ASK ABDI: HOW DO I RELEASE A TOXIC RELATIONSHIP?
QUESTION: I’m in the healing process from a toxic relationship that lasted on-and-off for five years. The relationship was filled with betrayal, lack of emotional intimacy, and conflict. I allowed myself to be manipulated, and ultimately wasn’t the one to end it, but was relieved when it did end. It’s now 10 months later, and I still feel deeply connected to this person. I went for five months without any communication, then very sporadic emails (mostly in the last three months, and mostly initiated by him). Yes, he wanted to see me and see if we should get back together... he invited me to spend time with him in Spain, and I have been saying "no, no, no".
I have used these communications, which have been more frequent since July, to express my anger and also to find out more information - which clarifies things even further. Through this process, I have had deep insights into my healing process and have made connections to my past and have a much better understanding for my internal motivation, and do not want anything to do with him... yet I still feel connected. I sense him, and at times, it’s extremely overwhelming.
How to break this? I know these things take time, yet I still feel this deep ongoing connection. I try to accept it, ignore it, and stop it. At times, it’s so distracting I’ve called him to just shake it, and for a bit that seems to help (but I think that’s an illusion). I’m in the dating process, and although I’m not seeing anyone on a regular basis, when out on dates I do get respite... it’s the in between times. I’ve also had a shamanic ritual to cut this cord, yet it still feels very strong. I’m not going back there, but want to not feel this person.
What am I doing wrong, and what do I need to do?
ANSWER: The toxic relationships are the ones that have the most charge. They are repetitions of early childhood wounds that we have attached Eros energy to early on, in order to survive them (look up the term negative pleasure). Hence the invisible glue that keeps us tightly bound and bonded. And your feelings of deep connection. Even though you were not in touch for a while, your psyche was still stuck. Just like an addiction that we are not done with, the drug sneaks back in since, in fact, it never really left. Many of us have slips when giving up tobacco, alcohol, drugs, or relationships.
The communications, as you put it, is the part of us that does not want to nor is ready to let go. The healing in such situations comes from within not without. You already had clarity that the relationship was not healthy, which is why you were initially relieved when he left. While it is true that consciously you want to let him go, the unconscious has different intentions. The good news here is that you have hit a bottom emotionally and are clear that there is no going back. That does not mean the attraction will lift suddenly. For most of us, it is a process and not an event. I know in my own case as well as witnessing many people exiting such unhealthy relationships, there is a long period of grieving/anger/feeling of loss/missing the person and frustration. There is an uncanny correspondence between the unhealthiness of the relationship and the difficulty letting go. Again, that is due to the mirroring of the childhood wounding. That is why I say you have hit bottom: your psyche has wisely chosen someone with whom you can heal this wound. Take refuge and solace in this fact.
There is nothing you can do but stay witness to the process and withdraw from using the emotional drug. Constantly take it back to yourself, all feelings, all desires to emote, etc. Remember that anger is as much of a relationship as love, and binds us as much. Keep the focus on you. As for the shamanic ritual of releasing the person, take that as an invitation to release, not a surgical cut. Rarely do such things lift immediately, they too are processes rather than events. This too shall pass. Be gentle with yourself, this whole thing is painful enough without you berating yourself. Surrender your willpower and give grace a chance.