Ending toxic relationships is no joke. Overrun with anger, jealousy, and insecurity — the fact that you’ve chosen to put a full stop to this toxic relationship is in itself a very big step. What makes these relationships toxic in the first place is that they put you in a loop that you’re unable to break out of.
In some cases, you might know in your heart that you need to leave the relationship you’re in, but figuring out a way to do so without it being an absolute mess is difficult. In toxic dynamics, it can often be dangerous too. As a result, you spiral from hoping for change, to trying to wish away all the toxicity, to realizing that you must leave – yet are unable to.
To bounce back from this rock bottom is no mean feat. To make sure you do it the right way, we bring to you expert advice from psychotherapist Sampreeti Das (Masters in Clinical Psychology and Ph.D. researcher), who specializes in Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy and Holistic and Transformational Psychotherapy. Let’s dig deeper into toxic relationships and uncover how to leave a toxic relationship with dignity.
Ending Toxic Relationships – 12 Tips To Help You
In such relationships, not only are you abused, misused, and discarded repeatedly, but this loop seems to further coil around you making you unable to reach out for help. Even though you’re unhappy and disturbed in the relationship, you still can’t find any exit signs. Having already given so much of yourself and your energy in the relationship, it almost seems blasphemous to leave since every fiber of you has already been consumed so badly in trying to make things work.
Moreover, the drama of it all has drained your energy to the point where you don’t see yourself venturing out and being the same person again. You’ve almost forgotten how you used to be, the things that made you happy in a relationship seem like a distant dream, and all you have is little hope for the future.
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If you resonate with the above situation, rest assured that you’ve come to the right place. But before we talk more about ending toxic relationships, let’s get into what a toxic relationship really is.
Sampreeti says, “Any relationship that curbs the feeling of empowerment is a toxic relationship. It is not about who is right and who is wrong. It is about whether people in a relationship are right for each other.”
It’s the kind of dynamic that makes a person feels drained out, yet they are unable to do anything about it. Things usually turn ugly, and the toxicity is often coupled with abuse. According to Healthline, the characteristics of a toxic relationship include:
- Abuse – physical, mental, sexual, emotional, verbal, or financial. All of these make for a toxic relationship, however, it’s important to note that a relationship can be toxic even without apparent abuse
- Competition between partners that turns unhealthy,
- Lack of mutual support
- Toxic and abusive communication
- Controlling behavior
- Resentment in the relationship
- Patterns of disrespect
- Negative financial behaviors
The signs of a toxic relationship can differ slightly in each dynamic, but one thing remains common: a negative impact on your mental or physical well-being. As harsh as reality may hit right now, a lot of us do indeed get trapped in toxic marriages or relationships that start to bind us.
In the long run, the side effects of being in a dynamic such as this are very real. According to studies, those who do not find a way to end a toxic relationship are at a greater risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and negative mental health. Chronic stress may trigger adrenal fatigue, which is why you feel tired all the time.
As you can probably tell by now, understanding how to finally leave a toxic relationship is the need of the hour. Since there’s already little to no respect in your dynamic, ending things won’t be too easy as well, and might just cost you your dignity. However, the smoother the breaking up process is, the easier it’ll be to move on. Let’s look at a few steps to move on from a toxic relationship.
1. To end a toxic relationship, first remove your rose-tinted glasses
The biggest reason that one is unable to let go of a toxic relationship when you still love them is that one puts on rose-tinted glasses. As said by Wanda Pierce in the show Bojack Horseman, “When you look at someone through rose-colored glasses, all the red flags just look like regular flags.”
Ending toxic relationships is about removing the filter that you’ve so conveniently set in front of your eyes. The filter prevents you from seeing what’s wrong, whether it’s the fear of being lonely, being scared of your partner, or some kind of terrible Stockholm syndrome.
Your rose-tinted glasses may keep giving you the illusion of hope, making you believe that things are going to change even if others plead with you to get out of it. Whether you’re trying to leave a toxic marriage or aiming to leave a relationship with dignity, the first step has to be to call a spade a spade, and acknowledge the toxic issues in your relationship.
Related Reading: Avoidant Attachment: Causes And How it Affects Relationships
2. Understand your own emotions to leave a toxic relationship with dignity
If you are in a toxic relationship, there is a good chance you have neatly packed up and locked your feelings away in a closet. The reason you’re putting yourself through something so gut-wrenching is that you may be ignorant of your own feelings and needs. You deny your feelings of fear, anxiety, sorrow, and anger, so that you don’t have to think about your need for happiness, love, respect, and fairness in the relationship.
The reason we end up being ignorant of our own feelings is to protect ourselves from accepting the harsh realities. Blissful ignorance is a lot easier than having difficult conversations with yourself, and that’s often why so many people can’t figure out how to walk away from a relationship with dignity.
To get to the point where you are not only able to recognize but also fight for what you deserve, you do need to track your feelings and put yourself through a bit of a shocker. To allow yourself to heal and get out of an unhealthy relationship, you need to acknowledge the need for healing in the first place.
3. Figure out what’s stopping you from ending toxic relationships
Is it a constant cycle? Have you found yourself repeatedly indulging in toxic relationships or even friendships? Do you agree that you often let people walk all over you? Do your acquaintances usually have the upper hand? It’s time to understand if there is a pattern that is rendering you unable to walk away from a toxic relationship.
As highlighted by Sampreeti, “Letting go of a toxic relationship can be hard for many reasons: not having enough resources to start on one’s own, socio-cultural outlook, individual vulnerabilities, presence of other dependent members, etc.” It’s time to take a close look within yourself and figure out what is stopping you from living your best relationships.
Since this is a factor that’s different for everybody, drawing out a plan for rectifying it is something that will be unique to your own situation as well. For example, if financial issues have got you tied down, you must find a way to support yourself through the help of people you trust. In other situations, if you’re being gaslighted into believing that you’re the problem, outside intervention in the form of therapy is a must.
So, whether you’re struggling to leave a toxic relationship with a child or you can’t seem to leave a toxic relationship when you still “love” them, the most important thing to do is to figure out what’s stopping you, and how you can work your way through it.
4. Reach out to those who care about you
The support and guidance that you find in friends cannot be undermined when you are trying to move on from a toxic relationship. If you’re being abused, dating a narcissist, or being subjected to gaslighting all the time, there’s a good chance you might not be able to get through this alone. But that’s okay. Someone will definitely hold your hand.
Confiding in someone is one of the biggest stepping stones to ending toxic relationships. A third person’s perspective might allow you to see things in a light that you didn’t think existed. It is essential to get relationship advice from someone who loves and cares for you before your weaknesses overcome you.
“Forget about figuring out how to end a toxic relationship with my boyfriend, I was gaslighted to the point where I didn’t even know I was in a toxic relationship. My therapist pointed out that my crippling self-esteem and anxiety issues are due to the subjugation I was facing in my relationship. Only after that was I able to realize what I must do to leave a relationship with dignity,” Hal told us, a 29-year-old reader from Milwaukee.
Related Reading: How To Deal With Being Ignored By Someone You Love?
5. Prepare beforehand when you want to walk away from a toxic relationship
Perhaps you are planning to leave a toxic relationship when you live together. It’s time to run some things through your head. You may have to figure out searching for an alternate place to live, maybe hunt for a roommate to cut expenses, or maybe your toxic partner and you have the same friend circle and you’re thinking about how to navigate a tricky situation like that.
Dropping the bomb on your toxic partner that you’re walking out will do you no good. They will press on your insecurities, start blame-shifting, and find a way to make you stay. Make sure you’re prepared for what they may have to say, and it’s best to expect the absolute worst from them.
So before you fall for any of that crap and succumb to their arguments, make a plan and a structure for how you’re going to execute it. By being a few steps ahead, you’re basically figuring out how to walk away from a relationship with dignity.
6. Talk to your partner before ending toxic relationship
Ending toxic relationships is not about packing your bags and getting on the next flight and leaving the country when your partner is at work. If you’ve loved them for so long and want to leave a toxic relationship with dignity, you must communicate with them. Once you’ve assessed your feelings and convinced yourself that you deserve better, it’s important to give that newfound voice an outlet.
Sit them down, lay out your grievances, and show them that you are not fit for settling anymore. They might plead with you to stay, offer assurances of changing their behavior, ask you to trust them again, or ignore you completely and storm off. Whatever it may be, you’ve said your piece and have re-established your confidence enough to move on from a toxic relationship with a clear conscience.
However, if you’re subjected to domestic abuse and are physically dominated, it may be wise to either have some sort of help present with you during the conversation, or to leave the house completely and then just have the conversation over a call, if at all. If you plan to leave a toxic relationship with a child, a conversation about what the future holds is an absolute must, unless they were abusive toward the child as well. In that case, just leave and get yourself to safety first.
7. Remind yourself of the benefits of ending a toxic relationship
Sometimes, we love so deeply that it makes one feel inundated and lost to the point of no return. When you leave a toxic relationship when you still love them, you may feel those withdrawal symptoms creep in and might want to rush back to your ex for they give you a sense of familiarity. But it’s time to think about the benefits of ending a toxic relationship and how you are going to move onward and upward.
You now have a chance to live that fulfilling life you dreamed of. Meet that friend they never let you go out with, put on the dress that he said was too revealing, or finally eat that piece of cake that she always said would make you fat. As small or as big as it may be, you deserve it and it’s time to give yourself that.
8. To leave a toxic relationship with dignity, put your foot down
And by this, we mean taking the no-contact rule as seriously as you can. Especially if it is a case of abuse, constant criticism, death threats, or other kinds of blackmail, it’s time to stop giving your abuser what they want. And what they really want from you is a reaction.
Sampreeti advises, “To leave a toxic relationship with dignity, one has to have the belief that one has dignity, with or without a relationship. Stepping back can be as early as when the first warning signs appear so that a person doesn’t feel too damaged to start anew. But a late move is also better than never. Our dignity boosts itself as soon as we decide to move on, no matter when.”
Related Reading: Is He Using Me? Watch Out For These 21 Signs And Know What To Do
9. Decide that it’s time to be independent
Perhaps you’re in a phase where you have to leave a toxic relationship when you live together. You’ve shared everything from your toothbrushes to your deepest, darkest fears with each other. It’s hard to imagine your life without them because nobody knows you better than them. Since there is so much shared space and history, it might even feel harder to walk away from a toxic relationship.
So, when you’re trying to figure out how to finally leave a toxic relationship that’s riddled with a lot of history, disconnecting from your partner completely is a must. It might seem like the hardest thing in the world, but that’s exactly what you need to be able to stomach and do. Accept that it is time to move out, fall out of love with them eventually, live alone, create a new routine, and maybe start doing all your dishes and finances yourself. As inconvenient as it may seem now, you’ll thank yourself in the long run for becoming emotionally independent.
10. Reward yourself for getting better
To let go of a toxic relationship when you still love them might literally seem impossible to you right now. But you are on your way there, and that itself is laudable. It may be a small step now, but a stride in the right direction is always a win. So to keep yourself going and steer clear from negative thoughts that hold you back, reward yourself for getting better.
Maybe after you decide to not text them back, get yourself that croissant you always try to ignore in the bakery window on your way to work. Or open that bottle of wine you were saving for an occasion when you finally move on and set up that new dating app profile. Make every little thing count! Healing isn’t linear though, so don’t think that you shouldn’t reward yourself for your progress just because you take five steps forward and two steps back.
11. Indulge yourself after ending toxic relationships
Once you figure out how to end a toxic relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend or a partner, the process doesn’t end there. You must indulge yourself, and not by sitting on your couch and watching the same old rom-com for the millionth time after opening yet another packet of boxed mac and cheese. It’s time to turn things around for the better, and that starts with giving your mind and body what it needs.
“There are many ways in which people can move on, based on what suits them. Anything other than unhealthy coping like substance use, social withdrawal, vengeful behavior, etc. can be a workable way for different people. One can engage in long-lost hobbies, rebuild their social circle, practice mindfulness, read feel-good books, or even take a trip,” recommends Sampreeti. Guess you’ve now got expert-backed advice to book those tickets to Hawaii!
Related Reading: Romantic Life Off Tracks? How You Were Raised Affects Relationships
12. And if that doesn’t work, try therapy
“Behaviors that focus on self-development while moving on can preserve the confidence one has in them. But if things are very overwhelming, one should not refrain from entering therapy,” advises Sampreeti.
If you can’t shake off those feelings, are still feeling worn down, and it’s not just the exhaustion from your Hawaii trip – it might be time to rush to an expert. Ending toxic relationships is not easy and you might still be looking for ways to feel whole again. In that case, it might be time to take yourself more seriously and seek the guidance of a therapist. And the right help is right here at your fingertips. Bonobology has a skilled panel of therapists who are here for you.
This manual to ending toxic relationships should hopefully set you on a meaningful path of self-recovery, self-love, and self-care. If you are struggling, just trust the process and know that you’ve got this. It’s only a matter of time until you shed your old, worn-down skin and emerge brand new!