Ending a toxic relationship can feel like the most difficult thing in the world to do, but it needs to be done.
Toxic relationships come in all different shapes and sizes. Maybe your husband belittles you and mocks your hopes and dreams. Maybe your wife refuses to let you go out with your friends, or leave her side without permission. Perhaps your partner makes fun of your weight, or calls you names. Maybe they’re a narcissist and can only love themselves while causing you pain. Whatever toxic situation you or someone you know is in, it’s time to get out. If you don’t, you will lose yourself.
One thing about toxic relationships, is they are hard to leave. That is part of their poison.
But you can do it. Even if you feel like that is an utter impossibility right now, you need to know, really know, that you can leave.
Here are 6 steps that will make that decision a little bit easier to handle:
1. Realize you deserve better.
Yes, you. You deserve to be loved. Not the kind of “love” you think you have now, but real, genuine, reciprocated love. You have battled through so many things in your life, and maybe you feel like you’re too tired to fight anymore, but there is one thing that is always worth fighting for- you.
Healthy relationships don’t revolve around fear or intimidation, nor do they encompass belittling someone or breaking their spirit. If this sounds typical of your relationship, then it’s time to say farewell.
2. Write things down.
Us humans have a funny sense of memory- it changes depending on what we want to remember. If you dislike someone, you are going to remember all of their bad qualities and unfortunate things they have done. The opposite is also true for those you like. This happens with toxic relationships as well.
When your family or friends try to bring up the subject of your relationship (which I’m sure they have, because they care about you), they will point out a few of the less-than-desirable traits of your poisonous partner. And what do you do? “Oh, it’s not that bad. He/she also is/does (insert random “good” thing).” Excuses are made and the seemingly pleasant things you choose to remember about your relationship drown out the overwhelmingly bad things. It’s willful denial.
You can make a choice to stop victimizing yourself by writing things down. It won’t take long for the list to grow, and eventually you will see how much damage is really being done.
Name calling? Mockery? Lies? Manipulation? Ever single time you feel that pang of sadness or hurt, write it down. When you get tired of writing, walk away.
3. Understand that they are not going to change.
If they want to, they will do it on their own terms, in their own time. You will never be able to make someone change until they are ready.
Face it, if seeing the person they supposedly love in pain, and knowing that they are contributing to that pain isn’t enough to make someone want to change, then nothing you can say or do is going to have an effect. You have to take care of yourself because you’re the only one who has a chance of really living.
You’re the only one who can heal you, just as they are the only one who can heal themselves.
4. Make a decision.
Once you’ve stared reality in the face and recognized the things your friends and family were trying to tell you, it’s time to make a choice. It’s now or never.
Choose to stay with the person who will continue to treat themselves as a priority and you as a second-rate doormat, or decide to say enough is enough and move on. It’s up to you. What type of life do you want?
5. Understand that it will hurt.
You won’t leave the relationship until you’re ready and willing to do so. Maybe it’s because you get so accustomed to the toxicity that its familiarity is the only thing you crave. But this isn’t love. And some part of you knows this.
Yes, leaving the person you feel connected chained to is going to be painful, but it is the most precious gift you can give yourself. It will come with doubt and questioning yourself into a corner. Little lies of “how good things were” pairs alongside the comfort of the chaos you once defined as “love.” The pain is part of the process, and after you brave the storm, you’ll be a better, stronger, wiser person for it.
“I’ll tell you this. Leaving that which you love breaks your heart open. But you will find a jewel inside, and this precious jewel is the opening of your heart to all that is new and all that is different, and it will be the making of you-if you allow it to be.”
― Jacqueline Winspear
6. Stand by your decision.
Remember that you reached this decision after an involved, thoughtful process. Stand by your decision and remind yourself that it was made for your betterment. This is how you start to live a better life, and transformations have to begin somewhere.
If you start to feel the urge to let the toxic person back in your life, reach out to your support system of family and friends or take out the list you wrote that describes why you felt hurt in the first place. Stay strong and stand by your decision.
“Do not hold your breath for anyone,
Do not wish your lungs to be still,
It may delay the cracks from spreading,
But eventually they will.
Sometimes to keep yourself together
You must allow yourself to leave,
Even if breaking your own heart
Is what it takes to let you breathe.”
― Erin Hanson