I Was In So Much Emotional Pain And Didn’t Understand Why — Until Now

Photo: igorr1 | Getty Images / dimaberlinphotos | Canva
Man yelling at woman

Entering into a relationship should be an exciting experience.

But in my case, the majority of my relationships ended with me in pieces wondering what happened. Because of that, I often entered new relationships full of tension and anxiety, waiting for the inevitable curtain to drop and reveal that I’d made a poor choice yet again. This was because I’d often found myself trapped in toxic, unhealthy, abusive, or narcissistic relationships.

Each of these relationships left me with emotional and psychological wounds that were difficult to heal. And heal I had to if I wanted to get out of them for good.

If you can relate to what I wrote above, here are some of what you may be experiencing in these types of relationships and how to break free from their destructive grip.

Manipulation and control

One of the most damaging aspects of toxic relationships is the presence of manipulation and control.

Manipulative partners use various tactics to exert power over their significant others, such as gaslighting, guilt-tripping, or isolating them from friends and family. These can start very subtly, which can also make them even more difficult to recognize.

For example, your love interest may start criticizing one of your friendships: You put a lot of effort into that relationship. Do they reciprocate?

Questions like that may seem like your partner looking out for your best interest, but it may make you doubt that friendship. You might find yourself pulling back and second-guessing everything about it. Eventually, you may end the friendship altogether only to find that your partner has started criticizing another one.

If they’re a truly manipulative partner, you may look around yourself at some point and realize that you don’t have any friends anymore because none of them were "good enough" for you for whatever reason.

These manipulations can diminish your self-esteem and self-worth, leaving you feeling trapped and powerless. You once had all of these friends to love and support you, and now … you just have your partner.

Breaking free from this requires first recognizing the manipulative behavior and establishing boundaries that protect your personal autonomy and well-being. Being able to recognize manipulative behavior when it happens can be extremely difficult.

So often tactics like gaslighting prey on integral parts of ourselves, like trust and respect. To realize that we can’t trust our partner and that their manipulations are disrespectful can be a hard pill to swallow.

RELATED: 6 Twisted Things Master Manipulators Do In Relationships

Emotional and verbal abuse

Toxic relationships often involve emotional and verbal abuse, which can leave deep emotional scars. Abusers may demean, insult, or belittle their partners, undermining their confidence and sense of self. In some of my relationships, I heard things like, "You’re asking for too much," "You’re needy," "You’re crazy," "You’re too sensitive," or "You’re abusive."

With the help of a therapist and a coach, after I left the last of these unhealthy relationships, I was able to recognize some hard truths: I was never asking for too much or was "needy" by asking my partner for some time together or to connect. I also wasn’t crazy or "too sensitive" by pointing out inconsistent behaviors and dishonesties, and confronting my partner about unacceptable behaviors in a calm and assertive fashion also was never being abusive.

Constant exposure to such toxic behavior can erode our mental health and create an environment of fear and anxiety. It is crucial to seek support from people who can provide the necessary guidance and resources to help you escape the cycle of abuse.

RELATED: 21 Warning Signs Of Emotional Abuse In Relationships

Lack of trust and betrayal

In toxic relationships, trust is shattered due to continuous lies, broken promises, or infidelity. While I never dealt with infidelity in my unhealthy relationships, I often dealt with other kinds of betrayals, like learning my partner had been secretly abusing drugs and/or running up money on a secret credit card (also known as financial infidelity).

There were also a lot of other little things that would destroy trust, like when their actions consistently didn’t align with their words or I’d ask for support or connection and they’d ignore it, blow it off, or gaslight me. Abuse by itself is also a major trust ruiner.

The absence of trust erodes the foundation of any partnership and creates an atmosphere of suspicion and doubt. Rebuilding trust requires open communication, transparency, and a willingness to address the underlying issues that led to the betrayal. However, it is essential to recognize that not all relationships can be salvaged, and leaving may be the best option for one’s mental and emotional well-being.

RELATED: How To Stop Trust Issues From Sabotaging Your Relationship

Self-doubt and diminished self-worth

Being in a toxic relationship can often lead to self-doubt and diminished self-worth. Constant criticism and negative reinforcement can erode our confidence and make us question our own value.

As a result of the things I was told, I often told myself things like, I won’t be able to make it on my own. This is the best I’ll ever get. I’m too needy. There must be something wrong with me. This is all my fault.

It is important to remember that self-worth is not defined by the opinions of others, but if we’re consistently around people who tell us theirs, it’ll have an impact on us. Likely a very bad one if they’re abusive. Seeking help can provide a safe space to heal, regain self-esteem, and develop a clearer sense of personal identity.

Toxic relationships leave lasting scars that go beyond the realm of physical pain. The emotional, psychological, and spiritual toll can be incredibly challenging to overcome. Recognizing the pain points associated with toxic relationships is the first step towards breaking free from their destructive grip. Seeking support can help individuals regain control, rebuild self-esteem, and find the strength to leave toxic environments behind.

Remember, you deserve to be in a relationship that nurtures your well-being and allows you to flourish. Healing is possible, and breaking free from toxic relationships can pave the way to a brighter, healthier future.

If you think you may be experiencing depression or anxiety as a result of ongoing emotional abuse, you are not alone.

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone and is not a reflection of who you are or anything you've done wrong.

If you feel as though you may be in danger, there is support available 24/7/365 through the National Domestic Violence Hotline by calling 1-800-799-7233. If you’re unable to speak safely, text LOVEIS to 1-866-331-9474.

RELATED: 10 Run-As-Fast-As-You-Can Signs Of Abuse In A Relationship

Tara Blair Ball is a certified relationship coach and podcast co-host for the show, Breaking Free from Narcissistic Abuse. She’s also the author of three books: Grateful in Love, A Couple’s Goals Journal, and Reclaim & Recover: Heal from Toxic Relationships

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.