One of the reasons why leaving a toxic relationship is so hard is because it destroys your self-esteem. You stop thinking of yourself as a catch and start thinking of yourself as a burden.
When you spend months hearing your person criticize you, when they keep saying you’re lucky they put up with you, you start to believe their narrative. You start to look at them as a saint for putting up with your bullshit. You think they’re doing you a favor by dating you. You think you’re lucky you’ve found someone who has stayed with you for such a long time when they could have left at any moment.
When you’re in a toxic relationship, you have a hard time loving yourself, because your person twists every argument to make it your fault. They refuse to take the blame for their mistakes. It they show up late for work, it’s because you didn’t wake them up in time. If they lose track of their phone, it’s because you haven’t cleaned the house in too long. If they cheat on you, it’s because you haven’t been giving them enough attention. They make you feel bad about every little thing. Nothing you do is ever right in their eyes.
Slowly, you start seeing yourself the way they see you. You start assuming you’re a failure, a crazy person, a mess, a bitch. As you start to hate yourself more, you might start to love them more because they have stuck by your side. They haven’t walked away from you, even though they’ve seen all your flaws. Your idea of them gets as warped as your idea of yourself.
Even when you come to your senses and realize this person has been treating you terribly, you have a hard time leaving. You don’t want to go out into the world on your own because you don’t have any faith in yourself. You don’t trust your instincts. You aren’t sure how you would find a place to live without this person, you aren’t sure how you would survive without this person. You stay in a toxic situation for much longer than you should because you think so little of yourself. You aren’t sure you have enough strength to leave, to reassert your independence.
Even though it’s going to be hard to leave, it’s something you have to do. You have to embrace the change. You have to take a chance on yourself for the first time in a long time. You have to admit being alone is much better than staying with a person this cold.
No matter how much confidence you have at the start of your relationship, you’re going to have a hard time loving yourself when you date someone toxic — which is why you need to surround yourself with people who make you feel beautiful, intelligent, talented, valuable. You have to cut out anyone who makes you question your worth and make it your mission to meet more people who appreciate your worth.