By: Danny Brooks

Breaking up is hard. Even if you are the one who dumps the other person. You might doubt if you’re making the right decision. You might worry about hurting the other person. You might just be worried that it’s going to be really awkward seeing them at school or work or with your friend group all of the time. Whatever reason makes it hard for you, you still decided to do it. You knew that it was better this way than if you stayed together and that’s the key. It’s worth the awkwardness and the doubt because you know it’s ultimately going to be good for you in the long run.

I’ve had a lot of people tell me that we need to speak more about how to get out of unhealthy, abusive, or manipulative relationships when we teach the Go For The Gold program in high schools. So in this blog, I’m going to expand on what I say in the classroom and try to offer a little bit more insight into how to get that toxic person out of your life. I know how hard that can be; I’ve suffered through abuse myself. So I’m very empathetic for people going through anything like that, but, make no mistake, that doesn’t mean I’m going to sugar coat the truth about what needs to be done to get out!

First thing on the list: learn the tactics of abusers and manipulators and counter them. Read books, watch videos, and talk to adults who have been through it. LEARN! Slaves used to be punished when they were taught how to read or think because the evil people enslaving them knew that an uneducated mind is a mind easily enslaved. The smarter you are, the harder it is to pull a fast one on you. This doesn’t mean you have to be super book smart and highly intelligent. If you know some basics about how abusers operate, then you have won half the battle! Know your enemy. 

For example, manipulators or abusers love secrecy and isolation. They love it because they know what they are doing is wrong and if other people saw it, they’d get called out. They love to cut off victims from friends and family and control who you talk to so that you don’t get help or figure out what’s happening to you. So if the bad guys or girls (that’s right, girls can be abusive and manipulative too) love secrecy, then don’t keep a bunch of secrets! Be transparent. Talk to friends and family about your relationship. There is a difference between secrecy and privacy though. I would not want to date someone that went and posted on social media every time we had a disagreement. That’s not transparent; that’s rude. It’s violating trust. I’m talking about people that try to keep whole relationships a secret because they don’t want their crazy ex to find out or because they say their parents won’t let them date anyone yet. This could all be a lie. This could be their slick way of isolating you from your support groups. So don’t go tell all of your friends and family every detail of every fight you have, but have one or two go-to friends or family members that you get advice from. Ask them if you are being treated fairly. Ask them if you are treating your partner fairly. Give them the power to help you and speak truth to you. If you are getting abused or manipulated, start talking to people and come up with a plan on what you can do to get out. It might involve contacting a domestic violence agency or it might just involve blocking that person’s number and social media in order to cut off all contact.

Second thing on the list: JUST DO IT! The biggest thing holding people in bad relationships is mainly mental factors. It might be fear. It might be the fact that they don’t want to have to move out, find a new job, split up the family, or cause any trouble for other people. It might be that they still think the person can change. Dating someone and hoping they change or trying to help them change is not a good solution. Seeing a counselor is a much better way for a person who is abusive to grow and become better. You can’t be their counselor. Counselors don’t date their clients for a reason. Some people are embarrassed and I totally get that. I didn’t tell anyone about my abusive past until it was over. I did not follow my own advice and learned the hard way. The bottom line is; you have to want freedom more than you want the person taking it from you.

Last but not least: don’t become overly attached to people you don’t know. One of the best ways to make dumping an abuser easier is to not fall for them in the first place. You might think that’s kind of obvious, but I wouldn’t be saying it if it never happened. Guard yourself and be cautious who you get close with. “Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.”- CS Lewis. If you throw yourself headfirst into every new relationship, give people everything, and expect them to complete you, you will get hurt when it doesn’t work. It will also give that person power over you. People abuse power. I’m not saying you can never trust and never love, but your trust and your love is something sacred. Don’t give your heart to someone who doesn’t want it or isn’t going to care for it as well as you are. We teach about the bonding hormones Vasopressin and Oxytocin and how they create bonds during sexual activity. This is part of what I mean by not giving away your heart. Don’t bond with someone who might use those bonds to hurt you.

I was not a normal teenager (or adult for that matter) when it came to relationships. I was very picky about who I dated and chose not to even date until college. I never had an official girlfriend until I was 27 and she ended up being my wife. It wasn’t always just because I was picky that I didn’t have a girlfriend; I had been friend-zoned my fair share of times too! I didn’t even kiss any girl I went on dates with until I met my wife. Weird, right? Well normal is a divorce rate that’s over 50%. I don’t want to be normal if normal is failure. You don’t have to be as picky as I was, but maybe you should consider not being normal if normal isn’t working. I don’t regret any of my dating decisions, but I know tons of people with regrets and they all have something to do with opening up too fast to a person they dated or not dumping a bad person they were dating. Don’t regret your life. Make the choices you need to today for a healthier relationship whether that’s leaving a person who is bad for you or not overly committing to them in the first place.