If you have (or had) toxic relationships of any kind, read this now!

karen salmansohn desperation or determination.jpgAbout a decade and a half ago I used to joke that for me all dating should be re-named ‘blind-dating” – and instead of saying I was “seeing someone right now” – I should be more honest, and say, “I’m dimly viewing someone.”

I remember I was once “dimly viewing” this particular guy. I’ve written about him before  (here in an article about good compromise vs. bad compromise) . I explained how every time I said this guy’s name, my girlfriends would sing the theme song to Batman. Not because this man looked great in black Spandex tights. No, no. It was because he was a bad man.

“Dadadadadadada Bad-man! Bad-man!” my girlfriends would sing, right after I’d finish telling a particularly bad Bad-man episode—of which there were many.

Let’s call this ex of mine “Bruce Wayne” – to protect his not-so-innocent secret identity.

Today I want to share something I never told you about Bruce.


Bruce’s “dadadadadada bad-behavior” began very early on – a few weeks into our relationship.

Yep, right out of the gate Bruce displayed what I felt were highly controlling and paranoically jealous behaviors.

Yet I continued to date him.

karen salmansohn good and badI even went away with Bruce for a week long vacation in Turkey – where we had a very big fight one evening.  I made a silly joke to our Turkish waiter – who then laughed – and touched my shoulder before he left our table. Bruce then became convinced that I was flirting with this Turkish waiter. He specifically wanted to know if I’d rather be dating this waiter – a man who could barely speak English – plus lived well beyond a 5,000 mile radius of my zip code. I kept reassuring Bruce I was not the teeniest bit interested in this Turkish dude – yet Bruce refused to talk to me for a full two days of our vacation!

When I came home from vacation, I sought out therapy. I found a nice older psychotherapist, named Sid, who eventually became like a “grandfather from another great-grand-mother.” I adored Sid.

“You’ll never believe what Bruce said/did last night,” I’d begin each and every therapy session. And then I’d launch into another “Dadadadadadada Bad-man Episode”!

“Bruce said he doesn’t want me to have brunch with girlfriends on weekends anymore – unless he comes along.”

“Bruce told me he doesn’t want me to take an evening painting class – because he thinks I just want to meet someone.”

“Bruce told me he doesn’t want me to go to the gym  – because he thinks I just want to meet someone.”

“Bruce told me he doesn’t like it when I come home happy from work – because he worries I enjoy work more than him! He actually became angry the other day because I came home so happy!”

Each week I’d tell Sid story after story – quickly followed by rationalization after rationalization – always explaining why I should stay with Bruce.

“You know what your problem is Karen?” Sid asked me one session.  “You’re so smart, you’re stupid.”

I laughed. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You are able to over-think things so much – that you wind up talking yourself out of what you already know.”

“So you think I should break up with Bruce?” I asked.

Screen Shot 2016-09-02 at 11.53.15 PMSid sighed loudly. “I’m a therapist. I’m not supposed to tell you what to do. But if you want my honest opinion… I can’t believe you’re gonna stay with him, when he’s an asshole.”

“Wow! I can’t believe you just called Bruce an a***hole,” I said. “But you’re right, he is an a**hole.”

“Actually, I didn’t call HIM an a**hole! I called YOU an a**hole. You heard me wrong. I said, ‘If you continue to stay with Bruce, then YOU are an a**hole.’”

“What? I’m not the a**hole! Bruce is the a**hole!”

“At this point, Karen, if you stay with Bruce knowing what you know – then YOU are the a**hole.”

“I’m the a**hole?” I repeated this word out loud –  a word as opposite in content as a mantra could ever be – but alas, more powerful than any mantra I’d ever used.

This word “a**hole” became my wake up call!

Sid was right. If I stayed with someone who was so very toxic to my well being  – then I became the A**hole to me – for allowing this soul-crushing, freedom-squelching relationship to continue!Karen salmansohn miss someone 2014.jpg.jpg

“Listen, Karen,” Sid said,  “at this point in therapy we are simply wasting time talking about Bruce – and how messed up he is. Quite frankly, you are only using stories about Bruce to distract yourself from your real issues – and the important inner work you have to do on yourself. It’s time we talk about the white elephant in the room: your wounds! There’s obviously something very wounded inside of you, that you feel the need to stay with Bruce – when he is so toxic.”

Although this story happened well over a decade ago, I think about it often. I particularly think about it whenever I’ve found myself starting to enter into what I intuit might be a toxic relationship –be it in love, business or friendship.

I feel if we’re not careful we can all find ourselves wasting a lot of precious tick-tocking time complaining about how badly someone is behaving towards us.

I believe we need to stop asking questions like:

“Why is this person treating me this way?”  

“Why did this person do that crappy thing to me?”

“What is wrong with this person?”

“Are they an a**hole?”

“Are they a sociopath?”

“Are they a narcissist?”

“Isn’t this person simply just a terrible person?”

The really important questions we should be asking instead are:

“What did I miss in the vetting process that I allowed this person into my life?”

“What is wounded inside me that I choose/chose to stay with this person for as long as I do/did?”

“How can I grow from this experience – so it doesn’t repeat itself into a bad pattern?”

“Do I want to make this a story about how I was a victim – or how I became a victor?”

“Do I want to waste my time, thoughts and energy on toxicity or use it for a higher purpose?”

“Aren’t I wise and strong for how I moved on to be with better people and live better days?”

karen salmansohn crappy things ignore medIf you’re presently caught up in telling stories about the toxic misbehaviors of someone – the time has come to stop getting caught up in name-calling, contempt and blame.

The time has come to recognize you’re just distracting yourself with all the drama, chaos and static!

Yep, the more you stay with and/or complain about a toxic person, the more you’re merely delaying doing the important inner work you need to do – to heal your wounds, expand your limiting beliefs, and show yourself far more love and respect.

All of this time expended on them could be time spent on expanding you – growing who you are!

My lesson/your lesson: Don’t be an a**hole to yourself. Stop staying with (and/or complaining about) toxic people. Choose to focus your time, energy and conversation around  people who inspire you, support you and help you to grow you into your happiest, strongest, wisest self.

Suffered the pain of toxic love? Get tools to let go of the hurt – and develop new ways of thinking and dating – which will lead you to true love with a good partner. Love patterns can be broken – with the help of my NEVER AGAIN PROGRAM – an inspiring online webinar – you can enjoy on any kind of computer – or idevice – at your own convenience.  The NEVER AGAIN PROGRAM is discounted – for a limited time only. Click now!

TWEET THIS NOW:  If you have (or had) toxic relationships of any kind, read this essay now -via @notsalmon

I’d love to hear how you have dealt with toxic love relationships!  Share your personal story or a personal happiness tool! I LOVE it when you share – because I love to find out about my community! Plus, many thousands of peeps read these inspirational essays – so, what you share could be a helpful inspiration for someone else! 

Written by Karen Salmansohn (Founder)

Hi I’m Karen Salmansohn, founder of NotSalmon. My mission is to offer you easy-to-understand insights and tools to empower you to bloom into your happiest, highest potential self. I use playful analogies, feisty humor, and stylish graphics to distill big ideas – going as far back as ancient wisdom from Aristotle, Buddhism and Darwin to the latest research studies from Cognitive Therapy, Neuro Linquistic Programming, Neuroscience, Positive Psychology, Quantum Physics, Nutritional Studies – and then some.
  • Zarathustra

    Um. It’s hard, but the toxic relationship is with my mother. I can’t take much more from her, yet I feel like I should be able to do better. I’m avoiding her now, because I really don’t know how else to handle it.

    • Gabs

      Same for me and it’s incredibly hard because I feel so conflicted. She’s my mum and I love her but our relationship is toxic. She is very damaged and I am trying to understand my role in enabling her to make me feel so much pain and hurt when I don’t allow her to have control. It’s got to stop because it is just a whole load of negative, pointless drama.

    • Hrb

      I think you need to give yourself permission to be satisfied that you have done what you can, to have a good relationship withanyone .. If you haven’t, spend some time nurturing the relationship. Get some support, and if there is good stuff on your end… But no stuff, or bad stuff on her end…. Let. It. Be. I had a rare opportunity recently you see my mother interacting with other women in my life who I love. They were kind and they were warm they were engaging and she was completely weird. I really thought that if anyone could warm her out it would be my two friends who are reallygood at warming people up. She was immovable. It is not just my shortcomings. She is broken. I heard an analogy about relationships… There is a bridge, and each of you stand at opposite ends. If it is good, you both meet in the middle and move along together. If it is bad, each person can move to the center and begin the repair process. You can’t go past the middle. You can wait there, or not, but don’t go to their side. That is where they need to do some work. You may feel less like the scum of the Earth (like I have) if you can honestly evaluate your own efforts, and her response…. And let it be. She (perhaps) stays at her spot on the other side of the bridge… What more can you do? Nothing. If she makes it to the center of the bridge… Then you can do something. It’s been 2 years since I really started to take care of this relationship. It is 1 month since I got some objectivity (watching her interact with my friends). I have put down my lasso, of trying to get relationship goodies from the relationship. I have grieved what is not there. I have peace. Apparently she does too. Communication has stopped, and I am okay. This is really hard, I am sorry… It can be okay! Hrb

      • JustBadLuck

        I would agree with everything Hrb stated above. I use to argue wiyh my Mom on a daily basis growing up. I left home at 17 yo…to the first of two bad male relationships. I was close with my Dad. I was an only girl with five brothers. Mom lives in IL and I’ve lived in Florida since 83′. I get along with her now, on the phone and for visits/vacations. I mived up there when my Dad was very ill and died at 65 yo. She was kinder after all of that also. I know she is lonely. I love her with all my heart, but we can not live close or with each other. I stay far away from family gossip and drama now also. I just tell her I don’t want to get involved or know anything about someone else in our family. It works well this way for us.

        • MotownGal

          Hmm, I am having these situations with my siblings over how our mom should be cared for. My sister is the legal executor and thinks my mom should be pulled from an assisted care home that I found that is really great. She’s a control freak. She’s afraid she’ll run out of money but according to the doctor’s calculations she won’t. Anyway I just went through a divorce and am trying to switch careers… that’s all I can handle for now! My friends understand that I need my life to settle down but my siblings don’t. I’d love to live far away from them, sometimes too! … I love her advice to quit expecting people to act differently from the way they are!

      • Enrhy

        It’s hard to talk about and me the only thing I have against her is some doubts. Me now my head is over the water. And I’ll never let her go …she need my help like I need hers. Just do the communication when its gonna be a calm moment. I think the subject is gonna be more discuss now. A lot of people need help in this world and confidential information sometimes need to be in professional hands. There more help on the web than in the society. Thanks for your point of view and good luck with your mother.

  • Stephanie

    Karen, I absolutely LOVE this article and it resonates so much with me in a variety of ways! I’ve just decided to end a relationship with someone whom I was with for just over a year. He’s a sweet guy and nothing awful happened; I just realized (finally) that were toxic for each other! We both have a lot of history of co-dependent relationships. We were not acting in healthy ways towards each other. We sat down and had a very mature/adult conversation about what was happening and decided it would be much more healthy for us to no longer be romantically involved. We each want the best for the other person; however, we realized that we needed to pursue our separate paths. Thanks for all of your wonderful art and stories!!

    • Dale Lou Robbins

      Good one…the key is a healthy adult conversation which my bf of five years was incapable of doing…..easier to just dissappear

  • Laura

    I can’t even begin to thank you enough for this. It’s pretty uncanny how I feel like you’re inside my head and heart on this one! Miraculous timing…miraculous words of wisdom. Thank you! xoxo

  • JARM

    What do you do when that person is your daughter (or your son?). It’s easy to “break up” with a friend or a boyfriend, but sometimes family members do this to you.

    • Yes, I totally understand how you feel. It’s a very difficult situation to be in,

  • Hawklady

    I recently connectecd with a man I asked him to be his self and I would be me ..I am sure he likes to drink alot ..he explained that in the summer he is so busy riding his bike which is his passion that he he really slows down on drinking ..my thought is to stick around and see if there is any truth to his theory or pack it up and not be an assh*le …my thought?

    • notsalmon


      Happy day to you,


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  • Bill

    For starters, and please don’t hold this against me, I’m a male. Due to a traumatic accident I had when I was a baby, I tend to over-invest myself in relationships and take care of the other person too much. (Long story, but well analyzed and understood.) Anyway, if it’s possible, I’m too kind and considerate of other people and fail to take care of myself adequately. I expect and rely on the person I care about to reciprocate that care … which has never happened, at least in a reasonably balanced way. The scales of care always tip far in the other person’s favor. Anyway, I was in a seven-year relationship that was just abruptly ended by the other person. I’ve been grinding my mental gears for a few weeks now, trying to figure out exactly how things went so wrong, again, and to convince myself how the other person must be “crazy” to have rejected me. (Notice how I controlled myself well enough not to use the a**hole word!) A colleague recommended the “Happy Dammit” Web site and it’s been excellent, especially the extended stories, like the one I just read here. So, I’d like to share a few brief thoughts. 1) This story about toxic relationships was insightful, encouraging and brilliantly written. 2) Women have not cornered the market on toxic relationships. There are men in the world (well, at least one I know of!) who have precisely the same personal issues as the ones outlined in this story, and who need to pay attention to the advice offered. I’ll concede that there are plenty of “Prince Harmings” out there, but there are at least a few “Hinderellas,” as well. 3) This story has turned my day around in a positive way … so thank you! I just hope I can change my patterns effectively enough so that I won’t need to keep referring to it for the rest of my life! As my Dad always used to say, “Onward and upward!”

    • notsalmon


      Happy day to you,


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    • Jake

      Ty Bill, well you are accompanied by at least 1 other male in this, I agree and have allowed myself to be consumed by a couple “Hinderellas” for too long, and agreed with all that has been said including that the “bad” ones are not exclusive to male or female, I plan to try and change the way I conduct myself in relationships, at least once I get over the last 1, thanks for all the good words. And yes we have to keep looking up^.

      • Bill

        I knew it! I knew I wasn’t alone on this one! Thanks for your reply and best wishes with your quest to break old patterns. Sometimes I think I’ve finally succeeded with that, but then find myself falling back into what my counselor calls my “default mode.” Ugh! Anyway, again, I’m grateful for your words!

        • Joyce Fritz

          thank you Bill and Jake for reminding us that we have male counterparts and the opposite sex, whichever one, isn’t defective as a whole. I pray to heal the broken parts of me that attract the wrong sorts of people, male and female who want to control and manipulate me instead of encouraging me to become my highest self. And thank you Karen, for daily inspiration to continue to grow for myself and those around me who deserve healthy love and support.

      • Karen Salmansohn

        Hi Jake, Ahhh so you’re another guy who’s experienced Hinderella Syndrome! Again -read what I shared with Bill. My ebook PRINCE HARMING applies 100% equally to PRINCESS HARMINGS! Love for you to take a look – and share your male opinion on the tools and insights in it. Anywhichway – wishing you lots of love! xoKaren

        • Mala Moragain

          I really love Bill’s use of Hinderella in place of Princess Harming, though! Very clever! Although, so is Prince Harming itself! Thank you for this article, truly and from the heart!

    • Karen Salmansohn

      Bill – Thanks for this thoughtful response. You sound like a person who’s truly inspired to learn & grow – which means you’re my kinda human! I love your name “HInderella.” The truth of the matter – my ebook PRINCE HARMING actually fully applies to PRINCESS HARMINGS – all the insights and tools are not based in gender! I need to make that more clear in my postings!! I’d love for you to read it and offer your male opinion! I truly feel you’d enjoy the book. Read some of my free essays about the content – and just replace the word “he” with “she” and “prince” with “princess.” The theories and tools still apply! Big hug! And onward & upward!

    • Lady Penelope

      Hi Bill, well said and totally in agreeance. Thank you Karen for your wonderful insight and simplistic way of delivering vitally important messages that support and strengthen many along their paths collectively. An acknowledgment then practical words that motivate oneself to take action in any direction but at least movement. So as Bills and my dad used to say “Onward and Upward”. Thank you from the bottom of my heart x

    • Tiffany

      I’m curious about your traumatic accident. I have been trying to uncover a wound with no luck. I’m sure i was traumatized at an early age and i treat all my relationships the same way you . described. I also have major fear of confrontation which makes healthy communication very difficult.

    • Mala Moragain

      I think this article can apply both ways, to men and women alike. Gender doesn’t change the way we feel, usually. I hope you find your balancing match, Bill! <3

  • shelly

    Wow! I just got out of a toxic.relationship 4 months ago and I have still been talking about it and not lettibg it go. I needed this in your face read. You are so very right. I deserve love, respect, honest truth and I am done settling for less. I am a good, God fearing woman, and its time to start being the princess God made me to be! Thankyou Karen 🙂

  • Grannywillow

    When I read this I thought that I had written it! I can so relate. I think it’s all about respect on both parts for a happy relationship. And giving each other space to be who you are and live the truth for yourself. We must put regrets aside and move forward. It’s a daily struggle not to have regrets. In time it does get easier.

  • swati

    My younger sister is insisting to marry someone who not only wants her to convert to his religion , but also makes it appear that all this is for his parents and apparantly no true conversion happens just few words to be said for their social and personal pleasure.The same discussion took place last year too when my sis broke of the relationship . I dont know what to explain to her about something which is so obvious …very worried for her future.

  • loveseeker

    I’m dating a guy and he said he’s not ready to give me the title “gf”yet. And yet he treats me like his gf but doesn’t want any commitment with me.. what an a××hole right? …. lol

    • loveseeker

      Or i am also the a××hole hahaha.. toxic relationship sucks…

  • Oyamama

    Loved it! I was laughing because I am such an asshole!!!

    • Mala Moragain

      LOL Self aware and proud! I think Dennis Leary wrote a song about you!!! KIDDING!!! Loved your comment! Very honest 😀

  • Cindy

    omg going thru the same here 🙁 but have a plan of getting out although It will take some time-a year tunnel-but I will get to the light at the end of the tunnel and I started a few months ago taking steps toward the end of this relationship, and it is a relief to have made the decision, in this year I am also working on the financial part -dependant-which had been part of my submissiveness-I made my decision on my own-talking to him was useless and a waste of time-I would still be there stuck doing nothing-not making any decision and wasting my time trying to talk to him or often, feeling bad and just thinking about the ugly things he said..Its hard and I cry by myself but wow there will be a good ending in this story for me and my kids even if it does take a year.

    • Jade72

      I feel you girl. I got laid off few months back and my relashionship is not going well either so I have Faith that I get on my own feet financially and move out. Like you said well see the light at the end of the tunel even if it takes a year. I pray to God its little faster thou. Time to enjoy healthy life. Take care and dont loose your goal in your life speacially for your kids

  • columbia84

    Thanks for sharing, Annie. You are a true inspiration to me.

  • De Gustafson

    Thank you.

  • pepper

    thank you. i cried. i needed to read that.. i just hope i can do it. im so lonely.

    • Mala Moragain

      I hope you have some one to talk to. Friends/family can be wonderful for our souls, even if you just need a hug. *HUGS*

    • Dale Lou Robbins

      u CAN do it…just create a vision of your best fantasy about yourself, you with a better guy, you running into him looking smashing and remember, success is the best revenge

  • So…what do you do when you’re in this situation, but the person is your mother? Especially if she’s trying to change (and you can see that, not just claims), but it’s extremely slow, and she’s still damaging you in the process? I want to make things work…and I don’t want to ever talk to her again. It’s horribly conflicting and confusing, and makes me feel just sick with sadness.

  • EnuffSaid

    Isn’t it amazing the number of reasons people hold on to toxic relationships?! I held on to a person despite ongoing signs I should let go, based on how close we were 20 years ago. The friendship had not been healthy for years and years, but simply because we were best friends once upon a time . . . I tried to keep the door open. But uneven expectations and availability eventually caused enough turmoil to bring it to a sad end.

  • JWhoa

    I had to ‘break up’ with my mom, dad and brother last year. Hardest decision of my life but the toxicity of seeing them, feeling awful about how they treated my children and I, and the draining nature of thinking about having to see them got to be too much. It has been THE most freeing decision of my life. And now I see why I’ve made many of my life decisions, and can move forward healthier and happier, with eyes wide open. Great article, thank you:)

    • Lily W.

      I also “broke up” with my entire family, after they refused to deal with my father’s alcoholism. It was a very difficult thing to do, but my health depended on it. Co-dependent, dysfunctional -in a word, toxic- people, so often make those who seek something better try to feel guilty, or ashamed. I wasn’t trying to hurt them; only trying to save myself. I finally gave up trying to explain that to them. Just as you said, it was the hardest, yet most FREEING and best decision of my life. And now that I have the space to honor my own experience and feelings, now that they no longer have the opportunity or ability to make me feel small, I no longer carry anger towards them. Although I don’t have holidays with my family of origin, I do have peace in my heart – it’s a worthwhile trade.

  • Hoda

    Karen I Love the article But I guess as Females we tend to ask ourselves the questions that we should stop asking because we jump in to conclusions really Fast. I guess we ask ourselves both categories of questions but we always tend to ask the first Questions and then on moving forward we ask the second category of questions .

    Don’t know at least that’s what I feel

  • Karen

    What do you do if the person harming you is your sister? I’ve listened to her drama for up to four hours at a time (via phone)! Yes, you can ask why. My husband did!

  • Tracy

    This is truth. I recognize myself in this story so well. Thank you for helping me understand so much.

  • Stuti Mehrotra

    I loved your style of writing! I read the first paragraph and it had me hooked. “caffeinated”, “catapulted”…awesome! 🙂

  • Silly

    hi thanks so much for your informatin. I will certainly use it. I have finally pulled myself up out of the ditch of being an a**hole. I have certainly adjusted my glasses, my thinking and I am going forth with your information

  • rosari


  • Mala Moragain

    Boy this really is an eye opener… Thank you! Very well written and insightful! It gave me pause for thought.

  • Mala Moragain

    Blog and share the blog. I would certainly follow it!! <3

  • Susan Isabella Sheehan

    I actually don’t agree with the therapist calling you an a**ho*e, but I agree with you that you were in a toxic relationship. I recently left one that was more painful than not. The culmination of that pain was after I underwent bilateral mastectomies in late January, 2014 and realized that I had no one to care for me, not even the woman I was engaged to marry, who lived in the same house, shared the same bed, and who decided to neglect me to the point of my having to be rehospitalized for an emergency blood transfusion and more surgery two weeks after my initial surgeries.

    I returned to my beloved Bay Area in early March, close to my children and grandchildren, and where I am now recovering from both a broken heart and cancer. Moving on is difficult, because I am still in love with this woman, but knowing that for every door that closes another one opens, I am at peace with where I am.

  • onewomansworth

    Luv this! Amongst many of your posts. Thx so much! This message came at just the right time, which most do, if we stop long enough to pay attention to them. I find it so awesomely (is that a word?…lol) spectacular, the ripple effect we have on each other! Know that your much appreciated dedication to spreading positive, inspiring words to the world, have touched so many. The world is a better place because you have chosen to make it so! Thank you for your bravery and selflessness! Much happiness to you and your family. 🙂

  • Lee

    Excellent read, and exactly the right timing for me to find it. Irony at it’s best, actually. Please keep sharing stories like this to keep people like me on the right, healthy mental track to goodness.

  • Azura Izikonoki

    this is very inspiring karen. thank you 🙂

  • Denise Barry

    LOVE this, and I’m so glad you’re not an a**hole anymore Karen! lol! Bruce did good, teaching you how to love yourself! xo

  • Marjorie Dano Delos Reyes

    You are so amazing Karen. Thank you for sharing. I kinda relate a little bit into this. I love the image quotes you added. Continue inspiring other people and keeping them on a positive outlook! 🙂

  • JustBadLuck

    The toxic one seems like an abuser. They like to isolate you from all your friends and family if they can. It seems mentally he was anyhow. I wasted not one year, not two years but twenty years, twenty precious years I will never ever get back!! Not once, but ten years with the first and ten with the second one too. The first one wasn’t as bad as number two. Number two was both mentally and physically abusive to me, in front of our child also. I swear I’d never date another man who drank, who was possessive, had anger issues again. I didn’t care if I was single until the day I dropped. I’m not ten years happy with a third man! I didn’t realize life could be so good. I see a lot of younger girls that are/were just like me.
    It was the hardest thing I’d ever did, was to leave number two. I had to get an order of protection after he followed me from my work, son’s daycare, to where I thought he didn’t know where I lived. He had the girl driving pull up and block me in the driveway. The only thing he did was yell, you can’t hide from me in xxxx county. I went to the court house the next morning obtained a temporary restraining order against him for my son, myself, and my boyfriend, places we frequented, school, work, and home.This man was an alcoholic, I use to drink until i found out I was pregnant.I quit, it omly made me sick for two days after drinking one night anyhow. 😉 He was diagnosed with PTSD, a Vietnam veteran with two toursunder him. I had contacted everyone of his family members, but noone would listen to what I had to say. I thought he had PTSD. He called me at work one day, with his last gift to me, hewas hepatitis C positive. Our son tested negative I tested positive, but non-active. The infectious disease ldoctor, whom probably thought I was nuts, because I had him do every and all testing there was available. I worked in a hospital and the medical field all mylife.I had liver biopsy done, bloodwook, cultures, you name it I had it done. I came up fine on each test. I’ve heard your body can rid itself from the infection. Anyhow, when we went back to court, they gave me a permanent restraining order of protection or until we divorced. In 2005, five years after I left him, he shot himself in the head. Our son was 12 years old and was he the strong one. I still to this day have never seen him cry. (He’d been to counsilors and social workers after we left and after his Dad passed away.) Unlike him I cried for months, I felt so guilty for leaving him. But I knew if I hadn’t he could of easily killed me or our son…or both. (He was a very good husband and father when he was sober…that sober time became none.)

  • JustBadLuck

    *now ten years happy (instead of not ten years)

  • JustBadLuck

    Lizacat29, were you young going into the first relationship. And did you wait any length of time between the two relationships? I’m just curious. I was only 17 with the first and 27 with the second. I think I should of waited longer before going from a bad relationship into another relationship, whether good or bad. I think I just didn’t want to be alone or maybe didn’t think I could do it,be on my own financially. Although with my son’s father I was supporting our entire family the entire time, both financially and parenting. I was an enabler also. I allowed it to happen over and over again. I had a supervisor at work who I’d talk to a lot. She had been married to an alcoholic also. My co-workers were my family, as all my blood relatives lived in IL.

  • JustBadLuck

    Me too, 30 years ago here!!

  • alu

    I’m trying to finish a toxic relationship. What comes to my mind any time is why do you still feel something for someone that hurts you then much? Why do you leave someone do this to you? We had a good time together but for many things that happened I lost my trust in him. And its very painful cuz I felt a lot and did a lot for him. I tried to start all again many times cuz what I felt and cuz he asked me but I couldnt find the lost trust and then I was all the time seeing if he was doing the same or not. Controlling him. If I never did this… if Im not like this and more important if I dont want to be like this why is then hard to stop it? Its good to share all this. Id like to hear opinions and Id like if my experience helps anyone. Thanks for this

  • Me

    Thats so true, but what do you do when you have children together. I can’t get away from his toxic behavior. While i’m happy every time he does something he distract me from that and poissons my mood.

  • Kyle

    I am sad to say that my family is very toxic. To the point my daughter came drunk a couple of weeks ago and broke my front window (11:30pm) because I wouldn’t open the door cause she gets violent towards me. What’s sad is I own my home on the in laws land. Because I she went to jail (I had no! choice she would have not stopped) they have knocked my power pole down, stolen items off my porch and even got two witnesses to right false statement last week and I got a ticket for disturbing the peace and that’s not my nature. I am selling my place but there not going to honor the land leases that’s paid for, and won’t allow anyone to buy it unless the move it and its not movable. For my self I will move on its going to take time so I have to be careful and mindful to all I do. !!! staying strong is very hard. Having you and other spiritual writers have helped me so much. Thank you

  • alexis

    This was exactly what I needed to read. I had my first toxic relationship when I was 17 for 2 years. It took a long time for me to finally break free of feeling like that was the only relationship I would be able to have. Stayed single for 4 years after and finally decided that I could give it a shot with someone who I thought made me happy. A year later, I’m left broken hearted and wondering how I could have fallen into the same trap again. He wasn’t as bad as the first, but still someone who treated me poorly, and always put me down. It’s hard trying to see why I fell into the same trap, and how I could have put up with it for so long. We only broke-up for good almost a week ago, and he’s already been talking with other girls. It hurts to think about even though I know it just means I was so right to leave in the first place. I think it is time for me to seek out counselling, see what healing I need to do for myself. Thank you for this inspiring post, and helping me see that maybe some of the work needs to be done on me.

  • Annie

    you have been my saviour. That is all 😀

  • Judy

    I lived with a very toxic partner for the best of 19 years, he sucked all the life and soul out of me, he bullied my daughter to an extent that she now has severe depression ( I didn’t know about this till after he died because I worked most of the day)

    Now after a lot of soul searching and asking the whys and what fors I realised it stemmed back to my mother, I let her ‘rule’ me all my life, she poisoned my mind, relationships, everything. I did everything for her, Now I’m a different person much happier, grounded just a whole new life I’m having for myself and my girls since I cut her completely out of my life. The only regret I have now is I wished I’d done it years ago, Judith xx

  • Michelle R. Gould

    Love your work. Sharing this terrific piece today on my public page.

  • Erika

    Thank you for this essay. I loved it, and it speaks to what has gone on and what God is healing in me. I am so done with any toxic relationship. When I see it, I keep stepping.

  • Iris

    Thank you! Just what I needed to read to give me strength to get out of my toxic relationship! I’m being an asshole to myself because I know in the long run I’ll be better off..I’m a single mom with two kids, with a good job, great friends, good family..I should know better 🙂 again, thank you!!

  • Rong See

    I never had truly toxic relationships, but I had quite a few toxic friendships. I cut them loose from their lives and stop talking to them.

  • What I lost

    Oh boy I have a friend who is over invested in a relationship that does not give as much as they think it does and everyone knows it. In fact it reminds me of a friendship I over invested in physically, mentally, and financially/material wise (to the tune of 10k from my bank and 20k from the folks) that I am so thankful I got to experience when I was a broke college student or it would have been way worse. One word: Sociopath, the toxin was a legitimate sociopath.

    How does said relationship my friend has remind me of my own? Well let’s see denial of obvious common denominator for physical ailments; in my case mine triggered my long recovered from bulemia to return and loads of physical pain due to ignoring the cause (that ass hole), still coping with it right now but could not put two and two together that the toxic friendship triggered it till much later. In my buddies case it is physical pain, early baldness, muscle control issues, migraines, exhaustion, and obvious physical and mood changes whenever “it” contacts him or has been with him.

    Claiming this deep connection, giddy euphoria, refferring to this person as a drug check, over investing financially when he gets near nothing in return but claims he does.

    My pal does the dishes, cleans, pays for everything, bought a home for em, pays for vacations, cars, buys gifts every day gets it everything it wants and does everything and it well..chooses his clothes and is crazy in bed and in the head and enables a few horrid habits and is slowly forcing him to remove any friends or family who see it for what it is from his life including me. Not to mention forcing him to do what they want, has brainwashed the poor guy, and is now planning to get him to move somewhere he knows nobody because it wants a special place. It also has a trail of horrible exes and relationships and a “bad abusive childhood” just like mine did..yup dude I hope you know that shits toxic.

    And trust me I’ve been in a toxic manipulative relationship I thought was normal, mine pulled such glorious tales out of it’s ass like they were a reincarnated warrior of myth, thier dad was blowing thier house up, they were so abused and had a medical condition they did not have but later it turns out I did, oh yeah and faked multiple supposed threats while reporting to others who were also involved how crazy they were making me and more. And of course the Soul mate card, listen if any and I mean ANY dude or chick claims to be your soul mate and keeps repeating that they are RUN do not pass go just run run run far away. I don’t care if they are the grand niece of the duchess of york, the damned duke of chutney, or some super hot woe is me victim run run run as fast you can and do not let them catch you.

    If they catch you you will have a hell of a time getting free if they don’t let you and they will fuck your mind up so badly you may never get back, make you believe shit that never happened alter who you are and more or less rape your soul and making you think all you are investing in them is being paid back one way or another when it isn’t. And by over investing you won’t see it, I learned my lesson my pal hasn’t I get to watch what could of happened from the sidelines because unless you learn what over investing does to your mind and what certain people will do to you if you are one who over invests and can’t see the damn neon signs..it will take something very serious to make you see the light.

    Of course there is an easy way to spot and stop over investing, the 80/20 versus 50/50 rule if you are investing 80% of the effort and finances in the relationship (IE paying for everything) and they are investing 20% ( shallow emotional, bs psuedo therapy, crazy sex due to being nuts in the head things that don’t really cost them much) you are over investing and your relationship is toxic and all you are is a toy with a nice bank account. Also if every ex is evil you will be too, and if your love has the emotional maturity of a five year old run, oh and if they threaten to kill themselves if you leave or they can’t live without you in their life trust me they can they just don’t want to because they need you to use to fill some void or pay for their lifestyle.

    What it costs you? It cost me a really nice girl who would of been loyal to me, had a great future in many ways, respected and cared for me, was tons of fun and I trusted to keep me safe and out of trouble if I went to out or over indulged, and who at one time I had planned to move in with because we connected deeply even without sex being around her was just..great. We split the bills when we went out, we liked the same things, we had similar dreams in a way, everything was great no mirroring involved at all. She was very good for me, not toxic at all and was always there when I needed her and never asked for anything back and I never asked for anything from her. I still have the DVD’s she gave me, she still has the games I gave her we never asked each other for anything and always kept in mind to pay each other back (financially) or at least make one another dinner. She was amazing for me and even made me a mix CD of how she felt I still have… and I gave her up for a psycho who messed with my brain and cost me 30k and I got over involved with and almost lost myself to, after crazy we met up again she had moved on and into a toxic relationship and after that one went back to her older healthy ex after we agreed the “time” for “us” had been passed. We tried to keep in touch but..it didn’t work.

    Over investing in a toxic relationship that is one sided in many ways will make you miss great opportunities, drain you dry financially and mentally, cause or trigger health issues, and most likely make you lose real and amazing person who was waiting for you to ask them out or give them a shot. Years later you will roll over and look at that “perfect angel of a soul mate” and see the monster within if you don’t get out early, and then you will try to re connect with that other person who was good for you and had tried to warn you and find out they moved on unwilling to watch you be destroyed because they cared too much and you could not see through the toxic fumes.

    My pal hopefully will figure that out in time, if not it will kill him like it almost killed me (literally the stress made me start having heart attack symptoms at 25), to all who got out kudos and let’s try not to get over involved again.

  • Tammy

    Is it possible for a guy to cheat with an ex because there was “no closure” as he says. Then he realises the reason they ended it and ends it again and comes back to you saying it was a mistake. Is that scenario something he could really be sincere about or is he just now wanting me back just because things didn’t work out there?

  • Gee

    Good morning, I have been married to a narcissist for 10 years and divorced him last October after the second affair he has had. Still I don’t have the strength to ask him to leave. Please help!

  • I was led here today, not by a coincidence, either. I recently wrote about my own “toxic” story, and it was a much needed exercise. I only had the one severely damaging one, but it’s funny sometimes how something can plague you for much longer than the actual “thing” did. And even though my next relationship was/is my now 20 year love story, for nearly 18 of those yrs it really did interfere with my life, always in the shadows, dragging me down. I remember being in therapy about 10 years ago and my counselor said. “Raina, you need to forgive yourself, that young girl you were, do you know how many women I see day after day who are on their third, fourth…tenth toxic, abusive relationship? And You managed to find love!” It was one of my ‘A-ha Moments’. Thank you Karen, you have magical ways of posting or sharing, creating or writing about exactly what I’m dealing with, needing or looking for. It’s uncanny!
    Here’s the link to Part 1 (of five) of my toxic story. Love & Light, Raina


  • Susie Squirrel

    I had an abusive relationship aged 19 and again aged 37. I ignored my intuition regarding the one when I was 37 at my peril. I knew it wasn’t right for me but I persisted with it and was raked over emotionally hot coals for two years or more as a result. However, I feel I healed something inside of me because a couple years ago I was dating a man who showed signs of controlling behaviour and rather than stick with it I got out as fast as I could and didn’t look back. It’s taken me some time, I’m 47 now, to honour myself but better late than never and I hope I have grown enough to allow a healthy relationship to develop when the time is right.

  • Dale Lou Robbins

    I could have plugged myself into that essay, except my 5 year toxic relationship just pure and simply didn’t love or respect me…but i stayed and stayed, thru all the controlling, thru all the coldness and the pain, yet i stayed….until i saw on fb he was in a “relationship”…not me, didn’t know we broke up. Shocked blindsided, hurt, alone, i got thru it, only for him to come back and say it was a big mistake. I took him back…i was the a**hole….only three weeks later he broke it off again and went back to this person he described as a narcisstic psycho that he had to call the police on….i had the pleasure of seeing them again, before he broke it off…then i let my Scorpio out and told him every efn flaw this disturbed man had…..oh it goes on, but after being ms nicey nice, i feel so much better…..he always made me feel bad about myself…it’s a process, but i’m getting whole again

  • Tosha

    Such wonderful info from a woman over flowing with wisdom,joy & love.Thankyou so much!!! I broke it off yesterday with the womanizer I was involved with 1 yr.I told him do not contact me again & this time I will not accept him back. I still felt bad,& got online to find solace & I found this site. I am picking up the pieces of my brokenness & putting your advice into action.Can’t thank you enough

  • Ama

    One of my biggest revelations regarding this entire subject was the role of peptide addiction–the hormones the body generates in reaction to feelings of anger. I was obsessed with reliving the pain and rage which resulted from the narcs in my life. I had to go thru a process of weaning myself off of this habit, and it involved literal withdrawal symptoms. What I found on the other side of it was the ability to face and embrace the pain i’d stuffed down for too many years. Now I’m starting to find myself, peace, and a new way to live. So the reasons for focusing on self rather than them are NUMEROUS. Such an important message you’re sharing!

  • Rose

    Just in a split up right now, but it’s so hard. 10 years of putting up with manipulating,,controlling jealous behaviour. Now he is seeing someone else, but still accusing me of having something going on with every man I talk to. Why can I not let this person go? Why am I so upset? We have a little lad and run a business together but can’t afford to move into separate houses so are still living together. It’s only 8 weeks since the split but I’m supposed to be over it and stop getting upset about the other person.

  • LadyJayBird

    Never joined a chat before. I apologize for interrupting the thread/flow of this conversation but I’m having a moment of understanding and clarity re the fact that I am deeply wounded and telling my therapist all about his crappy behavior and not getting to my own wounds. WOW! As I’m reading through some of this material I feel like someone just opened me up and read me! I’m in a helping profession and even though there is all this knowledge and information out there about unsafe/toxic/violent/unempowering relationships, it’s really hard to find info that people can mindfully access. I really love my partner but I am so alone.

  • Karen

    I believe that what brought a toxic relationship together is from past life karma. I do believe that it must end somewhere. it must end here.

  • Rachel Adams

    Repeating toxic is horrific. My 1st partner after my divorce was a scary 4 1/2 run of the unknown being scarier then the known verbal abuse. Now my recent ex fiance went off his psych meds. Is a person I don’t no. I’ve been trying to let him get a job and get on his feet to get a place, but his anger, discuss and disrespect are becoming hard to bare. I need to learn how to set and enforce boundaries in my world. I’m doing baby steps on self healing through meditation and reading self help and assertive training books

  • Enrhy

    They say that pitied is not Love in life. But that’s 4 yrs I m with my girlfriend. We have 20 years a part. She have 6 kids and some of them are my age. She have grand kids and she’s really appreciate from a lot of people and all good person.
    For my part I take the place of a m***er Fu**er honestly said. It took me 4 yrs to getting the respect from most of them. Their was many issues. It took me a patient out of the comment to never replied and deal every day with different types of problems. The worst of the storm is behind now. But we were together to adjust the relationship to make it works. I have my own issues to deal with at the same time. I had different characters to learn, rejection to deal with. Younger generation to understand and respect.
    The energy that I spent, would give me what at the end, if I decide to give up.
    I have medication to take and someone to know when to put the brakes on me. It’s also true she’s hold enough to be my mother. Carolyn is a superwoman for me, what she do for her family and for me take a power and some good will that I never thought somebody could have. She’s 57 yrs old and work harder than a soldier. My Father and my Mother have 60 yrs of wedding, and every time I visit them they can’t stop arguing together. But I m old enough to know that they love each other. My mom told me so.
    In all relationship there’s always a dominant and a dominate. Love can be in everything and have many faces. Torture is include in the definition of Love as strange as it looks. The hope always come back like the sun shines after the rain.

  • shoba macintyre

    Youre so right. There are so many inspiring people out there. I need to break the cycle im in. Thank you!

  • Quintina Carroll

    Im not sure what it is in me that makes me stay in my toxic relationship I can make plans and even leave but I keep letting it back in my life. It.has destroyed my kids my.health and my.reputation with others.I dont know whats next for me once again I have plans to leave but I know my pattern I will let him back but deep down inside I love the idea of marriage but not the person im married to! Help!

  • Angela Gosnell

    Mine is my father. I thought growing up that the toxic behavior I witnessed was a result of the very unhappy marriage he & my mother stayed in for far too long. For years I kept my distance and saw him for short visits after I was an adult and I had almost convinced myself he changed. Then he became very ill and my husband (meaning well) insisted we move him in & care for him ( I am an RN). It was a miserable 10 months and I had to make him leave. His toxic behavior started to affect my children. It is really hard to serve all ties with your father but the fact that he actually tried to accuse me of having motives that were unsure was it! Done! Sad but my kids don’t miss him either. They only remember how mean he was to them.

  • Michael Hall

    This is the first time I’ve expressed this in public, but I am just out of an extremely toxic relationship. It started as an affair, which she instigated and now that I looked back on it, she had probably planned for the affair for a long time. But suffice to say I was single, and had been for a long time and I fell heavily for her charms and was deeply in love with her and that led me into a relationship that should never have existed. After about 6 months of on again and off again behavior, with her pushing me away then coming back again when she was lonely or needing validation, her husband actually left her.
    It was after this that she ended up not just in my bed but in my life, and we almost immediately started living together. It wasn’t long and we had her in another unit and we lived between the two. But the on again and off again was still there. With her constantly telling me she couldn’t be any more than what we were. This I accepted but I guess what cut me the most was that she constantly told me we had no future, then when I started to extricate myself she would pull me back in with affection and love, and physical attention.
    Finally in the last few months she started to look for other things to occupy her time, mainly other guys and in the end I had to call her on her behavior. It was then that I was the worse in the world, I was trying to control her and keep her from being herself. Yet I had never once stopped her from going out or seeing anyone, I just want her to tell me what was happening. It finally ended recently when I saw a message from one of her admirers organizing to meet up, and when pressed for it she ended the relationship. By text.

    What followed was a true show of her colors, as I asked her to leave me alone, she continued to message me and lay the blame for the outcome squarely at my feet. I eventually had to block her from contacting me as the emotional abuse was more than I could stand and I am now in counseling to help deal with extreme anxiety and depression.

    I’ve since recognized the true extent of how toxic this relationship was and I really appreciate this blog. I had let myself down. I deserve better than the crap this person was willing to dish out. I even have recognized some of the abusing behavior she had during the relationship, saying one thing then denying, acting one way then in public acting another. Blaming me for being too sensitive or over reacting. It seems though that I was just an emotional crutch for this person to move on from her husband leaving her. What she may not have realized that her husband left her for the same reasons of abuse that I endured. Now I feel sorry for him and Myself for being caught up by such an abusive manipulative person.

    So I just wanted to say thanks, and also that men can be as abused as females. They can also be on the receiving end of toxic relationships too.