A sense of relief and achievement ensues once you manage to find your way out of a toxic dynamic. But the insecurities and the anxiety you carry with you make you understand that getting out of it was only half the battle won. Finding peace after a toxic relationship then becomes the need of the hour.
Just as a near-fatal drowning accident may instill a fear of water, a toxic relationship is bound to affect the way you approach relationships in the future. With enough distractions and negligence, you might successfully look past the damage done to you, until of course, one day, it blows up in your face.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way. With the right coping techniques and some self-awareness, you can learn to confront the difficult emotions you may be grappling with and heal. With the help of counseling psychologist Kranti Momin (Masters in Psychology), who is an experienced CBT practitioner and specializes in various domains of relationship counseling, let’s talk about how you need to navigate life after a toxic relationship.
How Long Does It Take To Fully Heal From A Toxic Relationship?
Finding peace after a toxic relationship is a process that’s unique to each individual, and trying to put a deadline on your healing might do more harm than good. How long it takes to heal completely is a subjective question, and depends on the methods you use to get back on your feet again.
According to the Telegraph, divorce can take up to 18 months to get over. According to a 2007 study, moving on can take anywhere from 6-12 months. A 2017 poll of 2,000 Americans revealed that it can take up to two months to not mention an ex in conversations.
As you can probably tell by now, there’s no real time frame for how this works. It largely depends on what you do to make peace with someone who hurt you. If you find yourself jumping ship prematurely, you might realize the ghosts of your past continue to haunt you in your future relationships.
On the other hand, if you manage to identify your triggers and begin the process of finding peace after a toxic relationship, the journey toward healing completely won’t be full of dead ends. Now that you know that putting a time limit on healing is a fool’s errand, let’s figure out what you must do to get better.
Related Reading: 7 toxic signs of an unhealthy relationship
Finding Peace After A Toxic Relationship – 7 Steps As Per An Expert
Grieving a toxic relationship isn’t the easiest thing in the world. The urge to distract yourself with another love interest or through indulging yourself in vices may be too strong to overcome. Some may even give in, hop on the rebound (relationship) train, and try to wash their pain away by giving themselves another dose of what caused it in the first place.
However, once the anxiety and the trust issues get too much to handle, you may end up realizing that you can’t just sweep the emotional baggage under the rug. To make sure yours ends up as one of the success stories after a toxic relationship, let’s get right into what you need to be doing, right from day one:
1. Seek professional help
Let’s not beat around the bush here, speaking to a professional counselor is probably the best step you can take in your journey toward finding peace after a toxic relationship. “A therapist can help guide you toward the process of returning to your actual self,” says Kranti.
“When a person goes through a toxic dynamic, a sort of stubborn anxiety sets in. Most of the clients that I have spoken with, who have experienced something similar, have told me they tend to develop anxiety for every relationship that they have henceforth.
“Even whilst developing friendships, insecurity-fueled anxiety takes hold and makes them doubt themselves. ‘Should I say this?’, ‘Should I cross this line?’, ‘What is this person thinking about me?’ are some common thoughts racing through their minds in most social interactions.
“To control this anxiety and start to heal yourself mentally, you must speak to a professional counselor. You’ve been bombarded with negative information, and might even end up developing a negative image of yourself.
“You can return to a positive mindset about yourself by speaking to a therapist. They’ll help guide you through the process of recovering your self-esteem and finding a zest for life again,” she says.
If you’re currently embarking on the difficult journey of finding peace after a toxic relationship, Bonobology has a multitude of experienced counselors who can guide you through this trying time.
2. Follow the no-contact rule
Though it should be easy to block your ex on all platforms and break contact with them, it’s not out of the ordinary for a person to remain in touch with their toxic ex. Kranti tells us the importance of employing the no-contact rule after a breakup.
“Think of it when you’re trying to fight an addiction. The reason why de-addiction centers exist is that they help change the environment you’re in, removing any stimulus from it. Similarly, unless you rid yourself of the stimulus (your ex), healing will not start.
“Just by being in contact with this person, you’re bound to circle back to the toxicity, owing to a familiarity that clouds your judgment. In order to heal properly, you absolutely need to effectively shun them.
“Focus on getting back to your real self, pull yourself out of that relationship completely. Unless you change the environment you’re in, you might fall back to your old ways.”
We get it; pressing that “block” button makes it seem like you’re essentially removing this person from your life. After the loss of a relationship and in the stages of grief, your denial may convince you it wasn’t as bad as it seemed.
But you and I both know it was, and it’s time to move on. Making sure you stop all communication with your former paramour is one of the best steps while finding peace after a toxic relationship.
3. While finding peace after a toxic relationship, assess what went wrong
Talking about moving on from difficult relationships, Dr. Aman Bhonsle previously told Bonobology, “Become an investigator, not a martyr.” When you’re trying to figure out what went wrong, don’t adopt a victim mentality and investigate what actually went wrong, rather than what you tell yourself happened.
“We tend to see things the way we want to see them, and not from a third-person perspective,” says Kranti. Sometimes you blame the other person entirely, other times you assume all the guilt.
“It’s important to see things from a fresh perspective, so you can understand what actually went down. And when you’re the victim of abuse and toxicity, chances are, you were gaslighted in your relationship, and led to believe that you were to blame for everything.
“You must understand that whatever you did, you did to keep the relationship afloat since that looked like the best course of action at the time. Let go of guilt, forgive yourself as well as your partner. If you don’t address the pent-up anger or guilt, you’ve given your mind a reason to compulsively come back to it every now and then,” she adds.
4. Focus on your mental and physical health
“Taking part in certain activities that improve your mental or physical health can enhance your sense of self. Take on some creative activities that will help you vent your emotions. Invest in yourself and your wellbeing, your future self will thank you for it,” says Kranti.
While indulging in comfort foods after a breakup seems extremely enticing, try not to let yourself do that for too long. Instead, focus on building a healthier lifestyle that comprises clean eating and regular exercising. Once the dopamine hits your bloodstream after you finish that set, finding peace after a toxic relationship won’t seem like the hardest thing in the world.
Harvard Health claims exercise can be an all-natural treatment to fight depression, and a bit of mindful meditation never hurt anybody. Work up a sweat every now and then, you might just end up making a whole bunch of gym buddies.
5. Figure out why you fall for the people you do
Once you’ve managed to weather the storm that comes while grieving a toxic relationship, you’ll probably be in a better position to start introspecting about a few things. If you have a certain type you always seem to fall for, now is as good a time as any to start analyzing why that might be the case. There’s often a lot of introspection involved while healing a broken heart, and if your dynamic was mentally/physically damaging, it gives you all the more reason to.
“Understanding the patterns, figuring out the kind of people you go for can be helpful,” says Kranti. “But all the effort will be useless if it doesn’t stop you from making the same mistakes again. It can be helpful to some extent, but to turn it into a long-term solution, you must make a commitment to yourself to not repeat the harmful patterns you’ve identified,” she adds.
You don’t want to be in a situation where you’re trying to find peace in a bad relationship again. Once a person finds out they have a peanut allergy, it’s best if they stay away from peanuts, right?
6. Don’t shell up
Life after a toxic relationship, at least initially, won’t seem too happy. You might end up losing hope about ever finding love again, and in those moments, nothing seems better than sitting alone in a dark room, not answering any texts.
Though it may be tempting to isolate yourself and adopt a victim mentality, not rejecting help from loved ones is paramount when you’re finding peace after a toxic relationship. If someone who genuinely cares about you tries to reach out and help you, don’t cast them away.
Take all the help you can get, you’re going to need it if you’re trying to make peace with someone who hurt you. Moving on isn’t the easiest thing in the world, and going it alone doesn’t make it any easier.
Related Reading: 6 Reasons Why You Should Quit A Toxic Marriage
7. Rediscover yourself and be optimistic
“I’m never going to find anyone again” or “I’m too scared of love now, I’m giving up on love” are all thoughts you should avoid. The loss of a relationship and stages of grief end up sucking the confidence out of you, leaving you to believe you’re not capable of falling in love again.
Try not to let this pessimistic outlook on life stick. Use the time you have to dive into your old hobbies, and approach love with an unbiased mindset. “Once you fall in love with yourself, you’ll eventually seek a person who has similar qualities. If you find a person who is in love with themselves, both of you together can make a very positive and nurturing relationship,“ says Kranti.
Finding peace after a toxic relationship largely depends on how you approach the situation. It’s tempting to curl yourself up and not interact with the outside world, but you can only do that for so long, till it starts to affect your personality.
“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know” – Pema Chödrön. No, the toxicity you experienced was not a complete waste of time. At the end of the day, you come out of it stronger and wiser. With the steps we listed out, hopefully, yours ends up being one of the success stories after a toxic relationship.