A week or so after I left him, I experienced something I can only call euphoria.
The few days since I left had been a drumbeat of pain. Yet that golden, late-August afternoon, walking home from another day of brain fog, it descended upon me. I was Peter riding to Damascus; a lightning bolt buoyed my whole body in sudden, breathtaking joy.
You might think that, because it’s a healthy choice, ending a toxic or abusive relationship must also feel good. In truth, for many of us, it hurts like hell. But in those first, post-breakup days, I also felt the joyful affirmation that, after years of being stuck in the abuse cycle, I had finally chosen myself.
Saying No Is a New Beginning
With the pandemic entering yet another phase, many of us find ourselves in a period of transition. That’s partly, says Natalie Lue, the relationship expert behind Baggage Reclaim, because the past years of disruption and isolation inspired many of us to reevaluate. “We needed to slow down. We needed to take stock of our relationships,” Lue says.
At the same time, the pandemic evoked traumas we may have been ignoring. Perhaps we quarantined with an abusive partner, had uncomfortable COVID safety conversations with family, or felt gaslit by politicians’ comments about racism and public health. Whatever it was, many of us are now faced with the opportunity to evaluate which relationships and dynamics in our lives are working—and which are best left behind.
A few years after I broke my own abuse cycle, I want to offer some reflections on the joy of choosing ourselves over the pain of a harmful relationship. Wherever you are in your journey—whether you’re looking to leave a painful relationship, or simply trying to take better care of yourself—you deserve safety and support.