The point of no return
where all hope is lost for the "healing" of a toxic relationship and converting it to health is the first (and hopefully the last) time of physical abuse. Any violent act, big or small, is dehumanizing, robbing of dignity, low in character, and base, in every sense of the word, on BOTH sides. (Do not underestimate the disastrous effect on the abuser of the guilt and shame that will inevitably follow.) Once committed, an act of violence demonstrates the inability of the abuser to manage their actions and impulses and the inability of the victim to prevent them. Nietzsche was right to claim that "One ought to hold on to one's heart; for if one lets it go, one soon lets the head go too." When the head loses control, it is game over, for good. For good is for as long as you have a memory of each other. Even amnesia will not work miracles because you need memories to learn your lesson. If you do not learn from your mistakes, you are bound to repeat them - that's what craziness is (according to Einstein, and I would agree). As long as you remember the pain of that magnitude caused, you'd better believe there is no hope left. No matter how romantic and touching our stories with our "toxic" partner can become in our imagination - we need to let go of each other FOR LIFE. Anything else will only prolong the suffering.
Terminate the relationship but don't "erase" it
Some of us who find it impossible to end/ cut/ terminate the relationship while still keeping the bitter-sweet combo of twisted memories of the glorious but highly melodramatic past may be willing to go through a procedure that would erase all of our memories related to that "toxic" partner. But, unfortunately (or fortunately), there is no such procedure currently available that I know of. The most popular means to achieve this sought-after effect is as old as the world, and it is called alcohol. It will continue to exist until the very end because people drink to forget or to get the courage to do the things they cannot stop thinking about after all of their thinking proved unproductive to figure out a solution. I would not recommend alcohol to be your therapist and adviser because the long-turn damage it produces is harder on the brain than the short-term relief it provides. The goal is not to forget something, so it stops bothering you because, this way, you will keep on encountering the same old seen without realizing it is the same old seen, and you will experience everything old as new all over again. This is a tedious waste of time. The goal is to become at peace with your memories so you can benefit from their wisdom and level up. No need to run away from the thoughts in your head and the feelings in your heart - all you need is the courage to face the ugly truth, admit you were wrong, and change the direction. Do anything but what you have always been doing to have different results.
The ugly truth
Contrary to what many believe, the heartache that leads to toxic relationships and abuse is not caused by too much love from one towards the other partner that was not reciprocated; it is quite the opposite - it is the lack of love on part of the physical abuser towards themselves and the false expectation that the other partner is obliged to deliver what they miss. The victim of the physical abuse, on the other hand, is usually unable to show love and affection because they do not know how to access and express these feelings and emotions and "benefit" from the abuser as a forceful provoker of what resembles loving-giving. This begged "love-giving" takes place only under the manipulation and installation of guilt and shame on part of the abuser towards the victim. A radical simplification of the sequence of the events would be:
The abuser-to-be lacks love towards self; Expects external validation to gain some self-love. Fixates on a trophy of apparently enough merit to compensate and fill the internal deficiencies.
The trophy (the victim-to-be) initially resists. The resistance only proves to the abuser-to-be that the trophy/ target of desire is worth the efforts.
Many efforts on the part of the abuser-to-be are spent on "buying" the disposition of the trophy person, commonly labeled as courtship when their actual nature is seduction and spoiling of the character of the trophy down to their own level. Each success at "winning their heart" is a crime that brings both people down. The hungry-for-love-and-affection initiator of the relationship/ the abuser-to-be starts to doubt the quality of the trophy (who happens to be just as hungry for love and affection and unable to provide it to self and others) with every next "success" of their strategy to win love and affection. All strategies are a form of manipulation: something is given without it being asked for so that the sense of obligation to return the favor is installed. These "gifts" can be material but also compliments, physical touch, "favors" to help around a problem, being there all the time at the disposal of the trophy, and everything that could potentially render the initiator indispensable, irreplaceable, needed, and ultimately addictive.
The more "addicted" the victim becomes, the more the abuser dislikes them and the situation they have created. The victim is less "lovable" than before because their behavior of accepting the "gifts" signals to the giver that the victim is just as needy of love and affection as they are. The gradual realization that both sides are equally unequipped to provide what they hope to receive from the other stretches the truth further with every manipulation.
Once the victim has totally lost their ability to exist independently of the "provider of comfort," this provider becomes tyrannical. The moment that the trophy loses their independence, self-pity, guilt, and shame follow to mark their failure to provide the abuser with the only things they were after - love and affection, acceptance, and appreciation. The now tyrant punishes the victim for the stupidity of believing the selflessness of their "gifts" = hooks.
The victim tolerates and may even enjoy the tyrannical abuse as it gives away that the abuser has (finally) woken up to the real nature of their teamwork project and is now storming around to destroy it (=their unhealthy union). Only in these disastrously stormy and violent situations do they feel in sync with the truth, reality, and justice because they both believe that they do not deserve, and thus do not find authentic, any treatment different than some sort of punishment.
After committing the abuse, the tyrant feels even less self-love and self-worth, reinforcing another round of the same with even worse consequences.
If that makes you feel doomed already, here are
7 steps that will get you out of the toxic cycle and prove you are stronger
than you might think of yourself:
Recognize that the fear that builds a prison of lies and abuse around both of you is not obligatory/ necessary/ imposed, you are not sentenced to it, you are voluntarily residing in it! The longer you stay there, the more you climatize to your own slow death in the long run and learn to love it to survive the short run. It is the core of the Stockholm Syndrome.
Realize you can break down the walls at any moment provided you are brave enough to destroy/ "sacrifice" your “work-of-art” – that is the prison you have brain-washed your mind to see as a castle so you can bear it.
Dare to give your partner the freedom they need to breathe, and you will be set free too – the moment you let go of each other employing mutual forgiveness to them and yourself, you will have the oxygen again, but you need to dare to be lonely.
If loneliness is scarier than tyranny to you, it means you do not trust you have any substance to keep you company when you are on your own. If you do have substance, you will not stay alone for long; you will be comfortable with or without people around. If you lack substance, you will not feel comfortable with or without people in your life.
Nothing kills prematurely like the fear of losing something we need to lose and let go of. Still, if you keep on living, your next soul mate will come to drive your car no matter how serious your previous "'crimes in love" were.
Remember that curing a toxic relationship is very similar to curing addiction. The ultimate goal is for you to be able to function independently again, so don't jump directly to another person but give yourself time to regain identity and clear the (emotional/ psychological/ physical/ professional/ financial) mess you've made as a result of your toxic relationship poisoning more than one area of your life. In any case, do not expect someone to come to clean it for you for free. Whatever the price they'd ask of you for "the service," it is not worth paying on credit, and you will never be able to afford it, for no soul can buy another. Emotional "cannibalism," slavery, manipulation, and the like crimes may look like the "quick fix for the moment," but they are ultimately dirty and are sanctioned in ways beyond our wildest imagination... no argumentum in terrorem intended here. Just remember that every act you recognize as sleazy and heavy on your sense of guilt and shame will come back like a boomerang to hit you harder and cut you deeper with your very own two-edged knife. Call it karma if you like, but there is no safe handle to hold a weapon. In the war of the sexes and the battle of the hearts, you may have been surprised at the diversity of the arsenal. The debt you have accumulated towards another soul will cost you your peace of mind!
Recognize that if you are not able to provide love to yourself, you are neither able to provide it to anyone nor able to accept it from anyone. Until you learn to love yourself, the only kind of relationship you will enter is the toxic type! With this simple realization, you are one step closer to the solution - build self-love (see Toxic Relationships (5): How to Make them Healthy)
*If you are in a position to depend on your toxic partner for your existence, but you have gathered the courage to break free for the betterment of both of you, I am sure there will be some people around you who are willing to shelter you until you get back on your feet. Suppose you have lost all touch with your social circles. In that case, you can reach out to the more anonymous help provided by local organizations, support communities, and churches who would be more than willing to lend a hand to a fellow creature in need if you show your motivation for self-improvement authentic. In Bulgaria, domestic violence is addressed by the Ministry of Interior Affairs, the Ministry of Justice, Regional and District Courts, the Agency for Social Support to the Ministery of Labor and Social Policy, Social Activities and Practice Institute, 6 associations, and 9 foundations. A list of their mission, vision, personnel, and contacts is available here.
love -> courage -> wisdom -> cruelty -> cowardice -> foolishness -> love, etc ad infinitum. This is the rollercoaster of the spontaneous evolution of the alternating strengths and weaknesses of character that put us in the given signature roles we play in the (intimate) relationships we go through. For all the love, courage, and wisdom we may have enjoyed and exhibited in a healthy relationship or a period of a relationship, the next one will show us all the flows we had neglected in our oblivious happiness within the healthy relationship/ period. The new “toxic” relationship/ period will teach us some necessary self-reflection and self-criticism to expose the foolish and cruel coward we have ended up being in the valley of the rollercoaster. No matter where on the curve, you have to, you want to, and you finally do find a way to enjoy the ride, the view, and yourself because it is always the darkest before the dawn and the brightest before the fall. Hold on to life with love, and the road will go on! It is a beautiful world, and it is silly to give up in the darkness of your impatience, disbelief, and fear!
If you have gathered the willpower to end a toxic relationship, do it with a bam and celebrate with a fiesta that life keeps on playing music for you - happy or sad you need and you want to keep on dancing (alone, in a couple, or in lines and rounds with many others). You are born to experience (and learn to pulsate in) the rythm of life.
Recommended movie: "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." tells the story of a couple struggling to finally split only to start struggling not to split finally... I understand that we want to end a toxic relationship and don't want to end it at the same time. Hesitation, paradox, counter-intuition, and contradiction are the very fiber of life, and we are conditioned to experience them. They are all too human, but they are also paralyzing our actions. In a universe that accelerates its expansion at this very moment, our inability to keep up with the speed makes us mortal. Whether we end our toxic relationship or not, we will all die. But if you want to change the way you are living, you know what to do.