Defending A Love You Know You Shouldn’t


Sometimes it feels like running against the wind. Something that should be healthy, therapeutic and yes, a little challenging, becomes an arduous task; each stride feeling exponentially more difficult than it ever did before. In the end it’s exhausting, draining and sometimes very painful.

Yet we continue to do it. We fight through it and push ourselves to the very brink of complete exhaustion.

But this time, it’s not healthy. It’s not beneficial. It’s just painful.

As a runner, I like this analogy because I have felt it for myself. Both literally when I’m out “pounding the pavement,” and metaphorically; fighting through a toxic relationship.

They say that matters of the heart are complicated and as such cannot be explained or fully understood. Love is one of the few things in life which has no scientific reasoning, no logic, and no black-and-white answers. Love can be an awesome force which often overpowers all other senses, especially judgment.

How many of us have (or have known others who have) been in a relationship which was clearly detrimental. And it was obvious to everyone, except the pair blinded by love–or hate, or love/hate; it’s a very fine line it seems.

Maybe your friends told you, “He’s not treating you right.” Or maybe they said, “She’s not worth it!” Or perhaps it was you yourself doling out similar advice to a friend or family member. At the end of the day however, it’s entirely likely that all this well-intentioned advice faded away into white noise, forever lost in the dimension of “wasted breath”.

So how do we know when enough is enough? Is it when one partner is so mentally and emotionally exhausted they are forced to resign their post and abandon their affections? Or maybe it’s when one partner crosses a line that cannot be uncrossed (such as verbal or physical abuse)?

Truth be told, I can’t say when that moment comes. I have never known when to stop fighting for someone who only fights against me. And believe me, I have the emotional scarring to prove it.

What I do know for sure is life is short and true love should lift you up. It should inspire you and help to make you a better version of yourself. Is it always easy? God no. We wish, right? But how could it ever be easy to take two separate lives and meld them together as one–it is rarely a seamless endeavor. However, it should not belittle you, lessen you, or hurt you in any way. This is not gender specific or situational, it’s simply an indisputable fact.

The truth is, if you love someone and they love you, seeing one another hurting should be the last thing either partner would ever want. The goal should be to help each other to thrive through support, compassion and love. If this does not occur, and petty jealousies, hurtful comments and malice dominate the arguments, or worse, needle their way into would-be pleasant conversation–that is a red flag.

The trickiest part about it all, is love’s desire to “make it work” will have you making justifications for this behavior. When the bottom line is, there is no justification for such behavior. No matter how much the hopeless romantics out there who believe wholeheartedly in the power of love–myself included–wish it were so.

So maybe you’re thinking, “Okay, this sounds a little familiar…”

Whether it’s reflecting moments of your own relationship, past or present, or it’s mirroring patterns you’ve seen elsewhere. If you’re in a toxic relationship right now, I would urge you to think deeply about it. Are you genuinely happy? Do you feel the love you deserve? How much does your happiness and wellbeing mean to you?

This is all stated absolutely without judgement, because in all likelihood, we’ve all been there. There is the fear of being alone, the hope that the situation may someday change, the need to know that we fought as hard as we could to make it work. But sadly, sometimes, it just isn’t worth it. If you are unhappy more than happy, if you fight more than laugh, if you feel worse about yourself around your partner–then something has to change.

A starting point for change: be sure your partner knows you are unhappy and not willing to put up with the pain any longer.

Perhaps then you will both decide to see a relationship counselor in an effort to work through these toxic patterns in a healthy way. Or maybe this conversation leads to yet another argument? If the result is the latter, then just remember this: relationships are a choice, and you have a right to love. To find it however, we must be strong enough to break the cycle of hurt and find something real.

Of course this is easier said than done. It requires strength, commitment to yourself and the courage to walk away. But if and when you decide you deserve better, I’m willing to bet you’ll not only find it, but it will absolutely be worth it.