It takes courage to escape the trap of a toxic relationship, and begin all over again, in the light of a new love, a new life, and a new sense of self…

I left the love of my life not because I loved him less, but because the longer I stayed with him, the less I loved myself. He made me whole and he made me empty at the same time. “We’re passionate people, that’s why we fight so much,” he would say as he embraced me to make up for the words he had just used to tear me down. So how and why do I still call him the love of my life?

For me, detoxing is like facing unbearable truths, ones that feel like the piercing of a knife. However, you have one of two choices: you could either die or return from the pain with a fresh and renewed perspective on life.

For seven years, he was my constant, he was my pillar, he was my confidant and best friend…

He also isolated me from friends and family, so he could fulfil the role of being ‘my everything’. Fights with him were hard, sad and lonely, because without him there was nothing and nobody. So, when he would come back to me, a body-consuming sense of relief and calmness would come over me.

When I was diagnosed as clinically depressed in 2016, I would talk to my therapist about how much of my emptiness and loneliness stemmed from my relationship. I made it clear that leaving my partner was not an option, because he made me brave and weak, sad but mostly happy. That was the dynamic of our relationship. “Well my dear, you’re in an emotionally abusive relationship and only you have the power to leave,” said my therapist. But could my heart handle leaving the love of my life?

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During my year-long bout of depression, my love would be away for days on end, not a call or text, and I would sink deeper into my sadness and despair. I needed to be better for him. I needed to make him happy. I needed to be his pillar, not his burden. It was at my lowest that I had an epiphany, while I cried on his bed, begging him to stay.

I left the love of my life not because I loved him less, but because the longer I stayed with him, the less I loved myself

Could my heart handle leaving the love of my life?

I remember rambling that I would be happier, I would go back to being the old me, please don’t leave me. He was good at listening to me and manipulating me. His words were like a gas chamber for my sanity, and his defence for being distant or unimpressed by me, came in the form of an arsenal of venomous words that cut deeper than a knife.

And yet, I stayed weakened, stunted, afraid of life without him. When I found out I was pregnant with our daughter, we were happy once again. Things fell back into place. I was content and fulfilled. My love was happy. We were going to be a real family, with a beautiful little girl to complete us. I imagined my pregnancy would fix everything, me, him, us. My sadness started to dissipate.

But there I was, alone in Lamaze class, because he needed to watch Game of Thrones instead. When I was eight months pregnant, he moved on from me and our baby growing inside me. I became consumed not with sadness but with anger. I had to detox my life from things and people who would make me a bad mother.

I needed to be happy for me, so that I could be a mother, a better friend, a better daughter and sister

I finally had the strength to voice my thoughts and feelings. I was brave, strong, and bold, and all this without him. I had our daughter and she was perfect.

The birth of our daughter made him believe that all was forgiven and we would be a perfect family, but I was stronger, wiser, not less sad, but definitely not defeated.

I quit my job, and left the small town I had called home for nine years. I moved back to a place where I could build a beautiful, peaceful and calm home for myself and daughter. The space away from him was good. I gained perspective. My confidence in myself returned. I hurt less and cried less.

My daughter, my forever love, saved my life

I realised I would always love him, not because of what we were, but because of what we created when we were together. My daughter, my forever love, saved my life. She broke the chains of self-doubt that had held me down, and suppressed my voice for so long.

Article by Oteng Mpete.