Big Wild Love: Let Go For It®: Stuck in a Toxic Relationship with No Way Out

Dear Jill:

I’m 62 years old and met my significant other 36 years ago and we’ve been together on and off all that time.  It’s never been an easy relationship but he did love me in his way for most of that time. It all changed several years ago and now, we seem to actively hate each other.  Why do I stay? I have NO money, rusty professional skills since I’ve been out of the job market so long, and physical challenges that prevent me from standing or sitting too long (although I do try to exercise, eat right, and sleep as I can, but it’s difficult with chronic back pain).  I also have a senior kitty with slowly progressing kidney disease who I just can’t give up. My Significant Other has money he’s inherited from his family trust and, while we’ve separated nearly everything we do, buy, eat, etc., he gives me $250 every month for personal expenses and $100 for my kitty’s expenses. As you can imagine, it’s hard to live on. It’s also difficult to find work. I’ve also been severely depressed, though functioning, for a while now and am suicidal (have been since my teens off and on) but I won’t do it because I have to be here for my kitty.

We live in southern California and came here from northern CA to take care of his mom who had dementia.  It all started off good, but quickly went bad as her condition deteriorated. She passed in July 2015. We both took care of her initially, but as I got angrier and more frustrated with what was happening between us, I took it out on her to the point where he had to care for her by himself.  One night when he’d been drinking (he’s an alcoholic, mostly in denial), he came into my room to “talk” but started in on my family again. I just lost it and started screaming at him to get out and leave me alone. I think I actually hit him and pushed him, and threatened to call 911. That was it. I instantly regretted it and apologized and said I wouldn’t, but it was too late. He says we can’t “fix” things now, not that I want to anymore.  It feels all he does is look for ways to annoy or hurt me and just keep kicking me (emotionally, never physically) when I’m already down. Anyway, I could go on and on, but I fear he’s going to kick me out. And if so, I have no idea what I’d do or where I’d go. So, I’m pretty much stuck in a very stressful situation, with no discernible way out.

Suffice to say, this is a very toxic relationship and I can’t get out, at least not easily, and it just makes me want to die sooner than later because I don’t see anything good happening for me anywhere down the road from here.  But I have to wait for my kitty to go first, unless I can re-home him soon, and then I’m free to go or do whatever I decide to do. But I promised him I would take care of him for his life and feel horrible if I can’t do that.

So if you get through all that, I’d be most interested to know your thoughts, Jill.  Thanks so much!

Blessings, Love and Peace to you,
No Way Out  in California

Dear No Way Out:

I am so sorry for all of your struggles. My goodness!

So, there a few things I’d like to say to you, with the caveat that I think you know what you need to do in your relationship. I don’t think you need my advice there.

With that said, there are a few things in your note that DO concern me. And I’d like to make some recommendations:

    1. Please reach out to the Suicide Prevention Hotline immediately: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ While I admire that you’re keeping yourself alive for the cat, you also need to hold yourself in as much honor and esteem as you do your pet. You are worth at least that much…and so much more. So please, No Way Out, if you do nothing else, I implore you to take action here. You are worth it and, remember, life can turn on a dime in the best of ways! Which brings me to my next suggestion…
    2. Find a good therapist. Some will work with you on a sliding scale, or even free… you just need to find them. Just Google what I did: “Free therapy in California.” From what you’re telling me about your situation, it sounds like you feel trapped.  Totally understand — I was feeling that way too way back when, not thinking I had any other option than to stay with Hector or live a very long and lonely life. But I wasn’t. And it wasn’t until I realized that I wasn’t stuck–and that I ALWAYS had options–that I was able to start climbing my way out and towards a life I thought was only available to other people. While you may feel like you’re stuck, know that you’re not. You always have options (we all do). And as you say, “… I can’t get out, at least not easily”, make peace with the fact that some of your options involve complexity. It’s okay. Nothing you can’t surmount. Then put one foot in front of the other in the direction of positive change; bite off one problem at a time and then the next. Let yourself move through the process of getting from Point A to Point B over time, with the courage and confidence in knowing that you will get there. You’re determined.Here’s where a therapist can help. He or she can both guide and support you in figuring out what the next thing for you looks like, as well as how to get there, how your current beliefs may be getting in the way, and how to cultivate the self-love you need to be successful. Because while I’m encouraged to see that you have love for yourself–by eating right, exercising, and paying attention to your health overall–you need to dig even deeper by exploring the beliefs you have about yourself, relationships, and the world around you, and how they may be sabotaging your efforts. A therapist can help you do this, as well as replace limiting beliefs with better ones that will get you where you want to go! Here are some resources to start your search for the right person: https://sccc-la.org/ and http://www.nafcclinics.org/.
    3. Contact a lawyer. Since you’ve been with this man for a long time, you may be entitled to something you think you’re not. Same deal with the therapists — some may do pro bono work for you, others may charge on a sliding scale. It’s  worth investigating. Another resource to get you started: http://www.calbar.ca.gov/Public/Need-Legal-Help/Free-Legal-Help.
    4. Lastly, explore the social programs available through the state to support you in creating change and that new life. There may be others even in your local area, so Google that. (Google is a wonderful thing!) This website outlines some of the state programs that may support you in getting back on your feet without having to rely on your S.O.: http://www.cdss.ca.gov/  and http://www.edd.ca.gov/Disability/.

No Way Out, your note tells me that you’re a smart, kind, generous, giving, and loving person who’s simply landed herself in a tough spot. It’s okay. Tough spots don’t have to last forever. You can do something about it. And you must, because the world needs your gifts. Let the Radical Self-Love flow, one belief, idea, and thought at a time, and things will get better.  Know that while this leg of the journey may be hard, there are better days lying in wait. Just take that first step — start with number one I mention above.

Lastly, remember: We live in a space of infinite possibility. Go get yours.

I am not only rooting for you, but sending lots of love and positive energy for healing and letting go for the love and life you want.  Please keep me posted on your progress!

XO
Jill

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Jill Sherer Murray is an award-winning writer and speaker who studies relationships and self-growth. She is also the founder of Let Go For It®, a lifestyle brand dedicated to helping individuals let go for a better life. Jill’s TEDx talk as well as her advice column, Big Wild Love: Let Go For It® were created in service to her loyal and growing fan base, who seek support in the act and the art of letting go for the love they desire and deserve. Follow Jill @letgoforit on TwitterFacebookInstagram and LinkedIn.

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