Love yourself first: Why I ended my toxic relationship

Ashton Byers is a communications major and works at the Veteran Services Center, Feb. 21. | Photo by Destinee Lang | Staff Photographer |

Ashton Byers
Staff Writer

After giving birth to our daughter in September 2016, my boyfriend at the time decided it was more important to close a chapter of his past than live in the present with the daughter we created. It was at that moment that I realized I’d be doing it on my own. We wouldn’t be the picture-perfect family that I hoped for.

I pictured two parents living under the same roof, working together to provide and ensure our daughter grew up happy. Instead we were broken. She would never get the opportunity to have that life — one where the ones who loved her most also loved each other. Now I have to worry about things like separation anxiety, custody, mediation and that dreaded term, “co-parenting.”

We all long for human connection. It’s so vital, depriving an infant of affection can lead to brain damage, with permanent intellectual, social and emotional impairment, and even death. Babies need to be held, coddled, and rocked, and their environment can determine the way they connect with people for the rest of their lives. They can be secure, avoidant, ambivalent or disorganized, according to Mary Ainsworth who coined attachment theory in the 1960s.

Secure attachment is when the child is most secure, happy, and curious. Avoidant attachment is when the child is not very explorative, but emotionally distant. Ambivalent attachment is where the child is more anxious, insecure and angry. Disorganized attachment is where the child is depressed, angry, completely passive and non-responsive.

It’s important to know where we fall under, so as to better identify with oneself, and predict the kind of relationships we are going to have in the future. Although not a definite precursor, I’ve witnessed first-hand that co-dependency becomes an issue if the child did not grow up in a secure household. They have fears of rejection, and cast them on their partner.

From my experience, I’ve realized that it’s I needed to work on my relationship with myself first, before I could be happy sharing my life with another. Otherwise, the relationship will be co-dependent rather than affectionate, and poisonous rather than beneficial.

I’m a strong believer that my boyfriend was stuck in the past because he feared the future and preferred familiarity over change and growth, no matter how toxic or negative it was. I realized there was no way I could have a future with this man when he was so caught up in his past. Sometimes we want so badly for something to occur, we overlook the other person’s frame of mind. If you want a better future, the only way to deal with people trapped in their past is to leave them in yours. Not everyone you have a relationship with will be on the same level as you, and not everyone is meant to stay.

While it’s ideal to avoid a damaging custody battle, and to avoid pitting the parents against each other in the child’s eyes, if two people in a relationship have opposing goals, they’ll do more damage trying to force it to work. In an ideal world, the perfect family would be of two people who loved their child, and also loved each other; but we don’t live in an ideal world.

We live in an imperfect world, where sometimes shit hits the fan. Sometimes it’s better to let go of a relationship than hold onto the illusion that things are ever going to be what you hoped for. It’s not always easy to do, especially when you get wrapped up in the idealistic view of what a family should be. Or what one could be. However, it’s far easier to let go of the picture in your head, and make the best what you have now. Nothing is guaranteed. Nothing lasts forever.