He Flakes, Lies, Cheats, Repeat. Here's How To Find Clarity And Serenity

When we take responsibility for what is ours, our self-esteem grows.

how to survive a toxic relationship courtesy of the author

When you’re in a toxic relationship you often don’t know where your partner begins and you end, which can create a lot of pain and chaos. If your guy criticizes you, or walls himself off, or lies, or mopes, or cheats, or is just generally sh*tastic, you might think it’s your fault.

So you might try to change yourself or modify your behavior in the hopes you can get your man to treat you better.


This is like pushing a boulder up a hill. And you’ll often find after exerting yourself and possibly slipping a disc in your heart, that there’s just another hill after this f*cking hill. (By now you say “f*ck” a lot.)

So this is where it’s best you stopping straining and trying to change yourself to please him, and think about letting your partner be responsible for his bullpucky while making sure you take responsibility for yours. This is called "Keeping Your Side of the Sidewalk Clean" and is a powerful tool for getting clarity and finding serenity in a challenging relationship.


But how exactly can you keep your side of the sidewalk clean? I’ll give you an example from my own life because I just love revisiting my pitifulness.

When I was in my final toxic relationship with a man I sometimes call Mister Cruelly Handsome, we’d been invited to my friend’s wedding and I wanted Mr. CH to go. After some finagling, he grudgingly agreed.

However, as the date approached, he hedged. He had too much to do at work. He wasn’t feeling well. He was exhausted. And so on.


On the day of the event, after I’d gotten all gussied up in a way I hoped would inspire him, I came into the living room to find him sitting in front of the TV in his sweats. He’d decided not to go. He didn’t even try to make up a good excuse as he’d done in the past. He just “didn’t feel like it.”

This is when I launched into my usual routine that had a lovely, predictable pattern. First I shamed him with “but, you saids” and “but, you shoulds” and “you nevers’s” and “you always’s.” Then I cried. Then I threatened. Then I begged. Then I probably did a lot of other victim-y stuff. Then I slammed out of the house.

As I sat fuming in my car I remembered the Twelve-Step motto I learned in Al-anon: “Try to keep your side of the sidewalk clean.”

Sitting there I just couldn’t see where any of this fell onto my side of the sidewalk. He was the jerk and I was the victim. So I prayed (which isn’t easy for an agnostic such as I, but I decided to “act as if” I had faith in a Higher Power).


As I prayed I slowly began to see what part of this shlamozzle was mine to own. I literally felt the tension seep from my body and my need to control my guy and “be right” melt away.

I got out of the car, walked to the house and found Mr. CH slumped where I’d left him.

Here’s what I said: “You know I want to get married. I know you don’t want to get married. I wanted you to come with me to this wedding to see how happy my friend and her fiancé are. I was hoping you’d see that marriage could be a really good thing, and then I hoped that would make you want to marry me. So, that was my agenda in asking you to come to the wedding. I should’ve been more transparent about that. I’m disappointed you’re not coming, but I’m going to go anyway.”


Then I stood up and left.

I accepted reality and enjoyed my friend’s wedding ceremony. Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the reception and my guy was there waiting for me.

Writing this now I feel a great deal of compassion for him. He tried to step out of his comfort zone to give me what I wanted, I believe, because I took responsibility for my side of the sidewalk. And when we do that, we’re living in grace.

Let’s repeat that: “When we keep our side of the sidewalk clean in a relationship we are living in grace.”

Mr. CH didn’t marry me. We did eventually break up because I realized I couldn’t fix the stuff on his side of the sidewalk and it wasn’t my business to do so. Only he could do that.


But when we take responsibility for what is ours, our self-esteem grows and we learn to love and take care of ourselves better.

And with that comes clarity and serenity, no matter the state of our relationship. Sometimes clarity and serenity are the only things we need to gain the strength to learn how to survive a toxic relationship or shed relationships that are too painful and invite real love.



Shannon Colleary is a compassionate, recovery road-warrior helping women in toxic relationships invite the love they deserve. She’s been married to her best friend for 16 years, which is definitely a miracle. Join Shannon’s May 1st free Live, Master Webinar: “You Love Men Who Flake, Criticize, Lie and Even Cheat: 3 Strategies to Break the Cycle and Invite Real Love.” You can Save Your Seat Here.