Toxic relationships: why are they so hard to quit?

W went back to his ex. Shocking? Not really. Annoying? Probably. Before going into what I feel about all of this, let’s recap the story.

If you are wondering who W is, I recommend reading some of the posts about him, such as: “Emotionally unavailable or asshole?” and “Needy or strong?”

He had been with his girlfriend for 8 years, that is a long time, at least according to my standards (I can’t pass the three year threshold but #GoingOffTopic). Eight years, that is a lot and of course it is difficult to break up after such a long time, I understand.

They had parted ways a few months before I reconnected with W. He was broken, so broken. He was devastated and his self-esteem was on the floor. Someone needed to pick up the pieces and I was more than happy to help. I wanted him to feel like the beautiful man he is.

They didn’t break up because one single thing as movies tend to portray. Relationships are more complex than that. They hadn’t had sex for a couple of years (yes, years!), so clearly something in the couple had broken. They would fight a lot, he would feel sad, she would feel angry. And then she cheated on him, twice. That was the final straw you would believe, but no. They kept going for one more year.

According to W it is because he is a romantic and he truly loved her. According to me it is because he couldn’t see the truth in the situation, the couple was broken. You can’t live off from past memories, relationships evolve and sometimes they go south.

They tried working it out for a year until one day, one fight about nothing important was what made W realize he needed to get out of such a toxic relationship.

A few months later we met, and that is another story.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, we broke up because of several things, such as distance and basically because he needed to heal. In my head healing didn’t mean going back to his toxic relationship with his ex, but whatever, to each their own.

When he told me he had gone back to his ex I was in shock. I asked him “Does she make you happy now?” and he replied: “She has always made me happy, she is just not making me sad anymore”.

“If that is the case I am glad you are happy” I said, trying to be a supportive friend but worried that my friend was making a huge mistake, but who am I to judge? I’ve done worse.

I truly wanted to be a supportive friend, but wanted to not lie to him. I couldn’t say that I was excited and that I hoped we all had dinner one day.

And let’s be clear about something: this wasn’t jealous. Jealousy would have been if he had started a relationship with a new girl. There, I would wonder: Why her and not me?

But in this case I wasn’t thinking that. I was worried, I am still worried. I want him to be happy. If she makes him happy then I should be happy right? Well, there is something, inside of me, telling me that this will end up badly.

Clearly their relationship started as something beautiful but then went down the toxic route. A lot of things happened between them, but most importantly, they couldn’t realize that they weren’t in love, they were part of a toxic love-hate relationship that they couldn’t let go off.

Did I tell all this to W? No. Why? Because he was in a dark place and would have thought I was judging him, when in reality I am just worried.

So why are toxic relationships so hard to quit?

My former neighbours are another good example of how when you are in it, you can’t see it. They would fight every single day and then have make up sex. The dynamic was toxic, their relationship was a rollercoaster, but not a fun one. It was one of those that you end up throwing up but you get on it again and throw up again. And every single time everything ends up the same disgusting way.

She got pregnant and they moved to a different apartment. I never heard of them again, but I wish them the best. I hope they were able to solve their problems. But this makes me wonder: in a toxic relationship can problems truly be solved? Probably not.

Maybe with therapy or couples counseling I guess.

But what drives people to stay in such a toxic place? Is it truly love? Convenience? Afraid of the unknown? I think it is the latter. I believe people are so used to that type of toxic dynamic that they think it is normal. They erase the bad times and live off from the good times, hoping they will come back again. They get on the rollercoaster again hoping they won’t throw up but they will, we all know they will, time and time again.

In a relationship you can’t ignore the bad times, you either learn and solve the problems or you just realize you are not meant to be together. Is it hard to let go of your imaginary future with your partner? Of course. But it is crazier to think that things will change if you continue on the same rollercoaster. Time to change amusement park maybe?

I am no one to judge people that stay in toxic relationships because I have done the same. I had been dating an ex of mine for a couple of years. Things were bad, very bad. But I would always put useless excuses saying it was a phase, or that we were stressed about work or whatever came to my mind. Things go out of hand and one day I realized the only way to get out was to literally get out of there. Took my things and left. Time passed and with some help of therapy I realized I was holding on to a dream of a happy family with the wrong guy. I came to peace with the fact that I did the best I could, though I know that I should have left earlier, but I wasn’t ready to let go of my dreams.

Thank God I left. I went back to being my happy bubbly self, went back to writing, got promoted in my job and life improved. It took a couple of years but everything was for the better.

So, why are toxic relationships so hard to quit? Because we are blind. We think it is normal, that it will pass, but it doesn’t. The only solution is to remember who you were before that relationship, fall in love with your former happy self and try your hardest to get back to that by quitting anything toxic in your life, including that partner who says

that loves you but mistreats you.