Episode 10: How to Dream Big & Deal With Toxic Relationships

Welcome to another episode of Long Distance Short, GiftBasketsOverseas.com’s podcast where we talk to real people about the triumphs and tribulations in all kinds of long-distance relationships. Your host is Ally Winters, an international gift consultant who’s found success in her own long-distance romances and friendships. And here’s today’s topic: How to Dream Big & Deal With Toxic Relationships. Ally is talking to Emily Adams: Coach, Speaker, and Writer – and also the host of her own podcast, The Emily Adams Show. We’ll be talking about how to identify red flags in Long Distance Relationships as well as the risks of continuing bad relationships. Plus, we’ve got tips on ending toxic relationships, understanding yourself outside of relationships, and remembering what you truly deserve out of life. Let’s jump right in, Ally!

ALLY

Hi everybody! My name is Ally, and this is “Long Distance Short,” your long-distance relationship podcast! We are back with our super-motivational anniversary episode, which is episode number ten, and I am already excited to start. So, hi, Emily! How are you doing?

EMILY

I am doing very well, how are you?

ALLY

Great! So I would like to start off with a story that I know from one of my acquaintances, because this story made me think of what I would like to talk with my guests about in the next episodes. So this story is about a long-distance relationship: [my acquaintance] was in this kind of relationship, and it wasn’t toxic or anything, not like that — but she used to complain about certain situations from time to time, and after discussing them with her partner, it’s a pity, but nothing really changed.

So she felt like she was not very happy in that relationship, but they had been together for quite a long time — over three years, I think — and she saw that she would probably accommodate and accept the situation later, and more than that, there was a lot of pressure within the relationship, in terms of her plans for the future: she was expected to convert to a different religion, she had to learn a totally different language, to find work in a country where she had never lived, and she had to resign from her job from back then — all that sacrifice was supposed to be only for the sake of being together with her long-distance partner, and it was her who had to do most of the work.

Also, needless to say, there were a lot of cultural differences between the two of them, and that was the main reason for their online fights, if we may call them that. So, unfortunately, the differences proved to be too huge, and it was hard for them to meet somewhere in the middle; this story made me think of another aspect of LDRs: what if some people do not feel good but still keep sacrificing their resources and their time, and what if, once they discover that it’s not what they want in life, they realize that there is no way back, when there really is? And I know that you, yourself, know about this more than I do.

EMILY

Yeah, so when it comes to any kind of relationship, whether it’s long-distance or even in person, and we keep sacrificing and we’re not getting anything in return, and it makes us question whether it’s worth it; but a lot of times, we have that mindset of, a), we may not feel like we are worthy of more or that we can have happiness, or try to meet in the middle, or b), we just keep giving and giving, until we’re completely done. And I have been on that side of giving and giving, until I was completely done, and to the breaking point. So, yeah, definitely I can relate to that.

ALLY

Okay, so what was your story — how did you come to this philosophy in your life?

EMILY

Yeah, so, a little back-story: I was raised, born and raised, in a different culture, which is the Amish culture, and their dating is very different, and their relationships are very different. And when I left and I got married, it was a very verbally abusive marriage, and with a lot of alcohol. And he was an alcoholic, but I — I felt stuck, right: I already had one child with him, and as I was getting ready to leave, I found out that I was pregnant with my next son. So I felt like I had to stay to make it work. But I saw all the signs of it being an unhealthy relationship, but I wasn’t there yet to take that leave and break that off.

And part of that was, I was scared, I was scared of being a single mom; I was also scared of just not being in a relationship, because we use relationships so much as a title, you know: all our friends are in a relationship, so now we have to be in a relationship.

ALLY

This is “the normal,” yeah?

EMILY

Yeah! So it’s not normal for you to be single because everyone and your friends are in a relationship. So I kind of came to the point of, it was either spend my whole entire life in this situation, or… Because we’d tried counseling, we tried different things, and I tried sacrificing everything, and I was very miserable. And after knowing that counseling wasn’t going to work, I was like: well, I can either sit in here and settle for this, or I can break this off and start a new life.

And when you go to break off a relationship, it doesn’t matter whether you’re divorced or you’ve never been married, it’s still very hard, because you have all those emotions, those feelings and those attachments: your family may have already fallen in love with the person, and now you have to go and say it’s not working out, so you might be getting judgment from your friends, your family.

And the way you can come to that conclusion is, if that person isn’t fulfilling you and you’re not happy, and you’re not really enjoying your time with them, then you need to start asking deeper questions. But those deeper questions can be really scary: what is it that’s not making me happy in this relationship? Is it because he’s not giving you something — or she’s not giving you something — or is it because there’s a part of you that’s never been fulfilled?

So there are many different ways you can go into: if you’re in a situation where you feel like you need to get out of a toxic relationship, start doing the internal work. You don’t have to go and tell the whole world right away that you’re gonna break it off! But moreso, doing the internal work — and that’s as easy as starting writing out, you know… thinking back, as to — what I did is, I thought back as to: why did we get together to start with, what was there for us?

And, honestly, when I look back, I had changed as a person as well, because I used to drink a lot, so as soon as I got pregnant, I stopped drinking. So then we didn’t have anything in common, right? So, when you start looking back — and people change, it happens all the time, — and I also know, looking back, what I was looking for in my relationship, I was looking for someone to fulfill the things that I wasn’t fulfilling myself.

ALLY

Yeah, you mentioned this thing where you need to understand what makes you happy. Right? But, basically, sometimes it’s not that clear. I remembered a very famous quote: we arrive into this world alone and we die alone; there is nobody else to support us.

EMILY

Yes! And that’s not saying that you won’t find someone who loves you unconditionally, because it happens all the time: people find each other, and they’re like… They are in love, and that’s good, but at the same time, if you don’t love yourself, you’re going to be projecting things, and that means, like: “Oh, I wore this dress or wore this shirt, and she never complimented me — that means that they don’t love me.” Or: “They didn’t do this for me, so they don’t love me.” Whatever that is, you have to, internally, really go in and just love yourself.

And that doesn’t mean that you have to be perfect, by any means, before you get into a relationship. Because you can still be working through something, but really keep that communication open with your partner, as to say: this is one of the things I struggle with, so that you can have that communication. But self-love and self-worth are huge when it comes to relationships, because you have to make sure you know you are worthy, no matter what anyone has said.

And some of this stuff goes as deep as your childhood: maybe someone said something to you when you were in third grade, or you had a crush on someone and they broke your heart. And now you’re just kind of a little… bitter, but you thought you’d passed it. And sometimes it’s very deep-rooted into why we don’t feel worthy, and I always thought — you know, I am a very confident person, I know who I am, I know what I want, and I feel like I am worthy for the most part, but I was struggling. And I dug deep; there was an incident when I was in school where I wanted to hang out with a certain group of girls, and they told me I was not good enough. And… So now I knew: okay, so this is still an issue, so now I get to process it.

I know this was the incident, so one of the easy things you can do is write a forgiveness letter, or write whatever you would say if you were back into that situation. So I just wrote down everything I would say, and at the end, my ending was: I know I’m worthy, even if I’m not in your circle of friends. I don’t need that circle of friends to feel worthy. So it’s kind of like doing a releasing activity over it, and knowing: okay, now I can heal from that and move on. So that’s why I’m saying…

I know I’m worthy, even if I’m not in your circle of friends. I don’t need that circle of friends to feel worthy.

(c) Emily Adams

ALLY

I’m listening to this and I get the goosebumps. (laugh) Over that last phrase, yeah.

EMILY

So things are very deep-rooted; sometimes in relationships — we bring a lot of different baggage into our relationships, and we don’t even know it. We can have an amazing life and be like: oh, no, I’ve never had any trauma in my life — but, really…

ALLY

We do have. Let’s face it, we do. (laugh)

EMILY

The average is person is like: no, I don’t have any trauma in my life — this is how I view things; but if we really dig deep, there was some incident at some point in our life when it was painful for us, and that, now, makes us hold back, or that, now, makes us act a little bit differently.

And this is the same thing that goes on in relationships: if we don’t walk into our relationships knowing what we want, and being confident in who we are, when it comes to worthiness — I see this all the time where, especially women, will not ask for what they want. Or, we end up settling, and I don’t know… From a guy’s standpoint, I can’t sit here and say that guys do the same thing — I’m sure that some of them do, but we settle because we think: well, that’s as good as we can get.

But what if we shifted to: eh, you know, this is okay; but maybe I need to, if I don’t feel like this is “the one,” maybe I need to keep looking instead of settling. Because when we settle, at the end of the day, your relationship is not gonna work. Because at some point you’re gonna realize you settle, and now you need to get out of the relationship.

ALLY

And you know, there is a kind of stigma in our society, where if you date a lot of people — for example, you had one partner, and you broke up, then another one, and then another one, people kind of think that maybe there is something wrong with you; as in, why can’t you settle with any one of them, right? But actually, in reality, it’s not so — I mean, what if the next partner is much, much better for you, as opposed to the previous one? I think that it’s a totally okay thing.

EMILY

(laugh) Yeah! Or, if you’re like: oh, I’m just dating — but when you say you’re just dating, people assume you’re just dating one. Or, you are going — in my theory, when I hear that I’m dating, I’m like: okay, I’m dating, so now I get to choose, because I’m not exclusive in any relationships, so I can go out on as many dates as I want. But…

ALLY

Yeah, yeah, yeah! Uh-huh.

EMILY

So other people would view that, maybe, in a negative way: oh, you should just talk to one person at all times — well, that’s fine if that works for you, but also, at the same time, I don’t want to jump into a relationship if it’s not what I want. There’s plenty of fish in the sea on both sides; so if you start going into this — and it’s one thing, I think, people automatically say, if you’re dating, they kind of giving you that vibe of: oh, they’re sleeping around a lot. That’s not necessarily what everyone is doing, but I think there’s kind of that vibe around it, when you say you’re dating. When you’re in a relationship for three months and realize it doesn’t work out, and then jump right back into dating, everybody has their opinions: oh, you should take some time.

ALLY

Yeah, yeah, yeah. “Maybe five months, maybe you can start living together and see how it goes” — as if this was the last person on this planet, really.

EMILY

Yes. It’s what YOU and YOUR partner are comfortable with. And if you don’t have a partner and are just getting into dating, it’s what YOU’RE comfortable with. You are your own person, you know whether you need to take time to heal, or you know whether you’re ready to start dating or not. And it’s interesting that we’re talking about this now; after my divorce, I was like: you know, I think I’m ready to start dating again. And one of my best friends was like: but… you haven’t even been divorced for, like, six months. I’m like: was there a timeline?

ALLY

Yes! Like, so what?

EMILY

But with her saying that, I started questioning myself, I allowed her projection to come in. I was like: whoa… maybe I’m not ready. And then I started doubting myself, and then I was like: wait a minute. That was her projection, her story; that’s not my story, I am ready, and I’m gonna take the leave and go. So we can pick up on people’s opinions and their projections, but we get to actually choose, we get to choose if we’re ready or not, no matter if your parents, or friends, or whoever thinks you’re ready.

ALLY

Yeah, it’s really hard, but we need to learn how to do it, and to find the courage to tell yourself: yes, I’m ready for it — or no, I’m not ready. I absolutely agree.

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ALLY

So, once you realized that it’s not what you actually wanted in your relationship, you understood what it could lead to, you had to stop it, you had to say: hey, we’ve lived together for quite a long time — or not a long time — we have children, but we need to break up. So, how can one find the courage to say it to the partner? How to do it?

EMILY

In a relationship, when there’s a relationship, I was talking to someone and we had conversations about it, I realized, like: the conversation wasn’t… going — we had connection on some levels, but not all the levels. And it’s really hard to be the one to start a conversation, and I really recommend, before you start the conversation of “our relationship isn’t going anywhere,” really don’t tie anything to the outcome. Don’t have any expectations of the outcome.

You get to go in, and you get to view it as… I get to go in and say: this is how I feel, I’m honoring myself by doing this, and you don’t get to control their reaction. When you go in it thinking: I don’t get to control their reaction, they’re gonna react however they want, but I still know this is a right decision and I stand firmly.

And when you stop trying to control their reaction and you go in to say: hey, we need to talk — and this is gonna be very, very uncomfortable, because you don’t know if they’re gonna get upset, you don’t know if they’re going to say mean, hurtful things… But when you go in to say “we need to have this conversation,” you start saying the things that you’re having issues with, and if they’re not open to start working through those issues or hear you out, that’s just confirmation that you were right and you need to move on. Now, if they come to you and be like: can we work this out, and start having conversations, sometimes relationships can be saved that way.

ALLY

Uh-huh, yeah.

EMILY

So, starting the conversation probably seems like the most serious thing to do. Because you don’t know how — it’s this big fear of: I have no idea how I’m gonna start this conversation. And don’t text them or send a message prior; I’m a firm believer in doing it either in person, or, if it’s a long-distance relationship, try to do it over a video chat so you can really see each other’s face and the body language; because sometimes text messages, just messages in general, without the facial expression, can be taken the wrong way.

ALLY

Yeah! I was actually going to ask this question: what is the best way to do it. Yeah, totally.

EMILY

Long-distance relationship, I would say, try to do the video chat, if you don’t want to be in person — clearly, you don’t want to spend the money to go tell them this. But at least do the courtesy of Facetiming or however you communicate, and have this conversation, say: we need to talk, this is how I’m feeling. And throughout this time while you’re having this talk, really keep reminding yourself the way you feel and that you’re honoring your feelings. Because, if not, it will be easy for them to talk you into staying.

ALLY

And they can manipulate you, basically…

EMILY

Yes!

ALLY

Without your realizing it.

EMILY

And then you keep going through this cycle of: oh my, I forgot, I should have… I should have stuck to it, and now I’m still stuck in this, and now it’s just going to keep going two or three times before I can finally be like: enough is enough. And that can be a very difficult thing as well; but definitely try to do it in person or, for those who are in long-distance relationships, across video chats, so it’s not a message — it’s more a face-to-face conversation.

ALLY

Yeah, one has to find courage for that, certainly. Okay, and once it’s done, maybe there are some tips on how to understand what we really want?

EMILY

Yeah, so afterwards, after you’ve gone through this and… Really take some time — if you haven’t done it prior — to actually… I think it’s really powerful to sit down and… Without any limitations: if you could order your partner off of, like, Amazon or Websy, and you can design them exactly the way you want to design them.

If you sit down and you write this out — everything that you want — and then start being like… “Things that are deal-breakers” — what is a deal-breaker. So, for example, I’ll give you one of mine. One of my deal-breakers is smoking; I cannot stand smoking and I don’t care if they have everything else — if they smoke, I still won’t date them. It’s a hard no, right?

So when you really go through this list of everything that you want in a partner — it’s not just about the physical side, but more about the emotional side — what are you really looking for, do you need someone who loves you, do you need someone who’s affectionate, do you need a person who’s going to be there to support you, whatever it is — write it all out, like what your dream person would be. And once you have that list, then you can know what your heart knows or what your deal-breakers are.

And it’s okay if you have a list of deal-breakers, like you don’t like the drinking, if you don’t like smokers, they’re whatever is off. You are allowed to make your own list: you don’t need to hear your friends’ opinions, you don’t have to have your parents’ blessings on this; this is your list, this is what you want — and this is what you’re gonna attract. If you don’t put in the work to know what you want, and just be like: oh, whatever happens, happens, whatever comes along, comes along — that’s the energy you’re putting out. So, basically, that’s what you’re going to attract.

ALLY

So, our final image of the prince on the white horse? (laugh)

EMILY

I mean, if that’s your dream person, go ahead — that’s not my dream person, I don’t want a prince on a white horse, but… (laugh)

ALLY

Yeah, like Cinderella!

EMILY

Yeah, and the other thing in a relationship, especially if you go through a break-up, like if you go through breaking off a relationship, it can sometimes be easy to get caught up in the victim mode, without us knowing it. And I say this because even our friends will do it, like: oh, I’m so sorry you guys broke up; like: screw that person, they weren’t good for you, anyway — and they start bashing the person. So you start feeling: oh, yeah, poor me, you know, it sucks that I’m going through this — but, really, no: it was a lesson for you, and it somehow made you grow as a person.

So when you go through this, think about: what did I learn through this relationship? — You’re gonna learn something in every relationship! And now that I’ve learned this, how can I be even better in my next relationship? Don’t play the victim — like, if you need to have a few days just to process the feelings of loss, or anger, whatever comes up, process those feelings, but don’t sit there. Because if you’re still not processing those feelings and still feeling like the victim person, guess what — that’s what you’re gonna attract. That’s the people you’re gonna attract when you start dating again, because you’re still wired that way.

But if you process yourself, like: that was a good learning experience, and now I’m gonna attract something even better — like, it’s not going to go backwards for you. If you think it’s gonna go backwards, it will. But you have to be: okay, I thought that he was really good — guess what, I’m going to attract something even better. And that’s kind of like shifting your mindset — and for those who don’t believe in the universe, or the attraction, or manifesting… Like, you are constantly manifesting, whether you want to or not.

And also for those who may be single but might be starting to get ready to look into a relationship, even if you are in a relationship, especially a long-distance relationship, I would say… Look at the five love languages. Understand what your partner’s love languages are.

ALLY

Oh yeah, I read an article on that, this is a really good book. Worth reading for everyone.

EMILY

Yes, very, and it makes you open up. I think there’s actually a free… on the website, it’s free — you can just Google, like, “The five love languages,” and you take this quiz, and it tells you what your love languages are, and mine was spot-on.

ALLY

Yeah, I’m pretty sure it can be defined quite easily nowadays.

EMILY

So, I would say — it takes five minutes, do that — and you can even do it with your partner, whether you’re in-person, or long-distance, or whatever; so you understand how they feel loved the most, and I think this is a really powerful thing as well. But knowing this about yourself — like, my love language is being affectionate, I love touch, physical touch is mine, — so, if I am looking for a relationship and the guy does not want to, that’s not really his thing, then we may not connect that well.

ALLY

Right. Or there will probably be more of a struggle, you would need to do more work on your relationship, and you would have to be prepared for that. Because two people are totally different, and there can be misunderstandings, but if the two are ready to work on that, maybe it will work out.

EMILY

Yes, absolutely.

ALLY

Okay, so what is the best way to understand who we are and what we need in life, and what we actually deserve?

EMILY

Yeah, that is such a good question — so, no matter where you are in life, it doesn’t matter, at every point in your life, someone is always projecting things. And you can see this in your relationship as well, where people will project different things on your relationships; they’ll tell you you’re never gonna make it in your relationship…

ALLY

Yes.

EMILY

…Or if you’re single, then they’ll say: you’re not ready to date, or you’ve waited too long to date. Those are all just projections, those are all just stories they have created for you. They’re not yours.

ALLY

And they’re even based on their own experiences, and maybe that experience was not quite good, so they think everybody would fail, right?

EMILY

Absolutely. And if you’re thinking these things, then you can actually reprogram your brain to stop thinking these things. And the way you do that, if you look at a situation — and we’re gonna use an example of, like, someone told you that you’re not ready to date. And now you’re questioning whether you’re ready to date, and you don’t know if it’s a projection or not, what you can do is sit down, — and it takes like five minutes, — sit down and ask yourself: are you really ready to date? And the amazing thing is, we have, we always have the answer within us. It’s just taking time to find it.

When you write this — you can write this on a piece of paper, just ask: am I ready to date? And then just start writing whatever comes to your mind. And don’t read it right away — like, keep writing, and once you feel like you’re done writing, go back and read it. And look, kind of, what kind of patterns are coming up. Is it “I’m ready to date, but I’m scared?” “I’m ready to date but I’m afraid that I’m gonna fail?” So if you see you’re scared and are afraid to fail, those would be the points that I would start working on reprogramming. And what I would do, I would rewrite those sentences to be: “I am ready to date; even though it seems scary right now, it’s going to be amazing.” Because that’s one better thought.

If you can go from “I’m ready to date, but I’m scared” to “I’m ready to date, but it’s going amazing,” that’s awesome, but a lot of people can’t jump that far. Then take some one-step-better thoughts; and if you keep doing this, if you keep doing this work, and you keep realizing, every time you think: “Ugh, I’m ready to date but I’m scared — wait a minute! It may be scary, but it’s going to be amazing.” — you’re slowly shifting that. And you can do it with anything that anyone projects on you.

And once you become aware of your thoughts and aware of the projections that people put on you, and the things that will trigger you… So, for projections, if someone said, you know: “You should do this and then they’ll date you.” — “No, wait a minute.” You get to ask yourself: “Is that my truth? Just because it’s my best friend saying that to me, it does not mean that that’s my truth.”

ALLY

Yeah, and you can also ask that in a long-distance relationship; I know a lot of stories of: a Western man who would like to date a Russian woman, for example, and they are very scared, they may think that there would be a lot of difficulties, maybe the language barrier or just the fact that they would live in different countries. But in reality, we have so many clients who end up living together.

EMILY

Yes, absolutely, especially when it comes to long-distance relationships: just because everyone says that it may be hard, that’s not really your story. If you’ve never tried it… how do you know that it’s hard? Or if you want to try it, and you have all these doubts, maybe you just go in it with an open mind, like: oh, this could work out, this is going to work out?

If you think of it that way, it kind of goes right back to the energy, of the way of the things that you project out: if you think that it’s going to be hard and difficult, then that’s what you’re gonna get, but if you think that it’s going to be amazing, then your long-distance relationship could definitely work — you just have to have an open mind about it. Or, you go in it with a clean slate of just: “No matter what anyone says to me, or no matter what my past experiences are, I want to give it my 100%. I want to go into this long-distance relationship with 100% and give it my all” — and going in it with no past experience; if nothing else, it could be an amazing — it could be your best experience and you can find the love of your life.

ALLY

Yeah, exactly. And we may just be thinking: “Oh, this person has this experience, and they know better because they’ve been there,” but actually, in reality, everybody has different stories, and we have to remember all that. It’s their experiences, not our experience.

EMILY

Exactly, because we get to have our own.

ALLY

Yeah.

EMILY

Yeah, so one of the biggest things I would advise is really practice self-love and self-worth, and either this is just gonna make your relationship even better, and if you’re not in a relationship, it’s just gonna make you an overall better person. Practice your self-love, your self-worth, know that you have all the answers within you, and it makes you a more confident person; do the work around it. And when I say “self-love,” it doesn’t mean going and buying yourself stuff, but really understanding what fills you up and what makes you happy.

And then, if you’re not in a relationship and you’re wanting to get into a relationship, understand what your dream relationship looks like. What does that partner look like, what are you doing together, what do you need support with — that kind of thing, you start doing that activity, and both for those who are in a relationship and those who are not, really be aware of where your thoughts are. If you think that the relationship is going to fail, change those thoughts. “What if it’s not gonna fail, what if it’s gonna be the most amazing thing, and things are back on track, and they become incredible?” So, really be aware of your thoughts.

So I say: self-love, self-worth, be aware of your thoughts, and do some identity work to know who you are as a person as well.

When I say “self-love,” it doesn’t mean going and buying yourself stuff, but really understanding what fills you up and what makes you happy.

(c) Emily Adams

ALLY

Okay. Thank you so much, Emily, that was a lot of really motivational, and I would say, really precious information. Thank you so much for coming! Our listeners, we will see you in a month’s time, and of course, love yourself, love other people, and just be positive.

Thanks for listening to “Long Distance Short” — GiftBasketsOverseas.com’s podcast with real people in real long-distance relationships. Make sure to subscribe, and keep tuning in for a new episode every month. If you have any questions or ideas for a future podcast, make sure to drop us a line at [email protected] .

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