringes. And, deep inside, you know that you’ve fantasized about rolling them over with a dump truck. Funny how a terrible, no good ex can make you and everyone in your life feel legitimate anger. A bad relationship takes a toll on our psyche and can leave you traumatized for months (or years) to come…

At least, this has been my experience. I definitely don’t think this type of “hatred” should be directed towards just any person or break-up. In my opinion, very few people actually deserve to be hated or outcasted. Most of the time people break up for completely logical reasons, like growing apart or moving far away from each other. Sometimes people have disagreements that can’t be looked past in a relationship. Whatever the reason, I find that many people seperate on relatively amicable terms and do not necessarily wish great misfortune for the other party. But what happens when a breakup is so bad, so harmful, so traumatic… that it makes you legitimately angry (or sad) to think about? In situations of abuse, domestic violence, cheating or lying, I can absolutely understand how a separation can leave someone feeling empty and emotionally restless.

Abusive relationships might leave the victim unsure about the future, their worth, or their sanity. Abusers have ways of gaslighting and manipulating their partners to feel crazy and insecure, and healing from this type of constant exploitation can be exhausting. I can not even begin to describe the pain that I experienced while cutting ties with my abuser, as well as trying to find closure and peace within myself. I understand the internal chaos that happens when trying to end a turbulent chapter in your life, and anger is a very normal part of the process.

If you have found yourself in a similar situation, it can be difficult to know what to do next. On one hand, being able to feel anger and rage towards a person who did you wrong can be a healthy thing- after all, knowing that this person took advantage of you and mistreated you is a hard reality to face. Especially if you tried to be the ‘bigger person’ in the relationship and always took the blunt force of their emotional or physical violence, it becomes a headache trying to understand how an abuser could live with themselves and their actions. Allowing yourself to feel anger towards this individual, instead of taking up for them or finding excuses for their behavior, can very much be therapeutic. For years I found ways to justify the abusive actions of my ex. I constantly was gaslit (and lying to myself) in order to forgive his disrespect and negligence. I could have proof that he was lying to me, yet still convince myself otherwise because of his manipulation and ability to make me feel terrible. After breaking away from his abusive cycle, I was able to see the entire relationship clearly for what it truly was! And naturally, I became absolutely irate. How dare another human so selfishly take advantage of another individual repeatedly and without remorse. And worse, why on earth would I set my standards so low to accept that type of treatment?

Anger can be a healthy emotion. Try not to suppress it, and instead find healthy outlets for it. I went through phases of talking to myself while I drove in my car, verbally reassuring myself that what I experienced was real and that I was allowed to feel angry over ‘x’ ‘y’ or ‘z’. I spoke to my therapist about my anger, and she suggested I started verbalizing or writing down all the things I wish I could say (or do!) to my ex. Obviously, it would be very unhealthy and probably illegal to put any of these ideas into action, and that was definitely not my therapist’s advice or my intentions. But just the act itself of getting rid of that build up energy and resentment was incredibly helpful. Crying, yelling, cursing, or whatever else I needed to do was okay. Allowing myself to finally be upset and stand up for myself retroactively was a very helpful aspect of my healing. However, anger over time can be an upsetting emotion to sit with. Especially when there is little you can *actually* do to avenge the situation, feeling angry and upset about your ex can be frustrating. This is when some hard work begins, and you have to figure out a way to find happiness and contentment even while your terrible ex is still out there living his/her life.

This is where therapy definitely assists. I know that speaking with a professional about my struggles and emotions was incredibly helpful in order for me to move past the amount of anger I held. However, I also think that an equally important aspect of healing comes from the actions you take moving forward, as well as the people you choose to surround yourself with. Your success and wellbeing should become your firstmost concern during your time of healing. You should try to envision your own happiness and contentment with any decisions you make during your healing. What would make you happiest in your life? Is it travelling? Returning to school? Quitting a job? Try to think critically about the areas in your life that are holding you back, or the things that bring you much more stress than joy. Remember it is okay to prioritize yourself for once.

Focus too on the folks that you keep in your circle. As painful as it might be, it may be critical to cut out people who bring out negative traits in you. If you’re trying to better yourself and your life, you might not want people around who constantly want to party, do drugs or stay out all night, for instance. You also might have to see who in your friend group truly supports you and will be there to help you when you are in need. Not all of your ‘friends’ will actually show up for you if it happens to be inconvenient for them! Try to not bother with people who are situational friends only, and instead focus on the people who truly love you and want to see you succeed. (These are probably the people who hated your ex long before you did, anyway!)

Life will go on, fortunately, without your ex. While there are times it seems that he or she still dominates your life, your emotional state, and your anger, time will pass and you can and will heal from the trauma you experienced. You are completely allowed to continue disliking your ex, and in some cases you don’t even have to forgive them in order to move on from your past (I honestly think forgiveness is too romanticized in our society, anyway). But just remember that YOUR healing and peace of mind is what is important. You must focus on what to do in order to feel your best and ultimately become a better version of yourself- which, to be fair, is much more difficult than it sounds. Stay as focused as you can, and make sure to allow yourself the care and love of a healthy support system along the way.

I hope this post is helpful for some. Let me know what you think.

-Nat

Toxic People DO NOT CHANGE Unless They Want To (Hint: They Rarely Want To)

BOYYYYYYYY do I have a LOT to say on this topic. Now, let me preface this post by saying this:  no, I am not trying to be hip and trendy and ~eXpOsE tOxIc PeOpLe ~ and beg you to ~ ReMoVe FrOM uR LiFe wHat DoEsnT SeRvE YoU ~  or some basic ish like that. The internet is already full of pity parties and sob stories about “toxic” friends, exes, etc. and I am not here to contribute to the fest. This post is not your typical Huffington Post read or Thought Catalog article… sorry to disappoint. 😦  I’m here to share some facts, some hard learned lessons, and some general info for people who may be struggling or have struggled in the past with difficult relationships.

I want to start by describing what a “toxic” person really is. I am including information provided by psychology based resources, as well as some anecdotal ideas.

I personally feel that toxicity is related to unresolved trauma or confliction within a person. If a person is not insightful about their emotions and emotional triggers, they are more likely to react in ways that could be problematic or manipulative towards other people. This could look like:

You talk to your friend about something hurtful they said to you. Instead of expressing empathy, the friend projects their own issues onto you and the situation, making you feel guilty for bringing up your hurt feelings, and perhaps causing YOU to apologize instead.

Your partner makes remarks about women, clearly expressing his interest and attraction to them. You ask him to consider your feelings when he does this, and he immediately responds with “Well, you should stop being so insecure!”

There are other ways to describe a toxic person or situation, obviously, but in these two scenarios it is very apparent that there are internal tribulations within your friend or partner. I want to remind people that this type of response to an issue (a immediately negative, harsh, and accusatory response) is NOT normal. An emotionally sound, empathetic individual will use listening skills to understand and communicate with another person they ‘care’ about. A person who instead responds in a reactive, manipulative way may be too blinded by their own issues to create a safe and productive space to communicate.

With this being said, “toxic” people are rarely insightful to their problematic behavior. Often, they use manipulative tactics to victimize themselves, deflect the issue, or otherwise find a way out of any blame or fault. These types of people are unreachable and unteachable- NO matter of persuasion can convince them that they are the “issue”. Toxic people like this usually have narcissistic qualities– a common denominator in many stories of abusive exes, parents, or friends. Note what I just said: abusive. The toxicity that these people bring is considered both emotionally and mentally abusive. While it is (unfortunately) common to grow accustomed to toxic, dysfunctional behavior, it is so incredibly important to understand that this type of abuse can actually result in emotional trauma. Experiencing ongoing, long-term toxic behavior can leave you feeling constantly on-edge, overly apologetic, and even untrusting and suspicious of people. It becomes an exhausting cycle, and can make you feel like you’re going insane.

Empathetic, emotionally intelligent humans have the capability to sympathize, reflect on their actions, and adjust their behaviors as needed. Toxic, abusive people lack this insight, and therefore are much less likely to think anything they are doing or saying is ‘wrong’. Without the ability to critically think about our own actions, it is virtually impossible to understand the impact we can have on other people. For toxic individuals, deflecting the blame and finding other people or things at which to point the finger is an easy opt-out. This is why being around toxic folk can be so emotionally, mentally, and even physically draining. Nothing can be their ‘fault’- it’s simply impossible! It becomes up to you to solve their problems, take the blame, over-explain yourself, and stress yourself out knowing that nothing you say or do can ever be enough for them.

I will give a few personal examples. I once dated a guy for a few months, years ago, who was genuinely a violent and toxic man. His toxicity grew exponentially as we were together; his ‘tick’ was this ridiculous and sexist idea that women and men couldn’t be platonic friends. Because of his extreme beliefs, he increasingly imposed his will on me and my lifestyle which included many completely platonic male peers. I was friendly with males from past jobs, from traveling, from highschool and even college. Obviously I did not need to explain myself to him, but because of his insistence I found myself more and more stressed out any time a male friend reached out to me, liked my photo, or commented on my post. The guy I was dating eventually became irate, screaming and throwing things (including my phone) and demanding I block every man I know, even my family. I consulted with my family, friends, and even my therapist about this absurd requirement and everyone agreed that it was possessive and toxic. When I confronted the guy about it, he turned the entire situation around on me, claiming that I was insensitive for not taking his feelings into account, and that I shouldn’t be talking about our ‘private issues’ to my outside circles. He claimed that if I would simply be ‘less slutty’ (apparently having friends makes you a hoe, PSA!). then he wouldn’t have needed to break my door, throw my stuff around, and cause a scene. I dumped this guy super quickly, but not without multiple back and forth arguments about how terrible of a person I was because I refused to give up speaking to my friends and my FATHER.

A different, long-term guy I dated was also incredibly toxic. He was a manipulator, a liar, a gaslighter, and an overall asshole. With no regard for anyone’s feelings but his own, he put not only me through hell but my family and friends as well. My own mother has cried because of things he has told her, or the ways he would toss my mental and emotional state around like it was nothing. At one point, he called my LGBTQ+ friend a slur because I chose to hang out with said friend instead of him. I wrote previously about how terribly he treated me when I experienced a miscarriage with him. Hell, at one point in our relationship he recklessly drove with me passenger side, nearly crashing us and telling me that he “wished a car would have hit my side”. Any time I tried to stand up for myself, he took it as a threat to his own ego and would either whimper and cry with the expectation of me apologizing and caving in to his manipulation, or he would victimize himself and yell and shout at me for making an issue in the first place. Although he lied, took, and finessed his way though our relationship, he was always the one being “hurt” or “mislead” in the end. All of his friends are under the impression that he has never done a wrong thing in his life- despite the loads of evidence of him lying about other women, amongst other things. If he didn’t have money, it was because “the world was out to get him”. If he experienced ANY repercussions for his actions (getting into car troubles, getting fired, etc), it was because of something *I* or someone else did. His reaction to EVERYTHING was anger- because, as I mentioned above, he had virtually no emotional IQ. His entire existence was based off blaming other people, taking advantage of others, and skidding through life while avoiding consequences. It was exhausting, and I literally am still in therapy because of the disastrous experience I had with his toxicity.

(I also want to note, that up until my husband, I was just incredibly notorious for choosing BAD partners and putting up with bullshit. So, while these folks definitely WERE toxic, it was also my fault for sticking around and trying to fix things.)

Many people I am close to have experienced toxic people in their life. Some of my friends have left abusive relationships, only to still struggle with the trauma left on them. I know some folks that are struggling right now during the holiday season because they stopped talking to their toxic family and are now alone. Let me not even get started on stories I have heard on social media. Tik-Tok, Twitter, and even Facebook has exposed so many truths and similarities that women (and men) face in toxic relationships. Again, narcissistic qualities are almost always present in the perpetrator. Inability to take accountability. Gaslighting. The list goes on, and seeing that other people have been victims to similar abuse makes me feel less alone in the issue. I have begun to see that this, unfortunately, is a common experience in modern dating, relationships, and dynamics between family and friends.

So… what is the point to this post? As the title suggests, I am emphasizing the fact that toxic humans usually will not change their behaviors unless THEY see the problem, accept it, and change it for themselves. No amount of love, sacrifice, or honesty on your behalf will convince them that they are problematic. Having children with a person will not make them change. Interventions with the person, ultimatums, and even leaving them will not convince them to change unless they want to. Even if they do see error in their ways, the getting up and fixing it (going to therapy, apologizing, taking accountability) is usually too scary, upsetting, and off-putting for these people. These people rarely want to make any changes to themselves or their lives before things are too late.

I hope that, for your own sake, you will understand the complexities of these toxic people and leave them be. It is not worth your mental or physical health to try to “fix” them. Your value and happiness is more important than waiting around for people who may never be who you want them to be! Lots of us have learned this lesson the hard way, and I encourage you to take our wisdom and save yourself time and suffering. This post is meant for education and awareness, not to expose or insult anyone. I just want to help people who might need it, if I can.

xoxo Nat

How to Start Seeing Red Flags After Growing Accustomed to Trauma

While I want to assume that most people in this world are nice, caring individuals, I have to accept that there are a lot of mean folks out there, too. Perhaps ‘mean’ isn’t the right term- people can be stubborn, rude, aggressive, violent, unappreciative, emotionally insensitive… the list goes on. Not everyone you meet will be as kind as you are, and it is important to remember that.

“Red flags” are basically warning signs. They can be noticed in people when you are getting to know them. They can alert you that something is off, or not quite right with them, and often is associated with an odd ‘gut feeling’. Sometimes, red flags can be misinterpreted, and it is important to note that not everyone operates on the same wavelength so misunderstandings when meeting new people are not inherently bad. However, keeping an eye open to ‘off’ traits of a person is very important for your own safety, mental health, and well-being.

In an ideal universe, you were raised in a loving and caring home, won homecoming King and Queen at your high school, went off to marry your sweetheart and have a beautiful, stress-free life. For most of us, however, this simply isn’t the case. It is not uncommon to have been raised with a chaotic family, witnessing and perhaps even suffering verbal, physical, or other abuse. Even if you didn’t experience a dysfunctional home life, your dating life could have been tainted by people who lied, cheater, or otherwise abused you. Of course, I am simply touching the surface of the intricacies of traumas, abuse, and ‘broken’ homes. I am just here to say that all of these traumatic events can make it very difficult to see ‘red flags’ as we get older.

Growing up with the ‘norm’ being dysfunction can be a very confusing experience. We are accustomed to the ups and downs, to being ‘on-guard’, or to hearing yelling and shouting all the time. Or, if you experienced a long term, abusive relationship, your abilities to detect what is ‘wrong’ and what is normal can become weary. Red flags? What red flags? This is what I’m used to!

Our weakened capabilities to fend off (potential) predators can result in repeated abuse. It is not uncommon for people to find themselves in back-to-back relationships with abusive partners, or to repeatedly make ‘friends’ only for them to steal or lie to you. Identifying red flags is an incredibly important step to stop the circular cycle of trauma, abuse, and dysfunction.

I have experienced a great deal of trauma in my past, and unfortunately have dated many men who were absolutely less than sub-par partners. I bounced back and forth between a few unstable and very unhealthy relationships, experiencing abuse in many forms before finally leaving the situation. Towards the end of 2019, I began to realize that these patterns were not serving me in any capacity. I was only hurting myself by meeting and dating people who had problematic traits. I needed to refocus my life onto myself, my well-being, and my standards in a relationship. I did not deserve to be yelled at, lied to, or mistreated. I deserved better.

When you are used to being mistreated, it becomes very difficult to treat yourself with kindness and respect. It is even more difficult to recognize toxic traits in people before you become close to them. However, learning to do both of these things is imperative to your own happiness.

While my advice is mainly anecdotal, I wanted to offer some options to people trying to “re-set” their standards their and ability to see red flags (before they become bigger problems).

  • Find a therapist specialized in trauma. Seriously, this is a huge factor. Therapy will help you reflect on your past, and assist you in better identifying troublesome habits. You can work on healing yourself while better preparing your mind, body, and psyche for the present and the future.
  • Read books. Make sure they are written by experts in psychology, or authors that are reliable and not trying to shove their own agenda down your throat. (I only say this because the amount of Jesus-centric “self help” books I have filtered through is ridiculous. Unless, of course, the Jesus thing is your jam.) This tip can also apply to blogs (maybe like mine!), articles, or other reliable, honest mental health resources. My personal choice for literature on this topic is Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend. I read it for the first time a few years back, and have reread it multiple times since. My past therapy groups have also highly recommended it. It is a fantastic tool to reshape your views on boundaries with yourself, your partners, and others.
  • STAY SINGLE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! (Kinda contrary to the whole Jesus thing I just said, but oh well.) If you aren’t in a (healthy) relationship or marriage already, please do yourself a favor and stay single while you figure this out! Dating/hookups/flings only make things 10x worse when you are trying to evolve and become a better YOU. This is a great time to focus on all the things about yourself that you might have neglected in the past. What hobbies do YOU like? What things should you be doing to take care of yourself, like eating better or being more active? What about going back to school, or starting a certificate? There are so many ways to turn that nervous, anxiously single energy around and re-focus on yourself.
  • Focus on the family and friends that genuinely love and care about you. I hope that all of you have at least a handful of healthy, loving, and reliable people in your lives that you can turn to when things get rough. The love and care that they provide you should be guidelines to how ‘new’ people in your life should treat you. Healthy family and friends can also provide insight on to a person you introduce to them (like a new friend or partner), and could help you see ‘red flags’ before you do.

I hope this post helps people in some way. I know that healing and recovering from trauma can be very difficult, and a long process. Stay encouraged and know that even a small step forward is a step in the right direction.

Nat