Caged in a toxic relationship?

Anna was beginning to believe that might be her reality. After 15 years of marriage to Jan, a charming young lawyer she met during her graduate studies in the US, she was starting to have doubts. Despite Jan sweeping her off her feet and convincing her to move to his hometown in Denmark, their relationship seemed to have taken a toxic turn.

Anna, originally from Germany, put her career as a lecturer in fine arts on hold to raise their two young daughters while Jan’s career as a corporate lawyer flourished. After seven years of being a stay-at-home mom, Anna decided to return to work and secured a professorship at a small local university. While Jan agreed to this, he was unhappy that Anna would have less time for him and the girls.

When Anna reached out to me, she was facing a difficult career decision. She had been offered the position of head of a new Arts Department at a prestigious university in her home country. This offer was a culmination of her hard work and aligned with her aspirations, but it also meant that they’d have to move. Despite Jan not initially discouraging her form applying for the position, he was not angry and accused her of undermining him and his career. Anna felt torn between her desire for the job and her guilt over hurting Jan. In the end, she turned down the offer but was left feeling sad and helpless.

Being trapped in a toxic relationship can be debilitating, as it causes you to question your identity, beliefs, and self-worth. If you’re in a toxic relationship, you may experience the following feelings:

  • Guilt, as you’re made to feel like everything is your fault, even when deep down you know it’s not. You get used to taking responsibility for everything.
  • Anxiety, as you’re never quite sure what you may say or do to upset your partner, leaving you feeling on edge and constantly walking on eggshells. Living on high alert like this takes a toll on your body, mind, and spirit.
  • Emotional and physical exhaustion, as you expend so much energy trying to avoid triggering your partner.
  • Isolation, as your partner may try to cut you off from family and friends, leaving you feeling alone and unable to reach out for help.
  • Low self-worth, as you question your abilities and value in the relationship.
  • Inability to be yourself, as who you truly are is not ‘acceptable’ to your partner. You learn to mold yourself into someone else to keep the peace and stay in the relationship.
  • A sense of hopelessness, as you’re unable to envision a future either with or without your partner. You feel alone either way.
  • A feeling of being caged, trapped, powerless to change anything.

It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s important to remember that change is possible. If any of these feelings sound familiar—if your relationship is making you doubt yourself and causing you anxiety and fear—it may be time to make a change. This can involve setting new boundaries within the relationship or leaving it altogether.

If you’re in a toxic situation, know that you’re not alone and there is support available.

Schedule a free 30-minute introductory call with me and let’s discuss how to get you out of that cage.


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