The 4 Steps to Unhook yourself from an Unhealthy Relationship
Written by Jafree Ozwald
“We all live under the same sky, but we don’t see the same light.” ~ Chinese proverb
One of the greatest risks we can take in life is to open our heart up to be immersed in a deep intimate relationship with someone. Allowing ourselves to be deeply connected to the soul, mind and heart of another human being, we must become extremely vulnerable and willing to let all our parts be felt and seen. There is a huge possibility that the other will not reciprocate on the same loving level which we’ve invested, and we find ourselves feeling isolated, emotionally distant, empty and depleted. We also run into the chance that we might fall madly in love with our partner, making their life path, purpose and mission more of a priority than our own. There are ten thousand pitfalls to watch out for when engaging in deep long term intimacy, and this is what makes it one of the most exciting, expansive and soul growing experiences we can explore on this planet.
A life without love is a dry mechanical and intellectual chore. A life with love is a deep heartfelt and spiritually juicy adventure. We have the choice each day which avenue we will take, even if we are not in a partnership with someone. We can choose to greet the world, each being we see whether they exist in our bed, on the computer screen, or behind the counter at our local grocery store with an open compassionate heart and accepting mind. The gift you give is the one that you receive, and reflects how fulfilled you’ll feel at the end of each day.
It is destined to manifest at some point in any long term relationship journey, that one side will recoil in anger, judgment or fear, and the previously open hearted communication becomes more protected, guarded and closed. We all can get unconsciously triggered by a small potentially innocent situation, resulting in a negative reaction and exchanging words that are hurtful, unkind or unloving. If there is no deep immediate apology and real true forgiveness between the each partner, one side of the relationship will fall into deep mistrust, stop opening up, and becoming even more distant, skeptical, judgmental, and eventually cold as ice. Hopefully we are conscious, communicative and courageous enough to intervene before the relationship morphs into a continuous state of pain and need a major overhaul.
“There is no more a greater challenge in life than love. If you love someone, you are in a tremendous turmoil. Love is not all roses as your poets have said, it is more thorny than you can imagine. Love is the greatest danger in life. If you really want to grow, accept the greatest danger and move into it.” ~Osho
The main reason couples have these volcanic eruptions in their relationships is that the wounded elephant in the closet needs to come out of hiding. Each partner needs to come true, clean and reveal the dark wounds that they are holding onto. They must be vulnerable again to love, like they way things were in the beginning. They must both become fully and radically responsible for the experience they are creating within their connection.
The major challenge and confusion that can manifest in relationship is when we begin pointing the finger outside ourselves. We start blaming our partner for making us feel this way, focusing on their issues, pointing at their addictions, and lack of happiness. We stop reflecting on our own lives, our past wounded history and seeing more clearly and deeply into ourselves. In order for a healthy resolution to occur when an eruption occurs, the main exploration always needs to be on our inner world.
Healing begins when each partner looks deeply within to where, when and how their first memory of a pain or conflict similar to this one first began. By finding our furthest root, our deepest pain within ourselves, we can take responsibility for why we engaged in our viewpoint of this unloving experience we helped create, and untangle the emotional relationship within ourselves healing the hurt history at the core. We can take responsibility for our own pain, our own lack of healthy boundaries, of loving ourselves, trusting ourselves, and stop playing the victim game and empower ourselves again.
If our pain stems from abusive past situation, it often requires that we take a radical unconventional approach and stop projecting the original abuser to be someone or something that came from the outer world. We must see everything now is happening from within us. The past is a dead thing and we are the ones keeping it alive, regenerating the emotional wounding memories day after day, year after year. To truly heal ourselves at the core, we must deeply understand why our soul chose to allow for this abuse to occur, what the deeper positive growth lesson was for us, and truly forgive ourselves and the abuser. This is how we can heal those parts inside us that continue to manifest abuse in some form, from one relationship after the next. We must help this wounded part feel again that it deserves to be cherished, adored and loved.
“Dive into your heart center. Sit in the silence. Desire self-realization with all your heart, with all your mind, and all your soul. Cry out for God, and you will be with the right people. Everything will take care of itself.” – Robert Adams
With the courage to have deep authentic communication and radical responsibility with our partner, we can find forgiveness and real healing within ourselves. The main obstacle is the prideful ego is rarely willing to be wrong about it’s judgments, as the emotional triggers can run through every righteous cell in the body and brain. The ego would often rather die than be wrong, which is exactly what the overall plan is from a spiritual perspective. If the ego is too rigid and unwilling to bend, the relationship will take a catastrophic turn for the worst, increasing in levels of emotional resistance, creating even more pain and agony.
One of the greatest benefits of being in relationship is that we must rise higher each day in love, and this totally dismantles our attachment to our ego. Living in a deeply loving, intimate, vulnerable and long term harmonious connection with another person is one the most spiritually advanced accomplishments any human being can undertake. We are forced to live in love, as love, in full acceptance and total surrender to life. We must engage in a playful easy way of being with each other. If a relationship is going to survive a turbulent time, the ego must give up everything for love, let go of all the core drama, trauma, and deal with the core wounding. This allows each partner to become a truly alive highly sensitive conscious being. What’s left afterwards is the wake of deep reverence and appreciation for your partner, who was able to hold space and mirror your life back to you, allowing you to see your wounding and truly heal your life from the inside out.
Through engaging in relationship for many years (or decades) with our partner, it’s natural that will become deeply entangled in each others lives. If children are born they join into the marriage and become facilitators inviting us to bring in more love, creativity, and patience. They serve the relationship to help the parents find their own innocence again, so the family can reboot their lives with love, and entice all the past core wounding to rise to surface to be healed.
A deeply entwined relationship will also eventually contain financial ties, an accumulation of things purchased together, a shared home environment, joined schedules, and of course an extremely deep emotional connection. All of these factors contribute to amping up the intensity on the relationship making it require even more real radical communication from the heart, a greater strength to be real, dismantle the demanding ego, feel the full release of an attachment to being right, and a total vulnerability of the soul.
“The more honest and authentic we are, the more deeply we go into the mystery of our own being.” ~ Adyashanti
It often happens in almost every relationship that we hit the wall of deep mis-communication. Our partner feels unable or unwilling to meet us on our spiritual path, there is a lack of depth of honesty, real loving communication from the heart, and willingness to be vulnerable. We then must take an energetic step back and take care of ourselves. It is immensely unhealthy and even disease creating to remain in a long term relationship that is not opening up to more healing, harmony and balance. We are doing ourselves a huge disservice by remaining unhappy and staying in the struggle.
When we continue to remain involved in a toxic relationship, it is always the involvement of the stubborn ego in disguise, manipulating the outer, trying to return it’s experience of security, ease and love again. This strategy is not teaching our children or community what love is really about. Real love contains the greatest freedom, and allows space for our partner (and ourselves) to explore the pain within. If we continuously meet the great wall of china in our partner’s heart, its best to become Selfish and take care of our emotional needs. If our partner isn’t willing to open their heart, forgive the past and be again in soulful communication we must find this connection within ourselves. This means we must take time alone, giving ourselves and our partner extra time and space to feel the emotional blocks and discover how to heal our inner world.
It can be one of the most difficult decisions in the world to unhook ourselves from a relationship that we once deeply loved and adored. We may project all kinds of positive aspects onto our partner, so it is not always obvious that the relationship is unhealthy. There are always a few key positive qualities the other is continuing to contribute, keeping the connection tie and their partner from abandoning them. The emotional dance of relationship can mainly be an unconscious ride, so we cannot blame the other for trying to perpetuate a relationship that is continuously painful. We must become totally honest with ourselves if we are to find the clear eyes and heart to know how unhappy we are and how toxic it is for us.
After years of entanglement it often happens that we remain in toxic relationships much longer than is healthy. We choose to become distracted by other positive aspects of life. Buying things we love, hanging with people who love us, focusing on creating projects, our work, or creating more money take precedence. If children are involved then they become a huge excuse to stay together, keeping the illusion stable of a happy healthy home. It can even go to the extent that our own health is compromised and takes the back burner.
What we may forget to realize is that a major influence of our own emotional chaos and toxicity is stemming from how we are feeling disconnected from the most significant person in our life. If we truly love ourselves we must give ourselves space the freedom to find peace within our being again. We must create energetic, emotional and physical space and time away from our partner. This is not from a place of resentment, blame and hurt, yet stems from a place of self love and a desire to inquire who we truly are.
Most of the time the reason why a relationship becomes toxic is because one person in the partnership is focusing on self growth, spiritual development, and healing old wounds, while the other person is engaging in self-destructive habits, maintaining old outer addictions such as alcohol, drugs, sex, food, etc, and stunting their ability to communicate from a real space of vulnerability. If both sides are either engaging together in self destructive patterns or self growing habits, the relationship will most likely perpetuate in a supportive process. However, if there is not a team effort it doesn’t take very long for one side to wake up and realize the other person is a hindrance, blocking the exploration, and constantly causing more challenge than comfort.
“To set your life on fire seek those who fan your flames.” ~ Rumi
The healthiest way to unhook ourselves from a harmful relationship is a basic 4 step process. These steps are not always going to unfold in this order, or require that they are followed exactly for optimal results. There are perhaps a thousand creative ways we can disengage from our partner and depart from a toxic situation. The better question to ask yourself is which path will empower and enlighten you the most, as well as leave your partner in a way that inspires and enlightens them as well. It’s good to know that these are suggestions and not rules or requirements, so that you discover your own creative healing process within yourself.
1. Identify if your Relationship is Toxic and Unhealthy. This step can be the most challenging because we ourselves (or our partner) may be going through a self destructive phase that is on it’s way out, or is just beginning. It is hard to know how committed we are and the other person is, to healing, self growth and vulnerability especially when life gets really heated up. The main step here begins with asking yourself honest questions such as, “Does this person inspire me, lift me up, make me feel more positive, free, generous and strong? Who would I be without this person in my daily life? Do I feel more like my true self when I’m with them? Am I truly a better human being staying with this person? Am I authentically happy when I’m with this person?” Basically you want to investigate your joy and fulfillment index, and explore if it’s in mainly in the positive or the negative. Even if you’re only happy lets say 51-70% of the time being with your partner, you may want to reconsider if this is considered to enough of a healthy status for you, and give the relationship a spatial break.
2. Engage in Authentic Communication and Radical Responsibility. Share with your partner how you’re not feeling happy in the relationship, and make sure that YOU take full responsibility for your creation of this. Do not blame your partner or point the finger at them in any way. Simply be vulnerable, honest and real about what you’re going through in this relationship with them, taking total responsibility. Listen to how your partner responds. Do they react in fear, open up their heart to you, or shut down and run away completely? Attempt to engage in this radical connection with them many times over many months especially if you are in a long term marriage situation with children involved. Call in a 3rd party neutral person/counselor if needed, who can help bring in more authenticity and deeper communication skills. If your partner only responds with resistance, judgment and fear, it is your clear sign to create more space between the two of you.
3. Create Space for You and Not Because of Them. When you’ve come to the conclusion that the relationship is completely stuck and not going to get unstuck anytime soon, it is VITAL that you commit to step away from it. How you engage in your approach is crucial in that you’re not blaming them for treating you a certain way and taking space is your way of having revenge on them. This is not an action out of feeling hurt or resentful. You are simply creating more energetic space and alone time for YOU to explore your connection with the Divine/God. You are not a victim of these circumstances, you are the creator of your reality always.
By choosing to take more time to be alone you can investigate the roots of your suffering. You need to live in an emotionally non-toxic environment to truly do this investigation clearly. Giving space to you means you are loving you, and this translates to your partner as a full permission and urgency to find this same love for themselves. The easiest way that you can take this step away is knowing that it’s not some permanent path of relationship destruction, or that you’ll never talk or be friends again. When they become radically responsible for their life it will be safe for you to reconnect, yet until then it’s about being selfish. It’s about making this time more about you and less about them. You’re unhooking simply as an act of self love, and your partner is a teacher on your path, an instigator who has been generous enough to mirror back those parts of yourself you could not and did not want to see.
4. Depart with an Open Heart filled with Gratitude. When you are committed to being in a space of love for yourself, your unhooking decision will naturally create a desire for more space and time to be alone and explore you. From this self loving space it will be natural to thank your partner for all the time you’ve spent together. Give them a goodbye gift to remember your heart and soul. Make it a symbol of what you received from the time you were together. This is powerful message of appreciation is the only type of closure that will always help you and your partner cut the cords, detach in a healthy way and move on to the next level.
When departing if your partner freaks out and becomes overly emotional, clingy or demanding, just continue with the process of appreciation and creating space alone to love you. Their emotional drama is simply a sign that they still have strong feelings for you and want you in their life. It is vitally important at this juncture that you remain centered, and continue moving forward with your plan to create a more harmonious inner and outer environment for you. Keep an open heart to the Universe during this process. You cannot actually become stuck in a painful negative pattern if your heart never closes. You can love your partner from a distance with compassion and by using this method you don’t close your heart off to yourself as well.
In the beginning when separating from your partner, every excuse may arise to recoil, become cowardly and return to the old comfortable ways of being together.This is where you breathe, return to step one and ask yourself that list of questions again. Be strong like bamboo, breathe and center yourself. As you leave them, show your partner this inner strength and desire to be alone as it is very attractive for them, and it will help them find this strength and respect within themselves.
If you quickly give in and return to the relationship when they are desperately begging you to stay, their ego has emotionally manipulated you and over-powered you to remain in their safe container, and you both end up remaining in the same velvet relationship rut as before. Communicate the importance that this is a crucial time in both of your lives to be alone and find true inner peace. Point out where you need healing, and how urgent it is to find a quiet solitary space to rest quietly inside, so you can relax deeper into your soul, find your playful childlike heart again, and discover who you truly are.
If you were in a long term relationship and have created a comfortable home together with your partner, it’s essential that you don’t attempt to live in this toxic space together. Either ask them to leave if they agree to it, or you will need to physically move out and rent a hotel room or move in with a close friend or family member. Do what is necessary to create a clean new space so you can feel safe and completely separate from their energy. This is the only way you’ll be able to do the self exploration and see through the confusion and heal the relationship wounds and unhealthy patterns that your partner was mirroring from your past.
During the unhooking process you most likely will doubt yourself and your decision many times. Your partner may try every trick in the book to get your attention. They may be overly cold, distant, angry, depressed, sad and even suicidal. If they are on their hands and knees in tears at your doorstep praying for you to return, assure them that you will consider it if they respect you enough to give you this sacred time and space. This gesture allows them the opportunity to dig deeper and inquire within themselves their love and respect for you. It helps them to feel the core roots of their pain and their contribution to why you needed to leave the relationship.
If after some time you start feeling more loving and at ease, you can give your partner an exact time when you will come out from your cave to re-engage and re-evaluate being in relationship again. The amount of time you remain alone should be according to what you feel you need, and have nothing to do with their needs. It may end up being a week, month or year depending on your situation. Before you depart, do not propose a time when you’ll reconnect or return. Let your trip be open ended. Just leave thanking them for the lessons and informing your partner what changes you would appreciate they make in their addictions or self destructive behaviors if they want to keep you in their life.
It is a very important that during this unhooking time of inner self discovery that you have very little or NO communication at all with your partner. Request that they do not contact you at all, and that if they don’t respect your desire you will be forced to block their phone and email, un-friend them on Facebook, or call the local authorities to place a restraining order if they become insanely dramatic.
When you are alone and your mind starts to remember what it’s like to be with them, let all the good and bad feelings rise, touching the deepest possible core of your being. Allow the hurt from your departure siphon up all the pain and breakups from your past. Use them as a catalyst to clean out your emotional closet and do a much deeper life work on yourself than you’ve ever done before.
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Sending lots of love and lightness,
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