Removing yourself from a toxic relationship


I was 16 when I got into my first "real" relationship. Young and naive, I wanted to have a relationship that everyone envied. To be honest, I achieved that. Over three and a half years I was told countless times how my relationship was perfect and we seemed happy and in love. The key word there is seemed. Nobody knew what happened behind the photos I posted on social media.

When you get into a relationship this young you don't realise that you're still growing yourself and with that comes change. The first 9 months of the relationship were good - looking back, it was normal, I still felt like me. It's when I went to college everything changed. He became paranoid that I was going to cheat because I was in an environment he wasn't familiar with. Thinking about it the paranoia could've been due to the fact he got into a habit of smoking weed. Never-the-less I didn't feel comfortable going to college. My good morning texts changed to "what are you wearing today?" and the message I'd always receive when I got home would be "did you speak to any boys today?" To which I gradually realised that "a top that didn't cover my bum" and "yes, I spoke to my male photography tutor today" were not acceptable answers.

My friends became less and less. My only best friend lived in Wales and whenever she came back now and again I had to ask permission whether it was okay to spend time with her. On one occasion I lied and said we'd gone to the cinema when really we'd gone for a few cocktails because I was too scared to deal with the backlash of trying to explain that I'd been drinking alcohol around other men.

When I started working I couldn't enjoy things like the Christmas party because men would be there so I always found an excuse not to go like I was ill or I couldn't get there. It's like I wasn't trusted and there was no reason not to trust me - I'd always been 110% faithful. I was being punished for nothing.

Looking back, he could do anything. He went on nights out where I wouldn't hear from him. I'd be told how attractive girls from his work were but he never complimented me, making myself never feel good enough for him. He chose drugs over me, I paid his way out of drug debt and paid off holiday's we had planned together. I even bought myself my own Christmas card once so I could show my family that he did actually care about me when he didn't actually give a shit. Everything was taken out on me, if I didn't agree with him (which was most of the time) I would have the worst day.

I gradually lost the person I was. I had no friends. I only had my family and eventually he began to question why I wanted to spend so much time with them, even to the point where he'd get jealous if I'd be spending time with my nephew who was 3/4 at the time. I had no confidence to do anything. I didn't go for jobs I was offered. I was made to feel like I couldn't make myself up anymore because I'd be gaining attention from men that weren't him so I eventually lost any sort of beauty I ever had.

I would cry at least 5 out of 7 days in a week. None of us were happy in this relationship yet every time I tried to leave he'd beg for me to stay. He'd make it out like he couldn't live without me and that he was going to change and every time it was a lie and it didn't happen.

One day, a week after a holiday from hell, which yes I plastered all over Facebook as being the best holiday of my life, I plucked up the courage to just leave. It was probably one of the hardest things I've ever done. Not only was I leaving a person and a family of people I'd spent so much of my life with, I was potentially breaking someone's heart and hurting somebody and although I was already mentally broke by him I still felt like an awful person for doing that to somebody I once loved.

The next few months were incredibly confusing. How do you enjoy freedom when you're not used to it? I improved my friendship with my best friend, met new people, trained my brain into becoming more confident and created a complete new look for myself.

My biggest fear about leaving that relationship was being alone, but everyday was filled with people I loved. I got a lot closer to my family. I think Leeds Festival was an eye-opener of how happy I was. That festival for 3 years was miserable for me - arguing and crying during some of my favourite bands. Last year I finally got to enjoy it and had one of the best weekends of my life.

I didn't think I'd fall in love with anyone else for a long time, not for years. I thought I needed a while to better myself, on my own. I got into a relationship in October and I've fallen in love with someone I can call my best friend too. We don't plaster everything online. I'm not controlled. I'm encouraged to better myself, train hard, go for my dreams, travel, make new friends, be positive. This person entered my life at exactly the right point. I don't feel the need to be plastered all over his social media because I'm loved and appreciated enough in his real life. A private relationship is a happy one.

I'm still growing. I still have trust issues, I still question a lot in my head, I'm still very insecure about myself and I still have a lot to learn but leaving a toxic relationship was the proudest moment of the last few years.

If you're in a toxic relationship now, especially if you're young with no real responsibilities to stay in it, leave it as soon as you can before you lose yourself completely. It's hard and it'll take many attempts but you won't regret it. In ways, I thank him for putting me through it all because it's made me a stronger person now but I pity him - that he was that insecure with himself that he had to break me.

Jennie