A Liberated Black Woman’s Experiences: Leaving a Toxic Relationship.

At times it feels like my life began after I finally gathered courage and left a toxic relationship. That’s when I started seeing the world differently because I finally chose me.

By: Bernice Maune
Image: Unsplash

It all started when I ended a serious relationship with a man I dated for five years. In ending that chapter, it was not done right, mainly because I immediately started another relationship, afterwards.

The experience of being broken and devastated by a significant other was not one I was willing to readily confront. It was a reality that I pretended did not mean much and this is why I sought comfort in the form of another relationship, it became a safety net.

Listen to Bernice’s full podcast about her five-year relationship:

The safety net gave me comfort, at first, and I felt reassured that things would be different. However, I ignored the many red flags because I so desperately wanted it to make sense.

But, I was far from ready to start dating again and the fear of being alone with my broken heart was too scary. It was a burden that I didn’t want to carry or fix. It felt better to bandage the wound with another love, and stay in a fantasy world where the honeymoon phase seemed to last longer than usual.

While my world was actually falling apart, I still danced, laughed, ate and drank like nothing was amiss. Deep down I knew that this fantasy I had created would one day crash, I just didn’t know how and when. What I didn’t expect was that my own brokenness would attract a love that would take advantage of my naivety, my need to be loved and turn it around to almost destroy my spirit, soul and mind.

As a woman who had been taught to give, care and show appreciation, I kept pouring out of my cup and it was getting emptier by day. – Bernice

When do you know that you are in a toxic relationship? Unfortunately, there are really no big announcements that are made. One day the world is sunny and bright, filled with wonder and beauty and the next it’s so gloomy that you can’t believe you found yourself in such a mess.

I poured out so much love and only got doubt and uncertainty back; I started to see that nothing was what it seemed to be.

As a woman who had been taught to give, care and show appreciation, I kept pouring out of my cup and it was getting emptier by day. I cooked meals that I enjoyed creating because I wanted to impress. I dressed well and cared for myself better than ever before.

I started new ventures, studied hard and worked until the early hours of the morning and while some of this was for me, a part of me just wanted to continuously prove to my partner that I was worthy of being loved and appreciated.

As I tried to keep up with this dance, I grew weary in spirit and my frustrations started creeping in. I was slowly growing tired of working so hard to prove my value while it went unnoticed.

There were small moments, like arguments that I was desperate to make amends for but found that I was always the one doing the chasing and begging. My efforts would be met with my phone calls being ignored for days and texts left unanswered.

My personal progress was no longer seen as a win we could share and celebrate together but a threat. My dreams that were shared with so much excitement had become a damp towel. – Bernice

The cracks grew after every reconciliation. Eventually accusations and questions about my loyalty were shared on social media to an audience which included our close friends. The humiliation was so hard to bear but because love is supposed to always win, I lived through it.

But the ending of the relationship seemed to be growing closer each and every day. It was no longer a failure to reciprocate love; it was a struggle to usurp my value and sense of self. I was stuck in a relationship which in the beginning offered so much safety, common ground, creativity, joy and a future but now everything seemed so grey.

My personal progress was no longer seen as a win we could share and celebrate together but a threat. My dreams that were shared with so much excitement had become a damp towel. It was in essence a war. A battle I wanted to win with my wit, beauty, success, love and care. On the other hand I wanted to shut down and leave whatever that was left of what we shared.

The hardest part about the end of a journey is watching the other person stay but consciously move on without you. -Bernice

So, I stayed and fought for a relationship that was finished. When I received a phone-call at midnight indicating that things were over and he wanted out. I couldn’t accept it. Thoughts of being alone and fear consumed my mind again. How could a love that I had fought so hard for just come to an end? I decided to fight for it despite knowing that it was really over. There was so much at stake, I believed – a supposed future and his family that I met and loved with all my heart.

I fought alone. There was no effort from his end to save us. We reconciled again but we were no longer in it together. I was alone. The hardest part about the end of a journey is watching the other person stay but consciously move on without you. They are there in body but their mind is elsewhere.

The impact of his decision to stay physically and leave emotionally was damaging. I was left with a person determined to escape our relationship in anyway possible. His actions became increasingly toxic. There were visits from other women, pictures and texts from these women, dates and spending time with these women in his home.

In this up and down of two beings who were once in love, I was always the loser. Put second, undervalued and humiliated over and over. – Bernice

As I found out about each of these trysts, I still stayed and reasoned with the half-hearted explanations he gave.. . I cried and I left. But still I came back. I kept coming back to emptiness until it became too much and too humiliating. The cheating became public and so disrespectful that I had to choose my sanity. I left again. For good I believed. For good was three months, and in those months, I grieved and broke down into a thousand pieces.

My brokenness was even more legitimised by the fact that he had moved on so quickly. It didn’t take long to see on social media how I was a hindrance to his happiness and how the new girl was a joy, a breakthrough to his happiness.

As we were both trying to move on, we were briefly reunited. In my state of healing and moving forward, I fell back into the trap because I thought a second chance would change everything. It didn’t. It left me even more confused, heartbroken and a mess again.

In this up and down of two beings who were once in love, I was always the loser. Put second, undervalued and humiliated over and over. In that brief reunion, the toxicity was laid bare and it became clear that I had been dealing with a test of my confidence, self-worth and value. I was no longer going to fail this test because I finally realised that it was time to move on and choose me.

I left and for good this time. My ego bruised, my heart in pieces, my mind disillusioned of what love should be or is. But I also left with as much courage, fearlessness and dignity I could muster to start over, this time by putting myself first.  Now I am living my dreams and in the future lies a world full of limitless possibilities.

Who is Bernice?
Bernice Maune is a South African freelance writer, currently based in France. She is a life enthusiast, Masters student who laughs at awkward moments.


Follow her escapades at Bernice_Fire on Instagram.
 
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