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thinking there is no happy future because you're in an emotionally abusive relationship

When you’re in the thick of a toxic relationship, all you can see is a dark future with no way out.

This skewed reality can actually keep you in the relationship because you might think this is the best you can do.

However, once you’re away from the toxic effects of “relationship radiation” and you’re able to flush the toxicity out of your system, you’ll start to realize that there can be a bright future after all. 

Transcript follows

Today I want to remind you that if you are in any type of what I like to call relationship radiation situation which is any type of toxic situation that you feel like you’re stuck in for a while, or you don’t think you’re ever going to be able to get out of it, or you don’t know how to flush or wean off of the toxicity to get away from it.

If you’re in any type of situation like that with anyone in your life and you just can’t see anything positive about it, and you don’t think there’s going to be a bright future, and you think that this is the way it’s going to be forever, I want to remind you, or at least tell you for the first time if you don’t already know, that when you’re in the muck in the mire and around the radiation, constantly exposed to the toxicity, your perspective is skewed.

I’m saying this because I hear from a lot of people that tell me that, “I’m in this relationship and it may be my last opportunity to be married, to have kids, to just be in a relationship at all. I’m not financially secure,” or “I don’t have any place to go.”

You know there are a lot of people that feel stuck without options. When you feel like you’re stuck without options, your future feels bleak. You feel like you don’t have a chance at a happy, satisfying, or fulfilling life. It’s that feeling you get when you’re with a toxic person who is always demeaning you and demoralizing you, making you feel like you can’t trust your own decisions, telling you that you’re not that intelligent and you’re not that attractive, and you’ll never get anyone else; It’s the feeling you get when you’re put down, making you feel bad about yourself and they’re constantly guilting you… I could go on and on with the list but you probably know if you’re in this type of relationship.

When you’re in that state of mind, it’s hard to see what I might call the light. It’s hard to see anything positive. You only see the negative. In fact, your frame of mind is so closed off from the rest of reality that you’re in this fog, and while you’re in this fog you can’t possibly predict a happy future. You can’t see it.

You might have these thoughts, these belief patterns that start to form in you that tell you that nothing is ever going to be better than this. I’ve had people say this, that “This is the best I can do ‘’ or “I want something better for my life but I don’t think I can get it so I’m just going to stay in this situation with this person.” 

I’m here to remind you if you don’t already know that when you’re around this relationship radiation and you’re constantly exposed to it, your viewpoint is so narrow about what can be that you will not be able to see a bright future.

It’s like you’re in the dark without flashlight batteries or at least weak batteries. You’re walking around with a very, very dim flashlight thinking, “Well, this is the best it gets. This is the best it will be. There’s nothing I can do about it. I don’t have another set of batteries”, so you walk around with this dimly lit view of your future of what’s ahead of you.

It’s hard to see anything better than what you have even though you know what you’re in is not good for you. It is unhealthy. I mean, depending on what situation you’re in but I’m assuming that if you’re resonating with this, you probably know someone that is toxic in your life. It’s hard to get away, to pull away, or flush that toxicity out of your system.

How do we do it? How do we get away from the toxicity?

Step one is to know that what you’re experiencing right now is a limited perspective of reality. You have to know this. You have to realize that you have been painted a reality that isn’t necessarily true. It’s just toxic. It’s just unhealthy. It’s just a narrow perspective of what somebody else wants you to see and wants you to believe.

I’ve heard from way too many people that were in toxic situations that “knew” they could never get anyone better because they were convinced they could never be in a better relationship.

They were convinced:

  • They weren’t attractive enough
  • They were a bad person
  • They should feel guilty
  • They should feel bad

They were convinced of all these things. When this happens, your self-esteem and self-worth can be so destroyed that it’s hard to think that you could get anyone else or be around anyone else that thinks you’re good, or hot, or healthy, or happy.

It’s hard to see yourself in any positive state when you’re in such darkness all the time. Toxic people keep you there. Toxic people keep you in the dark and they don’t want you to be optimistic about the future. They want you to think ‘this is the best it gets and this is all you can get.’

If you believe that, then you limit yourself and limit your happiness, and you fall under their control or a spell that keeps you where you don’t want to be but makes you think that’s all you can get.

I’m here to say it’s not true. This is not true.

You may think a bunch of things about yourself that simply aren’t true just because they were drilled into you. And when those unhealthy limiting beliefs are drilled into you, and your foundation is made up of all these limitations that you think you are or you’re in, it is very hard to see through that to notice there can be a positive future for yourself.

It’s important to step out of this old belief system, these old patterns, and realize that when you’re in this fog it is very difficult to see a bright future. It’s very difficult to see with clarity.

But when you’re out of the fog… I’ve heard from people that tell me once they get out of these relationships, they look back and say (and I think my mom said these exact words), “What the hell was I thinking? What was I thinking? Why was I holding on for so long?”

But she didn’t have those thoughts back then. She didn’t think, “If I let go, things are going to be better.” All her thoughts were centered around, “I’m scared. I don’t know what I’m going to do.” All her thoughts were very fearful and based on the present moment.

We’re told to be in the present moment, which is great and it does work. But when your present moment is made up of fear then it’s hard to stay in the present moment and see something positive for yourself in the future.

But there is. There’s a positive future out there and it involves getting away from the toxicity.

Does that mean you leave the relationship?
Does that mean you distance yourself?

Sometimes it does. Sometimes it means that. And people tell me, “I don’t have that option.” That’s true for some people. That is not an option, or at least they don’t see other options because of this limited viewpoint. But there are other options.

One of them might be just standing up and honoring yourself, and speaking up when you need to speak up to say, “Hey, look, you’re trying to guilt me, to make me feel bad about myself. That’s not what someone who loves me does. Someone who loves me wants me to feel good about myself. Someone who loves me doesn’t want me to walk around feeling guilt all the time because they would feel bad about that.”

This is where you step into your old confidence that used to be there if it’s not there now.
This is where you step into those instincts that you used to trust if those aren’t there now.
This is where you find your power again and you stand up for yourself as if you were protecting yourself as if you saw right through their game.

Some people don’t know they’re playing a game. There is hope for people that are emotionally abusive and feel bad for what they’re doing. If they say, “I feel bad for making you feel bad therefore I want to change,” you say, “Great, you may need to do that on your own. You may need to go change on your own while I get over all of this toxicity and flush it out of my system on my own. I need to distance myself from you and the environment that I was in and just be with myself and hang around positive people and be around friends and family that support and love me and want me to have a great life.”

If you have someone in your life that realizes that they’re doing something harmful, then that’s a good sign but it still doesn’t mean you have to stay together in the sense of, “Let’s heal together through this.” Because sometimes it does require separation. Sometimes it does require distancing for a while so that you can both work on yourselves.

Then there’s the other side of the coin where the manipulative, emotionally abusive, hurtful, unhealthy person, whatever they are; one of those (or all of those), don’t realize it or doesn’t care.

You’re going to meet these people. There are some people that don’t care how you feel.  If you leave them and you’re no longer what you might call their “supply”, if for whatever dysfunction they’re trying to fulfill, then they’re going to find someone else for their supply. Then you’re going to feel unworthy, unlovable, and unimportant because they found someone else. But what they’re doing is looking to fulfill their dysfunctional need.

I’m not saying this happens all the time because some people will heal, some people will break up. When I was in my marriage – when we divorced – I felt bad for how I treated my wife while we were together so I decided to heal because I felt bad.

If they feel bad, great, they’ll heal, they’ll get better. And maybe you’ll get back together. Maybe not. Maybe your separation is temporary, maybe not. But that’s not even my point. My point right now is that in order to see a positive future for yourself, in order to see the light when you’re stuck in the dark, you have to get away from the dark for a while.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to separate but it can and sometimes it’s necessary. But it does mean that you have to realize that there’s a lot of influence that has been taking place over the months and years if you’ve known each other that long. You need time, reflection, and introspection so that you can work on and focus on yourself.

Because when you’re together, even though you might have thoughts of self-growth and working on yourself, your thoughts still include the other person in some way:

“What would they think? Where will they be? How will they react when I show up and I’m happier? What will they say to other people?”

We’re going to have all kinds of thoughts about the toxic person when we start working on ourselves. We’re going to wonder how they’re going to respond and what they’re going to do. And because of that, it’s going to limit us. It’s going to make us believe that maybe we’re not ever going to be happy because if we do something, they’ll do something to ruin it, or destroy our happiness, or whatever.

In order to see a positive future and find a better place for yourself, you do sometimes need to separate. If not physically, instead of looking at it as a separation if you can’t physically separate, then at least see yourself stepping into your power, stepping into this space inside of you and telling yourself, “You know, I’m important enough. I’m valuable enough. I am good enough. I am great enough to honor me, to protect me, and to show the world that I won’t stand by while they try to crush me. I won’t stand by and take it and I’ll do whatever it takes to protect this person I am.”

That person may be hard to connect with if you haven’t seen him or her in a while because the toxic relationship tends to cover it up and diminish that person. It tends to dissolve that person. And when you haven’t connected with that person in a while, it’s sometimes harder. That person is sometimes harder to find. 

I want you to find that person.

How do you find that person? You just start asking yourself questions like, “If there were no consequences, what would I do or say then?”

I love that question because it always comes up with the truth:

If there were no consequences to what you say or what you do, what would you say or do?

The truth always comes up. If you can step out of yourself, your old fears, beliefs, and patterns, this is where you start stepping into your power. A question like that is great.

Another question is, “Do I see myself in this relationship for the next six months, six years, or even for the next 20 years? And how will I feel if nothing changes or if things continue the way they are?”

If things are going downhill now and if they continue going downhill, the questions, “How will I feel in six months? How will I feel in six years?” are very important ones to answer.

If you have a realization that in six years you will be so miserable you’ll feel like killing yourself, which I don’t want for you, but you might have this thought or feeling, then it’s important to start making decisions today. Start thinking differently today.

Start flushing out the toxicity and distancing yourself from this relationship radiation so that you’re not so exposed to it anymore. Once you do this and start realizing that, “I deserve to be treated better”, whether you stay in the relationship or not, once you realize you deserve to be treated better, then you’ll start making decisions that are right for you and work for you. You’ll make decisions that are healthy for you.  When you’re in that space, the right answers will come.

So you may think you have no options and that you can’t do anything but when you start standing up for yourself, and you start believing in yourself, and you start knowing that you deserve to be treated with kindness and respect, I say it in every episode, “You deserve to be treated with kindness and respect”. When you know that in your heart through and through, you’ll start thinking differently, you’ll start acting differently, and you’ll feel different.

It will still be hard if you’ve been in this radiation for a while, in the toxic environment. It will still be hard because you will still be thinking from this old paradigm, from this old belief system that things may never get better.

We’re trying to lift the fog inside your head. We are trying to get it out of your system so that you have a fresh set of batteries. So that when you point the flashlight out into your future, you see something more positive and brighter… so you see it clearer. And it’s very hard to see clearly when you’re so flooded with toxicity.

Just remember if you can’t see a bright future, and if you can’t see a positive outlook or positive outcome, remember you have a limited perspective when you’re in this environment and when you’re around toxic people.

And one final question to ask yourself to help you understand how you might think differently is, “If I woke up tomorrow morning, and this toxic person disappeared from my life, how would I feel then? What would I do differently? How would I spend my day? How would I spend my week? Where would I go? What people would I talk to?  Would I hang out more with my friends? Would I go out more? Would I read more? Would I stay home? What would change in my life knowing this person was never coming back?”

There might be some sadness there. There might be some jubilation there. There might be a lot of feelings or emotions. But let’s just say that it happened in your mind’s eye just to give you an opportunity to think, without them influencing you, and without the toxic element that used to be in your life.

Who are you then? How do you feel then? And what decisions would you make then because, again, those questions will bring up some truths for you. They might just bring you closer to this brighter future that you may think you don’t have.

It’s there. I’m just trying to help you find it.

Share this with someone who might benefit.

Paul Colaianni

Paul Colaianni is a Behavior and Relationship Coach, and the host of The Overwhelmed Brain and Love and Abuse podcasts.

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