Relationships are a two-way street. It cannot carry on only on the basis of one person. Relationships require contribution, sacrifices, commitment from both parties involved. In case one person starts to feel trapped in the relationship, loses the trust, is depressed, listless or heartbroken, this indicates that the person is stuck in a toxic relationship. The effects of a toxic relationship can be very crippling to the person’s psyche as well as mental health.
Related post: 18 signs you are in a toxic relationship and what to do
In this blog post, I will discuss how you can leave a toxic relationship in 13 steps and lead a better life. If you would like to be notified about the articles, the moment they are released, please subscribe to the newsletter so I can send you the article directly in your inbox
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It does not matter how courageous, self-confident or strong you are, it is possible to land up in a toxic relationship despite all these amazing qualities. The problem is that we don’t realize that we are in a toxic relationship unless it is too late. Then you are already stuck. Sometimes, people stay in the relationship due to factors like kids, finances, social stigma, and finally emotions.
Before I start to discuss how to leave a toxic relationship, you need to understand what is a toxic relationship in the first place.
Table of Contents
What is a toxic relationship?
A toxic relationship is one that severely impacts your health, well-being as well as zeal to live a good life. Since we tend to spend a lot of energy and time on our partner and on nurturing the relationship we have built with him or her, we tend to give a lot of power to our partner. But when that power is abused, health and happiness get severely affected in a negative manner.
Most people think that it is very easy to spot a toxic relationship from the outside. However, in a lot of cases, the toxicity in the relationship starts to rise from the inside while still being covered with a romantic take on the outside. Therefore, for an outsider to understand whether the relationship is toxic or not can be difficult.
From the standpoint of a psychologist, there are many factors that are to be taken into consideration when interpreting or understanding whether the relationship is toxic or not like how the partners resolve their conflicts, their dependency levels, the degree of reciprocity, their communication style, etc.
In my previous post, I focused on how you can recognize the signs of being in a toxic relationship. However, once you realize that you are in a toxic relationship, what should be your next step?
How to leave a toxic relationship?
In order to leave a toxic relationship, you need to first be mentally prepared and then focus on gathering resources that would allow for a smooth and clean break.
This is the first and foremost step to be taken if you are trying to get out of a toxic relationship. People who are stuck in a toxic relationship not only need help from their family and friends, they also need help from mental health professionals to completely turn their life around. This is a long process. It is not simply a decision taken on a whim.
It has been observed that people who leave the toxic relationship sometimes return to it because it is comfortable and familiar to them, despite all the misgivings. The reason behind this is that they have been in the relationship for so long that they have started to recognize themselves as the shattered version. They don’t see themselves as a whole and feel that they need their abusive or traumatizing partner to be able to lead their life. Such people are unable to feel safe on their own. This is why they may need help from a therapist for an extended period of time and that is perfectly okay.
Those who have been in a toxic relationship need rehabilitation. Rehabilitation takes time. The first step in order to leave a toxic relationship is to find a family member, a supportive friend or a mental healthcare professional whom you can talk to about your situation and who can guide you regarding the healing process.
On the contrary, if you are in a relationship that is sexually, verbally, emotionally, or physically abusive, you need to get help immediately and leave that relationship. Such relationships cannot be counselled or made better, you just need to leave and get out of it as soon as possible.
Talk about your feelings
If your relationship is not toxic to the point of involving any kind of abuse, then you can talk about your feelings to your partner. One thing to keep in mind here is that such conversations can most often become heated and emotional. If your partner has a very short temper or is very emotional about things, it is probably best if you write your feelings down and then share it with your partner.
If your partner is emotionally mature then it is best to have a face-to-face conversation. However, since the kind of conversations get heated and emotional, there is a chance that you may forget your other points which you wanted to discuss. Therefore, it is always the best option to have your feelings and thoughts written down before you approach your partner.
When you discuss your relationship issues with your partner, keep in mind that you are not here to blame your partner or to point fingers. You must try to keep your conversation on neutral grounds by avoiding phrases like, ‘this is because of you’, ‘you make me do this’, etc. Instead of using such phrases, use phrases like, ‘I feel very sad or angry when I hear you say…’.
If you decide to go ahead with the writing method, it would give your partner time to ponder on what you have written before they have to come up with an answer and respond to you. You must remember that you cannot control how your partner will respond but if your partner is a levelheaded person he or she may approach the discussion gingerly.
On the other hand, if you have a toxic partner or you are stuck in an abusive relationship, your partner may react violently towards your feelings. Therefore, choose the best approach depending on the emotional and mental state of your partner. Regardless of your partner’s response, it is important that you express your feelings to your partner if there is even a little hope of mending your relationship. However, in the case of relationships that involve physical, social, or emotional abuse, it is better to not try and mend the relationship. You should just leave such a relationship.
Take a decision about what you want
Once you have discussed your thoughts and feelings with your partner, you need to decide whether your relationship is worth fighting for or if it is better to just give up. Not all relationships are mendable. Sometimes, it so happens that the toxic partner does not even realise that he or she is being toxic in the relationship. However, if your partner refuses to accept his or her mistakes even after pointing out, if he or she makes excuses, ignores or blames you for everything, these are the signs that you are in a toxic relationship that cannot be mended anymore. Thus, you should leave this relationship to secure your own mental health and future.
On the other hand, if your partner realizes his or her mistakes and is ready to work on the same, under such conditions, you can choose to go for couples therapy so that the relationship can be mended. Your partner may benefit by taking steps to understand, gain self-awareness, and insight into their own behavior. This is important so that the toxic behavior does not get repeated again and again.
Stick with your decision
This is probably the hardest part of leaving a toxic relationship. You have spent so much time and energy being with that person. Now, when you have to take the decision of suddenly leaving that person, there is a chance that you may only remember the good parts and forget the bad part of your relationship.
It is very tempting to get back to the person you left and get back to your old life. What you need to remember here is that you took this decision after spending a lot of time thinking about it. In case you feel tempted to go back to your partner again, do the following. Write down the reasons why you left the relationship in the first place on a piece of paper and look at it every time you feel the urge to go back to the toxic person. This will help you stick to your decision of staying away
Alternatively, you can build a support system to hold you accountable. Whenever the urge comes over to go back to the person you spend so much of your life with, call your friend or mental healthcare professional and discuss with them. They will point out the reasons why you left the person in the first place. It is imperative that you stay strong and true to the decision you took.
Work on your self-esteem
Staying in a toxic relationship for a long period of time can have a huge negative impact on your self-esteem. Thus, it is very important that you start working on yourself esteem the moment you figure out that you are in a toxic relationship. To gain back your self-esteem, set achievable goals and work on them. When you reach your goals, reward yourself.
This will take some time but, if you work on it regularly, you will gain the desired results. Try not to rush this process. It is important that you take time and take care of yourself before you try for another relationship. Work on your hobbies, go on a trip, spend time with your friends and family who care for you, etc. These activities as well as the support from your friends and family will help you get your self-esteem and self-worth back.
Start saving money
The moment you realize that you are in a toxic relationship, start saving as much money as possible. This is even more important if you have faced violence from your partner or if he or she has threatened you in any way. If there is any proof of your partner threatening you, store it as evidence. This will be beneficial later when you try to get a restraining order against your partner. This money is going to be your safety net when you leave your partner and work to rebuild your life.
This money is going to be your safety net
Just because you have to save money, do not start saving banks of money at random. In case you are stuck in an abusive or toxic relationship, it is important that you save the money without your partner knowing about it so that you can leave him or her when the time comes. Most likely, if your partner gets to know that you are saving money, he or she will accuse you and may even get violent. Therefore, you must save a little amount every time so that your partner does not realize it. Do not discuss this with anyone who might let your partner know about it.
Leave your partner
Sometimes relationships are beyond repair. The only option you are left with is to leave your partner and the relationship permanently. You need to understand that your happiness comes first. You also need to remember that the relationship you were and does not define you in any way. Once you are mentally healthy and self-sufficient again, you will be ready for another relationship. These scars will fade in time.
Cut off any communication with the toxic partner
There is a high chance that once you leave the relationship, your toxic partner will try to get you back. They may try different strategies like emotionally blackmail you, give you false promises of a better future etc.
Sometimes, kids are involved in the mess as well. Under such circumstances, it is impossible to cut off all communications entirely with your partner. For your kid’s sake, both the partners have to be on talking terms. However, this does not mean that you have to start talking about relationships and lifestyles. You can discuss things regarding your kids and keep the discussion direct and minimal.
Only discuss what is necessary and nothing beyond that. After a certain period of time has passed and both the partners have evolved and healed, a friendship may be possible. However, immediately after you have gone through the breakup, do not try to get on the friendship wagon again with your now ex-toxic partner.
Take your time to heal
Healing is not something that can be fast-forwarded. You need to give yourself time to allow the healing process to work on you from the inside out. Try to spend time with those people who support you and lift you up rather than those who would only tell you, ‘I was right’ or ‘look what you did with your life’ etc.
You can also spend time with animals. They don’t judge, all animals provide is love. This can be a good time to adopt a dog or cat or any other animal of your choice. Animals not only make amazing listeners, they also provide an unconditional level of emotional support which is rarely found in other humans. Adopting a dog or a cat will also force you to get out of the house and be with nature for a while which can again be a healing experience for you.
Start working on your hobbies
Start working on those hobbies you left because your partner did not like you engaging in them or you just didn’t have the time to go indulge in your hobbies. Now you have the time and it is important that you start feeling like yourself again. Hobbies make a huge part of who we really are. They not only boost your self-esteem, when the time is right, but your hobby may also allow you to meet a new partner as well.
First work on yourself, then think of another relationship
The biggest problem of being in a toxic relationship is that people stop thinking about themselves. They stop loving themselves, all they think about is that they are a burden. Therefore, it is very important that you take the time out to first get yourself in the right mental zone for another relationship. Do not jump from one relationship to the next. You may still have the scars from your previous relationship. Thus, it is very important that you allow yourself time to heal and get into a better mental zone before you get into another relationship.
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Being in a toxic relationship is not only hard, it leaves scars that may take months or years to heal. People most often feel trapped in a toxic relationship. One thing you must never forget is that you have a right to be happy. You deserve it. You do not deserve the negativity and harm which your toxic relationship is giving you. Leaving a toxic relationship may be hard but it is probably the best thing you can do for yourself. In order to leave a toxic relationship, you have to be very brave and strong., However, it is not impossible.
If you want yourself to be happy again, this is something you just have to do. You need to take the leap. This world does not comprise of only bad people like your toxic partner. Do not let the experience of one failed relationship define you or damage your pursuit of self-fulfillment and happiness. If you are facing problems getting out of your relationship or need help with setting up boundaries, you can always reach out to a mental healthcare professional. Never think that you deserve what you are getting because you deserve to be happy understood, treasured, and loved. If these are not the factors that make up your relationship, there is no point in staying in such a relationship.
In situations where there has been trauma involved in the relationship like sexual, physical, or emotional abuse, it is best if you reach out to a mental health professional. Such things have a very damaging effect on a person‘s psyche and can work as a toxic ingredient in your next relationship as well. Therefore, it is very important then you heal yourself completely before you get into another relationship. You can rely on your family and friends to be your support network while you go through the process of healing yourself before embarking on another relationship.
Remember, you deserve to be happy, loved, treasured, and showered with affection by your loved one.
See you in my next blog post
Frequently asked questions
What happens when you leave a toxic relationship?
When one leaves a toxic relationship, their emotional and mental stress which was a part of the relationship can take a toll on the person‘s mental health. The person may find himself or herself to be completely isolated, sad, stressed, going through a low self-esteem and self-confidence phase, feeling worthless, thinking about negative thoughts all the time etc. Some people also start to suffer through eating disorders or other mental health disorders during this stage like depression, anxiety etc.
When is it time to leave a toxic relationship?
The moment you realize that you are in a toxic relationship, you should talk to your partner about the same. If your partner is willing to address the problems and go to a therapist or a counselor, you should go into therapy. If after therapy your partner shows progress in his or her behavior, then stay in the relationship and work on it. If despite therapy your partner continues to be toxic towards you by cheating, lying, being dishonest, etc, then you know that you gave the relationship your best shot but it is time to leave the relationship.
However on the contrary, if your partner is abusive towards you, tortures you mentally, emotionally or physically, you don’t need a psychologist to work on your relationship. You just need to relieve your partner immediately or as soon as possible.
Why is leaving a toxic relationship so hard?
Leaving a toxic relationship becomes hard for the partner who is suffering because of low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence. Usually, in such cases, the toxic partner will make the other partner feel that they are not important, they cannot do anything the right way, they don’t deserve to be loved or cherished, etc. Listening to these phrases time and time again starts to make the submissive partner feel that they really are bad and don’t deserve happiness in their life this is what makes leaving a toxic relationship practically impossible for the sufferer
Do toxic people ever change?
Toxic people can change if they want to. However, in order to change, they must understand that they have a problem and that problem needs to be addressed. There is a huge chance, that the person who is being the toxic person in the relationship has issues of his or her own, which if addressed and worked upon may reduce the toxicity of this person.