Toxic Relationships: Why Do You Feel ‘Dirty’ Once You Leave A Toxic Relationship?

Toxic Relationships: Why Do You Feel ‘Dirty’ Once You Leave A Toxic Relationship? toxic relationships: why do you feel ‘dirty’ once you leave a toxic relationship?
Photo by Josh Calabrese on Unsplash

When you’ve finally gathered the courage to walk away from an abusive relationship, the relief of breaking free can be overshadowed by a pervasive sense of unease. It’s a feeling that lingers, haunting you long after you’ve physically left the relationship. You may find yourself grappling with a profound sense of dirtiness, an overwhelming feeling of self-disgust that seems to seep into every aspect of your being.

It’s as if you’ve just emerged from a dirty pool of water, with the remnants of toxicity clinging to your skin and staining your soul. This sensation of being tainted goes beyond mere physical filth; it’s a deep-seated emotional stain that can lead you to isolate yourself from others because you just feel like you’re ‘unclean. You simply don’t feel like the ‘good’ person you were before the relationship and you may even think you are the abusive one.

So, why does this feeling persist and how does it develop?

Survival Strategies

This feeling mainly comes from the ways you learned to cope during the abusive relationship. When you’re in a situation where you’re not being listened to or, even worse, facing verbal or physical abuse, you start doing anything you can to make it through each day. Sometimes, this means doing things you wouldn’t normally do and that go against what you believe is right.

For example, you might find yourself doing strange things sexually, breaking things out of anger, or even being unfaithful in response to their constant cheating. These actions might seem out of character for you, but in the midst of trying to survive in a difficult relationship, they can become ways of coping, even if they don’t align with your usual values. When you’ve been really pushed to the limit, you will react as a way to protect and that reaction may not be something you’d normally do when you’re calm.

Manipulation Is the New Normal

Another thing is living in an environment where manipulation and coercion are rampant, it’s almost inevitable that you start to internalize some of these behaviors. Gaslighting, shifting blame onto others, or portraying oneself as the victim can become ingrained in your interactions as you adapt to survive in such a toxic dynamic. Over time, these tactics may become second nature, influencing the way you perceive and respond to situations, even outside of the abusive relationship. You may find yourself subtly or unknowingly manipulating your colleagues or friends to do you favors. You may believe that you’ve become more ‘persuasive’, but in reality, you’re simply being cunning and subtly manipulative because you’ve learned these tactics from your abusive partner or ex.

Engaging in Illegal Activities

Furthermore, the normalization of illegal activities can occur within the context the manipulative relationship. Your manipulative partner may exert pressure on you to engage in unlawful actions, leveraging your desire to please them or avoid conflict. This coercive influence can blur the lines between right and wrong, making it easier for you to rationalize participating in activities that you would otherwise consider unacceptable.

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Some of the most common illegal activities you may engage in while in an abusive relationship include forgery, drug abuse, or finding ways to manipulate the legal system. These are actions that, under normal circumstances, you wouldn’t consider doing or even think about engaging in. However, due to the pressure or manipulative tactics employed by your partner, you may find yourself participating in them without hesitation. In a manipulative relationship, rational thinking often becomes compromised as you are manipulated to the point where logical reasoning diminishes. Consequently, you end up normalizing illegal activities, failing to recognize anything inherently wrong with them.

“You Can’t Play in The Mud Without Getting Dirty.”

The truth is, when you play in mud, you will inevitably soil your clothes, and that’s how the toxicity of the abusive relationship seeps into your psyche, staining you with behaviors and actions that you never thought yourself capable of. It’s only when you gain the strength to leave the relationship behind that the full weight of these compromises or the ‘dirtiness’ hits you. Suddenly, you’re faced with a stark realization: the person you’ve become during the relationship is a far cry from the one you once were or far from the ‘saint’ you thought you were. You may have prided yourself on your integrity or held steadfast to your values, but the relentless pressure and manipulation of the relationship forced you to abandon those core principles in favor of survival. You may not see the extent of the dirtiness while you’re still in the mud, but once you get out of the mud, that’s when you’re able to see how muddy you are. That’s why you feel disgusted, but it’s also a good thing for you.

Acknowledge Your ‘Dirtiness’

Acknowledging this sense of “dirtiness” is an important step towards healing. It signifies an awareness of the toxic behaviors you’ve absorbed and a willingness to confront them.

It may be very uncomfortable to really acknowledge that you’re not yourself but in that acknowledgement is where healing is.

Healing involves forgiving yourself for the compromises made in survival mode and reconnecting with your authentic self. It’s simply cleansing yourself of your past and letting go of the dirt so that you can reconnect with the person behind the survival mechanisms. Without doing that, you will end up spreading the dirt to those close to you, including your friends, and unknowingly, you’ll end up hurting other innocent human beings.

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You might feel tempted to rush into another relationship to avoid facing the ‘dirtiness,’ but that’s not a good idea because you’ll just carry that dirt with you, continuing the cycle of spreading the dirt to another relationship. It’s very important to deal with these underlying issues first. Jumping into a new relationship without addressing these issues only makes things worse. Take the time to cleanse yourself emotionally and mentally before starting something new. This way, you prevent carrying the weight of past trauma into future relationships, giving yourself the chance for real growth.

You got ‘dirty’ to survive in an abusive environment, but it doesn’t define who you are.

With patience, kindness to yourself, and a dedication to becoming a better person, you can come out of this experience stronger and cleaner than before.

Note from the Author

If you’re ready and you’d like my help with healing, finding peace in life and breaking free from these toxic patterns, then you can book a FREE BREAKTHROUGH CALL with me HERE. Happy healing 💙💙. Feel free to share and comment! Use this information with caution, it comes from my own thoughts & bias, experiences and research😊.

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Edwin Bii
Edwin Bii

I'm Edwin Bii, a trained advanced conversational hypnotherapist (ACH) and Mind Shifting Coach from Kenya offering mental health support, and life coaching to help you crush your goalsand overcome your problems. Together, we'll navigate challenges, build self-awareness, and create a happier, healthier you. Let's unlock your potential.

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