In the last few weeks, we all have absorbed unwarranted and unwanted evidence of one of the messiest breakups of the year, and 2022 just started. If you don’t have an Instagram or Twitter and don’t actively follow pop culture online, then the peculiar actions and remarks from Kanye West about his estranged wife, Kim Kardashian, may be news to you.
Ultimately, what once appeared to be a quiet and healthy separation between the couple after she filed for divorce nearly a year ago has transformed into the rapper using social media to share his feelings and frustrations regarding Kardashian. The nonstop tweets and comments, in all caps, have left her with no choice but to defend the choices she has made as a mother and as a partner, both privately and publicly, which can be emotionally exhausting for anyone already going through a separation or divorce.
Although West’s recent apology to Kim Kardashian highlighted his willingness to take accountability for humiliating and harassing her online, it still does not excuse the behavior he has has exhibited time and time again in an effort to plead for Kim, win her back, and reunite cohesively with his family. Instead, his behavior as an individual, like many of the other individuals some of us know, further exacerbates how difficult it is for men and women to leave toxic and unhealthy relationships.
Overcoming the aftermath of an unhealthy relationship and breakup is no easy thing to be tasked with as a woman or man. The common experience people share while in these relationships is that they typically take years to fully put an end to – even a perceived lifetime for some. Coping starts to feel like a process. One that begins with being able to recognize and acknowledge when a person is toxic and what behaviors a toxic person has. Then comes the emotions of heaviness associated with having to figure out and strategize how to leave and end the relationship.
As a licensed social worker, I am able to observe how the burden of being in an unhealthy relationship impacts the mental and emotional health and wellness of people every day. As an everyday Black woman, I’ve witnessed the emotional and mental residue these relationships leave behind after partners have separated and families have been broken. Although being in unhealthy relationships is not something that directly results in mental health disorders, naming them and ways to cope is still something we must talk about because these relationships are something that affect people (aside from Kim and Kanye) on a daily basis.
Here are a few ways to cope when a relationship and breakup gets messy:
Recognize and take inventory of what unhealthy characteristic traits are jumping out at you. Is this person arguing you down when you bring up leaving? Are they taking jabs at you by bringing up triggering events? You know those red flags we love to ignore? It’s time to stop overlooking them. The thrill that comes with being yoked up with someone who no longer makes us feel good or who no longer serves a purpose in our lives just because that person is cute withers away. Recognizing the unhealthy traits of a person after you have initiated a breakup may be the first step toward preserving your overall mental and emotional health and wellness.
Book that therapy session. During therapy, an individual may do a lot of work around awareness building to sharpen their insight. The process may feel tedious and steady; however, it later becomes groundbreaking because observing, recognizing and acknowledging the traits of a person becomes easier. As individuals, we want to be able to name exactly what we’re noticing in someone else’s personality, actions and behaviors in response to us initiating a breakup. Therapy can also help with establishing an accountability system for when the breakup gets tough. If you struggle in the area of following through with empowering decisions that are also hard, having a therapist accessible to coach you through that process may work wonders.
Talk about your feelings with trusted individuals. Failed relationships and horrible breakups trigger a lot of shame and guilt for some people. Shame is often an identity we take on in response to feeling like we’ve done something bad or in response to feeling like we’ve done something that went against our values. Instead of bottling up and internalizing shame more, let’s spend more time unpacking shame with people who don’t make us feel like our experiences are taboo. You can start by identifying who your tribe of trusted individuals and community are.
Practice self-care and self-maintenance. I wish I could confidently say self-care is all about bubble baths, but it’s not. The process of practicing self-care calls you to a journey of healing inner emotional wounds through practical steps that help us take care of the body. Position yourself to be open to the journey.
Regardless of how long and drawn out a breakup feels, know that you deserve to live your individual and interpersonal life healed and free from toxicity. Once you have mastered coping through these harsh and difficult realities, you will experience a revitalizing and necessary change needed to go into your next season.