AD - I have been financially compensated for this post but all words my own.
"By definition, a toxic relationship is a relationship characterised by behaviors on the part of the toxic partner that are emotionally and, not infrequently, physically damaging to their partner."
When you're in the middle of a toxic relationship it can be incredibly hard to leave. You believe that everything your partner is telling you is the absolute truth. Your mind is so mixed up with lies, truths and everything in between you can't discern fact from fiction. You're conditioned to stay in the situation because, however bad the reward, that rare moment of positive reinforcement gives you hope it may change, that your partner may change, and you'll prove everyone wrong who ever said anything bad about them- or you. Those who have been in a toxic relationship- whether that be physical, gas-lighting, emotional, financial or a combination- always say the same thing, that however bad it got, they couldn't leave for fear that their partner would carry out any threats they'd previously thrown around. That and wanting to protect any other people who may also be suffering from this one person's toxicity. (This could be children or other dependents.) It's easy to be on the outside of a situation like this and think "oh, if that ever happened to me, I'd leave straight away" but when you've been so conditioned to believe something for so long, there's little hope of ever believing anything that other people may tell you. The thing with people like this, is that they are clever at manipulating people and situations. Slowly isolating the target of their frustrations away from everyone and everything they've ever known. They can do this without anyone really realising which is incredibly frightening, you have no idea that it is happening until it is too late and you're already caught in the middle of it. The mental health of those involved will suffer as a result which could impact their new life, should they have made the difficult decision to leave. Most women who leave a toxic/domestically violent relationship find themselves alone with no-one around to support them, living at a shelter with the ever-present threat that their partner will find them and do something awful to hurt them for leaving.
It is an incredibly difficult situation and one that needs handling with extreme care. It can take many years for sufferers to get their mental health back on track, let alone begin to trust anyone again.
According to statistics from Women's Aid, an estimated 7.9% of women experienced some sort of domestic abuse in the year ending March 2018 and an estimated 28.9% (4.8 million) aged 16-59 have experienced some sort of domestic abuse since the age of 16.
(These stats don't take everything into account and so should be taken with a slight pinch of salt, due to the very sensitive nature of the crimes reported.)
Getting Out of a Toxic Relationship
The most difficult part of any relationship is deciding to end it, like I said previously this can be especially difficult when there is the threat of violence hanging in the air.
The most important step is to find healthy support first and foremost. It is vital that you have people around you who have your best interests at heart.
Sometimes, people who make it out of toxic/unhealthy relationships may want to seek justice and wonder how to claim compensation for abuse. Especially if they've been left in a financially dire situation.
It's likely their mental health will have suffered as a result of all they've been through too, thankfully there is lots of help available:
Mind Charity who promote the health and wellness of everyone whom they encounter. 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm)
The Samaritans, a charity who are always there for you, 24 hours a day. 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
SANE who provide emotional support information and guidance for people affected by mental illness, their families and carers. SANEline: 0300 304 7000 (daily, 4.30pm to 10.30pm)
More information can be found on the NHS website.
How To Cope Afterwards
Once the difficult decision has been made to leave and both parties are getting the help they need, the question then becomes what happens next?
While it can be easy thinking that they'll just be able to go back to how their life was before this may not always be possible, especially if they've had to move away to a new area or had to flee because they thought their life was in danger.
The danger is, as well as potentially wanting to get back together with a toxic partner, that they'll only repeat this pattern of behaviour in all subsequent relationships because it's only form of 'love' they've ever known and so continue to seek it out.
Working with a therapist will help with this, as well as identifying what a toxic/unhealthy relationship is and how to avoid getting into one in the first place.
The future can be bright for anyone who has found themselves to be in such a relationship, it is possible to get out of it and come out the other side. You just have to be willing to try.
Love, Sarah xoxoxo