Bad relationships are something we all have found ourselves in once, twice, maybe three or more times in our lives.
There is never one way to have a bad relationship, but the symptoms are typically the same. You are sad more often than not, the arguments are frequent (sometimes every day or multiple times a day), abuse is present (emotionally, physically, or sexually), you don’t feel like yourself, you feel depleted, you feel undervalued, you feel disrespected, you feel alone. Everything that should not be present in a healthy relationship rears its ugly, toxic head in a bad relationship.
Left behind in the wake of a bad relationship is a scarred, lesser, somewhat unrecognizable version of yourself. After so much time spent in a situation where you’ve lost your worth, you still question it even though the person is gone. You find it hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. You find it hard to believe you can ever be loved again. Getting over a bad relationship takes a lot of self-reflection, relearning how to be alone, and reconnecting with your sense of self. Trust me, I’ve been there a few times before I told myself I had to do better since I now knew better.
It’s a process to mend after a bad relationship, but here are some tips to get you started:
1. Identify What Made the Bad Relationship Negative
“Whenever your energy is off balance, go inward, make room for pain to pass through but ask clarity as an exchange. Peace is often found in the chaos.”
— Malanda Jean-Claude
While it is not good to dwell, it is healthy to reflect on the areas of the relationship that were fragile, toxic, and/or negative. Because life and love are cyclical, it helps to isolate time toward reflection so that you avoid repeating the same pattern in your relationships again and again. For people that jump from partner to partner, missing out on that time will lead them to repeat the same damaging habits and wonder why the same shit keeps happening to them. Nothing just happens to you. You are in control of your world, including the people and the behaviors you allow in it.
Isolate yourself, dig deep, write it down, cry it out – purge the relationship as best you can. At the end of that, own up to the shit that you brought to the table. Often times, during breakups, especially following bad relationships, people like to place all of the blame onto their former partners because it’s easier to find fault in others than own up to your own mistakes and shortcomings. It takes two to tango. Being honest with yourself in those reflective moments will teach you a lot about the areas you need to work on before entering new relationships and help you to come to terms with some of your own flaws and damaging behaviors.
2. Acknowledge the Love Lost as a Lesson Learned
Endings get a bad reputation. When relationships end, there is an assumption that what has happened needs to look and feel like a tragedy, a loss as painful as death. And in a way, there is some sadness, grief, and pain that you must endure. And you will mourn because of it. However, I’ve learned that emotions don’t have to be placed in the good or bad category, negative or positive. Sadness will happen, but that doesn’t make it inherently bad.
Instead of allowing your breakup to loom over your head like a storm cloud, accept it for what it truly means. This ending isn’t an ending at all. It’s a beginning. You are new. You are free to fulfill your true purpose and flourish into the best version of yourself. Unfortunately, that person isn’t included. The silver lining is that you can’t grow without going through things or holding onto people who no longer align with the version of you that you are becoming.
Breakups can be happy endings too.
3. Stick to Your Standards and Construct Healthy Boundaries
Admittedly, “boundaries” is a word that I hear thrown around a lot. Either in the form of advice (like I’m trying to give now) or reaffirmed as a fundamental foundational structure that is necessary for all facets of life. But where and how do you get them? I didn’t have a clue. I would see the effects of what not remaining close or loyal to boundaries did to me and my relationships but wouldn’t rush to change them or dismiss the people who impeded on my peace whether intentionally or unintentionally. Either way, I had no real follow-through.
Through trial and error, I’ve learned that no matter how big or how small a boundary I have might be, they still matter. Sometimes you won’t realize you even have a boundary until it’s crossed, and you feel the need to communicate it to your partner. Something as simple as being blatantly ignored might be a boundary (it is for me), and if it’s disrespected, say something. I was great with explaining my boundaries and why an action hurt me, but I wasn’t great at executing follow-through, which meant bad habits didn’t die and a chain of disrespect surely did follow. I’ve since learned that there can be no exceptions to my rules, especially once they’ve been explicitly stated and when it seems like the person who claims to love me doesn’t respect that, I gotta keep it moving.
You should never have to lower yourself in exchange for love. Walk into your real self and what you absolutely will not tolerate from other people. Do so every time, without compromise.
4. Moving On vs. Moving Forward
When it comes to getting over a breakup, I believe we should forget the whole mindset of moving on. Moving on implies that in order to truly be over someone or get over a relationship, you have to move past them. And while I believe that you can move forward with your life, I don’t think you can move on. There will never be a time, no matter how many years have passed or how many scars have healed, that you won’t think about that person. You loved them, you probably still do. You haven’t failed to move forward just because those facts still ring true.
Adopt the approach of moving forward with your life. Take your life one day at a time, forgive yourself, and realize that missing someone who played such a significant role in your life (no matter how shitty the relationship) is going to happen. That doesn’t make you any less successful in your journey and your intention of moving forward with your life.
5. Lean Into The Loneliness
“How do you find self-love? You dig. You isolate and you ache from being lonely. You heal. You accept, you look in the mirror and see God. Lonely will find you, don’t fight that. It builds you where no one else can. Pain is nature’s tough love, it passes through. Let it.”
— Malanda Jean-Claude
Make time for yourself and indulge in the things that you love. Treat yourself to a spa day to pamper yourself, get fit, go shopping, find yourself in new chapters of books – do whatever it is you enjoy and do lots of it. Surround yourself with people you love and adore.
Take life a day at a time. The past is what it is and the future is what it will be. Focus on the here and now, because the present is all we are truly promised at the end of the day.