“How could I have been so stupid? I don’t even recognize myself anymore. I always thought people who went through this should just get a clue, work on their self-esteem and walk out the door. So how could this have happened to me?”

As a Toxic Relationship Recovery Specialist, I hear these kinds of concerns every day. Even the most intelligent and accomplished people can find it difficult to forgive themselves after the humiliation of a toxic relationship. Yet, so many women in their 50’s are trying to do just that as they leave their relationships and marriages due to psychological and emotional abuse. I am here to tell you that the end of a toxic relationship does not have to be the end of your self- esteem nor does it have to be the end of your most important relationship in this life – the relationship with yourself. In fact, if you do the work required to truly heal then the end of a toxic relationship can actually be the wake up you need to finally create the life you want! The life you truly deserve after so many years of taking care of everyone else.

So, how do you forgive yourself after a toxic relationship so you can stop the feeling of being stuck and finally move forward in creating a life you are excited about living?

Recognize That You Were Playing a Game in Which You Did Not Understand the Rules

When you were little you probably played the board game Sorry. If you are in a truly toxic relationship then you could call the game “Not Sorry.” Toxic people are not sorry when they hurt your feelings, they think it is always their turn, and they don’t see any problem in making you feel bad if it makes them feel better. They constantly switch between victim and hero and quickly tear you down if you have the audacity to point out how they are hurting you. With all the articles and confusion surrounding toxic people how do you know who is truly toxic and who is just having a bad day? A toxic person consistently refuses to play by the same set of rules.

Recognize That You Only See From Your Own Perspective

Have you ever gone back to a playground you went to as a child? When you revisit these places as adults the amusements of your childhood don’t seem nearly as large or as magical as they did when you were a kid. Fast forward to adulthood and we still see from our own perspective. For example, if you are kind, forgiving and constantly looking for ways to improve yourself then you expect others to be kind, forgiving, and looking for ways to improve themselves. Enter the toxic person. They know you see the world from that perspective and they can use that to their every advantage.

So they say things like, “ I thought you were a good person.” or “ You’d think you could forgive, but you are always looking to start a fight.” This makes you feel bad so you drop the conversation and they win. But, because you are a good, kind, forgiving person you don’t realize they are winning because you would never manipulate someone! Forgive yourself. The only reason you didn’t know what to look for in a toxic person is because you are not a toxic person – which is obviously a great thing!

People Love Because of Who They Are Not Because of Who You Are

Whenever you find yourself looking in the mirror and wondering what you can change about yourself to make someone love you I want you to remind yourself that some of the best and brightest people in this world have experienced lies and abuse. Toxic people “love” by finding people to adore them, take care of them, and act as emotional punching bags when the world makes the toxic person angry. If you are a good, kind, and forgiving person then you love because you want to connect, be a part of something bigger than yourself, and because you just feel better when you have someone to love. A toxic person will use your need for connection to pull you back in after they push you away. And, the dance continues…

So, if you have been through the divorce, the break up, the chaos and now your ex is posting pictures with another partner and you think “Gosh they look so happy. It must have been me.” give yourself a good shake and a strong cup of coffee and remember that people love based on who they are not who you are. You couldn’t have changed them, but now you can move forward in life to change yourself.

Sarah K Ramsey is a Toxic Relationship Recovery Specialist who helps amazing women remember how amazing they are after enduring the pain of a toxic partner. Her work has been featured in the Emotional Abuse Recovery Summit as well as the Healing Narcissistic Trauma Conference.   Contact Sarah at sarah@sarahkramsey.com.

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