How to move on from a toxic relationship? After all, it leaves your heart wounded and to apply a band-aid, it isn’t the easiest thing to do. A relationship like that can leave you feeling stuck and emotionally exhausted for months, and even years sometimes. A toxic relationship not only changes the way that you see love, but also alters the relationship that you have with yourself.
Therefore, you need a guide who can help you grieve in the correct manner and heal faster. So, we talked to emotional wellness and mindfulness coach Pooja Priyamvada (certified in Psychological and Mental Health First Aid from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Sydney). She specializes in counseling for extramarital affairs, breakups, separation, grief, and loss, to name a few.
Why Is It So Hard To Move On From A Toxic Relationship?
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According to Pooja, “Sometimes people become emotionally codependent in a toxic equation to such an extent that they see nothing beyond that person and relationship in their lives and hence fail to acknowledge the need to get away from it.”
You become so addicted to the person that letting go of them almost feels like a drug withdrawal. To move on from a toxic relationship when you’re still in love is what makes the process of moving on very difficult. Your brain commands that you should let go, but your heart desires you to stay.
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Also, a toxic relationship isolates you from the world and your own self. Your sense of right and wrong starts getting blurred because you are so blindly in love with your partner. Your rationality starts taking a backseat. You justify all their wrongs and start thinking that the pain is worth it.
But guess what? It is not worth it at all. A relationship wherein you lose your self-worth every day and don’t feel loved and respected, is not desirable at all. So, moving on from a toxic relationship may not be what you necessarily want but it is something you desperately need. How to move on from a toxic relationship? Here are some expert tips.
How To Move On From A Toxic Relationship- 8 Expert Tips
“Do not hold your breath for anyone,
Do not wish your lungs to be still,
It may delay the cracks from spreading,
But eventually they will.
Sometimes to keep yourself together
You must allow yourself to leave,
Even if breaking your own heart
Is what it takes to let you breathe.”
– Erin Hanson, author
As Eric Hanson puts it, moving on from a toxic relationship can feel like breaking your own heart to allow yourself to breathe again. But how exactly does one move on from something so intense? And how to rebuild the esteem that got crumbled during the course of your relationship? Here are some expert tips that can help you come out of that trap of feeling stuck.
1. Grieve and process all your emotions
Pooja says, “Mistrust, disrespect, gaslighting, fear, shame, guilt – all these emotions are an inherent part of an unhealthy relationship. A healthy relationship enhances you while an unhealthy one diminishes and erases you.”
You need time to grieve and process all the complex emotions that you went through during the course of your relationship. How to move on from a toxic relationship? Take some time out and grieve. Cry. Talk to multiple people about every single detail. Put it down in writing. Figure out what works for your healing by a comprehensive trial and error method. Don’t feel ashamed of all those feelings that you might be exhibiting in public or in private.
It is very important to process all your emotions, whether it is pain, anger, grief, or betrayal. If you don’t go through the stages of grief after a breakup, your grief will turn into something more complicated. This means that it will come out as unresolved emotions (like anger, fear, tears etc.) in later parts of your life and you may end up projecting them on people who are not even at fault.
2. Acknowledge that your partner was toxic
To let go and move on from a toxic relationship, you must first inherently feel that your relationship was toxic. Staying in denial and not seeing things as they are would just hamper your growth and healing. Don’t idolize your partner and reminisce about their good qualities only. Think realistically about your relationship. What were the compromises that you made? What were the activities that you loved but stopped doing because of their unwanted intervention? Did you distance your friends because of your partner?
How to move on from a toxic relationship? Pooja says, “Acknowledge that they are toxic. Make a list of all the things that they do to you or don’t do that is abusive or harmful. Make a stepwise plan to distance yourself from them.”
3. Fill the void
If you are trying to move on from a toxic relationship when you’re still in love with your partner, it may end up creating a huge void inside you. Fill this void by developing a healthy coping mechanism. Perform better in your work. Meet your friends often. Develop new hobbies or just get back to old ones.
Sometimes, moving on from a toxic relationship can involve other complicated factors too. For example, to move on from a toxic relationship while being pregnant or to move on from a toxic relationship with a child involved. Pooja points out, “It is tough for women to take tough decisions during pregnancy, however, with a support system and more supportive people who can fill the void left by a toxic partner, it can become easier.”
She goes on to say, “How to move on from a toxic relationship when there is a child, and the partner is a co-parent? A toxic marriage is a tougher situation. The steps of distancing remain the same, however. One needs to understand the child’s independent equation with their other parent and one might need to remain in touch for making decisions about the child so one needs to be in a space of full emotional control.”
4. Build self-worth
How to let go and move on from a toxic relationship? Build self-worth and develop self-love. Once you start respecting yourself, your fear of losing your partner will start to evaporate. Don’t go into circuitous loops of self-criticism by asking yourself questions like – “Am I not attractive enough?”, “Am I not rich enough?” or “Maybe I am just not good enough”.
A toxic relationship can cripple your self-esteem, so please don’t fall into that trap. Instead, be kind to yourself. How to move on from a toxic relationship? Make a list of all your good qualities. Highlight all that you have achieved and start counting your blessings.
Pooja emphasizes, “Self-worth begins with self-care. Look after yourself in every way. The next step is self-love. Make yourself a priority in your life. Once these two are sorted, self-worth is an automatic third step.”
5. How to move on from a toxic relationship? Seek professional help
Pooja articulates, “Red flags would be anything abusive or indicative of their own unhealed trauma like anger issues. There are no blueprints as to what is toxic and what is not – what restricts and stifles a person is toxic for them.”
Healing from a relationship that has restricted or stifled you requires support from a qualified professional and Bonobology can help you with that. Seeking therapy will help you in healing from the baggage of your past and entering your new relationship with a clean state. It will teach you how to trust again and even help in forgiving yourself and your partner.
6. Meditation and exercise
Pooja says, “It is important to let go of someone toxic because if you keep trying to reform them, they will eventually become bad for your mental health and emotionally drain you completely.”
And this toxic person could not just be your partner but your parent too. To move on from a toxic relationship with your mother, you must keep in mind that it is okay to keep a distance with her if she is negatively affecting your mental health. Stop trying too hard to please her all the time. Set boundaries for yourself. Stop over-sharing everything with her.
Meditation and exercise can help you a lot when it comes to letting go and moving on from a toxic relationship. They will help you balance your mind, body, and soul. Working out is a great way to channel all your pain. Meditation can help you stay calm when you overthink too much.
Related Reading: How To Move On When A Breakup Hits Hard
7. Explore other options
Can toxic people change and evolve if you wait and stay? Pooja answers, “Yes if they want to work on themselves, they can change with therapy, self-work and self-discipline but a victim cannot be asked to wait till they do. They must not suffer unnecessarily.”
So don’t wait and suffer. You have all the right to explore other options, whenever you feel ready. How to move on from a toxic relationship? Know that it is not the end of the world. You will surely find another person that works for you. You will meet different types of soulmates at different points in your life. Don’t lose hope, just yet. Also find happiness in being by yourself. Master self-love and look for sources other than relationships to derive your happiness from.
8. Learn from the past and establish non-negotiables
Pooja points out, “It isn’t entirely in an individual’s power to ‘attract’ a particular kind of relationship because every relationship involves two people. But one needs to be mindful about their non-negotiables, red flags, and take a step back. Maybe this shortlisting exercise will help you get the right ones sooner.”
How to move on from a toxic relationship? Learn about yourself from past relationships. What are characteristics that are a strict no-no for you? What is it that you can’t tolerate? Also, self-introspect. It is extremely important for you to be self-aware. Are you in any way toxic? Could you have done something differently? If yes, then be willing to change and evolve.
Finally, the fact that you are reading this article on ‘how to move on from a toxic relationship’ is itself an indicator that you want to move on. And half the battle is won by the fact that you are at least ready and open enough. Keep trying different approaches. If it has been six months, and you still feel as stuck as you did six months ago, it is time to reconsider your approach. Our counselors from Bonobology’s panel, including Pooja Priyamvada, can help you with that and lead you to the path to happiness.