Toxic Relationships: When You’re the Toxic Partner
The ending of relationships fucking suck.
It can leave you feeling lonely, unworthy, and broken. For some, it can leave you feeling refreshed and free.
We’re about to get real personal here on lemonjaded and I have debated writing this and publishing it because I’m truly letting you into my personal life on a level that is so vulnerable.
I think it is critical for everyone to do self reflection. Personally, a lot of my self reflection happens late at night, as I’m unable to sleep while my anxiety is high and my thoughts are rampant. Lately, I’ve found my thoughts leading to the same topic- relationships, mainly, my failed ones.
“It is said we can’t attain enlightenment, let alone feel contentment and joy, without seeing who we are and what we do, without seeing our patterns and our habits. This is called maitri- developing loving-kindness and an unconditional friendship with ourselves.” – Pema Chodron
My last relationship was hands down the hardest relationship for me to cope with the loss of, there’s no getting around at admitting that.
It was the hardest for me to cope with because of the painful realization that I was toxic.
I was the toxic partner in the relationship.
I was unhealthy.
I put someone I loved into a toxic relationship and it was right of them to leave.
I’m going to tell you how I destroyed my relationship and the mental health of another.
“How sad is it that we become so expert at causing harm to ourselves and others.” – Pema Chodron
My ex is the kindest, most thoughtful and loving person I have ever met. He is the type of person to say ‘I miss you’ and when you’d respond with the same, he’d be outside your home to surprise you. He ignited a sense of adventure I never knew I had. I was absolutely head over heels for him because I had never had a relationship like it.
I would talk to my therapist about how this is the most amazingly healthy relationship I’ve ever had. I believed his and my line of communication was so open and clear and he never invalidated me when I expressed an issue – something I was not used to in the least due to my prior relationship.
I finally felt like I got it right.
I was wrong.
I’d like to think that we had a “Have fun!” sort of relationship if the other was going out with friends instead of growing paranoid or jealous. I found pride and comfort in rarely worrying that he was lying or going to be unfaithful.
I did find myself, however, paranoid and jealous over smaller things such as him liking other female’s selfies on Instagram. I became unreasonably pissed off when he was late or had to change plans.
We openly discussed how it made me feel and like I mentioned before, he never invalidated me.
And then, two events happened that shook my security in the relationship to the core and I focused on these two events to the point where I was finding myself needing to be in complete control of the relationship. I emphasized these events, blew them up in my mind, and ultimately, was beginning to not only self sabotage, but sabotage our relationship as well.
When I feel as things are going downhill, I have an unhealthy habit of making the issues larger and annihilating the relationship. It is a sick way of me being in control of the path of things. Perhaps it will hurt less and I’m the one in control of the pain and it’s not the other person causing me the pain, but myself.
This relationship was no exception to my path of destruction.
My discomfort with the liking on Instagram grew into me screenshotting them and sending them to him whenever I saw it. His laid back, go with the flow tendencies and lateness grew into me getting so pissed that I ruined a mini vacation we took and it kills and embarrasses me knowing I acted in such a manner. The final blow was me freaking out about him canceling plans because I was paranoid he was lying. This was only escalated by the fact we didn’t talk for a whole day after this happened. The trust and strength I once had in the relationship had faltered and I was so insecure and paranoid.
He broke up with me and at the time, I felt so blindsided, while at the same time knowing damn well what got us to that point.
But it was right of and for him.
I wish my unhealthy actions ended there, but they didn’t. I posted petty things I knew he would see and I cannot begin to tell you how much I regret it, and I try not to live with regret. I completely severed any chance of reconnection and I support his choice.
We are closing in on a year of this relationship passing and I continually reflect, sometimes out of sadness, other times of happiness I got to experience the relationship, and often out of necessity to grow and adapt into a healthier person.
I have anxiety. This anxiety can manifest in paranoia, a need for assurance, and a need for control and planning.
This is not a justification. This is not an excuse. This is simply putting in out in the open in an effort for me to begin to understand why I behave and think in the manner I do in order to grow.
While someone may say they understand why you are acting a certain way due to how your anxiety/depression may manifest itself, does not mean they must stay in a relationship with you if they cannot mentally handle the difficulty and maintenance of it.
They are not obligated to stay if it is affecting their own personal mental state. I get it, you can see it as a shitty reason to leave and it can hurt greatly but understand, though you cannot always control it or realize the extent of what you are saying and doing, these behaviors can resemble a toxic relationship. Your mental illness does not excuse this.
“All anxiety, all dissatisfaction, all the reasons for hoping that our experience could be different are rooted in our fear of death. Fear of death is always in the background.” – Pema Chodron
Keeping in mind my anxiety, I truly believe this. Always in the back of my mind lurks the thought of the end. Something’s going to happen and all this happiness is going to cease to exist. I began to look for things to be dissatisfied with because I was not used to this kind of happiness and therefore in my mind, there’s no way this is real. It obviously wasn’t going to last and I sought validation through attributing negativity to anything that didn’t immediately match my schema of what I specifically wanted to happen. I intentionally sought complete and total annihilation.
“Death in everyday life could also be defined as experiencing all the things that we don’t want. Our marriage isn’t working; our job isn’t coming together. Having a relationship with death in everyday life means that we begin to be able to wait, to relax with insecurity, with panic, with embarrassment, with things not working out… We are raised in a culture that fears death and hides it from us. Nevertheless, we experience it all the time. We experience it in the form of disappointment, in the form of things not working out. We experience it in the form of things always being in a process of change. When the day ends when the second ends, when we breathe out, that’s death in everyday life.” – Pema Chodron
Incorporating comfort with death in everyday life is an effort I’ve been trying to make. Instead of allowing my fear and strange desire to bring destruction of my happiness to rule my thoughts and relationships, I’ve been attempting to accept that disappointment and things not working out is going to happen, all the while making a conscious effort to not actively seek out the destruction. Acceptance of these minor inconveniences will allow me to let these be the deaths I experience so that I do not intentionally seek out a larger ending just to get the death of the entire relationship over and done with.
Death allows for regrowth and a new start. Relax, address the issue (or the death if you will), and begin regrowth and restoration. This does not have to be on such a large scale as I typically end up opting for, but rather in the everyday nuances.
“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.” – Pema Chodron
So with that in mind, allowing these everyday deaths to happen, we can find that power inside of us to continue on, to persevere, and to live.
When you begin to understand your patterns of behavior, you can take the deaths in your life and learn from them in your new beginnings.
Some final reflections…
The most important thing if you and/or your loved one exhibits tendencies and behaviors due to a mental illness is to have an open line of communication. Discuss what negative behaviors are potentially straining your relationship so it can be focused on to get it under control in order to maintain a healthy relationship (and ultimately a healthier mental state for the person experiencing the tendencies). Let your partner know it is becoming difficult and work through solutions (if possible, together) to rebuild your relationship back to a healthy one. Communicate before it is too late/unmanageable/unhealthy and try not give up immediately. I was always quick to communicate, but realized that my ex never really discussed his issues with me and my behavior.
A return to a healthy and positive mental state (and relationship) can be a long process. Yes, relationships can take work, but just know there is a point where it can be too much and you both must realize this fact.
It’s taken me a lot of self reflection to personally accept and realize this.
I am constantly a work in progress with self acceptance, mental health, and personal growth. You cannot grow without realizing and addressing negative tendencies and through self reflection, you may begin to experience positive growth.
I have hope and faith that I will conquer this and will harbor only positive, healthy relationships in my future.
If you would like some more food for thought, I’ve quoted Pema Chodron throughout this article. When Things Fall Apart has really helped me open my mind to deeper reflection and clarity. You may find it will help you as well.