Don’t Let Them Steal Your Joy

Don’t Let Them Steal Your Joy

Toxic Behaviour

5 Strategies to Respond to Toxic Behaviour

People with toxic behaviour are difficult to handle. I had my fair share of them. How about you? Toxic relationships influence our well-being and reduce our sense of joy. We feel confused or irritated. Maybe we feel completely overpowered, hopeless and hurt. I am not sure about you but I felt all those emotions. I felt stuck and powerless.

You cannot change toxic behaviour; You can change your response

Unfortunately, we cannot change other people’s actions, no matter how unjust or unhealthy it is. Only they can change it if they are willing to do so. While we cannot influence their behaviour, we can influence our responses. The toxic relationships that I experienced in my life taught me an important lesson about self-love, self-acceptance, and empowerment. Just to make it very clear: I am not saying that you are responsible for the toxic behaviour in any way but you cannot control how a person treats you. Their toxic actions are their responsibility; you can only control how you respond to it.

Unfortunately, we do not live in the ideal world. There are people in our society who behave in a toxic way. Sometimes, those people are our beloved family members, partners, or friends. We don’t want to lose them but we also don’t want to allow them to overpower us.

So, how can we be around them and not allow them to steal our joy?

I invite you to experiment with the following suggestions:

Put some distance

If a person has toxic relationship behaviours, you might feel as you are inside of a dark cloud. You may feel very confused. The longer you stay in this toxic cycle, the more likely you are to lose self-esteem and confidence. Put some distance between you and the person with unhealthy relationship behaviours: maybe you limit the number of phone calls, or you define some topics you will not talk about with this person. If you live with them, you may go for walks alone or take a weekend trip alone. Distance will help you to increase your clarity and work through your emotions.

Find an ally

If you are in a toxic relationship, it is important that you find allies with who you can talk about it. This individual can be a friend, a colleague, or maybe even a counsellor. Make sure that your ally is a person who knows what toxic relationship dynamics are. The person needs to be able to help you to identify and acknowledge the unhealthy relationship behaviours. A person who finds excuses for toxic behaviours doesn’t qualify as an ally. Talking about the behaviours and your emotions will support you in your journey of self-empowerment.

Set Healthy Boundaries

Boundaries protect your dignity and your emotional well-being. An individual with toxic behaviours needs firm boundaries or they will exploit you. Start with small steps. Don’t tackle the most difficult topic first. Ask yourself the following questions: what do you need to say no to? What behaviours do you need to say stop to?  What discussions do you need to agree to disagree? Setting healthy boundaries is a journey of self-exploration. The better you get to know yourself, the easier it is to set healthy boundaries.

Take Self-Care

Being around an individual with toxic behaviour is difficult. It affects our mental and emotional well-being. Therefore, it is important that you take self-care to reduce the effect of the manipulative behaviours. Ask yourself what activities you enjoy doing. Do them regularly. Start journaling about your emotions. Take care of your body and do some physical activities that you enjoy. Explore your spiritual site even though you may never have done it before.

Get to Know Your Unmet Needs

Usually, it is hard to get our needs met if we are in a toxic relationship. However, talking about your needs can give you clarity about what your partner is willing to change or not. Ask yourself about the needs you do not get met and what concrete action you need from your partner. Prioritize your list and identify those that are non-negotiable for you. Communicate the need and request to your partner if they are willing to do it. If they agree, it could be a sign that they are willing to change. If they disagree with your requests, it could be a sign that this relationship just won’t work for you. This clarity can be a good foundation for you if you face a decision about staying or leaving a relationship. In the end, you have a right to choose relationships that are good for you.

After reading this article, I am curious what action you choose to start today. If you do not take action, nothing will ever change. If you need any support, I am happy to be there for you.

Find out more about how I can help you.

You can download a needs inventory from the Centre for Non-Violent Communication.

Photo by Emerson Peters on Unsplash

How to Break Free From Unhealthy Relationships

What unhealthy relationships do you experience in your life?

Throughout my life, I had a fair share of unhealthy relationships, whether it was my sister or a close friend. Being in these relationships, I often felt confused and powerless. It felt easy to blame the other person for their behaviour. However, I also noticed that I had a responsibility for unhealthy dynamics. Don’t get me wrong, I do not think that their unhealthy behaviour was ok. They were responsible for it. However, the reality is that blaming them for their behaviour did not allow me to make better choices for myself. Some people may change, others won’t. Therefore, I asked myself how I could empower myself in these situations. I chose to be honest with myself and reflected on the dynamics.

What is holding you back from making healthier choices?

Overtime, I found out important principles that help me break free from unhealthy relationships. They also helped me choose healthy relationships in my life.

Stop making excuses

I noticed that I excused and explained their unhealthy behaviour, but I did not respect my boundaries. In the case of my sister, I deeply loved her and I knew her. I understood why she behaved the way she did since we have grown up in a dysfunctional family. I saw the abused child in her but I never saw in her the adult who was now responsible for their choices. She never chose to heal herself and break the cycle of violence. She never changed her unhealthy behaviour and violated my boundaries. I stopped excusing her and saw the adult she now was.

Hold people accountable for their behaviour

Therefore, I was able to hold her accountable for her actions – or inactions. I addressed the behaviour that was not ok for me and requested her to change. While I have compassion for people’s suffering, I stopped making excuses and took care of my boundaries.

Heal your blind spots

While it took me a while to recognize it, my sister and my best friend knew my insecurities better than I knew them. Each time I did something that they did not like, they used those aspects of me that I felt guilty for or insecure about against me. They were those parts of me that I avoided looking at because they were painful or I considered them as being worthless. The more I was able to take care of those parts, accept them and integrate them, the more I was able to liberate myself from emotional blackmail. I was able to stand up for myself and confront what was going on.

Acknowledge your needs

Last but not least, I sat down with my painful emotions and asked myself what the unmet need was underneath it. For example, in my relationship with my former best friend, I noticed that I often felt angry or bored and I asked myself what need I did not get out of this relationship. My friend never shared his story, and I needed this to feel connected with him. I asked myself what I needed in this relationship to continue with it.

You can make requests, but you cannot command people to change

I reflected on the specific behaviours I could request from him to get them met. I also marked those needs that were essential to continue with the relationship. Later, I had a conversation with him and explained my requests. He denied all of them. While it was a difficult conversation, it gave me the clarity I needed to let go of the relationship. It suddenly became easy.

If you do not take action, nothing will ever change

I am not saying that breaking free from an unhealthy relationship means that you have to let go of it. There is no definite rule for it, it depends on the other person and what you are willing to tolerate or where your boundaries are. However, stopping to find excuses, healing your blind spots and acknowledging your needs will help you to gain clarity about what your options are.

Change is uncomfortable, but nothing is as painful as staying where you are

While it is easy to write about it, I do not necessarily think that it is simple to implement when we are in the middle of an unhealthy relationship dynamic because our emotions may be messy – we may feel confused, angry, devastated, powerless, and full of doubts. Therefore, I think that it is a sign of strength to get help when you are in an unhealthy situation. At least, this is the promise I gave myself if I ever ended up in an unhealthy relationship again.

Check out my program “Break Free From Unhealthy Relationships.”

Stalking is Not OK

Stalking

It was a dark night in November when the doorbell rang at 6 p.m. I pushed the button to open the door, thinking that it must be a delivery. I felt safe. Someone entered but did not turn on the light and I wondered why. I heard the heavy footsteps walking from door to door on the main floor, as if searching for something…or someone. My inner voice told me to shut the door and hide. Suddenly, I knew it was him. I closed the door and looked through the peephole. A couple minutes later my father appeared. After 10 years, he had finally found me – despite my secret address and safety plan.

Stalking is a potential threat. You need a safety plan.

My father was emotionally abusive throughout my life. He told me how often I had to see him twice a month. Each time, I visited him, he sent his wife into the sleeping room for two hours and brainwashed me. He badmouthed my mother’s family and blamed them to be solely responsible for his misfortune. He told me that the last cruelty my mother had done before her death was to allow me to study. As a woman, an apprenticeship would have been good enough for me. He told me that my mother’s cancer was God’s penalty because she had left him. He treated me like a possession. He never took responsibility for his actions or showed any intent to change. He was always right, I was always wrong.

Stalking is not about misguided love

When I was 28, I cut contact with him because I was sick and tired of being abused. From that day on, he stalked me. Since he did not have my private address, he sent letters to my workplace. His letters contained abusive content: blaming me for not respecting him, intimidating me, badmouthing my mother’s family or talking to me as if I was three years old. I filed a police report and got a secret address so that he could not find out where I lived. I also developed a safety plan so that I would know what to do if he were to find me. Still, after 10 years, he had somehow gotten my address and was at my door.

Stalking is about power and control

16 years after cutting contact and even after moving abroad, my father still stalks me as soon as he got an idea where I might be. He sends me postcards and letters which I cannot be returned because they have no return address. On the surface they may seem benign, but….

I cannot change his actions and I will never understand what goes on in his mind. However, I have found a way to empower and keep myself safe.

Stalking is never ok. Stalking is not a sign of misguided love, it is about power and control. Stalking is a criminal offense in Canada. If you are being stalked, you are not alone. Here are some suggestions that have helped me. Hopefully, you will find something that resonates with you.

What can you do if somebody stalks you?

It is not your fault

Stalking is confusing, intimidating and abusive. It is difficult to process it emotionally. The following sentences were my mantra to keep myself sane:

  • You have a right to say “no” to family members.
  • You have a right to cut contact with family members.
  • If they decide to stalk you, it is their choice.
  • Stalking is abusive and it is not ok.
  • You are not responsible for their behavior.
  • It is not your fault.

Create a safety plan

If you’re being stalked, you need to establish a safety plan. I always have a safety plan in place. I will never know to what extremes my father may go, but I want to keep myself as safe as possible.

Talk to the police

I am not saying that it was comfortable, but when I lived in Germany, I went to the police and got the best protection I could. I also got a secret address so that my father could not find me. You may also want to file a police report and discuss measures on how you can keep yourself safe. Know your rights and claim them. Keep notes about the occasions when your stalker tries to contact you.

Share with people who believe you

I was fortunate enough to always find people who believed me. I shared the fact that my father was stalking me with friends, police, and employers to protect myself. Unfortunately, I have also met people who did not believe me. They were counsellors, friends, family members and, more than 20 years ago, even the police. Although society has changed a lot in recent years, not everybody understands the dynamics of violence and there still is a tendency to blame the victim and to deny violence. The reasons vary. Acknowledging that a family member is abusive is painful and denial or minimizing can be a powerful protection. However, minimization and denial is not ok. It is important that you trust your guts as to with whom you share your story. If somebody doesn’t believe you, you can choose to distance yourself. Surround yourself with people who support and believe you.

Get professional support to heal yourself

Stalking is intended to confuse and terrorize you and to ultimately leave you feeling hopelessness and powerlessness. It can be hard to work through on your own. I got professional help from a counsellor to deal with the effects of my father’s behaviour. In the end, I cannot control what he does, but I have full control over how I deal with it and how I allow it to affect my life.

After my father appeared on my doorstep that night, I phoned the victim’s department of the police. They knew my case. The officer said that she would phone my father to let him know that I did not want contact with him. A couple of hours, she phoned back, she told me: “I have many years experience in the department for victims of violence. I have talked to your father and I know that you have every reason to fear him.”
Her words were the most healing I had ever heard in the ordeal with my father’s stalking.

The cruel side of stalking is that there is no true justice. It is extremely hard to stop a stalker because they often know how to operate to escape being charged. I will have a safety plan until the day my father dies. However, I choose to give him the least attention possible and, to instead, to focus on living a happy and fulfilling life. I believe that is the best protection I have.

Further resources about stalking

Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime

This resource offers information about the legal situation in Canada as well as ways to create a safety plan.

Local Crisis Lines

Domestic Violence Helplines

Blame May Damage Your Relationship

My colleagues and left the fairground. My feet were hurting. I was happy to feel the sun on my face and to leave the noise of the exhibition hall behind me. My phone was ringing. I picked it up. “You left a rotten mango on the kitchen table,” my partner yelled at me. I felt irritated about his blame.

Do you think that blame could ruin a relationship?

His phone call wasn’t the warm welcome I had expected. What was he talking about? I had left the mango in the kitchen because he liked them. I took a deep breath and said, “It was ok when I left.” He continued yelling. “And you didn’t clean up the apartment. It’s full of cat’s hair.” His voice was full of contempt. He was partially right. I had left on Sunday without having cleaned the house completely. I did not have time for it. Who has set up a rule that I have to do everything on my own? My inner voice whispered in my ear. I started to feel angry but I did not bother to say anything. I did not see any sense in it. He continued yelling. I hung up How long will he continue to blame me for everything? I asked myself silently.

Constant blame ruins a relationship

This blame game had been going on since a couple of years. I felt a sense of powerlessness. Three months ago, I had asked him to go to couple’s therapy and he had refused it vehemently. That night in the hotel room, I cried myself to sleep. I couldn’t take the blame anymore. I had taken it long enough. That night, I decided to leave him despite the pain and heartbreak the separation would cause. Blame is toxic for a relationship and constant blame damages a relationship. When he blamed me, I felt disconnected from him, I only understood everything I did wrong but I never got a sense what I could do better. After our break-up, I started to look for healthy ways to communicate.

Promise yourself a no-blame policy

Nowadays, I have promised myself a no-blame policy in my relationships. It is mutual. I don’t blame others, but I take care of my emotions and communicate them assertively. What are my unmet needs and desires that are hidden in these emotions? This helps me to communicate properly and keep my boundaries intact. If somebody blames me, I ask them to stop, give them empathy and inquire about their feelings and what they really want. This helps me to understand them better. It also gives me a choice – I can decide whether I can give them what they want. In the end, I don’t want to mess up other people’s lives but create something with them that makes their life more beautiful. For me, that’s what relationships are all about.

Will you promise yourself to refrain from blaming?

Do you want to read more? Check out my memoir “A Brave, True Story.

 

What’s your Secret Story about Childhood Abuse?

Abuse in Relationships

One hundred people – therapists, counsellors, social workers and clients – in a room. All is silent. What’s next? They are looking at her. She sits next to the therapist, her head down. What were the incidents in your relationship with your family?  The therapist asks. Sexual abuse and violence. Her voice breaks. A shocked murmur spreads.

Are You an Adult Survivor of Childhood Abuse?

How many years didn’t I dare to look into others people eyes due to the sexual and emotional violence of my past? For how many years did I feel stigmatized due to the generic judgment of being a hopeless case? For how long had I allowed other people’s opinion to define my worthiness? My answer is, for too long.

How about you?

How does this murmur make her feel? I look at her. She shrinks in her seat. You can never overcome the effects of abuse. Poor thing, she’ll never recover. The voice of my colleague – a counsellor – cuts through my thoughts.  I open my mouth, and I want to tell her, it is possible to heal abuse and violence. That is my experience. It is my truth. How to find words to express what can’t be described but only experimented? My rational mind never fully understood the transformation I went through. The more I was able to own my pain, the more I was able to experience joy. How can I express this to her?  I search for words. There is nothing. Silence. I shrink in my seat and feel small and powerless again. I lower my head and stay silent.

What is your secret story about childhood abuse?

The one I told – I called it A Brave, True Story – is mine. I wrote it for the woman on the chair. It is my intimate message to tell her that she is not alone. And it’s also for you if you feel like her.

Healing is beyond logical explanations. Meaning what? Healing is about becoming whole again. About reclaiming those parts of you that seemed to be lost in trauma and pain. A re-connection with your inner child to give them the love they have never received before. There will come this moment, when your inner child fully awake, full of joy, curiosity, innocence, dignity and intuition. Do you know how innocence feels like? I lost mine when I was three. I didn’t know what it was.

Recovery is about personal growth. While the trauma felt devastating, there is post-traumatic growth. Healing is about finding a safe space within yourself and take responsibility for your needs and dreams. Reclaiming your well-being is about letting go of the invisible barriers you have build around your heart and learn to love again, first of all yourself. Wholeness is also about finding empowering ways to deal with stigma.

What is essential for healing abuse?

Telling and owning your story makes the difference between merely surviving or really living. How does this feel? I don’t know what it will feel like for you but for me living means feeling. My image is that living is like a joyous dance to your favorite music, and you move and dance while you feel a sensation of deep joy in your body. Like looking at my cats and seeing their smiles and happiness. Like feeling the heat of the sun on my face, smelling the air after rainfall or seeing the fresh green leaves on the trees.  Simply, it’s a deep gratitude for being alive. A sensation of bliss that feels like exploding balloons filled with a multitude of bright colors. It’s feeling the embrace of a friend.

What can you do to heal the effects of childhood abuse?

No, I don’t want to force you to tell your story but I invite you to take your time, continuously taking small steps towards telling your story with full transparency. Rest assured that, however small, effects will be seen quickly and will empower you to keep moving.

Blame, criticism and judgment – both internal and external – can be powerful to silence your voice forever. And, if you are like me, you’re probably the one who gives yourself the harshest criticism. You perhaps try to adapt, to fit in, to be perfect and fulfill excessive demands about whom, how and what you should be. If you allow this to happen, you pay a price: you can never experience deep connection and true belonging in a relationship. If you try to fit in, you may end up with who you want to be and get some approval however they do not care about you but the illusion you play for them. Deep in your heart, you know that they don’t truly care for you.

What is genuine connection?

How can somebody truly connect with you if you don’t show them who you are – with your strength and weaknesses? How can you ever belong if you hide behind a mask, deeply afraid that somebody may find out about your secret?

How can I ask you to show up if I am not doing it? This is why I share these words with you, the reason why I wrote my memoir.

What is the healing power of telling your story?

Stories have the power to heal because they talk to your subconscious and can guide it gently into a new direction. They give you new pictures and perspectives for your situation you haven’t yet seen. They are like a protective cloak because they allow you to release painful emotions like shame and guilt without ever entering your story. And they show you that you are not alone in your situation. Aren’t we all human? What is so bad about being real? Why should we hide our imperfections and weaknesses when they make us human and our common humanity is our only hope to connect?

As a counsellor, I give to my clients what helped me during my own healing journey. I will not tell you what to do but I will collaborate with you so that you find the answers you need. You are the expert in your life and you have the power to transform your past.

Check out how I can help you.

Did the Partner You Love Leave You?

No Love

Well, the man I’ve loved most in my life left me. It happened more than two years ago. He was my best friend and the man I trusted most in my life. The beginning of our romantic relationship was supposed to be the brilliant ending of my memoir A Brave, True Story. Our story became the final chapter and the greatest defeat of my life – at least that was how I felt about it.

Do you feel the same?

Let me tell you how this story continued:

I looked at the screen. An email arrived. Message from Ben – the man I had loved most in my life. He had disappeared without ever calling me after we had become lovers. I couldn’t believe it. Under shock, I opened it. It said, Welcome to Canada! I am glad that you’ve made it. How are you? What do you do? I wasn’t sure what to do, but my intuition told me that I should answer…

A couple of weeks later, we talked to each other on the phone. He said, well, I know that our ending wasn’t the best… His voice sounded hesitant. I sighed. Our break-up had been horribly painful for me. But was it still a defeat? I took a deep breath and looked at my life as it was right now: I lived in the country I loved, I had found wonderful new friends, I did the work I loved, I was happier than ever before, and I was on my way to realizing my greatest dreams. No, our ending hadn’t been good, but it has given me the courage to fully commit to my path and to become the best version of me. Suddenly, the greatest defeat became a different meaning. I replied, Yes, it was painful. But it was the best thing that has ever happened to me. I have become the woman I always wanted to be. His voice sounded a bit insecure when he responded, They say that’s possible.

Do you want to transform your defeat, too?

Losing him was very painful, and I was in a crisis. I just wanted to run away from the pain. However, the pain can’t heal this way. I decided to transform myself and make the best out of this apparent defeat:

  • Setting an intention to be happy beyond belief.
    It was a moment when I felt down. My friend was the only person in my life I had never expected to lose. But I didn’t want to get stuck in bitterness, I wanted to make a landfall and to become happier than I could ever imagine. I wanted to move beyond any limitations from my family I was still subconsciously holding on to. If I didn’t start now, when would I ever do it? Do you choose to be happy beyond belief? 
  • Trusting and following your inner voice.
    I set down with myself and took an honest look at all areas of my life: What worked well? Where did I feel frustrated? Where was I aligned with my values and my truth? In which areas was I disconnected from myself? I noticed that there were still some relationships where I gave my power away. I asked my inner wisdom: What can I do to change it? Then, I gathered all my courage and took action. I repeated this process over and over again until I felt that I was who I wanted to be. Do you choose to follow your inner voice?
  • Healing your inner child.
    The rejection of my friend connected me deeply with the trauma of feeling unwanted in my family. I took the time to take care of my inner child and to heal her wounds. I allowed the emotions to emerge and released them. Later, I did some rituals to forgive myself and to forgive my friend. What emotions do you want to release?

A crisis is painful, but it can also be an opportunity to grow and to transform your life. My crisis has been a catalyst for positive change in my life. Even though I already had been on a good path before, it gave me the strength to radically love and accept myself. I stopped to give my power to people I deeply loved, and I quit judging myself. I stood up against negative beliefs, worries, and self-doubts, and I allowed myself to show up as I was with all my imperfections. I fully committed to following my path no matter what other people said.

Being who we are and following our path is like peeling an onion, and we may need to release some layers before we get there. However, if we take this effort, we allow us to be happy and to experience true love and belonging. And that’s what we are looking for, aren’t we?

Loss of Self-Confidence – Sign of Emotional Abuse?

emotional abuse

It started slowly. It was hard to put a finger on it. I felt like a failure, unworthy. I had a sense that I was fighting with an invisible enemy. Who was it? Were these the effects of emotional abuse? I wasn’t sure, but I knew I had to deal with it.

Do you suspect that emotional abuse is part of your life?

I could not really put a finger on it. My work fulfilled me and I was happy with my life. Why had I lost so much self-confidence? My choice was to dig deeper and look at my relationships. I was wondering whether there were any people who were emotionally abusive towards me. The question did not feel comfortable, but I decided to be honest with myself and observed what happened in my relationships.

Start with being honest with yourself

I started to observe the relationship with my sister. We weren’t really close because we lived in different countries and were really different. But something seemed off. I started to label her behaviours. She constantly criticized my work. When I shared my dream to move to Canada, she told me that I would never make it. When I did something she did not like, she yelled at me. She belittled my professional achievements. She ridiculed my spirituality. When her cat was diagnosed with terminal cancer, I told her that I could send him Reiki but I also told her that it would only allow him to die gentler. She agreed and I sent him Reiki. Six months after his death, she accused me that I had killed her cat. I didn’t know anymore what to say. Did I wanted to be treated that way? No, not at all. I decided to give me a time-out and didn’t contact her for a while.

Step away from people who appear toxic to you

The distance helped me to see things more clearly. As I’ve shared in my memoir “A Brave, True Story”, I grew up in a family with abusive relationships. Guilt was a way to hold the family together. My family denied the existence of any higher power. When I grew older, I chose a different path. I move beyond the conditioning I had received in my childhood. I learned that it was possible to have nurturing and loving relationships and I knew how to do it. My sister had never started this journey. Growth was not important for her.

After I healed myself, I wanted to support her on her journey to overcome our childhood experiences by being a role model. However, I did not realize that she never wanted to. From her and my family’s perspective, healing was impossible, spirituality was something for crazy people, and counselling was only for the outcasts of society. Since I knew her so well, I had found excuses for her abusive behaviour. She just repeated what she had learned in her childhood. However, she was also an adult and responsible for what she did. In order to have a healthy relationship, she would have needed to change, too.

Emotional abuse is not ok.

As a result of her emotionally abusive behaviour, I had lost self-confidence. It had been a slow process that affected me on a deep level. I would never have expected that the influence was so deep since we did not live in the same country, but it was. I told my sister that she either would need to do counselling or I would refuse to have contact with her. She refused counselling and I ended our relationship. It was the hardest decision of my life, but it was the loving decision towards myself.  Emotionally abusive behaviour affects my physical, emotional and mental health, and eats away my soul. I was not willing to accept it in my life anymore. I can’t heal my sister’s past, nor can I save her. That’s her responsibility and whatever choice she takes it’s up to her. I can only take responsible for myself and protect myself from emotional abuse. As long as my sister does not take responsibility for her abusive behaviour and seeks professional help, she will repeat it.

Ending abusive relationships is a path to freedom

I grieved the end of our relationship and focused on taking care of myself. My inner dialog was very negative. My sister’s voice was constantly in my head, telling me: “You’ll never make it.” Dance and positive affirmation helped me to transform my inner dialogue. I went to counselling to work through the difficult emotions connected with emotional abuse and chose to forgiving myself and her. Overtime, her influence faded away and my self-confidence returned. I promised myself to keep my life free of emotionally abusive behaviour. Based on my experience that is the wisest and most empowering choice that I can take for myself.

How about you?

Do you want to read more? Read my memoir “A Brave, True Story.”

What if you’re in an on-again, off-again relationship?

When I fell in love with my colleague, I was in heaven. He seemed to be all I ever wanted.

The moments we spent together were beautiful: We walked through the city during a full moon night, enjoyed romantic dinners at our favourite Indian restaurant, visited an exhibition or went to a spa. He appreciated who I was and had a good sense of humour. We had similar interests, and we seem to fit well together. In the beginning, I did not bother that he didn’t send me messages and that he wouldn’t answer my calls. I was just happy about the perspective of seeing him again. It changed when we had been on a business trip to Taiwan together. We spend a full week together, in meetings during the day and strolling through the city at night. Then, I visited a friend in Singapore, and he headed back home. I sent him a couple of messages and never received an answer. I tried to call him, and he never answered my calls. My confusion about his behaviour transformed into hurt.

Do you experience the same?

After a while, I noticed a pattern. Each time when we became close, he would disappear, go on a business trip and stop answering the phone. I wasn’t able to talk to him about our relationship or our future. After six months, it became even worse. He sent me a message that he would break up. After a couple of weeks, he came back and continued our relationship as if nothing had happened. When it happened the second time, I decided that it was the last time that I would return. I wanted a partner who wanted to have a committed relationship.

What patterns do you experience?

I wasn’t happy about this pattern, and I felt very confused because I wasn’t able to let him go at first. But there were some invisible strings that I wasn’t aware of that made it impossible for me to leave him:

  • Desire to heal and save my partner.
    When I met my partner, I sensed his loneliness and pain, and I wanted to heal his wounds. I focused more on his pain than on myself. I repeated a pattern that I had learned early in my childhood – taking on the responsibility for the lives of the people I loved. I thought more about him than about myself. I tried to understand his inner world more than I wanted to understand mine. This relationship taught me that I could neither heal nor rescue my partner, but that I can heal and rescue myself. And so I did. What do you need to heal within yourself?
  • Lack of self-love.
    When I started this relationship, I had no idea what self-love meant and how I could practice it. I was used to caring for other people and fulfill their needs. I didn’t know what my needs were and how to fulfill them. I considered my partner’s needs as more important than my own. During our time together, I learned that our needs were equally important. I started to understand my needs, such as stability, support, and closeness, and I acknowledged that my partner couldn’t cover these needs. What are your needs in a relationship?
  • Lack of worthiness.
    Deep inside, I was convinced that I didn’t deserve something better. I didn’t feel worthy of love, and I accepted this as being true. After this relationship, I started to challenge the truth of these beliefs and found out that I was worthy of love, no matter what had happened in my childhood. Love is a feeling, and I may fall in love with the wrong man but I still have a choice… love doesn’t have to be suffering because a relationship is a choice. It’s up to me that I choose a man with whom love is joy, not suffering.

What holds you back from choosing a man with whom love is joy?

After the end of this relationship, I learned to love myself, connected with my soul and re-established my worthiness. I found ways how love can expand in a relationship and committed to my vision of a fabulous relationship. I healed those invisible strings that made me stay with the wrong partner. With all its confusion, this relationship was an important turning point in my life that opened the door to experience true love. And I am deeply grateful for this.

What learning do you want to make?

I’d love to read your comments below.

Do you like to read more?  Check this article:  Do you fall into these love traps?

How to Deal with an Abusive Relationship with a Parent?

Abusive Relationship

I always had an abusive relationship with my father. Maybe it all started with my conception. While my father only wanted one child, my mother wanted two. To make her dream reality, she secretly stopped taking the pill and became pregnant again. She betrayed him. Her story was that my father went on holidays alone shortly after I was born. How does a man feel if he becomes a father of a child he never wanted? I cannot answer this, but the abusive relationship became an important theme in my life.

My parents separated when I was one and I saw my father two years later again. The following two decades, I was torn between my infantile need to be approved by my father and rejecting him because of his manipulative personality traits. When I was 12, I cut contact with my father for the first time. His badmouthing about my mother’s family had become too much.

I saw him again when he got married to his new wife a couple of years later. Deep in my heart, I hoped that this new relationship had transformed him and he would have stopped blaming my mother. I was wrong. Nothing had changed.

My mother died when I was 19, and I hoped that her death would put his mind at ease, sooner or later. The little girl within me wanted to get his approval. Eight years later, his torrent of hatred against my mother and her family persisted. It was unbearable to listen to him any longer. His stories never changed.

Does a daughter have the right to cut contact with her father?

At that stage, I wasn’t sure. My father’s favorite bible quote was “You have to honor your father.” He used it each time when he wanted to impose his opinion on me. Sometimes I asked myself silently, and a father – how is he supposed to treat his child?

One day, I finally woke up and accepted that I would never receive affection from him. He was unable to give it. I was sick and tired of his repetitive stories and his unforgiving attitude. I cut contact with him. It wasn’t easy or comfortable, but it felt right. It was not for his sake, but for mine. Even though, I didn’t know it at that time, it was one of the most caring acts I ever did for myself.

Do you have the right to cut contact with your parents?

I faced many opinions. Abusive relationships are still a secret nobody wants to talk about. Some people looked at me disapprovingly; a couple of counselors told me that I had to meet him and hug him to be able to forgive him. In a way, they gave me the responsibility for his unhealthy behaviour. Other therapists approved my decision and told me that I had to find the right distance to be at peace with him. I only felt at peace when I was far away from him. My last therapist told me that she felt glad that I stayed away from him. I felt the same.

Who knows what’s right or wrong?

Each opinion reflected the perspective the other person had, their story and their values. It is hard to accept that families, the place where children should be safe, sheltered and nurtured, can be violent and harmful. I guess that many people who grow up in a healthy environment have no idea how a family with abusive relationships look like. How much did they know about my experience and my inner process that led to my decision? Not much.

My father continued his abuse by stalking me

Years after I cut contact, I still had a secret address so that my father couldn’t find me. But one day, he did. I called a police officer from the victim’s department, and she phoned him. Later, she told me that he would insist on having the right to see me. She asked me whether I would be willing to do so. I said, no. I just wanted to have my freedom. She continued: I have many years of experience with victims of violence. I know that you have every reason to fear him. It was the first time that somebody outside my family confirmed my truth about him, and her comment helped me to believe in my intuition and release my doubts. Unfortunately, blaming the victim is still part of our society, and it was a relief to hear the words I needed most: I believe you. It is not your fault.

Dealing with an abusive relationship as an adult

We can’t choose our family and, as a child, we get used to accepting what is. However, as an adult, as an adult we choose how we want to relate to them. We are not obliged to stay in a situation that is toxic for us. Everybody has the right to find the distance we need to protect ourselves and we have the right to cut contact. I cannot tell you what the right answer is for your specific case. But I invite you that you trust your inner voice because the only person who knows the correct answer is you. You don’t owe anybody an explanation. You don’t need anybody’s approval. The only thing you need to do is to take care of yourself.

What to do if the abusive relationship had ended?

After ending the abusive relationship with my father, I started a different journey: Healing the effects his emotional abusive behaviour had on me. I gave myself the space to forgive and heal my heart. I grieved that I never had the father I truly wanted as a child. While I never want to have a connection with him in real life, I can accept that he is my father. As long as I rejected him, I also rejected parts of myself. In a spiritual way, he’s now closer to me than he has ever been in my life. Sometimes, the best option to love somebody is without having a relationship with them.

Whatever decision you are facing, I know that you will make the right choice for yourself and your life.

Do you need support making this decision? Check out how I can support you.

Do you want to find out more about the abusive relationship with my father? Find out more about my memoir A Brave, True Story on amazon.ca.

What if You Are In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship?

“It’s like a dream. I always wanted to be together with an independent partner like you are. And now I’ve met you.” He said this after we had talked intensively about our lives. And he was right. It had been a beautiful start for a relationship. I thought that he was honest. And this stage, I had no reason to doubt his words. I felt happy and very lucky.

Toxic dynamics are not visible in the beginning

The relationship seemed to continue in a good direction. We planned our future and did many activities together. We went hiking and spent our summer holidays at a meditation retreat. Then, I went away for a weekend because I attended a wedding of a friend. When I returned, he picked me up at the airport. Everything had changed.

Trust your inner voice

I was excited to see him, and saw a man with a different face. He started to argue. I felt confused in the beginning. Each day, he found another thing I didn’t do right. I became angry because I didn’t want to be treated like this. No matter what I did, it was not right for him. I felt drained. I gave him a warning. He apologized and promised to change. However, he continued with the same manipulative game. My inner voice said, it’s time to go. This situation isn’t good for you at all. The one thing I learned from dealing with manipulative behaviour is to trust my gut. If it says something is off, I take action.

Do they keep their promises?

The problem with people who have manipulative behaviour is that they promise a lot but they do not change their behaviour. He apologized constantly for his behaviour, but the next moment, he behaved the same way. Luckily, I was able to see the toxic dynamic very early. I didn’t doubt my decision to leave him for a moment. There is one rule I have for relationships: I do not tolerate any form of violence – and manipulation is a form of violence. As a child, I grew up with emotionally abusive relationship, I did not have a choice. I did not know anything else. As an adult, I have a choice. I choose healthy relationships. This is a promise I gave myself many years ago. How about you?

Keep firm boundaries

My ex-partner couldn’t believe it. He waited for me in a park where I volunteered to feed a colony of abandoned cats. He wanted another chance; he promised to change, just another time. Just give me a month, he said, and I rejected. But he did not stop there and continued to disrespect my boundaries. Your partner’s promises may sound sweet and tempting but don’t fall into them. They are part of the game.

Resist the presents

I sat in a workshop. The doorbell rang. My spiritual teacher opened and came back with a huge bouquet of flowers. She said, It’s for you. I had just told her the story about my ex-partner and those flowers were the last thing I ever wanted to receive. I felt angry because he didn’t respect my boundaries for another time. I said, I don’t want them. She looked surprised and said, you can’t do this. They are beautiful. I replied, you know that they come with the wrong intention, don’t you? Living compassionately doesn’t mean that I allow somebody to manipulate me. She sighed, you’re right. Giving gifts is another way to control you. Do not buy into them.

Work through your emotions

Even though I wasn’t responsible for his manipulative behavior, it took me a while to release shame, guilt and humiliation. Luckily, I was able to identify his toxic behaviours very early in our relationship. However, it is never easy to be around people with manipulative behaviour. The relationship lasted only a couple of months, but I needed some time to forgive myself for having fallen in love with him.

Love yourself more than a partner with manipulative behaviour

Emotional abuse is difficult to spot in the beginning and you may notice it when you are already in a committed relationship. While you can’t choose who you fall in love with, you have a choice on how you want to handle it when you recognize manipulative behaviour.  You have many different options on how to deal with it. Important is that you make choices that are good for you. Emotional abuse leaves deep wounds on your soul, eats away your sense of worthiness and your belief in yourself. You can’t change your past but you can start today to heal yourself and become whole.

Seek help

Manipulative behaviour is confusing and it is good if you do not handle it alone. It is a sign of strength to ask for professional help. It will help you to handle the toxic dynamics in a way that is good for you. You have many different options.  However, if you do not take action, nothing will every change. Yes, change is scary, but what price do you pay if you stay where you are?

You are interested in getting help? Find out more about our program for people who are in unhealthy relationships.

Do you want to read more? Check the article How to Become a Modern Hero