What Is A Toxic Relationship And How To Leave One

Last updated on : December 18 2022

Silver Wrought Locks Against A Blood Red Door Photo - symbolizing toxic relations

Introduction - End Of The Honeymoon

Every relationship begins with deep feelings of love, amazement, and the pure wish to discover your soul mate. Everything is so lovely, pink and colorful and your life is fantastic and beautiful.

However, this honeymoon phase doesn’t last long as partners begin to get to know each other and their way of communication and behaving.

Most relationships exit from the honeymoon phase into healthy long term connections defined by mutual respect. However, some partnerships that begin nice can rapidly turn into toxic ones.

This turn can happen after a few months or after a few years. And no matter how much you try to keep the romance alive, it leaves you emotionally drained, ashamed, and not feeling okay at all. 

What Is A Toxic Relationship

Although toxic relations come with a spectrum of behaviors and feelings, dominance, control, imbalance, and a hostile atmosphere are reliable attributes. Many times these relationships include abuse.

You know you're in a toxic relationship when the negative moments outweigh and outnumber the positive ones - leaving you feeling consistently unpleasant and drained.

Signs Of A Toxic Relationship

Manipulation in relationships refers to using emotional or psychological tactics to control or influence another person's thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. Some common examples of manipulation in relationships include:

  • Gaslighting: Refers to manipulating someone into doubting their perceptions or memories. For example, a manipulator might deny that a particular event took place or try to convince their partner that they are mistaken about something.
  • Coercion: This is when one person tries to pressure or force the other person to do something they don't want to do. Coercion can involve threats, intimidation, or emotional manipulation.
  • Guilt-tripping: Involves manipulating someone by making them feel guilty or responsible for the manipulator's feelings or actions. For example, a manipulator might say things like, "You're the reason I'm upset," or "If you loved me, you would do this for me."
  • Silent treatment: Involves manipulating someone by ignoring them or refusing to communicate to punish or control them.
  • Love bombing: This involves manipulating someone with excessive affection or attention in the early stages of a relationship to win their trust and affection.
  • Isolation: This is when one person tries to cut the other person off from their social support system or sources of emotional support. Isolation can make the person more reliant on the manipulator and make it harder for them to get help or support when needed.

Here are some other factors to consider. These behaviors might be exhibited by you, your partner, or both of you. 

  • Lack of support. Instead of helping each other, you are both competing with each other.
  • Lack of kindness. You've stopped doing kind things with each other, and your communication is often undermining and full of sarcasm.
  • Dishonesty and disrespect. One or both of you is dishonest, lying about whereabouts or the things you are doing. You might also be showing high levels of disrespect for each other.
  • Jealousy and resentment. You're jealous of each other, so much so that it precludes all positive thinking about the other. There might also be high levels of bitterness, coupled with the holding of grudges.
  • Needy and controlling behavior. One or both of you have become needy and controlling, getting angry when the other is not immediately available. If your partner displays controlling behavior, you might ignore your needs to appease them - a bad sign.
  • Loss of free time. You've stopped seeing your family and friends or spending time with yourself. Instead, you spend your time in the relationship, appeasing your partner, and avoiding conflict.
  • High relationship-stress levels. You're watching your every move, worried about evoking an adverse reaction from your partner. As a result, you're constantly feeling under stress by the relationship.
  • You're not taking care of yourself. Your self-care investments are low, and you might be suffering from depression and ill health.

Can I Save A Toxic Relationship

Both you and your partner need to commit to positive growth to turn your toxic relationship into a healthy one. This commitment will likely need both of you to:

  • Reverse your toxic behaviors. Critically look at the factors that drove your relationship toxic and find the time to reverse them. This process means rediscovering kindness, compassion, and love for each other.
  • Learn to love yourself again. Healthy relationships need healthy individuals, so you both need to redevelop your passions again and practice healthy self-love and self-care.
  • Show patience. Realize that rekindling your love will likely take time, patience, and a diligent commitment to positive change.
  • Find support. If you're struggling, consider a therapist for combined as a couple or individual therapy, or both. A therapist is the most suitable because friends and family, although having good intentions, often don't have the relationship experience to help effectively.

Although you may try to save a toxic relationship only if both partners are open to change, it is better to walk away if the relationship contains abuse.

What Is the Difference Between A Toxic Relationship And Abuse

Some toxic relationships may come with abuse - which can be hard to identify, especially if you've been experiencing it over a long period.

Look out for these signs of physical or emotional abuse - because if you recognize any of these in your relationship, then it's best to walk away without hesitation.

  • Your partner is undermining your self-respect and esteem. You feel ashamed of your behavior because your partner is dismissing you, patronizing, or embarrassing you privately or in public. A continual undermining of your self-worth is abusive to you.
  • You're worried about your safety and security. You're under constant stress, and you're concerned about your safety and security. You've suffered even mild forms of physical violence from your partner, including being intimidated.
  • Your partner is forbidding you to behave in specific ways. For example, your partner is refusing to let you go to work, study, see family or friends, or is restricting you financially by not allowing you access to money or only a small daily allowance. Your partner might accomplish this through strength or by threatening self-harm to manipulate you.
  • Your partner is gaslighting you. When your partner gaslights you, they make you question your instincts, feelings, and even sanity. They might do this by playing the victim or blaming you for the relationship's state.

How To Get Help From Abuse

Trust your instincts, abuse is potentially dangerous to you, and you don't need to accept it. Use these resources to get help safely:



When To Leave A Toxic Relationship 

If you suffer abuse mentally or physically, feel emotionally drained, with low self-esteem, and all you think is negative emotions and hostility. These are serious red flags, and it is time to act.

Often in these circumstances, you do not trust your power to change your life, leave your partner, and find someone who will love you truly. However, you can and will succeed. 

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How To Leave A Toxic Relationship

It is hard to let something go, primarily after you have invested time, energy, and love into that thing. But sometimes, letting go is the healthiest thing you can do for yourself, even though it can turn to be painful. 

If you find yourself in a toxic relationship, you should know that it’s time to let it go. 

Enter A Period Of Strict No Contact

We explain no-contact in a dedicated blog post because it is crucial for your mental health and recovery. 

You see, after a breakup, your partner will either be a drug to you, and you will do almost anything to see or make up with them, or they will be badgering you, wanting to resurrect the relationship with you. 

Either of these two outcomes is not healthy for you, and the only way to break the cycle is to enter into a period of no-contact and stick to it diligently.

In addition to this period of no-contact, follow these steps to make the breakup process easier for you.

Assess Your Role

Woman feeling down about her predicament

Experts on mental health say that guilt trips, insecurity, self-centeredness, and control all form part of toxic relationships.

It is the abuser that starts this negative process, but a way to approach this problem is to look at your behavior too, and why you may be so accepting. 

In a healthy relationship, both partners accept each other’s flaws and find a solution to work out differences. In a toxic relationship, it’s always your fault, even if it’s not your fault.  

The question you should ask yourself is what makes you stay in this relationship, and what steps to take to break the cycle within yourself?

It might be love. It might be a lack of self-esteem or a fear of solitude. It might be something within you, deeply buried, but that now begins to take life.

Understand and assess your role in the relationship because being aware of what drives you can help you break the cycle.

Because this process of self-discovery can be full of personal biases and drawbacks, it sometimes turns out to be painful. Given this, a therapist can help you navigate through your underlying motives, helping you identify patterns, and to understand ways to move forward.

Give Yourself Time  

Brown and blue hourglass resting on stones

Letting go is difficult, especially if the relationship was a long-term one.

When you grow attached to someone, letting them go comes with pain even if the connection is a toxic one. It means that you let go of your habits, one way or another.  

Don’t expect that you feel good instantly or everything to be flower-power because it most likely won’t. Being in a toxic relationship is mentally draining, and it affects you negatively.

Give yourself time to enjoy your life without toxicity. Give yourself time and space to enjoy solitude. Give yourself time to get used to a life without chaos, negativity, and abuse. 

Reconnect with Your Friends 

three girls reconnecting as friends

When was the last time you enjoyed your friends’ presence? When was the last time you trusted that you could be real with the ones around you? Toxic relations often push us to the edge and make us move away from our loved ones. 

But this is not a time to isolate yourself.

The adverse effects of your past relationship are surely still visible, and you need all the love and support to rebuild you.

Surround yourself with your friends and loved ones and show the real you. Do what you want and say whatever crosses your mind. Be confident that your friends will stay beside you, and they will surely accept your flaws and qualities, because no one is perfect, nor should you try to be. 

Social support is essential, and it has miraculous powers. Communicating and getting in touch with friends and family can make you feel better.

You will experience more positive emotions, and relaxation will come naturally. And it is also an excellent way to keep your mind busy, as it might wander and you can find yourself thinking about your toxic relationship often.

Find New Habits 

Man rediscovering himself as he walks across bridge

One right way to detox yourself from bad relationships is to reorganize your lifestyle and routine completely.

Find new activities that please you and practice them until they become a habit.

People under challenging relationships can have a hard time recovering because they still have self-destructive habits. Assess what makes you feel bad and aim to change it, remembering it takes at least 21 days to form a new habit

Find new activities that bring you joy, such as reading, going out to movies, or dining with friends.

Find hobbies that fulfill you and get engaged in volunteering activities. People who give to others feel more pleasure and trust. And this creates a warm glow effect, making you feel happy.

Practice a Sport 

Woman practising yoga in sunset

Exercising is a natural remedy for everything. Find a physical activity that has the power to relax you and practice it regularly.

For example, yoga might suit you because you can practice it everywhere, and you do not need much space or items.

Team sports are helpful because you interact and connect with other people, and social interaction is good for detox.

You can also jog independently, and you can listen to your favorite music while you practice it. The thing is, you have plenty of choices. 

Exercising is right for your brain because it triggers the release of endorphins, the hormones that make us feel good. Runner’s high is a natural effect that you feel after a good sports session.

You feel more relaxed, at peace, and happy. And to detox yourself from a toxic relationship, you need plenty of positive emotions and activities that make you feel good and feel pleasure.


close up of hand in meditation pose

Being part of a toxic relationship drains you emotionally. Being exposed to suffering, abuse, hostility, and guilt trips all the time can make you depressed, sad, and ashamed.

This feeling means that most of the time, you have negative thoughts about your life and yourself. You might think that you are not worthy. You might feel hopeless and helpless. And even after you quit that toxic relationship, you still have those bruises on your mind and soul. 

Meditation is something that will help you heal yourself.

Meditation is a technique used and developed by Buddhist monks. Practicing it has positive benefits on your mind, body, and soul. Meditation helps you accept who you are, and, most importantly, recognize that your thoughts do not define you.

It takes the power of negative thoughts and fosters more positive emotions and beliefs about yourself. Meditation has the potential to increase your self-esteem, reduce stress, enhance self-awareness, and control your anxiety. 

You need to put your mind to work, but in the right direction.

Spend Time in Nature

trees in a forest

Nature is known to have a healing effect. Spending time in it can make you happier, and people who live near green spaces are less likely to be depressed. Nature stimulates your brain, and it can make you more productive and creative.

Find some friends and go on an adventure together. You can hike and explore the surroundings or spend a night in a tent into the woods. Or simply go for a walk alone, surrounded by nature.  

Spending time in nature has positive benefits on your body too. It can strengthen your immune system, and it increases the level of vitamin D.

Nature is right for your brain and body, and it boosts your happiness level. You need to nurture positive feelings and emotions to heal yourself. 


Woman showing fist

People usually have a hard time admitting that they are part of a toxic relationship, and they want to try to make it work. The love and care for the other can make one want to stay together, and even though in some cases the end is happy, in most of them, it is not. 

However, no one wants or deserves to be part of a toxic relationship, and letting it go can come with challenges. Detoxing yourself from these relationships is a natural healing process; you need to go through while finding ways to nurture positive feelings and emotions.

Spend time in nature and with friends and exercise and meditate regularly. Everything will be okay in the end, but healing takes time. Give yourself time to heal and seek the help of a therapist if you feel you can’t face this process alone.

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