Wanting someone to change doesn't mean they even think they need to. Treating some-one poorly doesn't equal you deserving them, Wishing someone was a better person or good for you doesn't magically make them (want to be) those things. Hoping things will work out and last with a person won't put the work in needed to make that happen. We weren't meant to settle down together, someday we had to come to terms with that. I learned these things while in a six year relationship during my early 20's, most of which was unhealthy. At times we were down right toxic. Looking back on that period of my life I don't feel any anger, regret, or any sort of hate. What I feel is glad that we did have good times, a lot got learned during those years, and I've healed a lot over these last three. For those reading who don't know my story, let me make it short and sweet: I fell in love with a narcissist. I didn't know what red flags to look for at the start because I luckily had never been involved with one in any way until meeting my ex in 2012, when I was 20. The good news is I did eventually leave when he gave me the chance, I've taken time to truly understand what happened between us, and I put in the hard work needed to get over it. How did I do it? That's what I'm going to share with you. Disclaimer: I didn't go to therapy. When the break up happened my initial feelings were sadness, anger, and relief. I had to first work through those feelings; I got raw with myself about where they were all coming from. The truth is I was sad not so much because it was over, but more because the truth is my ex is a narcissist and that meant there was never a chance we'd be able to fix things the way so many couples can. I was angry at myself for ignoring certain patterns that I did notice, it made me feel like I couldn't trust my judgement or self. I was relieved because we'd finally stopped putting each other through hell. I'd gotten us out of the cycle we got ourselves into. I let myself really feel these things, it was important. Pushing them aside or constantly claiming "I'm just sad it did ended" wouldn't have helped me heal in the least. Once those feelings weren't strong and I knew I worked through them, I started to work on myself. I wasn't always the nice one between Jonathan and I. I could be mean and selfish in my early 20's, and once had a tendency to let people get to me to the point I'd treat them exactly as they were treating me? Why did I let people bother me so much, when I did see a red flag why would I push it aside? Why did I stay involved with some one for years who had qualities I didn't like? What I learned helped me grow a lot. It was hard to admit, but these are the things I discovered: I let people get to me because I was impatient like my father, but did nothing at the time to work on that. I pushed red flags aside because I had a terrible habit of defending people, and putting others before me. I was staying with someone who had many qualities I didn't approve of because I didn't grow up surrounded by men who treated their women incredibly well, all the time. I was insecure in my early 20's, and that mix was not a good one. Instead of breaking some barriers from what I'd grown up seeing at the norm, I accepted less than what I deserved. Being able to finally acknowledge these hard things about myself has resulted in two things: an ability to catch not so great traits, and a willingness to do something about them. I'll never be perfect at this because perfect doesn't exist, but I've gotten good at it thankfully. I know how to catch red flags before even meeting someone in person, what personality traits and qualities aren't acceptable for me (we all deserve standards + the best), and how to hold myself accountable when needed. That progress is huge for me. There was a time I didn't want to believe my ex is a narcissist. Coming to terms with that fact and accepting I was in love with a version of someone that wasn't real was freeing. It was emotional and there was definitely denial, but once I got through that rough part, my heart felt lighter and free. The thing I did that had the most impact on me was forgive that narcissist for everything he said and did that was forgivable (one thing wasn't). Being able to this for me and not him lifted a heaviness I didn't know was there for that reason. I was resistant to forgive him for anything for a while, but I realized I was hurting myself more than anyone else holding onto that negativity, and finally one day decided to let go of it. Finally, I forgave myself - this was as important as forgiving my ex. I could have continued to be mad at myself for things I did, said, and let slide in my young 20's OR understand in these years we all make immature, silly, selfish, and sometimes cruel or hurtful decisions but learning from them is what truly matters most. Being mad is one thing, staying mad is another. That lesson has changed a whole lot for me, and in all different aspects of life. When my time with Jonathan ended I was about 70 pounds (lowest weight of my adult life), had high anxiety levels, and didn't have a lot of love for myself. Changing this took A LOT of dedication, discipline, and determination but over time I got to a healthy place. I know how lucky I am that I had people in my life who supported me through even the hardest parts of that time, I got along with people I lived with and a safe home to live/ heal in, I had the strength to leave when that chance came. I don't take any part of what or who I had during that healing period for granted. Things could have been different. Too many women are never able to safely escape people who aren't safe for them. Too many women don't have safe places to go once they do get out of a bad situation and never have a proper chance to break an unhealthy cycle. Women deserve better and more. We also deserve to be taught what kind of signs to look for in a mentally unwell person BEFORE we date or fall in love with these kinds of people. I wish I was taught. If you're struggling to get out of a bad relationship, heal from a break up, need support in a difficult time or want help finding resources/a safe place in your area to go once you're out of an unhealthy partnership please reach out to me. I'd love to do anything I can to help someone in need of love, support, and help. Yes I'm only one person, but I'm one who cares a hell of a lot- about helping people and raising awareness about narcissism. To reach me, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or DM @thisiskaitey on Instagram. I vow to help any of you who ask for it in any way I possibly can, and be more open about my time with a narcissist and mentally/verbally abusive man so people will know how to spot a person who's like this from miles away, and not get involved in the first place. I'd like to end with this reminder: abusers don't abuse everyone they know or meet. Please take it seriously when someone trusts you enough to tell them they're in a hard situation. Please, when someone is courageous enough to tell you that, actually try to help them. The more we believe/support one another, the less bad people will get away with shit.