I am a 24-year-old woman who was in a toxic relationship for three years. We broke up several times during this period until it finally fizzled out. Eventually I moved away to a different country, and so did he.
Recently we reconnected via social media. At first it was just a matter of catching up, but now we are flirting with the idea of getting back together. Of course I have my reservations, not only because of the distance, but also because of how unreliable and sometimes insensitive he used to be. There is also the matter of my insecurities and the fact that my friends hate him, and while I have convinced them that I hate him as much as they do, I feel quite the opposite. I am hoping that with the passage of time he has matured and grown out of his old ways, which is, by the way, his main argument in trying to win me back.
I really want to try again, but I am not sure it would be the right thing to do, given all the variables. What should I do?
Your description of the relationship as toxic, even though it occurred some years ago, is quite instructive. A toxic relationship would suggest that there was the display of emotional and possibly physical abuse that characterised the relationship, resulting in deflated self-esteem and possibly bruised bodies.
Such a dysfunctional relationship would require intense counselling intervention, and the toxic partner in particular would need individual sessions to address his/her power/control and anger issues. Sometimes individual work is also necessary for the partner on the receiving end who was no doubt hurt emotionally and psychologically.
That said, you must be aware that even with the passage of time, if the toxic partner has made no attempt to deal with his/her behaviour, the problem will recur and may even be more pronounced.
Another consideration is that your ex might be involved with someone else, and is simply toying with you. He could be taking advantage of the 'insecurities' that you mentioned earlier.
Couples often make the mistake of believing that time will fix the bad habits or behaviour patterns of a toxic partner. And so, both men and women will enter marriage knowing beforehand that their partner has certain shortcomings that would negatively impact the relationship, yet they deliberately ignore the red flags, hoping for the best. If these concerns are not addressed directly, then there is a great likelihood that your hopes will be dashed.
So if you are contemplating linking up with your ex in a serious way, consider that though time has passed, he may not have changed his unacceptable behaviour. And if you yourself contributed to the toxicity of the relationship, have you taken care of those personal issues?
His acts of unreliability and insensitivity that you mentioned would need to be discussed at length. Your insecurities as well would have to be placed on the table for discussion, especially since this second-chance relationship will be a long-distance one in the beginning.
Misleading your friends about your fondness for Mr Mention is downright deception, and is a poor reflection of the regard you have for the relationship you intend to initiate. If you truly care for this person, then you need to come clean to your friends and say so. It is obvious, however, that they have your interest at heart and don't want to see you get hurt again. But deep down you must realise that it's your call, and you must make a choice at the risk of losing out on a possible relationship or some of your friends. Your real friends would definitely stand by you, whatever you decide.
Long-distance relationships have their own inherent challenges, and if there were trust issues that existed before, it is likely that the survival of the relationship will be severely threatened.
You need to consider the above variables that permeate the circumstances, and make a decision in your best interest. All the best.
Wayne Powell is a relationship counsellor. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org; check out his work overseas on www.seekingshalom.org, e-mail email@example.com.