Episode 149: "What if they are toxic, but I love them and don't want to leave?"Support the show
On today’s episode, we’re answering a question from local teens about not wanting to leave someone you love.
This is Jessica Skultety, Outreach and Prevention Manager at Safe+Sound Somerset. We are Somerset County, New Jersey's lead domestic and sexual violence response organization, providing services at no charge to survivors for over 40 years.
So, today's question from local teens is: “Dear Ava, What if they are toxic, but I love them and don’t want to leave?”
The first thing to know is that: you don’t have to leave a relationship unless you want to. The other person also might want to leave, and they have that right, too. We also know that toxic and abusive behaviors often lead to more abuse, so we’re going to talk about what you can do.
First, we have to talk about the word toxic. We know a lot of young people use that word, and that’s okay, but a lot of toxic behaviors are abusive. So, we want people to take “toxic” just as seriously as they would “abuse.”
1 in 3 teens will experience dating violence before high school graduation. That is a huge number, and this includes all kinds of actions including verbal, emotional, physical, sexual, financial, digital, and stalking. Abuse is a pattern of behaviors that one person uses to gain power and control over their partner. It makes it difficult for their partner to give or take away consent, to set boundaries for themselves, and to make choices.
One reason many people don’t want to leave abusive relationships is because they love their partner. Sometimes along with this, the person will have hope that the other person will change, or heal. Or, they believe they can heal their partner, and the relationship can go back to the way it was before. I’ve heard from a lot of people that they feel that they are the “strong person” in the relationship who can help their partner become better. Unfortunately, this isn’t really possible, because people have to do their own healing.
And, we also know that abusive relationships have good and bad times, and over time, abuse tends to get worse. And a lot of people love their partners, so your feelings are totally valid. If you are intent on staying in the relationship, one thing you can do is safety plan. If you call or text the Safe+Sound Somerset helpline or use our website, you can develop an individual plan to stay safe around this person in case abuse gets worse.
If you one day decide to leave a relationship, whether or not you still love that person, there is help available. Again, use our helpline to safety plan if you leave.
Let’s talk about the hope and trying to heal someone. Again, unfortunately, this is not something the non-abusive partner can do. It is up to the partner using abuse or being toxic to hold themselves accountable for their actions, and get to the root cause of why they are using abuse in the first place. This might require them to go to individual (not couples) therapy and work on themselves, every day. It is not the other partner’s responsibility to heal them, and it usually just can’t be done.
Remember no matter what that your partner’s abuse is not your fault, and you deserve a happy and safe relationship.
To speak with an expert about relationship or sexual violence, call or text the Safe+Sound Somerset 24/7 confidential helpline at 866-685-1122 for supportive listening, information, and safety planning.
Want to “Ask Ava” a question? Visit our website at www.safe-sound.org/ask-ava. Thank you for listening today. Join us next time here on Ask Ava.