When you first started dating, you thought he was the one. He was compassionate, charming and magnetic. (He even won over your ridiculously-hard-to-please cat.) But now that the initial excitement of the relationship has worn off, you’re realizing that your partner has issues, and no matter how hard you try to help him work through them, it’s causing a deep rift in your relationship. You’ve tried everything you can to patch things up, but after months of walking on eggshells, you realize the relationship is toxic and unsalvageable. Toxic relationships can be rough, and they’re especially challenging to leave. Here’s how to cut yourself loose while keeping your self-worth intact.
Know the warning signs.
Do you spend a lot of time feeling anxious and negative about your relationship? Do you feel like you’re giving a hell of a lot more than you’re taking? Has it been a while since you’ve felt like your actual self while hanging out with your partner? Does the relationship completely consume you, for better or for worse? If you’ve answered “yes” to most of these questions, you’re probably in a toxic relationship. Acknowledging that the relationship—not you—is flawed is the first step.
Get professional help.
If you know the relationship is bad for you, it should be fairly easy to break it off, right? Unfortunately no. “Love is a biologically addictive experience,” marriage counselor and therapist Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby explains. “We are biologically hard-wired to fall in love and develop [strong], enduring attachments to other human beings.” And like most people, when you’re in the throes of an unhealthy, all-consuming relationship, it can be difficult to think clearly and sort out your feelings on your own. Get the advice of a psychologist or relationship counselor. They’ll help you talk through the best way to step away from the relationship and how to rebuild your life as a strong, single person again.
Surround yourself with positivity.
Chances are, if you’ve been in a toxic relationship for a while, at least a few of your friends have expressed their concerns about whether this person is the right match for you."When you’re on that high and low roller coaster, your perceptions are altered,” Dr. Bobby says. “You’re seeing this person through a glow that other people are like, ‘Oh my God, what is she doing?’” Once you’ve finally decided to call it quits, these people will be your biggest support system. Take your best friend up on her offer to stay with her for a week. Let your mom cook you dinner. Go out to brunch with the single friends your ex always hated for you to hang out with. Spend as much time as you can with bright, positive friends and family members who will build you back up and remind you of how awesome you are.
Put yourself first.
You pride yourself in being a compassionate, helpful person, but this relationship has left you feeling exhausted and depleted. "If you’re in a bad marriage, don’t underestimate the stress that you are carrying around," says marriage and family therapist Sharon Rivkin. “If your day-to-day relationship is full of stress, fighting or the silent treatment, you are compromising your health every day." So, there you have it: Your toxic partner is a health risk. It’s time to set your all-consuming relationship troubles aside and focus on yourself. Take a meditation class, go for a walk in the woods and give yourself permission to put your own self-care first. Doctor’s orders.
Don’t second guess yourself.
Breaking up with a toxic person is a marathon, not a sprint. Chances are, your ex will try to contact you after you call it quits, and you’ll probably start pining for the early, happy days of the relationship. Dr. Kristen Fuller recommends writing a list of the reasons you’ve decided to the end the relationship and take it out and re-read it when you’re feeling moments of weakness. If that doesn’t work, try calling a supportive friend, family member or co-worker…anyone but your toxic ex.