Remember this.

Relationships can be unpredictable things. For some people, they are endlessly fulfilling and totally captivating. For others, they’re hell on earth.

There are few things worse than being trapped in a toxic relationship. There’s nothing quite like the total breakdown in your sense of identity and self-worth that comes with endless gaslighting and betrayal. You’re ground down slowly until you’re a shadow of your former self. You’re made to doubt yourself, constantly. You find you’re second guessing everything you do. You’re caught in a vicious cycle of spiralling guilt and fear. You end up blaming yourself for the situation you’re in. You feel guilty for allowing it to happen to you, for you to be controlled in such a way. You also feel guilty for thinking like that in the first place. What if it all really is your fault? What if it’s all in your head, just like your partner says?

You’re afraid to be with them. You’re afraid to be without them. Nowhere and nothing feels safe. A toxic relationship will cripple your sense of self-worth and happiness. When you’re with someone who doesn’t really want you to be happy, who doesn’t want you to follow your dreams, or to be successful or fulfilled, or to be anything other than a plaything under their total control, life begins to seem totally pointless.

Often, toxic people will lure you into a relationship with a charming act. This façade will soon disappear once they feel like you’re under their thumb. They’ll bring it out at times, of course, when they want something from you – and then return to being vicious and nasty at the drop of the hat. Toxic people are master manipulators, skilled at cutting you off from your friends and family, slowly narrowing your support network until the noose tightens and you’re totally dependent on them. They’ll play with your emotions. They’ll ignore your calls and texts one moment, then make you feel guilty and ashamed for taking too long to reply to them. Hoping for a healthy, fulfilling relationship with someone like that is an exercise in futility. They don’t want a relationship. They want a personal slave, someone at their constant beck and call, relegated to a shell of a person and existing only to please them when they feel like it.

Many people in toxic relationships are so hung up on the charming, perfect veneer that their partners portray when they first meet that they become blind to the reality of the situation they’re experiencing when the relationship begins to deteriorate. They desperately hope that their partner will one day become the person they first fell in love with – the one who would shower them with affection and love. They feel alone all the time, even when they’re with the person who they’re supposed to be closest with. The person who makes them feel unworthy of love. Someone who treads on them for little more than an ego boost.

However, like any hardship in life, the horrible process of experiencing a toxic relationship can help make you stronger, as long as you can learn to process all that happened to you in a healthy and constructive way. It can teach you many hard lessons about yourself, life, and relationships. You can use a horrible experience like that as a life lesson and go on to be a better person for having been taught it. Adversity is often the best teacher.