How My Toxic Relationship & Toxic Boyfriend Ruined My Self-Esteem

Photo: Maples Images / Shutterstock
sad woman on train looking out window

One evening at dinner, he zinged me with a snide remark about my weight and the fact that I was a size 8.

He jeered, "Ya know, the problem with fat people is they never leave anything on their plate. When you finish eating, I don't even have to wash your plate."

I told him that his comment hurt my feelings. He retorted, "Geez, you said you wanted to lose weight. I was trying to help you. I'll just leave you alone from now on."

RELATED: I Was In A Horrifyingly Abusive Marriage — And Didn't Even Know It

He made me feel guilty, but in my gut, I knew this toxic relationship and his comment was his attempt to throw me off track.​

I grew up with a weak sense of self. I doubted my self-worth and I doubted my ability to understand people or a difficult situation.

Growing up I heard statements like, "You shouldn’t feel that way," "You’re overreacting," and, "You’re being too sensitive, Nancy."

While these statements seemed harmless and insignificant, it was put-down phrases like these that told me my feelings were incorrect and taught me to doubt, deny, and stuff my feelings.

As an adult, I was naive, gullible, and trusting. I evaluated men (and everyone) with my impressionable, impulsive emotions.

I repeatedly made bad relationship choices, got my heart broken frequently, and wasn't sure how to improve my self-esteem.

I didn’t trust my judgments about men. When I dated a guy, I struggled to figure him out.

I whined to my girlfriend, "Do you think he likes me?" "What should I say or do next?" "Do you think he’ll call me again?" "Why did he stop calling me?" and, of course, "What did I do wrong?"

RELATED: 6 Toxic Relationship Behaviors Most Couples Think Are Normal

When I was in a relationship with a man, I was afraid of saying or doing the wrong things. I was afraid to ask for the things I wanted and needed in a relationship for fear of a man’s rejection.

I was scared to stand up to a man’s criticisms, deceit, and hurtful behavior because I might falsely accuse him and he would erupt in anger and leave me.

I was accustomed to the accusing, disparaging, befuddling statements that a man would hurl at me during an argument. My boyfriend would growl, "That’s not what I said," or, "You heard that wrong," or, "I don’t remember saying that," or, "Lighten up, will ya? I was just kidding."

When those digs failed to squelch my spirit, he’d use his well-honed jab: "You’re over-reacting," which was code for: "What’s wrong with you?"

I wondered if I really was as crazy as he thought I was. Was I being overly sensitive to his seemingly spiteful, wounding remarks? Could I have misheard or misinterpreted what felt like a hard slap in the face? Am I the one who was destroying our relationship?



And then I began to ask myself: If I misunderstood what he said, or if he didn’t say what I heard him say, why did I hurt so bad inside? Am I that much out of touch with reality?

Somewhere just below my consciousness, my small intuitive voice pleaded to be heard. She murmured: you know the truth. You suspect he’s lying. You sense he's shifting the blame to conceal his own bad behavior.

But I loved him even though we had a toxic relationship, and I didn’t want to give him up, so I shut my eyes to the truth.

I denied and suppressed my hurt feelings. I rejected my intrinsic need for self-preservation. I tuned out my spiritual knowing voice and I stayed in a relationship that promised to break my heart.

RELATED: Why Optimistic Women Stay Trapped In Toxic Relationships

My blood boiled. The woman inside me screamed: No! You’re not wrong! You did not misconstrue what he said. You are not overreacting to his manipulative, disparaging comments.

You did interpret his demeaning remarks correctly. This scumbag may fool your heart — but he can’t fool your gut!

A woman who mistrusts her intuition turns control of her life over to another.



Don’t let a man, or anyone, talk you out of your feelings. When a boyfriend or husband tries to put you down, remember this: a man’s discounting, dismissive, blaming statements are designed to make you doubt your ability to reason and understand a dysfunctional relationship.

When I stopped listening to the self-serving, manipulating statements of others, and I looked inward for my answers, I found wisdom. I began to see people as they were, not as I imagined or hoped they would be.

I was no longer a victim of a man’s charm, deceiving words, and empty promises.

RELATED: The 5 Most Dangerous Types Of Toxic People 

Nancy Nichols is a best-selling self-help, dating, and relationship author, empowerment speaker, notorious blogger, and TV and radio talk show personality. She's a woman's advocate who uses her self-help books to impart self-esteem building, the power of positive thought, relationship understanding, and personal healing.