Loss of a Lifelong Companion: Many women envision growing old with their partner, sharing the ups and downs of life together. The disappointment comes when they realize that this dream won’t be fulfilled due to the toxic nature of the relationship.
Unfulfilled Family Dreams: Women who desire to have a family with a loving partner may feel a deep sense of loss when they find themselves separated or divorced. The dream of raising children together and experiencing the joys of parenthood can be shattered.
Becoming a Single Mother: For those who had hoped to raise children within a stable, two-parent household, becoming a single mother can be a profound disappointment. It often means taking on the responsibilities of parenting alone, which can be emotionally and financially challenging.
Absence of Emotional Nurturing: In an unhealthy, toxic marriage, emotional support and companionship are often lacking. The disappointment persists even after the toxic relationship ends, as women continue to grapple with the absence of this essential emotional nurturing, leaving them feeling isolated and vulnerable.
Financial Instability: Toxic relationships can sometimes lead to financial abuse or instability. When the relationship ends, women may find themselves facing financial difficulties they didn’t anticipate, adding another layer of disappointment and stress.
Impact on Self-Esteem: Toxic partners can often erode a person’s self-esteem and self-worth. Disappointment comes from realizing the extent to which one’s self-esteem has suffered and the journey required to rebuild it.
Loss of Trust: Trust is fundamental in any relationship. Women may be deeply disappointed by the betrayal of trust and emotional wounds inflicted by a toxic partner. Rebuilding trust in future relationships can be a daunting process.
Loss of Dreams and Shared Goals: Many couples have dreams and shared goals for the future. Disappointment arises when those dreams are no longer attainable due to the end of the relationship. These could include plans for travel, retirement, or pursuing mutual hobbies and interests.
Social Isolation: Toxic partners can isolate their significant others from friends and family. When the relationship ends, women may find themselves without a support network, leading to feelings of loneliness and disappointment.
Fear of Future Relationships: The fear of encountering another toxic partner in future relationships can be a significant source of disappointment. It may make women hesitant to trust again or open themselves up to love.
Allowing oneself to grieve these disappointments is an essential step in the healing process. Recognizing and processing these feelings can help women move forward, regain their sense of self, and eventually find healthier, more fulfilling relationships while rebuilding a sense of safety and security.
For women, particularly, the experience can be doubly traumatic, compounding the effects of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) and other emotional challenges. It involves a profound loss of safety, both physically and emotionally, which is integral to their overall well-being. When these feelings of safety are shattered by abusive relationships, stalking, divorce, housing insecurity, a lack of emotional support, or when institutions, such as the church, align with the husband rather than extending help and belief in the woman, the repercussions can exacerbate existing emotional turmoil and distress.
The loss of safety often goes hand in hand with a loss of identity. No longer being a wife can be a jarring experience, and the loss of mutual friends and extended family, who may choose sides, can further exacerbate feelings of isolation. In many cases, women also lose support from fellow church members, making the journey even more challenging.
Understanding the 12 stages of grief can be a helpful framework for those navigating these difficult emotions: Shock, denial, disbelief, confusion, guilt, anger, bargaining, depression, loneliness, acceptance, hope, and renewal. Within grief lies the path to healing. By acknowledging and traversing the multitude of stages and emotions connected to grief, individuals can find resolution for their losses, find purpose, and gradually reconstruct their lives.
Experiencing loss can feel overwhelming, and it’s not a linear process where one neatly completes each stage and moves to the next like a checklist. It can be messy and unpredictable. Individuals may find themselves bouncing back and forth between stages in a short period, and that’s entirely normal. For those who are spiritual, the devastation of faith and prayers that went unanswered can leave them feeling like their relationship with God is unraveling. However, it’s essential to remember that one’s spiritual journey can also be a source of strength and healing.
Here are some steps to healing:
Feel Your Emotions: Allow yourself to feel the full range of emotions without judgment. It’s okay to grieve and express your pain.
Limit Contact with Your Partner: Creating distance from your toxic partner can be crucial for healing.
Don’t Expect Closure: Closure may not come in the way you hope for. Accept that some things may never be fully resolved.
Build a Support System: Surround yourself with people who have experienced similar challenges and can provide empathy and understanding.
Admit Your Experience: Don’t be afraid to talk about what you’ve been through. Sharing your story can be a powerful part of the healing process.
Rediscover Your True Self: Take time to reconnect with your passions, interests, and aspirations that may have been pushed aside during the toxic relationship.
Practice Self-Care: Prioritize self-care activities that nurture your physical and emotional well-being.
Practice Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself and recognize that you are a survivor, not a victim.
Avoid Self-Blame: Refrain from blaming yourself for the actions of your toxic partner.
Reflect and Learn: Assess and explore how you found yourself with someone who did not treat you as valuable. Use this insight to make healthier choices in the future.
Revive Hope: Remember that you’ve come this far, and there is more for you. You can find meaning and rebuild your life. Navigating the aftermath of a toxic relationship is a challenging journey, but with time, support, and self-compassion, it’s possible to heal, rediscover your strength, and find hope for a brighter future.
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19