Written by Amy Polacko
“Letting go of a toxic partner is an act of self-love.” - Unknown
You might be shocked by this - but when a woman named Brooke hopped on a Zoom coaching call with me and said she was grateful for her toxic relationship, I wasn’t.
I help women take their power back during and after these devastating situations because I’ve been through it myself. I know firsthand how betrayal, emotional and physical abuse, plus narcissistic behavior can leave victims reeling.
Brooke never thought she’d say it either, but her emotionally abusive relationship was one of the best things that ever happened to her. “I am the happiest now that I have ever been,” the 27-year-old told me. “I have never, ever put myself and my needs first and now I do. I am kinder to myself.”
Several years into a relationship with the man she thought would be her forever partner, he started acting differently. She said he was having an affair but then gaslighted her every time she confronted him. So, she gave herself some time alone for reflection and decided to leave - because it was the one thing she could control.
“I realized I wanted a companion so bad it was ruling everything,” she told me. “My whole sense of self was wrapped up in being his partner and I lost my own identity.”
Brooke is far from alone. Not only do these unhealthy relationships rob you of your self-worth, but they are often harder to get over for several reasons. I know because I’ve been there, girlfriend. We often have a sense of shame that we fell for a predator or narcissist in the first place. Plus, toxic partners make us question our own intuition and belief in the goodness of others. You might start looking at everyone suspiciously and start losing faith in humanity.
How do you get over this? Fall in love with yourself. It could be falling back in love with yourself - or falling in love with you for the first time.
Part of loving yourself is escaping the unhealthy situation, of course. Once you’ve done that, what can you do to rebuild your life and be like Brooke, me and lots of other women I coach?
Here are my top 5 tips to rekindle that flame of self-love:
1. Forgive Yourself - You may learn from your experience, so you don’t fall for certain manipulative behavior again - but a toxic relationship is not your fault. Remember, predators look for kind, generous people and have often been conning people their entire lives. Be proud that you’re not like them.
2. Take Your Power Back - This is what I help women do every day through my coaching business! In an unhealthy relationship, we have given up some of our power to an abuser or bully. Healing means guarding your own power and who you allow into your life. Become a boundary badass.
3. Fall in Love with Singlehood - Think of all the amazing things you can do with the time you just got back! What did your partner keep you from doing? Trips, time with friends, hobbies or working out? Do it now! (I wrote a story for NBC Think about all the women who choose to be single: https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/new-year-s-eve-celebrate-women-who-choose-stay-single-ncna1286803)
4. Find Your Purpose - What are you passionate about? How has this experience made you look at the rest of your life? I recommend working with a coach who can help you get in touch with this and create an action plan for turning your dream into a reality. Be thankful you got out when you did and don’t waste another second - focus on your goals.
5. Create a Support Sisterhood - Abusive partners often isolate their victims and it can happen very gradually. Use this time to rekindle friendships plus find a support group with women like you. Join a new club, take a course, be more social - this type of interaction truly feeds your soul.
How did Brooke do it? “I joined book clubs, went on trips, did therapy, took walks,” she told me. “Plus I realized I could do things for myself first and other people would still be there - I didn’t have to be a constant people pleaser.”
As painful as they are, challenges make you stronger and help you appreciate what you have - you! As one of my favorite authors Jen Sincero (You are a Badass) said: “Love yourself and life becomes a party.”
So, get partying girls!
Amy Polacko is an award-winning journalist, former television reporter and divorce coach who survived a narcissist nightmare. She has coached hundreds of women in toxic relationships and writes for national news outlets about coercive control, domestic abuse, divorce, online dating and singlehood. Her work has been featured in The Washington Post, Newsweek, NBC News THINK and Ms. Magazine.
Find out more about Amy and get a free 30-minute coaching consultation here: www.freedomwarrior.info