We’ve all found ourselves, at one point or another, attracted to someone who isn’t good for us. We know it, they know it, your friends and family know it—and like to tell you about it ad nauseum. And yet, you stay. Despite the fact that your head knows what your heart can’t accept, you stick around in the relationship, hoping it will get better, hoping things will change, or hoping to catch a few crumbs of the good times you once shared.
A toxic relationship is one that is no longer serving you positively in any way. It can involve deceit, manipulation, codependency, and inflated expectations and generally isn’t grounded in reality.
- You are with an emotional vampire. Being around him or her is draining,
- You are with a narcissist who doesn’t have any regard for your needs, or your personal safety and health.
- You are with someone who is leading you on, using you to fill his or her own voids or needs.
- You are in a codependent relationship where you can no longer function as an individual.
- You and your partner want different things, but you’re ignoring the fact that you will never be on the same page, so you are settling for something much less than what you want. You ultimately resolve to beating yourself up about why he or she doesn’t give you more of themselves.
At some point, you’ll hit a wall. The time will come when you’ve had enough, can no longer ignore the detrimental dynamic, and muster the emotional strength and courage to do something about it and leave. So, how do you exit this situation with grace and compassion, so that you’re not dragged further into the drama of the relationship?
1) Get clarity.
Ask yourself, “How is this relationship serving me?”
You’ll be able to recognize that the situation you’re in is heartbreaking more than it is helpful, harmonizing, happy or healthy. You may recognize that you have reentered a familiar, negative relationship pattern, or that you’ve experienced growth and now it’s time for you to let go. Most of all, you will realize that it’s no longer useful for you at this point in your life.
2) Cut off communication.
Just quit, cold turkey. As hard as it may be, as much as you may miss him or her, know and trust that this is in your best interest. When you feel that urge to reach out, call a friend or family member instead. They’re happy to support you through your transition.
Usually these types of partners are very good at wiggling their way back into your life. We can be powerless against these individuals because we love them, because our connection is so addictively strong, because the pain they inflict is comfortably familiar. So, if they reach out to us, our will power is useless, and we will feel compelled to respond.
Without putting space between yourself and this person, you will not get the emotional distance and time that you need to start detoxing from this relationship. So, when you deliver the news that you will no longer be contacting this person, also kindly ask that they no longer initiate contact from their end as well. Ask that they respect you and this decision you’ve made.
No calling, no texting, no emailing. No stopping by, no showing up at your work. If you have mutual friends that you will continue to see, calmly, honestly and unapologetically explain what’s going on and ask that they honor your needs as well. If they are truly your friend, they will have no problem doing so—in fact, they will probably be delighted that you’ve finally taken steps to a happier, healthier you and removed this person from your life. Do not engage in social media interaction with your ex either. If you need to defriend and block, do so.
This all will be very difficult at first, like going off coffee when you’re used to 6 cups a day, but it will be very worth it in a few months when you begin to truly enjoy your healthier life.
3) Practice gratitude.
Be grateful to this person for everything they have shown you. Usually this relationship is one of the most significant relationships you will ever be in, as it forced you to look at some of your deepest pain and fears. Accept this experience as an incredibly valuable, albeit painful, life lesson and an opportunity for growth, healing and cultivating self-awareness. You will know yourself better, finally have the knowledge to release relationship patterns and heal old wounds, and can take the first steps to being the person you want to attract into your life.
4) Fall in love with yourself.
Find yourself again. Get back to center. Figure out what makes you happy. Remember what brings you joy and do those things. Hang out with the friends you’d been neglecting. Spend quality time with your family. Apply the lessons you learned from the relationship. Begin to heal. Fall in love with you.
Getting out of a toxic relationship really is all about honoring yourself, your needs and putting yourself first. If you don’t love and respect yourself first, no one else is going to be able to do it for you.
Photo credit: Antti T. Nissinen