Learning how to end a toxic relationship may sound so simple, but in reality, it is one of the hardest things you can do.
If learning how to end a toxic relationship was easy, you wouldn’t be looking for advice on how to do it. Ending a toxic relationship seems like the obvious thing to do. It’s like leaving a room where a stink bomb went off, why wouldn’t you do it?
But, relationships, especially toxic ones are a lot more complicated than a bad odor. Relationships don’t just go bad and then you leave. There is a lot that goes into a toxic relationship, including love. That can make leaving a toxic relationship feel impossible.
Thankfully, it’s not. I’ve been there and struggled through it, but came out a lot stronger, more confident.
What is a toxic relationship?
A toxic relationship is exactly what it sounds like. Like drinking bleach, a toxic relationship poisons you. This is a relationship that drains you. It hurts you emotionally, mentally, and even physically. It is damaging to just about every aspect of your life.
A toxic relationship can be obvious or more subtle. It can be all about manipulation so that you’re not even aware of how it is making you feel. In fact, the manipulation can be so powerful that you believe your relationship is the only good thing in your life when it is what is making you miserable.
When there is a lack of trust, jealousy, control, guilt, or abuse, the relationship is toxic. More often than not, there is no cure other than shutting it down.
Think about your toxic relationship
One of the reasons why it is so hard to know how to end a toxic relationship is that we are often in denial about it. We may not want to admit to ourselves that the relationship we have invested so much of ourselves in is bad for us.
When you’ve been vulnerable with someone, it can be hard to leave that behind for any reason. Even if you feel the pain that is inevitable from a toxic relationship, you can fall into it instead of away from it because it is familiar.
If you feel like you’re in a toxic relationship, or at the very least a relationship you’re unhappy in, think about it. I don’t like to advise people to overthink or overanalyze things. But, reflecting on your relationship and why it is making you feel this way is an important part of leaving it behind.
You have to be able to come to terms with the truth before being able to say goodbye. Every relationship has its good parts, even the most toxic ones. Looking at how it is negatively impacting you can jump start your plan to end it and leave.
I was in a toxic relationship for about four years. At first, I was blinded by puppy love. The relationship took over my life. I would cancel work and hang out with him instead of friends. And I just let that relationship overrun my life.
I didn’t see the problem with it either. When we were together it was so good, I couldn’t think of the bad stuff. I couldn’t think of how I felt in the other aspects of my life because I let my feelings for him consume me.
Even after being cheating on, used, and lied to numerous times I stayed. I thought I could fix it. I thought I could be good enough for him to pick me. Eventually, I was hurt by him so many times I was numb to it, which again kept me around.
I would rather be continuously hurt by him because I expected it than to date someone new and be rejected and hurt all over again. Once I was able to say that out loud and come to terms with the fact that fear and familiarity were all that kept me attached to him, I was able to cut him out.
And that’s what I had to do. I didn’t say goodbye or explain until many months later. I had to completely remove him from all aspects of my life in order to stay away, or else I would have let him pull me back in.
Sometimes, the truth can be hard to see. Once you open your eyes to it, it can be exactly what you need to make the right decision.
How to end a toxic relationship and leave it in your past
So, now you know how I did it. Of course, every toxic relationship is different. The reasons we have for staying can often be similar. These are the things you need to fight to end a toxic relationship and leave it behind.
Now that you’ve come to the conclusion that you want to or have to end it, how do you do it?
#1 Reach out. When you realize you’re in a toxic relationship, reach out to someone you trust. Talk to a friend or family member or even a coworker or spiritual leader.
Confiding in someone will help you not to feel alone. It will help you start a support system. Ending a toxic relationship can be exhausting. Whether you rely on them financially, are afraid of them, or have distanced yourself from others to be with them, rebuilding that support is vital to breaking free of the toxicity.
If you can’t find anyone in your life that you trust or are too worried it will get back to your partner, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline for help from trained advocates dedicated to your safety.
#2 Tell your partner. Not every situation calls for this as sometimes getting out safely with mental and physical health intact is priority. But, if you can, share how you feel. Let them know you’re ending the relationship and why and that your mind is made up.
If you know this conversation will become angry or heated, try writing a letter to express your feelings. This lets the other person respond in their time and you can remain at a safe distance when they do so.
#3 Put yourself first. During the breakup, it is likely that your partner will try to get you back or at least involve themselves in your life. Exes from toxic relationships have a knack for manipulation and guilting. Try not to let them do this.
Remind yourself of why you are leaving. Look ahead. Your future is open to so many possibilities. You have so much positivity to look forward to. You have so much to live for in your life now that you can breathe fresh air.
#4 You can miss them. You stayed in this relationship for plenty of reasons. And you loved this person. It makes sense that the more distance you put there, the more you’ll miss them. And that is totally natural.
Even though they hurt you, you can miss them. We naturally reach for the good times and minimize the bad ones. Stop and remind yourself why you actually made this choice. Talk to someone you trust. They will help reassure you.
Ending any relationship is hard, but you can figure out how to end a toxic relationship and come out of it stronger.