'I Left a Toxic Relationship and Found 'The One' Six Months Later'

When I first met my ex-boyfriend, he seemed charming. We went to a bar in London for our first date, after meeting on an online dating site. He was talkative and he asked a lot of questions. I wasn't immediately attracted to him but he seemed friendly.

I got the sense that he was the kind of guy who was good at charming women but he wasn't the commitment type. On one of our first dates, he said that his relationships never lasted more than six months because he got bored and cheated on them. There was a part of me that thought, "this guy isn't right for you" but I didn't listen to it.

Little did I know, this would be the start of a two-and-a-half-year relationship that would push my boundaries and cripple my self-esteem.

Initially, I didn't want anything more than a friendship. Yet as we texted each other over the next month, I developed stronger feelings. He seemed intellectual and we had a common interest in how the mind works. The conversations went deeper than with someone you'd just met—there was none of that small talk. It made me feel closer to him more quickly.

The Beginning of a Toxic Relationship

He came down to London again and, after a date in a bar in Soho, we kissed and everything else. It felt good. From there, we saw each other once or twice a month but we also stayed in contact through Skype and WhatsApp. The relationship was good in the beginning. We had fun and he seemed like a regular guy.

But he was very opinionated about everything and he held his opinions strongly. If your opinions were different, he didn't like it and he would talk at length about why he was right. I didn't initially pick up on that being a bad thing.

Ceza Ouzounian On A Bench

A few months into our relationship, my friend and I created a show and took it to an arts festival. The show ran for 21 days and my ex watched it on the second day. I didn't want him to come because it was a slapstick, silly comedy which I felt he wouldn't understand.

After the show, my partner and I went to a noodle bar. He spent the next 40 minutes criticizing the show. I didn't say anything. The room was quite small. There were maybe six tables crammed in a small room and it was packed. He talked quite loudly, so the people around us could probably hear. I felt so embarrassed. It completely crushed my confidence for the next few days.

There was a part of me that thought: this is the end of our relationship. When I went back to London, I wasn't sure if I wanted to see him again.

My partner probably sensed he had overstepped at the show because he became friendlier and more loving when we got back. He made plans to come and see me and he gave me more compliments; he was charming and not so outspoken about his opinions. We never brought up the festival again—I put it to the back of my mind.

Ceza Ouzounian
Relationship coach, Ceza Ouzounian. Ceza was in a toxic relationship for two and a half years, between 2015 and 2018.

This nice behavior lasted about a month or two. Then the intimacy suddenly stopped, about six months into our relationship. He didn't want to have sex and he didn't even want to kiss me. I wanted to work on things, but he was not up for it, so it was clear the communication between us had broken down. The sex and intimacy were never restored and I felt upset about not having that side of a relationship.

After we had been together for two years, I moved up to Scotland to be with him. Our relationship quickly disintegrated. He would go to work, come home and just not talk to me. I'd sit down, have dinner with him and want to have a conversation, but he would give me one-word answers or play on his phone. It was really lonely—especially because I didn't know anyone else in Glasgow and he didn't introduce me to his friends. I felt like he didn't want people to know I existed.

He seemed unsupportive of my career, too. I worked as a pilates instructor. His colleague worked on children's parties and my partner said, "Why don't you do that?" I had no interest in it and I told him so. He said I didn't know what I was doing and that I needed someone to guide me.

It impacted my self-esteem because those kinds of comments make you doubt yourself. I felt like he had to be the one who was the powerful one in the relationship. The one who was successful, who could do everything, and I was nothing.

At the same time, sometimes my partner would do things that were nice, like give me a compliment. He'd say, "Oh, you're doing really well in your work" or he'd get the food shopping and say, "I did this for you." He lifted me up just enough, which is why I didn't leave.

I felt like I was under a magic spell. I knew this wasn't the right relationship for me but it's like I couldn't walk away. I focused on what it could be, rather than on what it actually was.

Finding 'The One' and Falling in Love

Eventually, we broke up because I found out he had been texting another woman; sending her sexual messages and photos. I was really upset after the break-up but I was also relieved because it was finally over. When I look back, I see that the dynamic between us had definitely been toxic.

I stayed in Glasgow and I gradually rebuilt my self-esteem by doing things that made me feel good. I met new people for coffee and I signed up for a 5.8km (needs to change to miles) open water swim for charity.

I learned to just be myself without apologizing for who I am. I like dressing in bright colors and wearing silly trainers, for example, but my ex didn't seem to like me dressing like that. After our breakup, I started dressing for myself again. It was about embracing who I was and getting back my confidence.

Five months on, I started dating again. I felt more in control and that if my intuition told me someone was wrong for me, I would be strong enough to walk away.

Thanks to my previous relationship, I knew exactly what I didn't want in a relationship—which meant I also knew what I wanted. I met my current partner six months after I broke up with my ex. He is exactly what I wanted. Our relationship is supportive, it's loving, it's affectionate. I can talk to him about anything and he can talk to me about anything. We respect each other and there's trust and loyalty.

Sometimes, however, I feel triggered by things from my previous relationship. A year into my new relationship, I was leaving work and I texted my partner and he didn't answer straight away. I thought, "Oh, God, maybe he's with someone else?" But I recognised this was a trigger from the past, so I was able to calm myself down and go home. I'm usually able to deal with these situations by myself, but I know I could also talk to my partner and he would understand.

Ceza Ouzounian with her husband, Russell
Ceza Ouzounian poses with her husband, Russell, on their wedding day. Ouzounian met her husband six months after leaving a toxic relationship

My partner proposed in August 2020 and we got married in Glasgow in April 2022. If it hadn't been for my ex, I wouldn't have moved to Glasgow and have met my husband. Something really good came out of something bad and, if anything, I'm grateful to my ex-boyfriend for that.

Now, I feel excited about the future and for all of the things that my husband and I are going to do together. It's a really nice feeling, having that security that someone loves and adores you as much as my husband does. You feel you can be completely yourself.

Ceza Ouzounian is an award-winning relationship coach at Warrior in Training, where she helps women to have more confidence and to attract the relationships they want and deserve.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Katie Russell.