1. You’re in denial. When they leave, or you have a big blow up, or however things end, you can let yourself be angry enough to pretend you aren’t hoping they’ll call and try to fix things soon, but eventually it catches up with you. You start to think that maybe, just maybe you imagined all of the bad times, and the good times are all you want to think about.
2. You start to realize, things were never as good as you thought they were. Whether that is realizing the hurtful things they said before things “went wrong,” or realize they weren’t as kind or as thoughtful as you thought, you begin to see things more clearly than ever before, and often times that hurts more than the end of the relationship itself. You no longer have this idealistic picture of how things were and how they could have been. Now, you can only see the truth, and it feels like it might crush you sometimes.
3. You move on, but only so much as to be able to get by. You’ve stopped letting people in the way you let them in because you can’t bear to think they might hurt you in the same way you’ve already been hurt. You’re still holding out hope that you might hear the phone ring one night and their voice pop up on the other line, even though you know they’ve probably long forgotten you. You’ve deleted most of the pictures and thrown away any physical trace they left with you but the one you can’t seem to get rid of is the one no one else can see.
4. You’re doing good, and then someone or something reminds you of them. A picture pops up on Timehop that you were tagged in together. A friend smirks in a way that reminds you of how they looked at you. Whatever it is it stings, and you want to crawl into a hole because suddenly everything is reminding you of them and taking you back to that place where you wish they’d come back even though you know they were awful to you.
5. Something else reminds you of them, but this time, you’re OK. It still stings, and maybe you spend more time thinking about them than you’d like for a little while, but you aren’t so inclined to look up their facebook to see if you’re still blocked, or try and figure out how they’re doing. You are scared by the fact that they no longer have such a grip on you, but at the same time it feels good to know you’re able to stand on your own two feet and feel OK.
I don’t know if the sting ever truly goes away. I don’t know if you ever get to be 100% over it all of the time, but I do know this: getting rid of a toxic relationship is a process. Ending the relationship is just step one in a long list of things that will suck and be painful. In the end though, I have to believe everything happens for a reason, and you have only made space in your life for someone else who will treat you better, love you harder, and drive you crazier than the other person ever could have. Maybe one day the person you left behind will realize how terrible they were to you. Maybe you’ll get to find some resolution and come to a peaceful place. Or, maybe you won’t. Either way, ridding yourself of something toxic only makes more room for something pure, and I can’t imagine that is anything that could be worse than where we’ve been.