There are no easy answers to how to get out of an unhealthy relationship. Often, the journey toward recognizing the red flags for what they’re and accepting that you’re in a toxic relationship is so long drawn-out that people lose parts of themselves in it. I’ve seen it up close with a childhood friend who had dreams for her entire life, like most young girls.
Get an education, find a good job, and get the perfect man to start a family with. The universe was pretty much on her side because she achieved an enviable academic and work experience. But her partner had us all shaking our heads in frustration. He had such toxic traits that we couldn’t imagine why she settled for the man. I often wondered why she could not get out of the unhealthy relationship. After all, he gave out plenty of red flags.
It took me some time and a lot of research to understand that it can be challenging to figure out how to get rid of toxic relationships. After speaking to relationship and intimacy coach Shivanya Yogmayaa (internationally certified in the therapeutic modalities of EFT, NLP, CBT, and REBT), who specializes in different forms of couples counseling, I learned there are a lot of nuances to uncover — that includes the challenges of letting a relationship go as well as navigating the stages of leaving a toxic relationship. Let’s explore these in detail.
What Is An Unhealthy Relationship?
The first step toward learning how to get out of an unhealthy relationship is understanding what it is. The simplest way to describe such toxic relationships is one that is characterized by negative traits and behaviors that harm those who are involved. The impact is felt at an emotional, mental, financial, and sometimes physical level.
There are different signs worth noting. Shivanya lists the following.
- Abuse: Unhealthy/toxic relationships are characterized by some form of abuse, whether physical, emotional, or sexual. There may be verbal threats, hitting, degradation, attacks on one’s self-esteem or well-being, and other forms of domestic violence. Yes, it can be hard to let go of an unhealthy relationship but if you’re suffering abuse in any form, you must for your own safety
- Control: This manifests in a partner’s attempt to control your decisions, actions, or interactions. This could be in the form of financial control or attempts to monitor how you behave, what you wear, where you go, etc
- Dishonesty: There’s constant manipulation or deceit, which ends up eroding trust
- Poor communication: A toxic partner may withhold communication as a way to punish you.
- Lack of support: This could be financial, emotional, or when/where it matters most
- Excessive jealousy: Your partner may be extremely possessive, leading to emotional manipulation and controlling behavior
- Constant criticism: This is another of the warning signs of toxic relationships. Your partner is very negative and quick to criticize your every move
- Disrespect: A toxic partner may insult, belittle, or mock you without regard for your opinions or boundaries
Whether you’re trying to figure out how to let go of a toxic relationship when you still love them or break free from a relationship you feel trapped in, recognizing these red flags is an essential first step. Shivanya says, “One of the most prominent and severe or serious characteristics of unhealthy relationships is mental, verbal, physical, or emotional abuse. There’s also substance abuse. Repeated lies, broken promises, narcissism, lack of respect, and hiding things are also a few red flags to watch out for, which of course, have a drastic effect on a person’s mental health.
“Such repetitive behavior patterns create distrust and resentment between partners. It eventually causes conflict, arguments, and abuse, making it difficult for partners to co-exist in the relationship. One or both partners start thinking about how to get out of an unhealthy relationship at this point, which might take a toll on their emotional health.”
Related Reading: 11 Warning Signs of a Toxic Relationship
Why Is It Important To Get Out Of An Unhealthy Relationship?
The simplest answer to how to deal with unhealthy relationships is to leave. That’s because staying in a toxic relationship will impact your happiness, future, and overall well-being. The reality is walking out of an abusive and toxic relationship is tough. But, prioritize your well-being, safety, and happiness. Lean on your support system when things get too tough. Also, consider professional help, and have a game plan in place.
In learning how to let go of a toxic relationship when you still love them, you must understand the impact on your well-being.
- Toxic relationships and the erosion of emotional health and self-esteem go hand in hand
- You’ll experience feelings of worthlessness due to the emotional abuse
- The constant attacks, whether verbal or physical, will slowly but surely, bring you down
- Over time, your mental and physical health will suffer
This explains why it’s so important to get out of an unhealthy relationship — so that you can rebuild your emotional well-being.
Related Reading: 8 Relationship Problems You Can Face If You Had Toxic Parents
Unhealthy relationships can prevent you from reaching your full potential
Toxic partners chip away at your self-esteem or self-worth. The never-ending negativity, manipulation, and emotional abuse will erode any confidence you have in yourself. That will have a direct impact on your well-being and emotional health. Over time, you start to believe them and stop pursuing your passions or goals.
The preoccupation with the unhealthy relationship will suck away your emotional energy leaving little or no room for anything else. Letting go of a relationship when you don’t want to can be confusing. Yet, getting out of a failing relationship is critical so that you can rediscover your self-worth and cultivate self-love.
You get to be a better person and can have healthy relationships in the future. There’s also the aspect of empowerment. When you leave a toxic relationship, you take control of your life. You have a chance to reclaim your happiness and pave the way for good times in the future.
Unhealthy relationships can teach you to accept less than you deserve
It is hard to let go of an unhealthy relationship, but at some point, you have to wake up to some realities. Emotional abuse and manipulation can make you feel like you don’t deserve much. You even start believing you are truly lucky to be in that relationship.
Accompanying this is the low self-esteem and lack of self-worth. It becomes hard to recognize your value and you start accepting any type of treatment from other people. Unfortunately, some people get into a mindset of looking for equally toxic relationships due to low self-esteem. It becomes a vicious cycle characterized by acceptance, even expectations of such abuse in all relationships.
How To Get Out Of An Unhealthy Relationship: 9 Crucial Steps To Break Free
Can a woman get out of an unhealthy relationship? Or, can a man get out of an unhealthy relationship? Yes, if you decide it’s not worth fixing a toxic relationship, you can leave. But it’s not that simple. Numerous reports show that leaving is actually the most dangerous time, especially for a battered woman. Women are about 500 times more at risk when they decide to leave.
Remember, the abuser will be losing their power and control and can react violently. Other reports show that approximately 75% of women in abusive relationships are murdered after they leave their partners. While the dynamics may not be the same, the struggle can be just as real for men who are leaving toxic relationships.
However, that does not mean you’re doomed to stay trapped in a toxic relationship that has been chipping away at your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. There are ways to end an unhealthy relationship. Shivanya recommends the following nine steps:
Step 1: Admit that you’re in an unhealthy relationship
As we’ve said before, the journey of figuring out how to get out of an unhealthy relationship begins with acceptance. That is the first step to breaking free and reclaiming your well-being. Start by learning or recognizing the signs reflecting toxic patterns in your relationship —control, disrespect, emotional abuse, physical abuse, and even financial control. Also, see how you feel around your partner. Do you experience anxiety or feel belittled or unsafe?
Expect to feel plenty of conflicting emotions due to your love for your partner. Shivanya explains, “You might feel guilty, sad, and sorry about leaving your relationship, for hurting your partner. You are bound to feel these emotions at some point because you love your partner and there are a lot of good memories associated with this person and the relationship. However, you have to think about what is right for you in the long term. You need to decide what is worth keeping and letting go.”
Finally, have compassion for yourself and know that it is not your fault. After all, all you wanted was a healthy relationship.
Related Reading: Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationships – 10 Characteristics
Step 2: Make a plan to leave
The best way to leave an unhealthy relationship is to have a solid exit plan, covering all your bases, including dealing with and finding sustenance in worst-case scenarios. So, your game plan should have the following.
- Secure your support system: Letting a relationship go is tough. Reach out to close friends, family, or support groups. Inform them about your decision to leave, and don’t be afraid to ask for help and understanding
- Ensure your safety: This includes having emergency contacts, a safe place to go, and essential items you carry with you, the latter includes money (or credit cards, bank documents, etc), medications, identification documents, and any personal belongings that are important to you
- Financial independence: Start learning how to be financially independent. Set up a private account and start saving money. Monetary independence empowers you so you stop relying on your abusive partner
- Legal protection: Your safety plan includes notifying authorities if you have any safety concerns. They can arrange for assistance on the day you plan to leave. If you’re afraid for your safety, consult a lawyer. They can help with getting restraining orders or securing legal protection for you. They can also help with peaceful negotiations on things like how you will co-parent
- Documentary evidence: Keep incident records, including dates, times, and the description of the abusive behavior. In case of legal action, you will require them
- Plan the exit time: Typically, a toxic or abusive partner won’t let you go easy. From emotional manipulation to physical confrontation, they may try any means possible to get you to stay. So, your best bet is to leave when your partner is within the vicinity
- Look for a place to stay: Leave an unhealthy relationship once you find a place that is safe for you and any dependents. Before you walk out, find an apartment you can stay in and set it up with everything you need. In case you need to walk out without any preparation due to domestic violence or physical abuse, you can always lean on a friend or family member until you get a place of your own. If that’s also not an option, here are domestic violence shelters you can turn to
Step 3: Express your concerns
Once you’ve done the prep work to build a life outside your unhealthy relationship, it’s time to tell your partner how you feel. He could, for example, be taking your relationship for granted. You could try to express your concerns and stress that you want a healthy relationship. But please note that the chances of change are usually minimal to non-existent. This is especially true if they see nothing wrong with their behavior.
Shivanya says, “People tend to endure or stay in bad relationships because they expect their partner to change. They live in that hope and end up tolerating unhealthy behaviors. Always remember that you cannot change or fix a person. Therefore, one of the most important tips on how to leave a harmful relationship is to not wait for your partner to change.”
Step 4: Break up with your partner
Learning how to get out of a bad relationship with someone you love is critical if diplomacy fails. It’s time to admit that it’s time to put an end to the toxic relationship. The best way to end an unhealthy relationship is to be honest with yourself and your partner. After you have prepared yourself to end the relationship and not feel bad about it, you have to move to the hardest part.
It’s time to confront your partner and tell them you’re leaving. Convey your decision firmly. This can help you both gain closure and start over with a clean slate. However, this approach only works when your relationship may be unhealthy but there is no physical or emotional abuse.
Related Reading: 10 Signs You Need to Break Off Your Engagement
Step 5: Don’t allow yourself to get pulled back in
The moment you say that you are ending a relationship, your partner may try every possible trick to make you stay. They may resort to emotional blackmail or come up with a whole list of promises and reassurances. This can make it harder to leave, especially if you’re dealing with the conundrum of how to let go of a relationship when you don’t want to.
Know that this will continue until your partner gets what they want. So, whatever they do, remind yourself that any change you see will be temporary. Don’t let them convince you to stay. If you don’t stand firm on your decision, you will be trapped in the same vicious cycle of hope, heartbreak, and despair.
Shivanya explains, “Be absolutely honest with your partner about leaving. Tell them that you are not willing to tolerate such unhealthy and toxic behavior patterns anymore and that you’re making an exit for good. Just put your foot down and tell them that you’re done with the relationship because it’s too much to handle. In case the relationship is abusive, you may have to leave surreptitiously. Except that, it’s best to honestly convey your desire to end the relationship and say goodbye.”
Step 6: Start building a strong support system
Any type of relationship breakdown is tough to handle, and that includes leaving an unhealthy relationship. yes, it is possible to get through a breakup alone. But, building a strong support system will be crucial for your emotional well-being.
Strength is a critical component in implementing the steps of how to get out of a bad relationship with someone you love. You’ll also need the strength of your loved ones to navigate the challenging situation you’re finding yourself in. Your support system extends beyond close family and friends. It also includes:
- Support groups, whether online, in private practice, or those that are locally available
- Therapy and counseling from professionals
- Legal and financial advisors
- Community and religious organizations that offer resources and counseling services. There are also important for that sense of community
- Helplines and hotlines such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline, national helplines, or even the local crisis hotline. These platforms provide immediate support and resources for those leaving violent relationships.
- New friends to uplift and support you
Shivanya says, “When helping my clients trying to figure out how to get rid of toxic relationships, I always tell them to talk to their friends and family about the abuse. If you are alone in a different city, seek protection and report the abuse. Do it without letting your partner know if you feel your life is under threat.”
Step 7. Start working toward rebuilding your life
This is an essential part of cutting the chord and emerging from under the shadows of an unhealthy relationship because toxic people often have a way of making their partners so dependent on them that they can’t envision a life without them. So, if you’re wondering, how can a woman get out of an unhealthy relationship, reclaiming independence might be the answer. You need to break free of the codependency your partner is forcing you into and start living life as a free person.
Likewise, for a man, the answer to walking away from an unhealthy partner can be dialing back on the emotional and logistic dependence on their partner, who may have taken on the role of an extreme caregiver or rescuer. The process of rebuilding your life entails every single aspect of it, financial, logistic, social, and emotional. Here is what it may entail:
Related Reading: How To Break Up With A Guy? 12 Ways To Soften The Blow
- Getting your financial health in order — this could mean getting a job to be financially independent, starting budgeting and saving, reevaluating your expenditures
- Working toward career and professional development to build yourself a better life
- If you’re a parent, figuring out childcare for the duration that you’re at work
- Getting health insurance, streamlining any outstanding mortgages and debts
- Figuring out the logistics and expenses of running a home single-handedly
- Finding your social circle
- Healing from the trauma you’ve endured
- Preparing yourself for a new relationship, if that’s what you want
Step 8. Embrace self-love and self-care
An important step in how to let go of a relationship when you don’t want to is embracing self-love. Self-love is an important step in how to deal with unhealthy relationships and repairing the damage caused by unhealthy relationships. It will have a significant impact on your resilience and overall happiness. Here are some ways you can be kind toward yourself:
- Have compassion for yourself and recognize that healing takes time
- Stay away from negative situations that drain your energy by clearly establishing boundaries
- Take care of yourself with good food, exercise, and regular sleep
- Incorporate healthy habits like meditation and mindfulness
- Go ahead, and spoil yourself with some self-care and well-being gifts
- Use positive affirmations every day to keep away any negative self-talk or intrusive thoughts about the toxic relationship
- Some people may find journaling therapeutic as it offers a safe place to express feelings, hopes, and dreams
Step 9. Cut off all contact with the abusive ex
Figuring out how to get out of an unhealthy relationship is no mean feat. Do you know that it takes at least seven attempts for a survivor to leave an abuser? The reasons include emotional attachment, fear of retaliation, financial dependency, and lack of support. To leave an unhealthy romantic relationship for good, you have to enforce the no-contact rule. Don’t leave any room for your partner to claw their way back into your life.
Shivanya says, “When it comes to deciding how to let go of a toxic relationship when you still love, a little distance can do you a world of good. There are instances where partners break up mutually without any grudge or ill feelings toward each other because they know that they aren’t compatible. However, that’s unlikely to happen in an unhealthy relationship.“Even if the relationship was not outright abusive, it is always advisable to apply the no-contact rule for a while at least. Give yourself time to process the emotional pain and trauma you may have endured. It might be uncomfortable but it is essential for moving on.”
Are you looking for help to break free from an unhealthy relationship? Skilled and experienced mental health professionals on Bonobology’s panel are here for you.
- Leaving unhealthy relationships may prove to be extremely difficult because of which a person might keep putting it off
- Preparing for the breakup is perhaps the most important stage. Convince yourself that this is what’s good for you and do not be hesitant to push the breakup
- Convince yourself that this is what’s good for you, and do not be hesitant to push the breakup
- If your physical or mental health is in any sort of danger, seek help immediately
- How to let go of someone who treats you badly requires that you don’t fall for the promises of a better tomorrow, make a decision to leave and stick to it
It is hard to let go of a toxic relationship. Of course, your first instinct would be to try to save the relationship, but there will come a point when you need to decide if the relationship is worth saving. “We tend to wait too long due to which the damage done is far too deep. Sometimes, the only answer to how to let go of someone who treats you badly is to just walk away from such destructive bonds. Own yourself and take charge before it’s too late. Don’t let the years slip by. Choose yourself above everything else because, if you lose yourself, what is left to save?” concludes Shivanya.
We have shown you why and how to get out of an unhealthy relationship. Don’t look at the end of an unhealthy romantic relationship as the end of your life or even romantic possibilities. What you are getting is a chance to enjoy new experiences and a healthy relationship in the future where you always feel good. Also, make sure you have a safety plan to ensure a safe getaway.
An unhealthy relationship is one where you feel tired and trapped all the time. You don’t make joint decisions or share details of your life. There is often abuse, control, lack of respect, and emotional neglect in an unhealthy romantic relationship.
It is hard because a person might take a long time to realize the toxicity of the relationship or that it has turned unhealthy and is on the rocks. They might find it hard to walk out of the relationship because they still love their partner despite the abuse or toxic behavior patterns.
The first step is to make up your mind to leave. Then, do not feel guilty or do not let them convince you that they would change their ways. It never happens. Don’t let them convince you to stay. Move out of the relationship and ensure that you do not maintain any kind of contact.
The reason why a relationship becomes unhealthy is because there is no effort by the partners to keep it healthy. It is possible to fix a broken relationship if both partners realize that it has become toxic and are willing to put in the effort and rework their boundaries. One can definitely try to make amends. But if it doesn’t work, then it is best to move on.
The first step is to remember that you cannot fix or save the person from their toxic relationship. You can only offer help and support. The decision and initiative to leave the relationship need to come from them. Talk them out of the guilt trap. Tell them it’s not their fault. Don’t criticize their partner. Instead, ask how they feel when their partner behaves a certain way.
Accept the fact that leaving a bad relationship will hurt. You need to stop hoping for your partner to change and learn to let go instead. Cry and vent as much as you can and want. Take a break and indulge in things that give you joy. Most importantly, know that you deserve better.