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Ending the cycle of toxicity

By McKenzie Ward

In February 2020, I made one of the most difficult life choices and decided to end my three-year relationship with someone who I thought was “my person.”

For years I had heard from friends, family, and other people in my life that my significant other at the time was my “perfect person” and I constantly heard, “So, when’s the wedding?”

I remember the quiet chuckle I would let out every time I heard that question because I remember thinking, “They really don’t know how bad it truly is, do they?”

Long nights of fighting and then early mornings of “I love you” and “I didn’t mean anything I said.”

You didn’t mean to tell me how I was essentially not good enough for you?

How do you accidentally tell someone that?

After months of walking on eggshells, I decided I had enough and left, shocking everyone in my life – myself included.

It has been a year since I last spoke more than 20 words to that person.

I thought ending the relationship and not going back to them would be the hardest part of the journey, and at first it was.

No one informed me that the hardest part would be the first healthy relationship after a toxic one.

It took me almost a full year of bad first dates, red flags bright enough that they could light up

Broadway, and lots of deleting and then redownloading dating apps for me to find someone who not only respects me, but wants a healthy relationship and is willing to work for it.

It wasn’t until my current relationship that I truly realized how traumatized I was from my previous relationship, and I have been asking myself, “This is supposed to be your breath of fresh air, why is this so hard?”

What I had failed to realize during my journey of ending the cycle of toxicity is that I didn’t know what a healthy relationship was like. All I knew was toxic dependence on another human.

Every day is a constant struggle. I often find myself overthinking and overanalyzing every text, call, and mood change in fear that I did something wrong because for three years, every issue was made to seem like I was the one to blame.

I have had to teach myself that every argument isn’t going to end in screaming and ignoring each other, but that healthy communication with my partner is possible and essential for a relationship.

Dating someone new who has good intentions is like learning how to ride a bicycle. There are going to be days when you fall flat on your face because you begin self-sabotaging the relationship by believing you’re not worthy of love. But then you look behind you and you can see your partner cheering you on reminding you why you are working so hard for your happiness.

Although I am with someone who cares about me, who is always willing to sing with me in the car despite me being tone deaf, who will listen to me babble on about the American Revolution – it is still hard. I am constantly learning healthy relationship traits and unlearning the toxic traits that for years I thought were normal.

One thing I have had to come to terms with when learning how to be in a healthy relationship is that relationships are far from perfect. And often times those Disney fairytale relationships can be some of the most toxic ones.

To those who are still in a toxic relationship, whether they know it yet or not, I promise you, you will one day have the courage to leave.

And to those who are in their first healthy relationship after a toxic one, there are going to be bad days. But don’t let one bad day in the relationship deter you from the happiness that everyone deserves.

Leaving an abusive relationship is not something you have to do alone.

Domestic Violence Programs Hotlines


Voices Against Violence 1-800-593-1125


National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7 Crisis Hotline: (800) 799-7233

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