Written by Keyonna Stanford
We can all relate to having been in a relationship that we knew wasn’t the best for us, or to knowing someone else who has. The emotional and physical toll a toxic relationship takes on someone can be very detrimental to their overall health. I witnesed an extremely close friend navigate, and ultimately overcome, an extremely toxic relationship. She emerged a stronger individual, but not without some serious lessons learned along the way.
This friend is Keyonna Stanford and she currently serves as a federal probation officer, has a background in social work, and a M.A. in Psychology with a specialization in addictions. Keyonna has been gracious enough to share her story with us in hopes that it will inspire courage and growth in those of us who may be looking to break free from a toxic relationship.
They say when you know better, you do better but have you ever been in a situation where you knew better but still didn’t do better? I think we’ve all been there. I was in a toxic relationship; all the red flags and warning signs were there, yet I ignored them all. I was one of those girls holding on because of history and the potential I saw in him. But I finally reached my breaking point. I was sick of the lies, the never-ending cycle of getting hurt, and then quickly forgiving. I was fed up with questioning whether I was enough. So, I packed up my stuff and I left. If I stayed to search for answers, I would end up justifying his actions, blindly forgiving him and the toxic cycle would start all over again.
I desperately wanted him to change but I realized that the change had to come from me.
I strongly believe that there is power in our testimony. There is also beauty and strength that can be gained from sharing our pain. Learn from me – I had to stop being so desperate to save our relationship and realize that I was the one who needed saving. When I decided to walk away, I was completely torn apart in every way imaginable, but I didn’t stay in that space for long.
I decided to be intentional about my healing and started working on me. I quickly found a support group through my church with women who faced varying forms of betrayal who were all in different stages of healing and forgiveness.
This group was instrumental to my healing and provided a safe space where I could process my feelings and emotions. They understood what I was dealing with and never passed judgement. I learned about co-dependency and realized I had been enabling behaviors which were completely unacceptable. With this realization I was able to rediscover my personal identity, interest, values and self-worth.
Next, I learned how to set up healthy boundaries, with my family, my friends and, most importantly, my ex. Naturally, I wondered how he was doing and what he was up to, but I knew that curiosity could easily become detrimental to my health. So, I unfollowed him on all social media platforms. Yes, I know this one is tough, but it honestly helped me so much. I was able to free my mind from being consumed with his every move, which allowed me to focus on myself. I asked my family not to mention his name and never asked mutual friends how he was doing, because even that would trigger me and send my emotions out of control.
Our minds are probably the biggest battle we have to fight when it comes to healing. When negative thoughts came up, I immediately replaced those with something positive. If a song or show came on that made me sad, I changed it. I was deliberate about avoiding isolation and spent time with friends and family who contributed to my happiness.
Walking away from toxic a relationship is never easy, but neither is staying in one. I can’t say my journey of healing and restoration was stress-free because that would be misleading. It was hard and it took work mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Now that I’ve come out on the other side, I can confidently say that I feel strong, I feel beautiful, I feel loved, and, most importantly, I feel whole. If you are struggling with leaving a toxic relationship or you’ve recently left one, it’s time to get to work. Find a support group, set up firm boundaries, and protect your peace. I promise – you’re worth it.