Steps to Recover from a Toxic Relationship

What is a Toxic Relationship?

Many of us have been there. We hoped to bond with someone special only to find ourselves mired in something toxic. It’s the type of relationship that can leave someone walking on eggshells without quite knowing what the problem is. So, you keep working harder and harder … and keep feeling less and less secure.

A healthy relationship raises us up. A toxic one drags us through an emotional, and sometimes physical quagmire as you keep yourself bound to a toxic partner hoping things with change.

And the more you try, the more things won’t change.

How Do You Know You Are in A Toxic Relationship

Every relationship has its ups and downs, and if you genuinely want to be with your partner, you could be in denial about many toxic signs – or find yourself making excuses for atrocious and manipulative behavior. Here are some relationship patterns to watch out for:

  1. When you and your partner have a conversation, it can easily turn hostile, with you getting blamed for something you weren’t even aware you had done. This can be confusing and leave you doubting yourself – but not necessarily your toxic partner. Said partner will never admit he or she might be in the wrong. 
  2. When in your partner’s presence, you may feel emotionally drained. Contrary to belief, words can hurt and unmind your confidence in various areas of your life. Dealing with a toxic person is exhausting, and it can be virtually impossible to relax in his or her presence. One moment he or she will be loving and caring; the next moment your partner will try and diminish your very existence. It is this inconsistency that can bind us to a toxic partner.
  3. A toxic person is a controlling person. He or she needs to control every aspect of your day, from your job to whom you spend time with. They insist you live by their rules. 
  4. You may feel you love your partner, but deep down, you are afraid of what he or she might do. Will he or she demean you because you forgot something or gained a pound or two? Toxic people keep their partners in check by creating explosive and extreme reactions (“You are just so stupid!) designed to keep you off-balance. You will do anything to avoid an explosion, just as you are convinced that you are incapable of doing anything right because a toxic person will find fault with anything and won’t need a reason to ridicule or insult you. Keep in mind, fear does not ever equal love.

How to Recover from a Toxic Relationship

When you are used to being in a particular relationship – even a toxic one – it can be difficult to extricate yourself. You may even believe that any relationship is better than nothing. However, once you are prepared and ready to rid yourself of the constant manipulation and seek something better and healthier, there are steps you can take.

  1. The first step, and perhaps the most important, is to stop hoping he or she will change. That is a fantasy. Accept the reality that you are unhappy, and you are responsible for remaining in the relationship.
  2. Turn to self-care. Instead of worrying whether the toxic partner is happy, start asking yourself if you are happy. Talk to yourself the way you would talk to a friend. Put your needs first. 
  3. People in toxic relationships are frequently in denial about their unhappiness. Start by being honest with yourself and how you feel. Keeping a journal is an excellent way to get in touch with your thoughts and emotions and recognize the debt of your pain.

Write down sentences such as, “I wish ….” and write several completions. You might be surprised by what you learn.

Create a list of behavior you will no longer accept. “I won’t accept being called names.” “I will not accept drunken or addictive behavior.” List anything that is relevant to your situation. And don’t be harsh with yourself if it takes time to change. Take it one step at a time and reward yourself for each victory. 

Create the life you really want, even if it begins with just a dream. Picture yourself going back to school, starting a business, taking up a hobby, and joining a new group of people. Slowly, make the type of choices that will turn your dreams into reality. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen.

Surround yourself with positive people who will encourage you instead of someone who will drag you down.

Does Ending a Toxic Relationship Automatically Heal Everything

That may be your most fervent wish – rid yourself of the toxic partner and get rid of the pain and doubts. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way. After being put down for years, people can internalize criticism. The toxic partner is gone, but you still feel stupid, incompetent, not pretty enough, etc. Words have the power to affect us for years – like a slow-acting poison. It is no longer your ex judging you negatively – it is you.

Dealing with voices from the past is never easy, but the rewards for making the effort are huge. Here are some tips that might help during this difficult period of transition:

  1. Be kind to yourself. You aren’t perfect and you don’t need to be. You simply need to do the best you can and take steps to achieve small, positive changes in your life that add up to a big difference.
  2. Notice your internal voice. If you don’t succeed immediately, do you berate and blame yourself? That serves to reinforce the toxic partner’s words and actions, even if he or she is no longer around. Diminish those negative thoughts when you become aware of them by replacing them with positive thoughts (“I didn’t get the job, but I did my best. I will set up a few more interviews.)

Should You Keep in Touch with the Toxic Ex

He or she was someone you once loved. The relationship was important to you. Severing all ties can be painful. While it may be possible to “just remain friends,” it could be wiser to limit contact, at least in the beginning while you are going through a healing process.

  1. If you and the toxic ex share children, some contact is unavoidable. You can, however, keep it limited. A family law attorney can advise you on the best approach.
  2. Our lives are becoming overwhelmed with social media. Don’t hover over his or her Facebook or keep liking his or her Twitter remarks. Keep reducing any social media contact between the two of you.
  3. Find supportive people with whom to hang out. 
  4. Talking to a counselor can be very effective in setting new boundaries and starting a new and better life.


One of the primary reasons it can be difficult to walk away from a toxic relationship is that there were probably some good moments. Perhaps many good moments and those memories keep floating through your mind. But even the good parts didn’t keep it from being toxic. Understand that healing will take time, so it is important to be kind and patient with yourself. 

Keep telling yourself you do not need to be perfect. You simply have to learn to love the real you. And expects the same of others.

The legal process can get difficult, which is why we always recommend that you seek the assistance of counsel; or at least have a consultation. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today to review the issues of your case, the legal options you may have, and certain rights that pertain to your unique situation.

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