TAINTED LOVE:<br />
Breaking Free from an Unhealthy Relationship

it’s time to take a look at what’s really driving you to stay.

"I'm on an emotional rollercoaster/Lovin' you ain't nothin' healthy/Lovin' you was never good for me...But I can't get off"

It’s natural to desire an intimate relationship. But for some people, this desire can be so intense that they will stay in a relationship that is killing them either literally in the case of some victims of domestic violence, or figuratively through repeated neglectful and/or abusive emotional abuse from their partner. 

The first time I heard the lyrics to Vivian Green’s hit song “Emotional Rollercoaster” I was hit square in the solar plexus with recognition. Her words were an anthem to me and many of the women I knew who had found themselves in way too deep and unwilling to leave someone who incapable of giving us what we need. 

In a toxic relationship there is usually a behavior that our partner engages in that causes us significant emotional harm.  It could be repeated infidelity, emotional abuse or neglect, active substance abuse, or pathological lying.  For example, about a month ago it was revealed that Antonio Cromartie’s wife, Terricka, faked a suicide attempt in a desperate bid to reign in her lothario spouse’s prolific cheating.  Mrs. Cromartie’s texts to her husband in which she alleged having slashed her wrists and overdosed on pills didn’t spur him to get on a plane and come home to rescue his wife.  Antonio kept his behind in Miami, instead calling the police in the New Jersey town where they share a home to intervene. 

What Terricka hoped for was a loyal spouse who was willing to give up his sidepieces.  Instead, she received involuntary commitment to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation while her two children were placed in the temporary care of the state.  If you find yourself spending increasing amounts of time and energy trying to manage your partner’s behavior or your emotional response towards their behavior, it’s a sure sign that you are in a toxic relationship.  A relationship can only be as whole as its participants. If one or both are emotionally damaged, the individuals and the relationship itself (without intervening support) is doomed with increasing levels of insecurity, power plays, dishonesty, and selfishness. 

Healthy intimate relationships require a high level of commitment, but some of us are taking these words far too literally.  The “ride or die” mentality that is encouraged in Black women is especially destructive.  We’re told that a good woman will stand by her man no matter how many times he cheats or plays with your emotions.  Black women comprise 8% of the U.S. population however we represent 29% of all female victims of intimate partner homicide.  Black women also suffer domestic violence at a rate 35 times that of our White counterparts.  That, along with increasing rates of H.I.V. infection that are reaching epidemic proportions in some areas of the country indicate that Black women are often putting their lover’s feelings (such as dislike of condom use) or need for some sort of security ahead of their health.  Anytime you find yourself in a relationship in which your predominant and sustained thought is “The only reason I’m sticking with this person is because of [insert perceived asset]” it’s time to take a look at what’s really driving you to stay. 

What Terricka hoped for was a loyal spouse who was willing to give up his sidepieces. Instead, she received involuntary commitment to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation while her two children were placed in the temporary care of the state.

If you find yourself in a relationship that is causing you more pain than it’s worth, there are certain steps you can take to ensure that you don’t end up losing more than you gain:

  1. Many people in unhealthy relationships are in denial about how bad things really are. So the first step towards change is admitting to yourself that you’re in a toxic relationship. It’s not easy to face the fact that your relationship may be causing more harm than good, but we are powerless to change that which we deny or avoid.
  2. The second step towards breaking free is to accept 100% accountability for your emotional and physical well-being.  Your health is your responsibility.  If you don’t put it first, no one else will either.
  3. There are a myriad of reasons why people stay in unhealthy relationships, but the common thread is underlying low self-esteem that leads you to believe that you don’t deserve or won’t find someone better.  Change doesn’t come simply from recognition.  It’s important to seek help from a trained professional, such as a psychotherapist or counselor who can help you address the core issues that have kept you in an unhealthy relationship.  At the same time, it’s imperative that you establish new boundaries of what behaviors you will and won’t accept in your relationship.  If there is any threat of physical violence however, this may not be safe to do.  Reach out to an organization that is experienced in helping people create a safety plan that has the least amount of risk, such as the National Domestic