Recently I went to see the movie ”Juniper” - a movie starring Charlotte Rampling who…
In the Honesty Europe Community group on Facebook, one person requested that I write about how to get over a romantic relationship that has many unhealthy components yet the pull is really strong.
The exact text goes like this:
“I would like to read/watch your insights about “How to get over very attractive emotionally abusive partners” who are for example not respecting expressed boundaries or agreements, lying intentionally etc. and are at the same time super attractive in the sense of interesting, emotionally closely connected, available etc.”
My answer: That’s tricky, yet possible.
How to disengage from and “get over” someone whom we feel a strong attraction and sexual excitement towards?
What to do when our mature self says “This isn’t good for me” while another part says: “Yes! Exciting! I’m so alive!”?
Many of us have experienced some kind of compulsion with another person. Being “crazy” about someone. Like addicted.
I have had my share of that: a relationship that was both very exciting and very volatile. Huge highs and terrible lows.
I tried very hard to please that partner.
When the relationship was working, I felt incredible. And when the relationship wasn’t working, I felt horrible. Big fights. Making up. Conflict. Hot sex. Moments of intense connection followed by periods of extreme disconnection.
Eventually, the fun, happy, connecting, exciting times were not enough to compensate for the times when I felt misunderstood, unseen, not good enough, feeling I needed to be different.
I’m not claiming my partner had created this in me. I had been an active party in that relationship. We had co-created the drama together—and we re-lived it over and over again.
He was like my harsh and absent dad, with his past of frequent flirting with others and having affairs.
Meanwhile, I was like my partner’s mom, someone not to be fully trusted. She said she will go for a coffee with a female friend and stepped into the car of a lover in secrecy while the little boy saw it all and stayed silent.
He and I talked about this and recognized some patterns from each of our pasts. Nevertheless, we were unable to prevent ourselves from boarding that roller-coaster again and again. ?
That relationship lasted for about three years, with several breakups and reconciliations. In the end, I realized I just didn’t want to ride that roller-coaster anymore. I was exhausted. Even so, months after the last breakup, I asked him if maybe we should try again. He said no, we would just hurt ourselves again. Which was probably true. And I appreciate him for saying that.
That was nine years ago. I’m happy that we could eventually part in a way that I judge was loving. He and I have since talked and told each other what we were still sad and angry about and what we appreciated each other for. I feel complete with him now and can access love and gratitude for the whole experience I’d had with him.
I judge that what he and I had—and what many turbulent relationships have—is a bonding through similar traumas.
In that person with whom we are infatuated, we recognize something from our childhood / past which was in some way unhealthy for us. For example, a parent who wasn’t very present so we did song and dance to get their attention and approval. Or an unpredictable parent from whom we never knew what to expect so we walked on eggshells around them.
In that way, I think we are subconsciously trying to heal what is not yet healed from our childhood with this new person, “the man or a woman of my dreams.”
Unfortunately, oftentimes we tend to repeat those unhealthy patterns in such relationships and thus don’t heal in that way. Instead, healing and feeling loved as we are comes when we are in safe and stable relationships. Sometimes, such relationships can feel less exciting yet they can be deeply nurturing to us when we don’t need to prove to be worthy of the partners love or we’re allowed to be imperfect.
I think my relationship with Pete is safe and stable. At the same time, I find our time together to be rewarding and many times even exciting. Exciting in terms of what we do, how we talk and what we are willing to look at and work on.
Our relationship is not exciting in the way of pleas of: “Do you still love me? Please please love me!” or “Just tell me how you want me to be!”
I’ve learned I can create and maintain excitement that isn’t the result of fear of abandonment, one or both of us expecting the other to be different, ceaseless bickering, etc. I can create excitement instead that is more about deepening intimacy, making myself vulnerable, learning new things about myself and Pete and our relationship, etc.
So going back to the original question: How can one get over a very attractive yet emotionally abusive partner?
A few things come to mind:
7 tips: How to get over an unhealthy or toxic relationship
1. Consider values and must-haves in a relationship.
Be clear and remind yourself what are non-negotiable values or ways of being for you in a relationship. Which one of these did not happen in your relationship?
2. Reflect on: Are you mostly happy or unhappy?
Are you—or were you—too much of the time unhappy, sad, anxious, feeling not good enough or trying to please?
In my opinion, life is too short to spend time being in an unhappy relationship.
3. Find a way to lovingly depart.
Tell your partner openly what you are sad and angry about of the past relationship. Notice if you can access, experience and get over some of those emotions. Can you also access some appreciation? Share that with them, too. Find a way to say to yourself and to the other something like: “I’m grateful for our good times and I don’t want to have this kind of connection / relationship with you anymore. Thank you. I love you. [If that’s true for you.] Good bye.”
4. Ask for help.
Call or meet a friend when you are struggling or having an impulse to contact or get back together with your ex. Find supportive people for you and talk to a friend or a therapist.
If you’ve noticed unhealthy patterns in your past romantic relationships that you judge stemmed from earlier in your life, go and work on those patterns or triggers at the source (e.g. address whatever unfinished emotional business you may have with your parents).
5. Live in the moment.
What is good in your life right now without this person? How do you make yourself happy every day? What about doing more of the things you feel happy with or less things which are draining you.
6. Find happiness in small things.
How to do this? Start with noticing: From the physical sensations that you notice in your body right now, which sensations do you find to be pleasant? Stay present with those.
As you look around and as you listen right now, what do you find to be beautiful or interesting or curious? Pause there for a moment and keep noticing that.
7. Remember time tends to help.
You might not believe that one day you will feel far less of a pull towards that (ex-)partner yet, in most cases, that will happen—eventually. Life goes on. You will have other experiences and connections, maybe new relationships. One day you’ll notice: I haven’t thought about them much lately. I no longer remember the details of their face. I don’t miss them much anymore.
Well, those are some of my ideas. Maybe they don’t work for you and you have something else that works. I’m not saying this is easy. I am saying, though, this is doable.
And I have some questions for you:
Have you had a relationship where drama was a daily part of life?
Have you seen a friend or relative in a relationship which you judge was not healthy for them?
What advice or support would you give to them?
Would you give that same advice to yourself?
Have you ever been “head over heels” with someone who wasn’t compatible with you?
How did you leave that relationship behind? Or did you?
Tuulia (& Pete)