Life & Love

How to Leave a Toxic Relationship


Dear E. Jean: My boyfriend and I are in our late twenties, live together in New York, and enjoy flourishing careers; things are pretty solid. However, when we drink, he gets physical. He’s broken my cell phone, my digital camera, and other personal items. He’s never gotten aggressively violent with me, though he’s pushed me out the front door onto the ground, he’s spit in my face, and recently, he grabbed me by the throat and taunted me.

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This happens only when we have a little too much to drink. When I try to talk to him the next day, he gets defensive and blames me for the whole thing happening in the first place! My job is very demanding, so I’ve had very little time to make my own circle of friends. Consequently (and ironically!), I feel closer to him than to anyone. I’m scared of being alone. Can we work past this? —Making a Life in New York

Miss making, my dear: I dare say that many men who’ve appeared in this column have not exactly been models of propriety and decorum, but this seedy, ignoble little bastard who knocks you around—no, no. This is not a man with whom you can “work past.” You’re going to leave him. Here’s how:

1. Stop drinking. You’re trapped with—pardon me—an epic shit-stirrer; don’t add to the drama.

2. Get some friends, for God’s sake! You’re a smart woman—why are you more afraid of “being alone” than being “grabbed by the throat” by a jerkweed? Meet people by volunteering; join your company’s sports team; and you’re on Twitter, right? Hold a Tweetup (it’s Twitter, for the love of Oprah! Word will spread!). I understand it can be scary to be alone. But once you are alone, you’ll understand why millions of single people are fine with it. You are great company for yourself, and the only way to get other people in your life is to make room by getting this guy out.

3. Secure your bank account and credit cards. If he gets wind you’re leaving, he may turn hacker. Change your bank, work, and website passwords; and put your birth certificate, passport, early photo albums, and important documents in a safety deposit box.

4. Now you’re ready to rent your own place. No need to give him advance notice— just do it. Move everything out when he’s at work, and then brace yourself. He’ll bawl like a baby, crawl, curse, threaten, promise, and beg. Don’t give in. Call the police if he tries to get in the door. He’s a bad guy. The sooner you’re rid of him, the better!

This letter is from the Ask E. Jean Archive, 1993-2017. Send questions to E. Jean at


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