Why doesn't my husband eat me up?

Toxic relationships and the hard way out of them: 6 women share their experiences

Photo: @sosheslays

There are relationships that make us happy, make us feel light and look to the future. And there are relationships that are beautiful at the beginning, but at some point they are draining. They rob us of energy, they cost strength. Instead of loving conversations, there are almost only arguments, discussions. We are left unsettled and unhappy. Toxic relationships are interpersonal connections with people that make us unhappy instead of giving us strength. It is the toxic behavior of our counterparts that makes us feel insecure. Until at some point you just ask yourself: Am I really that bad person?

Toxic relationships must not only come from partners, but can also be found in family and friends. A relationship with a mother, father or friends cannot do us any good and drain us of energy. While we can break away from friends more easily, it is more difficult in a family environment.

Toxic relationships don't start with physical violence, they start on a small scale. Then when our counterpart consciously or unconsciously only makes us feel bad, manipulates or tries to control us. Then when the relationship leaves us unhappy most of the time and we only question ourselves.

A healthy relationship - romantic or not - is about feeling seen and accepted. Our counterpart should see us as we are. That is not to say that there cannot be discussion, argument, or criticism, but it should always come from a caring, loving point of view. And at best let us grow.

If we are kept small, insecure and criticized in many situations, no matter what we do, every day becomes a difficult egg dance, just so as not to trigger another argument, it is time to pay attention. Then you could end up in a toxic relationship. The important thing is: This can really happen to anyone of us, the confident, strong woman, the young, motivated man or the cool daughter. There are ways out of it for everyone.

Mental violence in interpersonal relationships is too often concealed. “Be glad you got rid of your ass”, one still hears, but then you should quickly tick it. Nothing happened. Toxic behaviors to which we are exposed also leave traces - long after we have long left these people behind. Even the way out of a toxic relationship, in which a lot happens, but somehow nothing obvious, is more than difficult.

We asked 6 women how they got out of toxic relationships, what concerns them to this day and why it is always worth standing up for yourself. Maybe it gives one or the other courage.

Sarah, 37

I had a toxic relationship about ten years ago. But to be honest, it wasn't until years later that I realized the relationship was toxic. In the relationship, my ex-boyfriend cheated on me twice. He was irascible, kept me small and made me feel like I was to blame for everything, including his cheating.
How did I get out of there? I still remember the day clearly. Nothing really happened, just a difference of opinion just before my 27th birthday. And then I thought to myself: “Stop, I don't want to go on living like this. He won't be the father of my children. ”I then broke up. We lived together back then and I told him he should and must pack his things and go now. It wasn't until a year later that he really picked up everything.

Today I know that my ex-boyfriend ruined everything by cheating. But when you're in love, you think there's some way to go. But the trust was gone. And his temper made things worse. I remember once sitting on the floor in the corner and he yelled at me after he cheated on me. And there were moments when he almost hit me. You didn't see it: a business administration student, intelligent, but unfortunately not at all empathetic.

To this day I still feel the aftermath: I have little trust. Also, when I have arguments with my current boyfriend, who is really empathetic, I am always afraid that we will slip into a toxic relationship or that I will question my self-worth again. Toxic relationships break a lot.

What I would like to advise all women: Never forget your self-worth and your self-love. Do not put your needs after other needs. You are worth just as much.

Nicole, 29

My relationship with my father has always been toxic, only I haven't seen it. As a little girl, I always heard from my family: “Your father will never be able to let go of you. You will have a very difficult time. ”Words that I only really understood and felt as a young woman.

It all started when I was in my early 20s and was in the middle of my bachelor's degree. It was clear to me that I would finally move to live with my husband in North Rhine-Westphalia. When I told my parents about my plans, my father was just my enemy. We didn't speak to each other for half a year, even though we lived in the same household. I tried again and again to approach him, but he didn't respond.

He didn't like it that I cut myself off from him, wanted to lead my own life and make decisions that he couldn't influence.

Everything I've done has been wrong and has been criticized. I should finally piss off. Preferably today. The earlier the better. That would make life easier for all of us. He couldn't see me anymore. I am ungrateful. I can’t do anything.
Day in, day out, I was accused of something by him. Provided he wasn't offended and spoke to me.
He made me feel like I was to blame for everything. To this day you can hear me saying, “This is not my fault!” When something is broken or not working.

I made my move myself with my old VW Golf because it didn't want to help with his van. He didn't even say goodbye when I drove away with my last load of things. In the meantime I am no longer allowed to go home, my mother has not been allowed to visit me since I moved out because otherwise he won't let her into the house. What he's already done. He just changed the door lock.

My body couldn't cope with these years of stress: late acne, food intolerance and gastrointestinal problems.

My parents weren't at our wedding in November. My mother wanted to come, but I knew what would happen to her if she prevailed against his will. The evening before the wedding, I was in the arms of my husband and cried bitterly: I'm getting married without my family.

Since December 25, 2019, I have no longer had contact with my father. I don't see him, we don't talk to each other and I don't write to him either.
On that Christmas day he told me that I can be happy if my fiancé marries me at all and doesn't leave me first. So I packed my things and drove. Before that, however, I told him to his face that he was toxic to me and my mother.

I had the courage to finally say what I hadn't dared all along. The barrel had finally overflowed.

This August my husband and I wanted to visit my mother. My father noticed and wrote to me: I ask you not to come. Stay with your new family!

The worst part of the whole thing is that I can't see my mother. I miss her so much. She lacks the strength to part with him. There is also a financial factor behind it, as my parents do not have a marriage contract and my mother cannot pay my father his shares.

On the one hand, my father no longer exists for me, but on the other hand, he is still my mother's partner and therefore still present. But only as a small fraction in my life.

In the meantime I talk openly about what was / is going on in my family and realize that it is good for me. I can only recommend that to everyone: Talk about it when you are ready.

Marie, 62

It was 33 years ago now, and it should actually be put aside. But at certain moments everything is sometimes there again.

A relationship with a man 18 years older than that was an imbalance. In addition, there was also a wife, three children, his sales force and his dissolute life with alcohol and non-committment.

A 21-year-old woman who fell head over heels in love with the charming, good-looking and experienced man and was sure that he would give up everything for himself, that he would finally be loyal to her and that she would be the best that could happen to him. She knows that love can be blind, but with her it is certainly different.

For 7 years she believes in great love, for 7 years it goes up and down, separation, reconciliation, tears, feelings of happiness, the whole program.
Always in the back of your mind: this is not good for you, he will not change, he is a great man, he is an ass.

Advice and worries from friends and family fade into nothing, because only she knows what he really is.

And then she's pregnant. He is "not amused", but okay, they are already having the child. She is sure: now he will finally decide for her.
But nothing changes. She is only alone, he no longer comes to visit that often and she is no longer as flexible with her child.
Nevertheless, she becomes pregnant again. But this time he doesn't want the child.

Suddenly everything lights up. The lights of knowledge come on and the feelings are gone. All gone. The protection of the child gives her the strength to go new ways. Alone, free and liberated.

The second child is 33 years old today.

Chrissie, 32

I went to war at the age of 24 - against myself. For him. And that war went on for five toxic years. Back then, he devastated the scene of my life and left a battlefield. But I haven't stood still since then and have rebuilt my city. Stone by stone by stone. A massive wall of self-respect that would prevent his return forever.

When I think back to that time, my chest tightens. Still today! Everything that made up my former self was taken from me until my many, happy nuances and my loud laughter no longer existed.

My world had become small and colorless. My energy reserves have been used up
and overworked my nerves.

Everyday life was permeated by its claims to property, paternalism and false promises. He was a master at measuring two things and has showered me with baseless accusations. I felt like a flawed copy - never enough for the world, much less for myself. Every day became a shaky dance on raw eggs. One day like that, another like that. In between he picked me a few stars from the sky and promised me to “love me in a thousand lives”.

It got louder and louder and I kept getting quieter.
So quietly until I couldn't care less about myself and could hide in the crowd.

I already knew then that I couldn't fix ourselves anymore, but we let it go on for a while. Plagued by insomnia and self-doubt, I have moved further and further away from him physically and emotionally. Inwardly, I was always on the go. And then came the one moment when my heart broke. I remember every detail of that moment. There is even a picture of me that I took that day. A crumpled snapshot as a printed mirror image that I carried around with me for quite a while after the breakup. I never wanted to forget what my eyes looked like in that moment - lived empty. That night the illusion of our love died. Just because. Without much fuss, without explosion or pleading words. It just happened, very quietly. And after that I didn't manage to put this picture of us back together again. Too many parts of myself were lost before. None of the puzzle pieces ever fitted together again and entire pages were missing from our picture book story.

There is also a matching sentence by Mo Willems, which is closely linked to my chaotic feelings from back then: "If you ever find yourself in the wrong story, leave."
I did that too.

It took a while to unravel our two strands of life that we had linked together over the years, but with this separation I grew up. I withstood the emotional blackmail that followed by living day to day and slowly weaning myself off. I was finally able to catch my breath again and fought my way step by step through the cold, relentless withdrawal of years of manipulation without ever turning around.

Clara, 35

He was the victim and I was the perpetrator - this accusation hung in the room like a constant cloud.

Every time we spoke on the phone, I meticulously paid attention to my choice of words. Too often we had discussed with each other, used the same words, said what appeared to be the same, and yet found none of them anywhere near the same frequency. At that time, I thought it was a phase. After all, everything had started so well and the first few months were wonderful. We were both ready to start a new relationship when we fell in love and decided to give each other a try.

What I didn't notice at the time was that he was literally giving me the key to his heart.

He had placed the greatest possible - very dubious - token of love in my hands: the sole responsibility of his happiness in life.

When he was with me, he had given them up and some of them were merciless. At this point in time it was by no means comprehensible to me, nor was I aware of it: after about 12 months I had gotten into a dependency that I would never have been willing to even consider, which for me was neither desirable nor part of the concept of love. In retrospect, this dependency and its characteristics only really became clear to me.

I was not dependent on him, but he held me to himself by nurturing little old beliefs in me and drawing on too great uncertainties.

I had the feeling that I couldn't do anything right, that I was afraid of failing and not being the "good" lovable person I really just wanted to be.

For example, when he contracted a benign tumor, his conclusion was that it came from the stress of MY father's death that he had seen once in his life, not from decades of smoking. The stress, compassion, and concern for me that I caused had made him sick, he realized.
When I got burnout, he kept reminding me that there are people out there who are really bad. Again he nourished what was already a huge problem for me, admitting an intangible illness at all.

There were countless incomprehensible scenes in which he even got himself into a dangerous situation and climbed into it, only to see himself confirmed that I don't love him. Not enough.

He didn't just want to be seen, he wanted to be loved and worn unconditionally. The worst part was that he wasn't ready to reflect on this. His favorite book was How Do I Unmask Liars, which assumed that he felt constantly lied to by others. So everyone else had to reflect, my role was that of a liar, he was already on the good side.

The day on which I finally threw away the "key" after 19 months was when I finally knew who I am again: Stunned and with tears, I hung up the phone in my small room at the burnout clinic. My friend had just revised the friendly feedback from the treating doctors and made it clear to me what a bad person I was. I had yelled at him how he could say something like that and at the same time, I was deeply desperate and insecure again whether it really was so. Wasn't that one of the reasons I was here? I hardly felt anymore, was absolutely powerless and deeply insecure about who I was. Should I call my friends and ask if this was all true? Was he right?

But at that moment, I had finally regained my strength and found clarity that had been gone for so long: NO, he is not right.

He had done everything to turn his fear into reality: to lose myself and to be the one left alone.
He was the victim of himself.


Where do you start telling your story that is so personal, intimate and vulnerable to yourself?
I still get frightened when I feel unconsciously protect the perpetrators or when I realize how embarrassing it is to talk about it.

I am currently preparing my debut feature House of Silence. The film is the result of two toxic relationships. It is based on the experiences of different women.I feel the work remind me of the film and realize that it wasn't just two relationships in my life that were so disgustingly unhealthy. But I want to stick with the two relationships today.

I can't dive too deep, my inner protective system still kicks in when I talk about it.

I had a friend who liked to take what was his. The second time I lay in bed crying. I was traumatized, but found the strength and ended the relationship.

Some unhealthy relationships followed, but then came one that would change everything for me. This relationship was psychologically hell for me. My partner was a deeply dissatisfied person. Only: I know that today. Nobody does anything to another when they are in balance.
He verbally let off steam on me, manipulated me and made me more and more helpless. My only salvation: my therapy. There I learned a lot about self-love and about myself. At some point I couldn't take it anymore. I packed as many of my things as I could carry.

I felt just how toxic this relationship was a few days later. I was so drained, with a fever of almost 40 degrees, I collapsed at my doctor at the time.

I immediately looked for a new apartment. The therapy helped me and then I came into contact with Kundalini Yoga. That was when my healing really began. I could understand more and more why these things happened to me and in the end I decided to be happy. What was and remains a strenuous journey. I always make sure to stay in balance. Sometimes I succeed more, sometimes less, but it's my life and I can decide.

Are you in a toxic relationship with your partner, your parents or friends and you want to talk to someone about it? The first contact persons are here:
Telephone counseling 0800/1110111
Number against grief 116117
Help hotline violence against women 0800/0116016
Sexual abuse helpline 0800/2255530
Talking to a psychotherapist can also show you ways of what is going wrong in your relationship and what you can work on or when it is time to leave. If that seems too difficult for you: Confide in your friends, talk about it and do a reality check. It is easier to find solutions together.