Over three years ago, I was in an unhealthy relationship. I felt trapped and hopeless, belittled, and manipulated. I believed the lie that I was incapable of doing better or even doing things on my own. Because I felt unloved by another, I stopped loving myself. I lost my self-worth and confidence.
I ended up finding strength in my newborn son. His unconditional love gave me a new-found confidence and challenged me to discover who I was in this new chapter of my life called motherhood. I began to love myself again, which was the foundation I needed to start overcoming. I wanted to show my son what a happy, strong, successful woman looked like and what a healthy relationship can look like.
Becoming a mom made me realize that I wasn’t just living my own life. My actions and behavior were shaping another life: one for which I wanted to be a good role model. A new fire began to burn inside of me. I needed to change, get better and find myself. I learned valuable lessons along the way.
Lessons Learned From An Unhealthy Relationship
Learn From Your Past
I am the first person to admit I have made mistakes in my life. I have trusted the wrong people, thought I could change people, ignored my intuition, and hurt people I love. But the most important part about ending up in a bad situation is that you learn from it, and don’t repeat your behaviors that landed you there.
Take a hard look and ask why you stayed in a bad situation. What warning signs can you look for next time? To grow as a person, you can work to change your perceptions and behaviors that are rooted in you.
Your past doesn’t define who you are as a person. What you do tomorrow is your choice! You don’t have to fall into the same patterns if you really become aware of them. It’s also important to show yourself compassion. You cannot change the past. Beating yourself up or carrying guilt or shame isn’t going to help you. It’s not about perfection, it’s about progress. You might not have all the answers now or maybe months from now, because it is a continual growing process. We are all healing from an unhealthy relationship at some point.
Just Keep Swimming
Pushing through the hard stuff takes an incredible amount of strength, courage and confidence. On your hardest of days when you don’t understand why that season is happening to you, or when it’s ever going to end – you have to persevere. I know you’re physically, mentally, or emotionally exhausted. I know you have no idea how you are going to make it to the next day. Keep pushing. You must first believe there is light at the end of the tunnel. The power of positivity is amazing!
Also, celebrate the little victories and happy moments. There is good in each day and you must consciously look for it! This can be laughing with your friends, smiling at a sweet gesture, or simply making it through another hard day. Write it down! Don’t let negativity consume you. When we take time to acknowledge the good it reminds us the glass is still half full. On those incredibly hard days, read over the good as a reminder of how far you have come in all of this.
Don’t say it’s “good enough” or give the excuse that “the good stuff outweighs the bad stuff”. Would you give advice to your friend or child to settle? No, you want the best in life for them, so you should want the same for yourself. Settling is a slippery slope in an unhealthy relationship. It’s important to surround yourself with people who support you, lift you up, believe in you, and want the best for you. We are a product of our environment, so if you’re surrounded by people telling you that you can’t, won’t or shouldn’t – then you will begin to believe it yourself.
Do not settle for anything less than the best – go for that dream job you want, go fight to make a difference, go try new things out of your comfort zone and reach for your dreams. Write down your goals, make time for the things that matter to you, and believe in yourself. You are worth it, and you deserve it. Your thoughts and feelings are valid and important, and you should speak your truth. Because if you don’t stand up for yourself and the things you want, who will?
Share Your Story
Part of my rise from the ashes has become sharing my story with others. I am proud of my journey, and I want to empower other women to believe in themselves. A friend became inspired by my story to create a visual representation of the phoenix rising from the embers, blazing forward! What started as a simple conversation turned into an unimaginable collaboration between talented and creative women. I am eternally grateful to this talented team for making my story come to life in a way to share with others. We hope we can inspire more people to rise, overcome and find their happiness.
photo of author Lindsay Winn by Brittany Thomas Photography